If It Rains, They Will Come…

Jean Makin Releases York River grilse this month. Photo Herb Makin

It has been a few years since so many in the salmon community have been yearning for a major period of rain; the kind that fills the bogs in Newfoundland so that the rivers can really flow with cool water again; raises the water levels of the Gaspe rivers, and returns cool temperatures to the Miramichi.

There has been strong evidence this year that Atlantic salmon either rushed into the rivers early, like they did in the Exploits in Newfoundland, or have been lazing in estuaries and coastal areas, waiting for their chance to move up river – the latter giving poachers greater opportunity to negatively impact these populations by coastal netting.

Rain is needed and there are signs the weather might be shifting in that direction. The weather reports are more variable, and here and there a river is catching a short deluge, with the salmon taking advantage of it.

Fred Parsons in Newfoundland noted the heat came early and came consistently, and the rivers reached temperatures that haven’t been seen for many years.  Let’ s hear it for early autumn cold rains and high flows. Meanwhile, some interesting reports from the rivers.

River Reports


Gaspésie Region

New Derreen Photo – by John Shipley

Grand Cascapedia – To August 10, 126 fish had been landed for the month, “not bad considering the low water”, reports Darlene Sexton of the Cascapedia Society.  Some rain has come down in the lower part of the river, “but all it did was turn the river brown”.    According to Terry Bujold, head guide at the New Derreen Camp, the source of the stain is coming from Jonathan Brook, an area that has been cut.

Leading the Way, York River. Photo Charles Cusson/ASF

York – Dartmouth – St-Jean – Ann Smith of Quebec Sporting reports that the rain forecast in the Murdochville area for the next week has already started to improve water conditions on the York.  She anticipates very good angling conditions in a few days once the rivers settle down from the influx of water. Fishing has been slow, but hopefully this precipitation will bring in fish that have been on hold in the brackish water.

Bonaventure – For the season to August 14, 863 fish had been landed (608 salmon released and 255 grilse retained).  Water levels have been extremely low for the last month, but with recent rain, conditions are starting to improve.  Flow is now around the 20 cubic meters per second mark and should help the salmon be more cooperative for the anglers.

Matane – To August 14, a total of 1,853 fish (932 salmon and 921 grilse) had migrated through and 554 fish (257 salmon and 297 grilse) were reported landed.  No reported releases as of yet.

For those of us who believe Atlantic salmon are very smart, here is some interesting data.  From July 23 to August 10, 107 fish migrated into the river. During the four day period from August 11 to 14, 317 fish found their way through the fish way.  The rain started on August 10.

Lower St-Lawrence Region

Matapedia – To August 14, for the season that started on June 1, the CGRMP reported that 694 fish had been landed.   588 salmon and grilse were retained and 54 were reported released.  Rain in the Amqui area since August 10 has brought the flow up to 19 cubic meters per second from 10 cubic meters per second on August 9.  Still low, but the new injection of oxygen and cooler temperatures should improve angling results.

Mitis – To August 14, 902 fish had entered the river, 554 salmon and 348 grilse.  For the season, the Mitis Zec is reporting that 244 fish landed (123 salmon and 121 grilse) which includes 13 reported releases.  If you are in the area, a visit to the Reford Gardens is a must.  www.refordgardens.com/english

Rimouski – As of August 14, 365 fish had been trapped for transportation upstream (175 salmon and 190 grilse).  Angling was slow due to low water, for the same period, 95 fish have been landed (27 salmon released and 68 grilse retained).

New Brunswick

Restigouche – This river is blessed with more than its share of cool springs feeding into the system, providing refuges for Atlantic salmon in warm weather. This year was a very good year to have them.

Upsalquitch Numbers at 10-Mile Barrier

With the early and constant warming air masses overhead, the Restigouche waters have reached  22 F. regularly, unusual in this system. As to the returns, the chart below, to Aug. 5, gives the numbers for the Upsalquitch 10-mile barrier. While far lower than last year, David LeBlanc, Executive Director of the Restiguche Watershed Council, notes the grilse and salmon are free of disease and looking healthy.

Larry’s Gulch is reporting that things were slow, but have been improving over the past few days.

Miramichi – There is relief all round, now that rain showers and cooler temperatures are taking over. The fishing has been slow and the closures and overall restrictions have remained in place. Here and there, there are some discount packages to be found among the lodges and outfitters.

The August 15 numbers are in for the Miramichi and they continue to be on the low side.

