An Extra Thought for Safety in Chest Waders

Prepared to wade on the banks of the Miramichi, with a wading stick for insurance.

Prepared to wade on the banks of the Miramichi, with a wading stick for insurance.

A few weeks ago an Atlantic angler on the Torrent River lost his footing and drowned. This is a tragedy for the individual, and for an entire family. It also increases sober conversation on chest waders and how to stay safe in our rivers.

Most anglers wear a non-stretching belt to help keep water out of the lower part of the chest waders, but ASF’s regional director for Newfoundland Don Ivany has personally experienced what happens if one loses footing on the bottom.

“It was very disorienting, as the feet come up because of the air around the legs and feet. It seems like it is trying to force the head down in the water,” says Don.

Basically, one floats somewhat like a plank and if there are riffle areas, best to be headed feet first downstream while deciding on the next move towards shore.

Those who have actually experienced chestwaders fill with water have two observations. First, that if one does not have a lot of heavy clothes on, it is quite possible to keep afloat. Secondly, don’t try to take them off – that is nearly impossible.

Some Atlantic salmon anglers have taken to using the small neck-fitted personal floatation devices. One of these could make a big difference in those first moments after one slips, and before one gains a measure of control in the effort to reach the river’s shore.

And don’t forget that if one is wading in a river, a good staff can make all the difference in avoiding the loss of footing in the first place.

One final point from ASF’s Don Ivany:

“Some time ago I was in Labrador, and had on felt-soled waders. We had lunch ashore and the soles dried out completely in the sun and heat that day. After lunch I made a leap out to a rock in the river that was stream-polished smooth. The felt soles can be incredibly slippery when dry, and I skidded and was left holding on to the rock with my fingernails.”

Accidents unfortunately happen at times least expected. If possible, have a friend handy, and reduce chances for a tragic outcome in any way possible.


Nova Scotia

Margaree – Comments from John Hart:

“Currently, there seem to be good numbers of fish in the river, water levels are quite acceptable, and although the catch rates are not what they were reported to be two years ago, anglers seem happy. There have been a couple of comments from anglers that they don’t seem to be seeing many grilse, but there have been reports of a number of large fish which would make up for the grilse. One fish caught and released over a month ago was reported to have been 54 inches!

The season thus far, would be a good one for most folks, particularly after the low numbers of 2012.”

Margaree River late on June 20

Margaree River Rising.

LaHave – Morgan Falls 103 salmon and 72 grilse to date, about 3 ½ times last year’s totals. The water levels were down a bit last week, but have come up again this week, resulting in one more fish making it through. The dam personnel have seen no sign this year of aquaculture fish entering the river.


Penobscot – The dam demolition continues, with efforts now focused on the fishway, in order to begin the destruction of the main dam segment between the mid-river fishway and the eastern bank of the river.

The Veazie Dam Removal - as of Aug. 13, 2013.

New Brunswick

Miramichi – This past week has been difficult for anglers with very high water levels resulting from the major thunderstorms coming through. But temperatures are relatively cool, and with a break in the weather for a few days, conditions should be improving.

Atlantic salmon returns at the Dungarvon trap, as of Aug. 11, 2013.

Atlantic salmon returns at the Dungarvon trap, as of Aug. 11, 2013.

The Southwest Miramichi numbers are still not up to where they should be. Earlier this summer DFO was not able to count fish for four days during one of the freshets, so numbers are a little better than they seem. And still, they are much better than last year.

With 219 large salmon counted vs 103 in 2012 (as of Aug. 11), and 187 grilse vs. 127 in 2012, the numbers certainly have improved. With the high water levels and acceptable water temperatures, there should be some good days ahead for everyone, and for the Atlantic salmon.

For anglers, striped bass have been a major topic of conversation this year. But smallmouth bass remain an issue, and are still in Miramichi Lake. Besides a barrier, DFO is apparently focusing their eradication and control efforts for smallmouth bass this year in two periods of two weeks at the lake. One was in June and the other this month.

Restigouche – From Larry’s Gulch comes word that anglers are still catching and releasing large salmon, and water levels are dropping. Water temperature was at a nicely cool 54F. this morning.

