A Thoughtful Approach to Assessing the Season

This past week David Meerburg, with decades of experience in assessing Atlantic salmon populations and crunching numbers for statistical significance, had an initial look at the state of the salmon, as we know it at this point in the season.

His first, and most important, conclusion was that it is far too early to say how the year’s Atlantic salmon will fare.  Anglers’ experience, while important, is  anecdotal,  based on a combination of river conditions, salmon passing through, and angling effort. Counting fences and trap nets can tell part of the story, but an assessment of results is still not possible until the end of the season. Besides, their efficiency varies, and some, like Millerton on the Miramichi, can be swept away by high water and debris washing down. We understand Millerton is being rebuilt, incidentally.

Here is what David Meerburg has to say about the Miramichi:

On rivers like the Miramichi, we know that there is both an early run and a late run, and although, in recent years, the majority of salmon came in as early fish, it is a variable proportion and perhaps this year we are seeing a low early run that could be supplemented by a higher late run.  We do know however, based on ASF’s tracking activities, that the Miramichi has been suffering from increased levels of smolt mortality with few tagged smolts exiting the Gulf of St Lawrence at the Strait of Belle Isle so we might expect poor Miramichi returns of both salmon and grilse, and particularly grilse in 2014 as 2013 smolt survival was the lowest ever recorded for the Miramichi.

Perhaps we can be less optimistic about some rivers this year, for example the Penobscot and Conne:

“In some areas such as the Penobscot and Conne rivers, that are known to be early run rivers and hence the season is mostly over, it does indeed seem to be that the numbers are lower.  For the Penobscot however keep in mind that it is a different monitoring system (fish lift at Milford Dam versus a fish trap at Veazie Dam and a downstream location) and both of these would have had a different capture efficiencies.”

Milford Fish Lift - As part of the Penobscot River Restoration Project the dam owner was required to build a state of the art fish lift at what is now the first dam on the river.  The fish lift is designed to pass large quantities of fish and fish such as American shad that are weary of using traditional types of fish passes.  As of early July the fish lift had passed all six species of sea-run fish that historically were able to get by the falls at the Milford Dam.  These include Atlantic salmon, American shad, blueback and alewives, sea lamprey, and striped bass.  The success of this fish lift is critical to building sea-run populations once again in the upper river.

Milford Fish Lift – As part of the Penobscot River Restoration Project the dam owner was
required to build a state of the art fish lift at what is now the first dam
on the river. The fish lift is designed to pass large quantities of fish
and fish such as American shad that are weary of using traditional types of
fish passes. As of early July the fish lift had passed all six species of
sea-run fish that historically were able to get by the falls at the Milford
Dam. These include Atlantic salmon, American shad, blueback and alewives,
sea lamprey, and striped bass. The success of this fish lift is critical to
building sea-run populations once again in the upper river.

This Year’s Special Wrinkle

Every year there is a new wrinkle in understanding the Atlantic salmon in its river and ocean world. We are hearing accounts from the Restigouche, the Miramichi and Labrador, of small grilse returning, weighing around 2 lb.

The ratio of these small and very small grilse to a more average sized grilse of 3 ½ to 4 lb. appears to vary. In addition, there does not yet appear to be a full understanding of the particular rivers these grilse are returning to.

If you have angled these smaller grilse, ASF would appreciate receiving an email with details of location, size, and any other information about condition you might  think appropriate. Also whether small grilse were the norm, or just found occasionally, with other grilse being normal size.

Email to asfweb@nbnet.nb.ca

Angler Wading the Causapscal River

Angler Wading the Causapscal River

Labrador

Reports appear mixed at the moment, with many of the anglers and outfitters noting good returns, while the very few DFO counting facilities that are operated report (as of July 13) low returns for two, and good for another.

Whether the numbers are actually low or just late remains uncertain.

First, the DFO counting facilities:

Sand Hill reported 332 grilse and 224 large salmon, for a total of 556 as of July 13. To the same date in 2013, there were 1,288 grilse and 1,163 large salmon for a total of 2,451.

