With August winding down towards Labour Day, it certainly looks increasingly as if, overall, Atlantic salmon are lower, indicating they had a difficult winter at sea. But then, so many other things could have gone wrong along their life’s journey.
To name a few stressors we know of, many rivers lost many juveniles in the great December rainstorms of 2010, which was especially true of areas in Quebec and Cape Breton. There is the problem of increased pressure of fisheries during migration and on ocean feeding grounds. There is heightened predation by cormorants, seals, and striped bass, all of which ASF is investigating. Other tracking research indicates that even porbeagle sharks and tuna could be gobbling up salmon.
But an article that appeared in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences in 2013 reminds us of two or three other, very important things. Atlantic salmon, through living in fresh and salt water and having complex migratory lifestyles, are exposed to an array of menacing toxic problems. Their hormone system is more easily affected even than humans, so that if they swim through the plume of toxic material from a landfill or mining operation, or through the effluents from a large city, they can be impacted in ways we don’t understand. In some cases they cannot even make the change to life in ocean water, and die going out to sea.
As one would say, it is complicated and counteracting the Atlantic salmon’s “death from a thousand cuts” is not as simple as some might have us believe. Wild salmon need to grow up wild, and be the toughest creatures imaginable to survive the perils of its life cycle.
Perhaps the heavy ice and climate change in the North Atlantic affected Atlantic salmon directly last winter. Or perhaps it affected their food supplies.
Close to shore the research shows the greatest bulk of diet for our salmon is capelin, and secondly sand eels, with small numbers of crustaceans thrown in as snacks.
Offshore, and especially in winter, the principal food appears to be lantern fish and barracudinas, fish we are not generally familiar with. Offshore of Labrador and east of Newfoundland, the winter survival of our Atlantic salmon may depend on these species. How are these lantern fish and barracudinas doing? Are low numbers responsible for the small grilse thise year? Wish someone had answers, but found little evidence anyone is checking. (Click here for details of sampling the fish below by the Marine Institute.)
Perhaps temperatures are impacting salmon – or perhaps temperatures or some other conditions are affecting these prey species – and this is affecting salmon. We just don’t know.
Margaree – The rain gods looked as if they were going to cooperate, and about a week ago some considerable rain fell. Levels have fallen back since then, but John Hart had this to say as of the end of last week:
Water was well up earlier in the week although it has now fallen back to seasonal levels..Water still tea coloured but clearing and reports of fish have picked up on almost a daily basis. After a very slow summer, things are looking up.
Rob Harlow had an interesting comment about the Margaree:
Just fished the Margaree Saturday and Sunday my 9 year old Gavin hooked his first salmon 10 lb 10 minutes in . What a thrill to share with his brother uncle and cousins . It sickens me to see the number of fish retained in some rivers. Please think about the future of these thrills for future anglers when your deciding whether to kill or release. Release is a thrill in its own. By the way my son, his 6 year old brother and his 9 and 4 year old cousins named the salmon “squirmy”. I wish that our government would institute a catch and release policy for all salmon everywhere until a time comes that the number of salmon is no longer threatened .
LaHave – The Morgan Falls Fishway way reporting 21 large salmon and 42 grilse, as of Aug. 25. For comparison, to Aug. 15 2013 there were 104 large salmon and 74 grilse, and in 2012 there were 27 large salmon and 18 grilse. Definitely the LaHave needs help.
If the salmon season was a racetrack we would be approaching the three quarter pole – time to stand up and see how things will finish. Darlene Sexton reported for the week ending on August 22, 82 fish were landed and released bringing the total for August to 213 landed and released fish.
To August 22 2013, for the month, 274 salmon have been released and two grilse retained.
As of August 26 2014, 544 fish (299 salmon and 245 grilse) had been counted.
As of August 29 2013, the Madeleine River Zec reported a total of 1,258 (1,012 salmon and 246 grilse) had passed through the counting facility to date for the season..
To the closest comparative date in 2012, to August 22 a total of 1,016 (672 salmon and 344 grilse) had been counted.
To August 26 for the season, a total of 284 fish (176 salmon and 108 grilse) have been counted.
As of August 25 2013, 507 fish had been counted (317 salmon and 190 grilse) compared to 381 (178 salmon and 203 grilse) at the same date in 2012.
Captures to August 26 include 23 salmon released and 19 grilse retained for a total of 42.
To August 25 2013, there were 87 released salmon and 49 retained grilse for a total of 136 reported
For the season to August 25, a total of 1,228 fish had been counted (650 salmon and 578 grilse). To August 26 2013, 1,565 salmon and 579 grilse had been counted totalling 2,144 fish. To date in 2012 for the season, 2,001 (989 salmon and 1,012) grilse had migrated through the counting facility.
Reported captures to August 25 are 223 (38 salmon and 185 grilse killed). 60 releases have been reported ( 50 salmon and 10 grilse).
Reported captures to August 26 2013 were 618 (329 salmon and 203 grilse). At the same date in 2012 a total of 718 fish had been reported landed (305 salmon and 413 grilse).
For the season at August 25, 830 fish had been reported landed including 206 releases. Heavy rains in the past week improved angling conditions considerably.
To August 26, for the 2013 season 1,183 fish had been reported landed which included 142 released. At the same date in 2012, 742 fish had been reported landed which included 55 releases.
At August 24 for the season, 438 fish had been counted (252 salmon and 186 grilse).
