Looking Over One’s Shoulder – and At the Ice Underfoot

Spring IS coming, along with the usual flooding here and there, ice jams in some places, and increasing interest from many anglers on what the conditions are like along the rivers.

To put it mildly, salmon angling on the Miramichi right now is an adventure – and one with a slightly elevated danger level at that.

There are ice cakes in abundance on the shore, and ice and snow in the woods, making for tricky footwork descending to the river, and working ones way along the banks, according to several reports.

However, the comment looking over one’s shoulder refers to the fact that large ice cakes continue to drift down the river, and no one wants to be hit by one of these miniature icebergs while wading. The results could range from surprise to devastating.

Here and there salmon anglers are braving these conditions, and finding spring kelts, some large and some that came into the river as grilse last fall, according to Debbie Norton of Upper Oxbow Adventures.

While some rain is predicted over the next several days, it is likely water levels will continue to drop, ice cakes will shrink, and snow in the adjacent forests will melt further, improving traction.

Ice cakes on the shore, and occasional drifting ice in the water. Photo taken Wednesday of this week by Debbie Norton of Upper Oxbow Adventures

Ice cakes on the shore, and occasional drifting ice in the water. Photo taken Wednesday of this week by Debbie Norton of Upper Oxbow Adventures

Being Aware of New Regulations

All Atlantic salmon anglers should  be aware that DFO changed the rules  in New Brunswick in late March. These resulted from conservation concerns regarding the salmon runs:

  • The expansion of the catch and release measures on the Northwest Miramichi River system;
    • From June 1 until July 31, 2014, catch and release will be mandatory in the Northwest Miramichi River system and its tributaries upstream from the Red Bank Bridge on Route 425.
    • For the rest of the season, the following waters will remain catch and release:
      • Portions of Little Southwest Miramichi and its tributaries upstream from Catamaran Brook
      • The portion of Northwest Miramichi River and its tributaries upstream from Little River
      • The portion of both the north and south branches of the Big Sevogle River and their tributaries upstream from but not including Square Forks.

DFO adds the following discussion points:

In the last 10 years, the number of salmon returns to the Northwest Miramichi system has been lower than the minimum required for a sustainable population, except in 2011. From 2010 to 2013, the Department implemented a mandatory live release of all salmon caught in portions of the river system to increase spawner abundance. The measures announced today extend the mandatory live release to the entire Northwest Miramichi river system, including all tributaries. Starting in 2014, the measures are to remain in place until further notice.

Grilse Retention

  • The yearly fishing quota for grilse will be reduced from eight to four in the Atlantic salmon recreational fishery (reduction of tags);
  • The daily catch and retain quota for grilse will be reduced from two to one in the Salmon Fishing Area (SFA) 15. SFA 15 comprises the area from Restigouche River up to, but excluding the Tabusintac River. The measure does not apply to boundary waters next to the Province of Quebec.

News from Maine

On the Penobscot, the high water flows have required the temporary shutdown of the Milford Dam fish lift and counting facility. This is normal, and the facility will be back in operation as water flows drop.


It may be months until the Atlantic salmon season opens, but Terra Nova National Park has announced it will again have a recreational salmon season on the portion of the Northwest River that is within the National Park.  Licenses are by a draw, with details below:

April 16, 2014  – Terra Nova National Park, Parks Canada – Parks Canada is pleased to announce that the recreational salmon fishery on the Northwest River within Terra Nova National Park will proceed this summer. One hundred and fifty licences (150) will be issued and the fishery is scheduled to open from June 1st to July 15th, 2014.

Since 2003, the Northwest River has successfully sustained a limited recreational salmon fishery. The health of the salmon population is due largely to the work of the Northwest River Conservation Group – a partnership of local-area residents, stakeholder groups, Parks Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

In order to provide fair and equitable access to the 150 available licences, a draw system will be used. Those wishing to enter their name in the draw may do so by contacting the Heritage Foundation of Terra Nova National Park by email at nwrsalmon@gmail.com or by phone at (709) 533-3145. The phone line will be staffed Monday to Friday, 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm and will accept voicemail messages outside of those hours. Entrants are required to provide their full name and mailing address as well as their phone number and/or email address. All names must be received by 5:00 pm, Friday, May 16th, 2014. Names received after the deadline will not be entered into the draw.

Quick Facts

  • Only those eligible to hold a provincial salmon licence may enter their name in the draw.
  • Licensed anglers are permitted to catch and retain one salmon per licence.
  • Catch-and-release angling is not permitted for salmon greater than 30 cm and less than 63 cm.
  • Both barbed and barbless hooks are permitted.
  • The “Jigging Hole” will remain closed to angling in 2014.
  • The fishery may close at any time if water temperatures exceed 22 °C for three consecutive days, water levels are deemed to be too low for salmon passage upstream, and/or concerns related to the long term sustainability of the salmon population arise.

“The dedicated efforts of various groups and individuals, including many volunteers, have greatly improved the health of the Northwest River and, as a result, salmon numbers have increased to sustainable levels. Introducing a draw system this year provides everyone a fair and equal opportunity to obtain a licence and also helps support continued sustainability of this resource for future generations of anglers.”

Kirby Tulk, Acting Resource Conservation Manager, Terra Nova National Park

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