Muddy Bay Brook  reported 56 grilse and 7 large salmon, totaling 63, to July 13. In 2013 the report was of 95 grilse and 9 large salmon.

Paradise River is doing better! There have been 61 grilse and 12 large salmon in 2014, totaling 73, compared with 12 grilse and 11 large salmon (totaling 23) in 2013.

Pratt Falls Lodge on the Eagle River has this to say:

“For the week ending July 12, the most big fish Pratt Falls has ever had. Forty-eight fish hooked from one boat during the week. The greatest number of 18 to 22 pounders the salmon guides have seen.”

The report also notes the water has been a bit high, with temperatures around 60 to 62 F.

Flowers River Lodge was reporting on July 12,

“Three salmon hooked at Max’s Pool yesterday and several large fish were spotted at Top Pool. Water levels are medium-high and water clarity is fair.

Paul Smith, recently returned from Labrador, noted the Pinware was fishing well with many big Atlantic salmon, He also noted the Forteau was doing well.

Certainly there is room for optimism on the season in Labrador.

A beauty being released by John Shipley at New Dereen on the Grand Cascapedia, July 8 - after "Andrew"

A beauty being released by John Shipley at New Dereen on the Grand Cascapedia (Gaspé Peninsula), July 8 – after “Arthur”.

Newfoundland

Two things appear to be happening – the Atlantic salmon may be coming in, but doing so late.  Secondly, things are heating up, and as of July 16 DFO shut down many rivers.

Conne – as of July 13 there were 1,166 salmon reported, down from 2,515.  This was low enough to end the fishing season for the Conne for the year, the decision coming in the mid-season assessment.

Exploits – Fred Parsons was reporting that as of July 15 there had been 13,219 Atlantic salmon, slightly more than half the 25,454 counted to the same date in 2013. However the good news was that July 15 itself had 1,012 salmon counted, giving some evidence that the heavy runs were continuing, and not finished at this point.

Campbellton River had 2,376 to July 13, down from 3,165 in 2013, and Middle Brook 1,077, somewhat down from 2013’s 1,204.

In the west of Newfoundland there are some interesting things happening.

Harry’s River reported 3,015 salmon, recorded with their Didson Unit to July 13, which is UP above the 2,337 in 2013.

Atlantic salmon leaping at Humber Falls - possibly the best location in North America to watch the salmon fly through the air.

Atlantic salmon leaping at Humber Falls – possibly the best location in North America to watch the salmon fly through the air.

On the Humber, there are reports that some fish are jumping at Big Falls.

Along the Northern Peninsula there appear to be salmon arriving in some quantity. Western Arm Brook had 933, more than DOUBLE the 2013 number of 420.

Torrent River had 852, not that far behind last year’s 1,046, and the Interpretive Centre is saying that as of July 15 the numbers in each day were increasing.

Paul Smith also noted that on his return journey from Labrador the St. Genevieve and Castor River were fishing well.

There is some real excitement surrounding a few special streams as well. Rattling Brook had the first two salmon in more than 60 years. Meanwhile the Corner Brook Stream has good news – about July 10 salmon really started arriving, and in two days 3 salmon and 15 grilse. Then on Sat. 10 more showed up, and the hope is this special project, right in the middle of the city, will see 120 salmon again by season’s end.

DFO’s Notices:

DFO advises anglers that due to extremely low water levels and extremely high water temperatures, the following rivers will close effective Wednesday July 16, 2014. Rivers will reopen as conditions improve.

For more information please visit the In Season River Status report at www.nfl.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/NL/River-Status/In-Season or call the Angling Line at 709-772-4423.

Zone 4
48. Campbellton River & tributaries
49. Dog Bay Rivers, including SW Brook & all tributaries
50. Northwest Gander tributary
50. All other tributaries of the Main Stem and Southwest Gander
51. Ragged Harbour River & tributary streams
52. Anchor Brook
53. Deadman’s Bay River & tributary streams
54. Windmill Brook

Zone 5
56. Indian Bay River & tributary streams
58. Traverse Brook & tributary streams
59. Middle Brook, including Square Pond Brook & Burnt Pond Brook
60. Gambo River & tributary streams, including Mint Brook, Narrows, Triton Brook, Riverhead Brook & Parsons Brook.
61. Northwest Brook, Alexander Bay
62. Terra Nova  River and tributaries, including Maccles Brook.