New fish are now coming up the Kedgwick, and water levels are on the low side. Elsewhere water levels are now good.  One unusual event bears mentioning. The large amounts of rain flushed down the NW Upsalquitch large amounts of didymo, to the point that it clogged the counting barrier, forcing them to cease operations for several days.


Most rivers have received another substantial bump in water which will ensure good angling conditions for another week to 10 days. Word of caution – some river flows have jumped dramatically in a very short period of time so check with your local river association before making a trip.

A case in point – the Sainte-Marguerite River:

Sainte-Marguerite River Flow

Sainte-Marguerite River Flow

Moisie River

The majestic North Shore River is back to a “normal flow”, from a low of 160 cubic meters per second on August 2 to 550 cubic meters per second as of August 15. At this time in the season, angling is happening further upstream.

Matapedia River

To August 14, for the 2013 season 1,161 fish have been reported landed which includes 135 released. At the same date in 2012, 689 fish had been reported landed which included 54 releases.

Based on the reported catches and historical data, the Matapedia has once again more than surpassed the minimum spawning requirements. Results of the in-river count are only available once the yearly report has been published by the government. These are the numbers of fish counted at season end. Minimum spawning requirement is calculated at 5.990 million eggs.

Grilse                        Salmon                        % of MSR            Egg deposition

2007                        338                        1,228                        120%                        7.18

2008                        960                        1,406                        146%                        8.73

2009                        506                        1,667                        153%                        9.18

2010                        325                        1,219                        120%                        7.18

2011                        721                        2,049                        213%                        12.7

2012                        260                        1,519                        150%                        9.01

2007-2011%            570                        1,514                        150%                        9.01

2007 and 2011, final counts were done in difficult observation conditions using conservative numbers.

Matane River

For the season to August 13, 2,025 fish (521 grilse and 1,504 salmon) were counted entering the system. At the same date reported catches are as follows: 195 grilse and 319 salmon for a total of 514. In 2012 to the same date, 1,790 fish (640 grilse and 779 salmon) had been counted. The catches were reported to be a total of 554 (297 grilse and 236 salmon).

The Matane has also been blessed with rain raising the flow to 16 cubic meters per second on August 15 compared to 8 cubic meters per second on August 14.

Dartmouth and York Rivers

York River

York River

Once again, it is water, water everywhere. As of August 13 on the Dartmouth, for the season, 158 fish have been reported landed. 130 salmon released and 38 grilse retained.

To the same date on the York, for the season, 247 fish have been reported landed which includes 126 salmon released and 121 (salmon and grilse combined) were retained.



NY Dinner Honoree Nat Reed with his guide Bruno releasing a nice salmon on the Bonaventure on Aug. 13, 2013

NY Dinner Honoree Nat Reed with his guide Bruno releasing a nice salmon on the Bonaventure on Aug. 13, 2013


Overall, the fishing has slowed, and Atlantic salmon are harder to find. Additionally, recently it has been too windy on some days to fly fish.

Lower Humber is not producing at all, with very few big fish, although one was 40 lb. Don Ivany reports that at Boom Siding, at the exit of Deer Lake, hardly a salmon has been moving.

There have been no official counts released since Aug. 4, so counting fence data will need to wait for another day.

Exploits – Fred Parsons notes the salmon migration is slowing down with 50 to 75 per day. “It is almost finished for the year,” he adds. The number to Aug. 15 is 32,780, which is 2,700 ahead of last year, and about 5% less than the five year average.


Flowers River is having an outstanding year, and that certainly includes mid-August. Jim Burden noted that on Monday 18 Atlantic salmon were hooked in Max’s Pool alone. Appear to be large numbers seen migrating upstream. Water is certainly up now.

On the Eagle River, Pratt Falls closed for the year on Aug. 9, when the water was just starting to come up somewhat.

The Final Comment for the week. What it is all about:

Nathan Wilbur with a fine Atlantic salmon on the Patapedia in July, 2013.

Nathan Wilbur with a fine Atlantic salmon on the Patapedia in July, 2013.




This entry was posted in Salmon Runs. Bookmark the permalink.