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No two years on Atlantic salmon rivers are the same.
One year will start with charging runs of salmon unusually early, and we all wisely say it was because of certain water levels or warmth, or the full of the moon. And another year everything is late, and just as wisely we profoundly say it is the cold spring, the sea ice, perhaps low water levels, or maybe not enough blackflies.
This year the general word is the runs are late, and numbers in many rivers on the low side. Scientists noted the grilse numbers last year were low, so perhaps that is having an impact. The late heavy sea ice off Newfoundland may have had an impact, and perhaps fodder fish for Atlantic salmon this winter were in the wrong places to be useful.
For some areas, like Cape Breton, some are saying the great torrential river-changing storm of December 2010 that killed many fry, and parr is having an impact now.
The reality is that we are seeing only the glimmers of truth about these and other factors. Certainly the salmon are late, but they are coming in now. And as Charles Cusson, ASF’s Director of Quebec Programs, notes, some rivers seem to be catching up.
So how are we doing? This week we have more than our share of release and salmon action photos, most taken in the past 10 days. We love to get your photos. Do remember for release images that the idea is to stress the fish as little as possible. We want every released Atlantic salmon to go on and spawn.
Overall the angling to date has been slow, with the Atlantic salmon at least two weeks late. Water levels have generally been good.
To June 16, 56 fish were reported as having been landed (including 9 releases). By comparison, to June 16 2013, 90 fish had been landed (including 6 releases). To this date in 2012, 67 fish including 7 releases had been reported. On opening day June 1, 2014 the river was flowing at 165 cubic meters/second, as of the 16th the flow was at 75 cubic meters per second.
This year the first angling started on May 27 due to high water the previous three days. To June 16, 74 fish have been reported landed (including 7 released). At the same date in 2013, 76 fish had been landed including 8 releases. In 2012 to the same date, 82 fish had been landed including 15 releases.
Want to watch salmon leap? For a very short period of time each year in June, and although on some days the presence of salmon is unpredictable, photographing leapers at Causapscal Falls can be the experience of a lifetime. Large salmon soar upwards only 20 or 30 feet away, creating the potential for spectacular images. The difficulty is being there on the right day, and that is impossible to predict.
Tammy Vicaire of the Cascapedia Society reports the water level is very good, water is still very cold. Cascapedia guides have noticed a bump in the number of fish since the full moon on June 12. Two fish in the 40lb range have been landed to date. Another sign there are fresh fish in the river is the spotting of a seal in the Van Allen pool.
York – Dartmouth – Saint-Jean
The crown jewels of the Gaspé are experiencing a very slow start, with the full moon of June 13 and the accompanying tides failing to bring into the river the desired number of fish….
York – To June 17, 37 releases were reported. To this date in 2013, 102 releases had been declared. The York is mandatory live release to June 23rd.
Dartmouth – To June 17, 21 releases had been registered. To this date in 2013, 87 salmon had been returned to the wild in order to spawn. An in-river count will be conducted in early July to determine if a harvest can be supported in 2014.
St-Jean – Very few fish have been seen, let alone landed. Ray Rooney, manager of the St-John Salmon Club is reporting very tough angling with very few fish in the river to date.
The season started on June 15, and 52 fish have made their way through the counting facility. Anglers testing the waters below the fishway are seeing few salmon. It’s important to remember that the bulk of the Matane run does not start to appear until mid-July.
To June 17, 89 salmon were reported landed, with 61 killed and 28 released. This compares to 228 salmon reported landed at the same date in 2013 (164 killed and 64 released).
René Aucoin notes that 40% of this river’s salmon run should be in by now, but the return has instead been slow. He notes there was good rain last Saturday, and notes “You would expect to see a half dozen at Chance Pool, but you only see one.” He also had fished the tidal area and had not seen a salmon there.
John Hart notes that a few salmon have been seen and even angled on the Margaree, but the fishing remains slow. Hart notes that the water levels are alright at the moment, although another good soaking would improve conditions.
Morgan Falls Fishway is reporting 11 salmon and 14 grilse. The water levels are up somewhat, although they remain slightly on the low side.
Restigouche River Lodge is noting there is some activity in the past few days, with good water levels. Yesterday evening a 17lb large salmon and two grilse were angled, and in the morning there had been a fine set of Atlantic salmon caught and released – 13, 22, 14 and 25 lb. On Monday there was a 30 lb and a 25 lb. fish.
Miramichi – Anglers are finding Atlantic salmon – but having to work hard to find them. Water levels are good.
Debbie Norton of Upper Oxbow Adventures notes:
Great water levels. We are still able to operate and fish from boats. It is rainy and on the cool side which makes it perfect for the salmon and yes we are starting to see and catch some.
However, the barrier counting facilities have a long way to catch up, even to last year when the Miramichi did not meet its conservation minimum levels for spawning.
The Dungarvon Barrier by June 17, 2014 had only counted two grilse and 3 salmon, against 5 grilse and 14 salmon last year to the same date. (see chart).
The Northwest Miramichi Barrier has counted two salmon (63 to 84 cm fork length) vs. none on the same June 17 date in 2013.
Conditions remain slow all over, although a few Atlantic salmon are trickling in here and there. Also, check out this gorgeous 85cm salmon caught by Christopher Baird, a graduate student in Geography at Memorial University.
Northern Peninsula – There are finally Atlantic salmon entering Beaver Brook, that wonderful stream where the fish swim through an underground cavern called the “Underground Salmon Pool” on their way upstream to spawning areas.
Meanwhile, in the Hawke’s Bay area there are a very few salmon showing in the Big East and other nearby rivers. However angler activity has been way down this year. Remember that if you are in this area to visit the Torrent River Salmon Centre, where glass panels in the side of the fishway allow visitors to view the fish swimming up past the falls.
To provide the full picture this time on how low the returns have been to date, a screen shot is posted below on all the assessed returns of DFO to June 15, 2014, compared with 5-year-averages and 2013 numbers.
The low numbers returning are causing both concern and puzzlement, especially since the fish lift at Milford is new, and we need to know if it is working well. Below are the words of Oliver Cox of Maine’s Department of Marine Resources:
As of Yesterday, we have documented 66 Atlantic salmon Returns to the Penobscot River. Two of the returns were captured at Orono and the remainder at Milford.
The new fish lift at Milford has been operated since May 5. There have been a few trial and tribulations along the way, but everyone is working hard to maintain fish passage. You will notice that the attached summary is not the usual format and that is simply a reflection of the lack of time staff have had to enter data. So, rather than make you wait while we get caught up on our data entry, I produced this quick summary. The summary includes fish passed in the fish lift as well as the old Denil at Milford. It also includes the 2 salmon passed at Orono, but no other fish handled at Orono (those can be found on our web page).
I am not going to speculate on the low number of returns other than to point out that a low return year was predicted and the new lift has been passing a lot of river herring and even American shad. The number of shad passed is certainly beyond anything I would have imagined.” – Oliver Cox
Numbers certainly are down – 66 this year. Last year to June 13 it was 200, in 2012 on same date it was 488, and in 2011, a really good year, it was 1,464. So, is the fish lift part of the problem, or is it mortality at sea?
At least some regions of Scotland are doing well this year. Below is a live-release photo from Jerk Sönnichsen, Chairman, Federation of Fly Fishers Denmark.
He notes that in his week on the Ballogie Beat on the River Dee he caught 16 salmon. The largest caught so far on the Dee was a 26 lb, with a length of 105 cm.