To date at August 26 2013, 650 salmon and 350 grilse had been counted for a total of 1,000. In 2012 at the same date, 918 fish (560 salmon and 358 grilse) had been counted.
Reported catches to August 24 2014 stand at 22 (5 salmon killed, 17 grilse killed) plus 12 salmon released.
Captures to date are reported at August 24 2013 were reported to be 272 (26 salmon released, 118 salmon and 128 grilse reported deceased). The reported captures at the same date in 2012 were reported at 255 (22 salmon released, 101 salmon and 132 grilse killed).
2007 to 2012 total run data:
2007 680 fish (345 salmon and 335 grilse) 74 % of MSR
2008 1,409 fish (464 salmon and 945 grilse) 97 % of MSR
2009 1,014 fish (634 salmon and 380 grilse) 126 % of MSR
2010 832 fish (470 salmon and 362 grilse) 92 % of MSR
2011 1,306 fish (516 salmon and 790 grilse) 109 % of MSR
2012 980 fish (580 salmon and 400 grilse) 103 % of MSR
2013 1,098 fish (692 salmon and 406 grilse) 122 % of MSR
(MSR means Minimum Spawning Requirement)
To August 26 2014, 75 fish had been landed (56 salmon released and 19 grilse killed). At the same date last year, 116 fish had been reported landed ( 102 salmon released and 14 grilse killed)
A beautiful fish was landed recently measuring 40 inches. To observe a very nice release check this out:
Des Escoumins River
Since the dam was dismantled in 2013, run information during the season is not as accurate, but this removal has been a breath of fresh air for our affiliate. Once the waters receded after the structure was removed, two new pools were created by the new river levels, which will greatly improve the angling potential.
ZEC manager Yves Demers reports very low numbers and Mother Nature has not been helping very much. “We’ve had only three days of rain since June 23” resulting in only 13 salmon being landed and released and 7 grilse retained.
To August 25, a total of 131 fish had been landed (78 salmon released, 16 grilse released, 37 grilse killed).
The closest comparative date is August 5, 2013 when a total of 207 fish were reported landed. No breakdown was available.
Newfoundland & Labrador
There are no new statistics since our last Rivernotes, so we have only a few anecdotal reports to pass along.
Eagle River, Labrador – Gudie Hutchings was reporting on the season that it started late; that July was very hot; but the latter part of August has seen both cooler temperatures and a wonderful improvement in the Atlantic salmon angling.
Torrent - The number of returns is now 3,963 as of Aug. 27, vs 3,191 to the same date in 2013. The folks at the Torrent River Interpretive Centre were saying that the temperatures had been high, but there was heavy rain today (Aug. 27) and that should both bring up the river levels and cool things down again.
Exploits – Fred Parsons reported on Thursday:
“We are at about 29,000 salmon, down from 33,000 to the same point last year. There is still a late trickle of fish, which is a bit unusual, with 40 or 50 salmon per day coming through. July was too hot, and in August there was a lot of rain. We were especially concerned about the heat in July on juveniles in the tributaries. I think the big stories for this year is going to be those very small grilse showing up, and the impact of that heatwave in July.”
Northwest Miramichi – The counting barrier is reporting five more grilse for the week ending Aug. 25, so the total to date is 135 grilse and 56 large salmon, compared with 150 grilse and 199 large salmon in 2012. Water temperatures have been holding at about 15 to 16 C.
Syd Matchett noted:
“There was a raise of water last Monday to Wednesday and the angling was especially good on the Big Sevogle. There were three big fish, 10 to 12 lb. caught there. The water level is remaining at a good level, and overall the angling conditions are excellent.”
Debbie Norton of Upper Oxbow Adventures noted:
Fishing on the Miramichi has picked up over the last week with cooler temperatures at night, the salmon appear to be more willing to open their mouth and take a fly.
First time salmon fisherman, Joe Smith from the Saint John area landed his first salmon on a green machine with a white tail. As fall is approaching it is time to get out the big ugly marabou.
Paul Elson Jr. had great success with these, although they appeared to only attract grilse on his outing. However, three grilse in my books is considered a good afternoon. I also know of several other persons who have successfully landed salmon over the past week.
Southwest Miramichi – The Dungarvon Barrier numbers are in. Remember that the barrier was destroyed in Tropical Storm Arthur and no counts are available from July 6 to July 24. As of Aug. 24, the count was 40 grilse and 39 large salmon, down from 2013’s 87 grilse and 119 large salmon. Water temperatures have remained a bit high – last Sunday had 18 C.
Judy Lutes reports that in the Miramichi headwaters area they have seen very few salmon in the river.
Nepisiguit – Bob Baker notes:
“There are salmon in the river now, but numbers are down compared to other years. Water levels are excellent or a bit high with good temperatures. I was out a few days ago in various pools and hooked five or six fish at various locations in the river.
Hopefully this fall we will be able to do a redd count to provide a more accurate assessment of the state of the Atlantic salmon spawning success this year.”
Restigouche – There were some bright fish about a week ago, as the water went up mid-week. The water has again been dropping.
The Penobscot Milford Fishway count appears unchanged at 79 grilse and 175 large salmon.
Downeast and Elsewhere – The Pleasant River has counted 2 grilse and 1 large salmon, as of Aug. 26. The Narraguagus 2 large salmon, and the Androscoggin 3 large salmon.