Northwest Miramichi – At the Millerton Barrier the Aug. 15 count was 240 (120 large salmon,  120 grilse), against 786 in 2011 (205 large salmon, 581 grilse)

Main Southwest Miramichi – Perhaps the numbers at the Millerton Trapnet tell the year’s story to this point at least. There had been 883 salmon (446 large, 437 grilse) to Aug. 15. Compared to  2,315 (581 large, and 1,734 grilse) last year.

As in all rivers, the grilse coming in seem healthy, and while not overly “plump”, are definitely not undernourished.

This week an addendum to the restrictions was added, essentially changing the description of what makes up the South Branch Southwest Miramichi:

This Variation Order is to fix a couple of loopholes that were found in the previous order VO 2012-061.

The changes apply to the Little Southwest Miramichi River and the South Branch of the Southwest Miramichi River.

Little Southwest River: Close times for various fishing methods to all species now apply to all tributaries in the Little Southwest Miramichi River; including North Pole Stream, Lower North Branch of the Little Southwest and Tuadook River.

South Branch of the Southwest Miramichi River: Close times for various fishing methods to all species now apply upstream to the Highway 107 bridge at Foreston.

VO-2012-066: Order varying the close time for angling, for any species of fish, by certain methods, in certain waters of the Province of New Brunswick. (Daily closures are now applied to the tributaries of the Little Southwest Miramichi River. The description of the waters of the South Branch Southwest Miramichi River has also been modified.)

Saint John River – The rivers of the Bay of Fundy continue to see very low returns. At Mactaquac there have been only 96 large salmon and only 83 grilse, a fraction of 2011’s return by Aug. 15 (519 large salmon; 908 grilse). For totals, 2012 has 179, and 2011 had 1501. This is a massive drop in the returns to date.

Nashwaak – If anything, the results in the Nashwaak raise questions on what is happening with these Bay of Fundy populations. By Aug. 15, a mere 32 large salmon and 14 grilse had been counted, vs. 211 large salmon and 382 grilse in 2011. That means the 2012 total to Aug. 15 is 46, vs. 593 the year before.

Magaguadavic – In southwest New Brunswick, had its first salmon this year, a nice MSW, come in this week, compared to 17 wild (9 large salmon, 8 grilse) to Aug 15, 2011 .  So far there have been 5 aquaculture escapees.


Penobscot – There is little to say this week. Not a single Atlantic salmon has appeared at the Veazie trap in two weeks, keeping the total to date 609, vs. 3,022 in 2011.

Nova Scotia

Low water conditions continue to plague the Cape Breton rivers.

LaHave – The Morgan Falls Fishway has had considerable difficulty operating this year with the low water conditions. To Aug. 15, the total was 45 (27 large salmon, 18 grilse), while 2011 had brought in 346 (72 large salmon, 274 grilse).

Sackville River – There have been 11 in total in 2012, vs. 47 in 2011.

Cheticamp River – Parks Canada continues to close the river due to the low flows

Margaree – The low flows have continued, with some salmon being caught in the lowermost section of the river.

Newfoundland and Labrador

In eastern Newfoundland the rivers are all closed and water levels remain low. However, in the western part of the province, the balance seems to be shifting, with water levels up here and there due to occasional cloudbursts.

Maybe Next Time – Attempting the High Jump on Big East River.  photo Tom Moffatt

On Aug. 14 a fisherman reported finding fish in the Big East River at Hawke’s Bay.

Exploits – One fisherman was reporting a happy result on the Exploits, but at the counting facility, the run has largely stalled out, with 29,918 reported at the counting trap. Fred Parsons said the facility only had about 25 fish on Monday and  noted the early and continued rise in temperatures this summer, with temperatures earlier this week reaching 22 C in the Exploits. He also remarked on the number of big fish, repeat spawners, in the Exploits.

Elsewhere across the island of Newfoundland, the counts remain lower. The Terra Nova River had 3,563 to Aug. 12, vs 4,754 last year.

Conne River – It appears stuck at 1,960 in 2012, certainly up from the 1,193 last year. The south coast and west coast rivers, like the others, could benefit from some really big rains. There is still talk that salmon are laying in the estuaries and offshore, waiting for better conditions.

Note that many river closures still apply. Check out earlier Rivernotes for more information.

In Labrador, there was a report from the Pinware in the first week of August that despite low water there had been fish coming up.

The Sand Hill River still has 3,494 grilse and 724 large (4,218 total). That isn’t too far off the mark when compared to the 2006-2011 average of 3,851 grllse and 605 large salmon (4,456 total), but shrinks to a poor year when compared to last year’s 8,357 grilse and 949 large salmon (9,306 total).

As elsewhere, reports are saying that while grilse are low in numbers, the fish that make it into the rivers appear healthy, and seem to have had decent feeding at sea.

From beginning to end, the plea is for rain, and lots of it.

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