Tales of Water and Salmon

This week the story is all about the clouds and rain.

The heavy rain came in from the west, and river levels that were at or near record lows came surging back up. And it was a cold rain, so temperatures dropped back to far better levels.

This tale of the storms dropping buckets of rain into our Atlantic salmon watersheds is true ALMOST everywhere. The storms missed most of Labrador and the island of Newfoundland, telling a different story of continued drought there.

Newfoundland and Labrador

One sees desperately low flow levels in some of the Newfoundland rivers. The Torrent River, far up the Northern Peninsula has record low flows, around 2.9 cubic metres per second, when the previous low had been 3.5 cubic metres per second. There are about 50 salmon in the viewing chamber/fishway at the moment, incidentally.

The story from Keith Piercey of SPAWN this morning was one of many rivers with very low flows across the island. Big Falls on the Humber had so little water going over it that one could almost walk with sneakers right across it.

Upper Section of the Humber River in NL

On Harry’s River DFO is again using the Didson “sonar picture” technology to count salmon, and to date 754 have come through, about 400 fewer than in 2011 to this point. Incidentally, to improve image quality, the size of the opening has been reduced this year.

The great exception to the low water is the Exploits River where release of water from a large, cold reservoir is feeding another superb year of returns. Fred Parsons noted this morning that 7,670 salmon have been through the fishway. “That is on par with the numbers in 2010, but it is still early days,” noted Fred.

On the south coast, salmon are apparently laying off the rivers in considerable numbers, and tales are circulating of locals illegally fishing off wharves. For those in the region, please remain observant and report illegal activity to Crimestoppers (1-800-TIPS (8477)) or the Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Division hotline at 1-877-820-0999.

Despite the extremely low water flows and rising temperatures, DFO counting fence data, updated to earlier this week, is still promising. Go here to check the full statistics. Some of interest:

Terra Nova River – 250, vs. 32 in 2011
Conne River – 1,670 vs 707 in 2011 – a nice comeback for a river with problems!

With temperatures up and waters down, there has been increasing talk of closing some of the salmon rivers in the coming days, but no word as of yet.

In Labrador the reports are of rivers still low, and conditions dry. Some salmon anglers needed to be airlifted out of the path of one of the forest fires impacting the tinder-dry forests in the Hunt River region north of Goose Bay. There are fish –¬† large salmon have certainly been seen in the Pinware‘s pools, and salmon are being found in the Eagle River. More rain would be appreciated to improve life for salmon in these rivers – and to suppress the forest fire danger.

In Labrador the only river with counting fence reports in is the Sand Hill with 331, but it is still early days.

Nova Scotia

The LaHave has so far had 20 large salmon and 12 grilse, but the fishway was closed for a significant period due to the low flows. It is so nice that the rain falling in the last few days is more than wet – it is cold, which is making a big difference, and today saw a number of salmon moving upstream.

In Cape Breton, the levels are still not up there. The best fishing on the Cheticamp is when the level reaches 1.0 on the graphs, while the Northwest Margaree is best at .6. Below is today’s graph for the Northeast Margaree and it is easy to see that the river never reached .6 and is dropping back. Apparently the area received much less rain than did the LaHave watershed further south.

New Brunswick

The rain has bumped up water levels considerably, taking the rivers from drought to where fishing is difficult. Yet, as Keith Wilson on the Main Southwest Miramichi said this morning, “This cold rain should help a great deal, and set up good fishing before long.” He also noted a nice salmon jumping in mid-stream from in front of his window. Nice to hear.

Up on the Restigouche system, Larry’s Gulch is reporting a similar situation. Fishing was alright earlier in June, then leading to extremely low water, and finally a big cold bump in flows in the past two days, creating some considerable optimism for the week ahead.

We may have DFO posting June 30 data by next week, so we shall see more then.

Restigouche River below Kedgwick


Reports this week are of the water levels, with the same cold rain bringing up flows on Gaspé rivers, and making fishing more problematic until they drop.

Cascapedia – Water Levels High and Climbing



Breach of the Great Works Dam last Saturday (photo from Penobscot River Restoration Trust)

For the Penobscot it has been a case of good news, bad news. Last Saturday the demolition work on the Great Works Dam reached the point where they were breaching the barrier, with the river level above dropping.

The bad news was the continuing low returns of Atlantic salmon at Veazie, downstream from there. We have only 563 Atlantic salmon so far this year, compared with 2,664 in 2011. The previous low was five years ago – a space of time some say is an important cycle period for salmon returns.

Atlantic Salmon Returns to Veazie Dam – Penobscot


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