Zone 6
66. Salmon Cove River
69. Shoal Harbour River

Zone 10
91. Come By Chance River
93. North Harbour River
94. Black River, Placentia Bay below falls
95. Piper’s Hole River

For all inquiries, contact:
Jason Simms
Resource Management
Tel. (709) 772-2045
E-mail: jason.simms@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Nova Scotia

Overall there is little to report from Nova Scotia.  Water levels have been low, although there was a significant bump yesterday in much of the province.

LaHave – Morgan Falls Fishway is reporting 20 salmon and 36 grilse to July 15, far behind the 99 large salmon and 62 grilse they reported on July 18, 2013. Perhaps the rising water and cooler temperatures (22.3 C yesterday morning) will help.

Margaree – With water levels low – now down to .36, the river is not very fishable as it needs .5 to .6 metres for that. Few salmon are reported.

Northeast Margaree - How low will the water go?

Northeast Margaree – How low will the water go?

Sackville River – It is reporting 3 large salmon and 7 grilse as of July 15, compared with 3 salmon and 5 grilse to the same date in 2013.

New Brunswick

In the wake of the devastation caused by Storm Arthur, with trees down everywhere, up to 140,000 power customers disconnected, large trees coming down rivers, and flows extremely high, salmon angling was a bit slow in recovering.

As David Meerburg notes, caution must be exercised in making any assumptions on numbers this year. One bright “blip in numbers” is that a trapnet operated by the Miramichi Salmon Association at Chatham had counted 12, 22, and 27 last Tues., Wed., and Thurs., plus 8 on Mon. and 18 on Tues. of this week. Certainly it indicates some Atlantic salmon are coming into the river.

Northwest Miramichi -  The Barrier is reporting 71 grilse and 44 large salmon as of July 13, vs. 105 grilse and 161 large salmon as of the same date in 2013, which was a very poor year.

Southwest Miramichi – The Dungarvon Barrier is reporting 40 grilse and 39 large salmon as of July 13, vs. 149 grilse and 183 large salmon to the same date in 2013.

Derek Munn of The Ledges was reporting water levels have come down and are very fishable, but the numbers of Atlantic salmon are certainly still low.

Saint John River – The returns are critically low. As of July 15, 2013, there were 55 grilse and 37 large salmon counted below the Mactaquac Dam, vs. 92 grilse and 21 large salmon in 2013. As a reminder of prior times, the 1996-2000 average was 1,929 grilse and 931 large salmon. These numbers were considered much reduced at the time, but when compared to this year’s numbers they show how critically impacted the Saint John River runs have become.

The Nashwaak has had only 5 grilse and 7 large salmon to July 15, compared to 34 grilse and 21 large salmon in 2013.

Magaguadavic River – ASF monitors this river, and to July 15 there was one grilse, and another salmon from the enhancement program that had returned to the river through the fishway.

Jacquet River – So far this river in northern NB has had 4 large salmon and no grilse, compared with 37 grilse and 17 large salmon in 2013.

Restigouche – David LeBlanc is reporting the angling has been slow, with numbers returning less than half those expected in recent years. As noted previously, many have noted the small grilse, in the order of 2 to less than 3 lb.

David LeBlanc did add that larger fish certainly look healthy

Seal at Ledge Pool, far up the Restigouche.

Seal at Ledge Pool, far up the Restigouche.

Topping it off, a seal was spotted 125 km above head of tide, near Boston Brook Lodge, the furthest upstream anyone can remember seeing one.

Water levels on rivers such as the Upsalquitch had been high and dangerous following “Arthur” with a rise of 5 feet at the time. Things have largely returned to normal now.

