We are now seeing stories on the great runs of 2011, and speculation on the reasons for them. The Greenland Agreement brokered by ASF and its partners is having the desired effect on better runs of large salmon. The practice of live release is improving the returns to the spawning beds. In addition there may be other positive things happening in the ocean ecosystem, increasing food supply and improving the survival of Atlantic salmon at sea for this reason as well. In the rivers the cool summer with significant rainfall has kept water levels higher, and the salmon certainly benefit from that.
Overall, the excitement level has been high for anyone involved with Atlantic salmon.
Returns and Runs
Penobscot – The run continues to surprise, with more Atlantic salmon returning through the Veazie counting trap. As of Sept. 19, the total had reached 3,090. It certainly looks like we are headed for more than 3,100 soon.
Upsalquitch – With 627 large salmon returned by Sep. 15, vs 274 in 2010 and a five year (2003 to 2007) average of 295, this has certainly been an amazing year on the river. Depending on whether the run continues or not, it will either be the highest or second highest return since before 1996. Even grilse runs have seen positive growth this year, with 633 to Sep. 15, ahead of both last year’s 567, and the 2003 to 2007 average of 460.
Nepisiquit – With 617 large salmon counted by Sep. 15, this is another record year, nearly double the 379 of 2010 and more than six times the 2003 to 2007 average of 90.
Like the Upsalquitch, the Nepisiquit has seen good grilse returns, with 515 counted to Sep. 15, vs. 491 last year and a mere 94 as the 2003 to 2007 average.
Saint John – There is new hope with this great river, with 612 large salmon returned by Sep 15. This compares very favourably with 313 returns last year and 437 for the five-year average to 2007. Grilse returns continued to lag in a major way, with 922 to Sep. 15, far below last year’s great run of 2,226 but roughly on par with the 2003 to 2007 average of 1091.
Nashwaak – With 227 large salmon by Sep. 15 this is more than double the 91 returns of last year and three times the five-year average (2003 to 2007). The grilse return of 396 to Sep. 15 echoes the proportional drop on the Saint John when compared to the 735 in 2010, but still compares favourably with the 2003 to 2007 average of 256.
Magaguadavic – As of Sep. 19, 10 large salmon, 8 grilse, and, unfortunately, 13 escapee farmed salmon were monitored at the counting facility. Note there was a rainbow trout attempting to enter the river as well – an alien species of concern.
Southwest Miramichi – While many of the rivers in Atlantic Canada and Maine have enjoyed high returns of large salmon, the Miramichi returns are actually lagging behind last year, but for both grilse and large salmon the runs are better than the five year averages. At the Millerton Barrier 627 returned by Sept. 15, slightly ahead of the 2003 to 2007 average of 608. By Sept. 15 there were 1831 grilse back, somewhat behind last year’s 2303, but roughly equal to the 2003 to 2007 average of 1868.
Northwest Miramichi – At the Northwest Protection Barrier there were 228 large salmon back by Sept. 15, ahead of the 157 for the 2003 to 2007 average. Grilse numbers are up – 708 this year compared with 459 for the 2003 to 2007 average.
LaHave – With 72 large salmon returned by Sep. 15 compared with 47 last year, and 278 grilse compared with 256 last year, the numbers have moved in a positive direction, but are still below the 2003 to 2007 average of 107 and 278 respectively – and far below numbers seen a few decades ago.
Newfoundland and Labrador
The counting facilities have shut down, with the last numbers posted early in September, and according to most sources the vast majority of salmon in the rivers by that time.
Humber – A local source notes the fishing has been good, with most of it this time of year in the lower Humber (not up at the falls). He mentioned that a friend had recently caught and released a 25 lb. salmon, and he knows of other fish recently in the 20 lb. range.
Water levels rose earlier in the week, but were back down by Friday.
Overall it has been another good year in Newfoundland, following 2010’s spectacular returns.
The Exploits, was off that very high return by about 10% at 41,415, and some other rivers like the Campbellton and the Terra Nova were actually above last year’s great returns. But on the south coast the Conne River is of concern, with only 1189, little more than half the 2006 to 2010 average. On the west coast, the Harry’s appeared to have a good run, but it cannot be compared to previous years due to new technology and a very different location. Still, to have 4,024 back is something to build on. Further up the west coast the runs of the Torrent are down by more than 30%, and are down on Western Arm Brook. There remains a concern about damage to Atlantic salmon caused by the fishway design, and this continues to be looked into. Talking to anglers and lodge owners, the runs close to the northern tip were quite robust this year.
In Labrador, the prize for “most improved” needs to go to the Sand Hill River, where the run increased from 1,975 last year to 9,535 this year. This is far above any average shown for past years.