Good Water, Wonderful Atlantic Salmon

Gaspé - Late Sept. 2011 - After a day on the river, a computer by the fireplace - by Charles Cusson

After consistent water in most areas throughout the summer, complete with a tropical storm, the last half of September has seen water levels dropping in many wild Atlantic salmon rivers.

Talking with individuals from Cape Breton to Gaspé, the wish for more water is now being heard and, according to Environment Canada, we are to expect a drier than normal October as well.  In the Miramichi, however, water levels are perfect – and so is the weather.

All this being said, reports are generally of good fishing for serious salmon anglers, who know where to be and at what times of the day.

Runs and Accounts from the Rivers


Northern Peninsula Leaper - photo Tom Moffatt

Humber – According to ASF’s regional director and others, water levels have been high but are coming down. There remain exceptional Atlantic salmon in the lower river, and in the past week at least one 25 lb fish was landed and released, along  with many more smaller ones.

Exploits – Fred Parsons noted yesterday that although the fishways are closed, there are still Atlantic salmon moving around in the lower river, making their way into streams below the lowest fish barrier. He is very optimistic that this year’s run on the river (41,000+) means that last year’s incredible return of 45,000+ Atlantic salmon was not a singular event. He points out how far this river has improved  from having an average return in the 1980s of around 10,000 fish.

Fall angling has been permitted on the Lower Humber, Gander and Exploits Rivers from Thursday, September 8, and will continue to Friday, October 7.

Nova Scotia

A general comment being made is that this year has provided some of the best angling since the mid-1980s and there is still October to look forward to, as well!

Margaree – Lewis Hinks, ASF’s Regional Director of Nova Scotia programs, is in Cape Breton for meetings this week, and reports that everyone would like more water. One angler who has been fishing every morning is reporting large numbers, in the hundreds, in all the lower pools and many of them are large salmon.

Cheticamp – Some Atlantic salmon in the lower river. One angler reports connecting with four at Terre Rouge last week, plus several taken at the Fence Pool. More fish are expected, but as with the Margaree, more rain is needed.


Charles Cusson, ASF’s Director for Quebec Programs, notes that, while water levels are dropping, there should be good levels in most rivers all the way through spawning season.


Heppel Bridge, Matapedia River - photo Charles Cusson

To September 23, for the season, a total of 2,076 fish were reported landed, of which 317 were released. River conditions have varied greatly during the month due to storms such as Irene.  On September 7th, the flow spiked to 210 cubic meters/second, up from the 70 cubic meters/second that it had been  48 hours earlier and maintained.  During the last two weeks, flows have decreased very slowly which has provided June levels and water temperatures.  Angling results continue to outpace last season, with 623 more fish landed than to the same date in 2010.


As of September 24, 3,150 fish, 1,406 salmon and 1,744 grilse, had migrated through the fish ladder. This represents an increase of 930 fish compared to all of last season.  As of the Sept 24,  400 large salmon and 712 grilse were reported as landed.   However, only a few releases have been reported to date, but an accurate number on releases is available only at season’s end.  While water levels spiked with the tropical storm on September 6, the gradual decline in flow since has provided excellent water levels throughout the month. To date, the migration numbers are the best since 1987 when 3,707 fish were counted.  This also represents an impressive increase when compared with the last five-year average of 2,556 fish.


To September 24,  1,163 large salmon had been landed and released for the season.  This is still ahead of last year. Grilse captures are also higher, up from 432 in 2010 to 695 in 2011.  The Bonaventure was hardest hit by high water earlier in the month, with extreme water conditions that peaked at 480 cubic meters/second and slowly dropped. The river was not fishable for almost seven days which affected the total numbers brought in to date.


Alders Island Pool - by Gilbert van Ryckevorsel

For the month of September, to September 23, the Cascapedia Society is reporting 214 fish landed, 204 salmon released and 10 grilse killed.  In total for the 2011 season, 2,679 fish have been landed and 88% were released. This has been an excellent season on the Grande and this is about to turn into a great spawning season. If conditions permit during the week to 10 days, an attempt will be made to do the in-river count.


For the season, as of September 24 there were 428 large salmon reported released, compared to 349 for the comparable date in 2010.  The number of grilse landed has increased to 221 this year from 162 in 2010.  The Sainte-Anne has not been spared the high flows of early September.  The gap between current numbers and 2010 has narrowed due to these high water levels and the river being closed for a time. But the Atlantic salmon are there.

Dartmouth, St-Jean and York Rivers

York River - September 2011 - by Charles Cusson

As of September 24, these rivers had received more than their share of rain for the month – especially in that first week.  Once the waters slowed down, anglers enjoyed June levels and water temperatures.  This translated into very good angling conditions that should remain steady until season end at September 30th.  Bright fish are still entering the rivers and being landed at this time.


The season ended on Sept. 15, and by that time 256 fish had been landed. The very extreme water conditions put a big damper on angling which translated into fewer fish being landed than in 2010. In-river counts reflect a different situation, with many more Atlantic salmon in the river to spawn and continue the life cycle of our most coveted sport fish.

New Brunswick

Miramichi – Conditions are ideal, with good river height and  perfect temperatures – cool but not really cold. All reports are talking about many fish in the pools. There are quite a number of reports of fish 20 lb. and up. Debbie Norton of Upper Oxbow Adventures notes there is certainly a higher proportion of large salmon this fall than in previous years – and conditions are ideal on all area rivers – NW Miramichi, Little Southwest and Main Southwest Miramichi. Derek at The Ledges noted that a guest on the evening of Sept. 28 connected with eight salmon in two hours. He also remarked on the higher number of large salmon this year, and the perfect conditions at the moment.


Veazie Fish Counting Trap - photo Tom Moffatt

Penobscot – What a year for this great river, with 3,107 had returned at the Veazie Trap by Sept. 27. As a reminder, this is the best return of salmon since 1986 and one of the best returns in the past 40 years.

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One Response to Good Water, Wonderful Atlantic Salmon

  1. Evelock says:

    The Miramichi Salmon Club has blown away it’s old record catch of 493 fish landed.
    In fact, we surpassed that number before the end of July. With only 3 more days to go we are at 767, all except 54 grilse were released.
    Of course, with such high numbers in June and July, the rest of the season has felt pretty slow. Lots of fish in every pool this past week although nothing fresh. Excellent conditions but the fish are very hard to take.

    Cheers and tight lines in 2012, Evelock Gilks

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