Maine:

Penobscot – Numbers remain low. As of July 11 there were 222 salmon returned through Milford and Orono. No one is certain of the reason for the low numbers.

DailySummary

Quebec

There are signs of improving runs on some rivers, and other areas are implementing live release of mature salmon.

Bonaventure River
At camp Bonaventure, Glen Legrand is reporting a definite improvement in the angling success. Prior to “Arthur”, 3 to 5 fish a day was the norm, but as of July 10, the camp was averaging 12-14 fish a day including more grilse than usual.

To July 15, 135 fish had been reported landed and released and 141 grilse had been killed.  To July 15, 2013, 544 fish were reported landed and released in addition to 83 grilse killed.

The Bonaventure, sometimes called the “Bonnie”,  benefited from a bump of water courtesy of “Arthur” but has dropped from 76 cubic meters per second on July 10 to 37 as of July 15.

Bonaventure River (photo Charles Cusson)

Bonaventure River (photo Charles Cusson)

Matapedia River
To July 15, 433 had been reported (including 66 releases). The river flow has been dropping steadily since July 7 (48 cubic meters per second) to 28 cubic meters per second on July 15.

To July 15, 2013, 644 fish had been reported landed (including 80 releases), on the same day the river was flowing at 24 cubic meters per second.

At the same date in 2012, 467 fish had been reported landed (including 41 releases).  The river was flowing at 29 cubic meters per second.

Causapscal River
A short (May 15 to July 15) season has come to an end.

For 2014, 157 fish were reported landed that included 9 releases.
The previous six year numbers are as follows: releases are included in the total
2013, 172 fish landed – 22 reported releases
2012, 129 fish landed – 15 reported releases.
2011, 181 fish landed – 15 reported releases.
2010, 90 fish landed – 8 reported releases.
2009, 107 fish landed – 18 reported releases.
2008, 99 fish landed – 24 reported releases.

Matane River
To July 15 2014, 289 fish (224 salmon and 65 grilse) have been counted.  To the same date, 27 fish have been landed (19 salmon and 8 grilse).

As of July 15 2013, 596 fish (516 salmon and 80 grilse) had migrated though the counting facility.  Also to date, 125 fish were reported landed (100 salmon and 25 grilse).

As of July 15 2012, 1,146 fish (701 salmon and 445 grilse) had been counted.  As of July 15 2012,  285 fish (165 salmon and 120 grilse) including 14 salmon released.

Cascapedia River
To July 11, Darlene Sexton, manager of the Cascapedia Society reported 163 salmon and 11 grilse landed and released with 5 grilse being killed.

In 2013, for the first 11 days of July in spite of very low water conditions,  232 fish were landed (231 salmon released and 1 grilse retained).

Madeleine River

As of July 11 2013, 842 fish (755 salmon and 87 grilse) had migrated upstream.  At the same date in 2012, 406 fish (344 salmon and 72 grilse), in 2011, 390 (331 salmon and 59 grilse).

Aux Rochers River

As of July 14 2014, 115 fish had entered the trap for transport upstream.  To date, 81 fish have been reported landed (51 salmon released, 5 grilse released, 6 salmon and 22 grilse have been harvested)
To July 11 2013, 333 fish had entered the trap for relocation further upstream.  To that date, a total of 149 fish were landed (125 salmon released, 2 grilse released, 4 salmon retained and 18 retained grilse).

York River
Hurricane Arthur improved water flows in the Gaspé area but levels are dropping fast.

To July 15 2014: 60 salmon have been reported released and 138 fish killed (breakdown not available)

To July 15 2013: 115 salmon had been reported released and 84 fish killed “    “    “
To July 15 2012: number of fish released is not available, 176 fish had been killed “

Dartmouth
To July 15 2014:  65 salmon were reported released and 29 grilse killed.  The results of the in-river count to determine if a harvest can be supported this year is not yet available.

To July 15 2013: 113 salmon had been reported released and 21 grilse killed.
To July 15, 2012: 44 grilse had been registered killed, data on releases is not available.

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