Writer’s Note: Scroll down to the bottom for additional notes on salmon returns. Special: Penobscot passes 2,500 milestone!!!
What is it about Atlantic salmon that hypnotizes us? This week I have watched families at Big Falls on the Humber, holding hands as they stand on the rocks, waiting patiently for yet another Atlantic salmon to make a leap at the roaring water. The water levels have dropped almost a metre in the last four days, but the power still overwhelms the salmon, and they fall back into the seething cauldron of currents below.
I have also talked with one angler, who at age about 65 caught and gently released the first Atlantic salmon of his life. He says he remembers every moment of it; how the salmon leaped in the air each of the four times it was airborne; how the great power of the fish could be felt through the rod as it pulled out line in a dash down a branch of the Salmon River that is near Main Brook, Newfoundland; and how it felt to release this same Atlantic salmon gently, to continue its return to spawning beds upstream, in the heart of northern Newfoundland.
This same angler approved mightily when his guide discovered a hidden poacher’s net in the forest, and spent the next ten minutes slicing it into pieces that could never be put to use again.
Barb Genge, owner of Tuckamore Lodge, knows that feeling of wanting to keep Atlantic safe into the future. She is eminently practical and runs her operation with flair and imagination, and yet with great efficiency. She sees live release as being part of this practical approach – it is a proven conservation tool that helps safeguard the Atlantic salmon runs.
Barb’s guides are all trained in using the best techniques of live release, and work with her guests to pass on this knowledge.
“It would be such a shame to have the rivers go silent, with no Atlantic salmon there and no one on the rivers because of the lack of salmon.”
The other experience that seems particularly special is a visit to the Underground Salmon Pool on Beaver Creek, not far from Roddickton in northern Newfoundland. Here a very good salmon river enters, then emerges, from underground caverns. Atlantic salmon returning to spawn enter these dark caves, and pass through them upstream. With the high waters of recent days, some of these cave mouths are entirely below the surface.
A sign on the highway directs a visitor up a well-maintained gravel road for 1.5 km to a parking area. From there two trails, one a boardwalk, the other gravel, are a 700m. walk to the river and on across a bridge and to the Underground Salmon Pool.
It seems very Celtic somehow, and no doubt if ancient Irish or Druid Celts knew of such a place, they would have incorporated it into their stories of how the wild Atlantic salmon was the oldest and wisest of all creatures, having all secret knowledge. Meanwhile, downstream from the real Underground Salmon Pool on Beaver Creek, anglers were focused on intercepting some of these salmon headed for the caves.
Atlantic Salmon Reports & Returns
Cascapedia River, Gaspé, Quebec – There has been a return of 671 total, 669 released, from up to June 23. In that were 26 grilse and out of those 26, 2 were killed. This is turning into an amazing year for the Cascapedia.
Penobscot River, Maine – The Penobscot has now had 2,521 Atlantic salmon return, as of Monday, June 27. This is an incredible return causing great excitement, and pushing the Maine DMR to a new efficiency. Read about how they are upping their game. Click here
The Penobscot Project, of which the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) is a partner, will next year be removing Great Works Dam, a barrier to effective movement of Atlantic salmon upstream. This will improve the upstream migration and open up spawning areas to more Atlantic salmon.
Torrent River – On Monday, June 27 Atlantic salmon had still not entered the fish ladder, although they continued to be angled in the pools near the river’s mouth.
Western Brook in Gros Morne National Park was getting salmon in its counting fence trap, although Interpretive Naturalist Don Morrow was not certain of the numbers. Last year a total of about 700 returned to this river that drains from one of the most spectacular fjord-like ponds of the Long Range Mountains.
Humber River has indeed dropped about a metre in the past four days, and that meant there was a long line of anglers waiting for the opportunity to rent a boat and to anchor below the falls. Meanwhile some wading anglers did indeed connect with Atlantic salmon in that same stretch of the river.
Exploits River – As of Sunday, 1183 returned, much below the record-breaking 6,921 of last year.
Conne River – Only 776 have returned, compared to 1,211 last year, but the Conne even that does not tell the whole story, as the 5-year average is 1,346. The Conne River is situated very close to the principal aquaculture cage-site area in Newfoundland.
Harry’s River – Now has 1,097. They are being measured at the new site, just above Stephenville Crossing.
Labrador – No returns noted as of this time.
UNITED KINGDOM – There is very strong evidence that Atlantic salmon numbers are rebounding in the UK, which is causing great excitement in both England and Scotland. The one area where this is not taking place is in rivers near aquaculture sites, for whatever reasons. Read more