For North American readers of this blog the question usually arises in mid-summer of how well, or how poorly, the runs are doing in European waters. In rivers from Galicia in Spain to the Ponoi and Pechora in northwest Russia, and in the rivers of the Baltic countries, especially Sweden and Finland, the same species returns to ancestral spawning areas. In the glens of Scotland, the humid streams of Dorset and Devon in England and amidst the glorious greens of Ireland, the salmon leap waterfalls and swim in pools and across gravel beds and loughs on the way to small tributary streams.
Following a somewhat abbreviated North American report on Atlantic salmon this week, we give an overview of what is happening in the eastern Atlantic, several of the segments written by individuals “on the ground” in those locations.
If you need to locate one of the rivers mentioned, you may wish to consult the Atlantic Salmon Atlas. It provides country maps with Atlantic salmon rivers. Click a button beside a river’s name and it creates a label on the map for that salmon river.
River Reports – North America
As noted last week, the counting fences at Jacquet River, Dungarvon and at Northwest Protection Barrier all needed to be rebuilt following the passage of Tropical Storm Arthur earlier in July, so that numbers at the counting fences are no longer reliable for 2014.
Restigouche System – Marie-Josée Valcourt at Larry’s Gulch is reporting that the rain over the past week has made for significantly better angling in the past few days. Marie-Josée also noted there have been some of the very small grilse. Also being noted, perhaps important in future years, is the lower number of parr being seen in the river. The end of July figures are available for Larry’s Gulch, and include 69 large salmon and 44 grilse. Larry’s Gulch is entirely live release. Numbers since 1991 are below.
Jacquet River – July 31 barrier count is 24 grilse and 24 large salmon (remember barrier was not counting for two weeks or more in July) vs. 66 grilse and 32 large salmon in 2013.
Miramichi – Conditions are improving, with rain falling and cooler weather. Also, there are more salmon coming into the river, as everyone has hoped for. The Northwest Miramichi Barrier is reporting 107 grilse and 55 large salmon by July 31, compared with 130 grilse and 191 large salmon last year. (remember barrier was not counting for two weeks or more in July).
The Dungarvon Barrier, Southwest Miramichi, is reporting 55 grilse and 49 large salmon by July 31, vs. 184 grilse and 216 large salmon in 2013. (Remember barrier was not counting for three weeks in July)
Saint John River – 118 grilse and 60 large salmon are being reported to July 31 at Mactaquac, vs. 235 grilse and 72 large salmon in 2013. It may well be that 2014 will will rival 2013 for the lowest returns historically for this great river.
Nashwaak – 29 Grilse and 12 salmon are being reported to July 31, vs 51 grilse and 26 salmon last year. The Nashwaak barrier was also impacted by Tropical Storm Arthur, and other salmon may have entered the river before the barrier was active, earlier in the year.
Magaguadavic – As of 6 Aug., 4 grilse and one large salmon have returned, as well as two salmon from the broodstock program. In 2013, 3 wild fish entered the river in July and 3 more in August.
Most rivers had adopted a management model of releasing salmon measuring more than 63 cm prior to the province-wide directive invoked by the government on August 1.
Cascapedia – With July now finished, we can compare figures over the past several years for the month. Below are graphs for 2014 back to 2012.
2014 636 landed including 92 releases
2013 914 landed including 111 released
2012 617 landed including 52 released
2011 1,570 landed including 211 released
2010 896 landed including 121 released
2009 663 landed including 97 released
2014 594 landed including 275 releases
2013 821 landed including 683 releases
2012 708 landed including 484 releases
2011 1,380 landed including 856 releases
2010 998 landed including 720 releases
2009 680 landed including 505 releases
Sainte-Anne River to July 31 cumulative numbers to date for the season in:
2014 87 landed including 76 releases
2013 126 landed including 108 releases
2012 161 landed including 123 releases
2011 385 landed including 319 releases
2010 288 landed including 244 releases
2009 171 landed including 156 releases
Newfoundland and Labrador
No new counts have been released by DFO since July 27. Generally water levels remain low, and air temperatures have remained high. The centre portion of the island of Newfoundland has now had about five weeks of this hot, dry weather, while rivers in the west of the island have dropped after having earlier significant rainfall.
Exploits – Fred Parsons notes that as of Aug. 6 there are now 27,067 salmon counted, vs 32, 304 last year.
“We are still getting 200 to 400 fish a day, and last year we didn’t have more than a very few after Aug. 3. If we get some rain, that should give us another bump, so we can expect to close the gap in numbers some more.”
Flowers – In more northerly Labrador, Don Ivany of ASF noted that Jim Burton had reported some great returns. One party of 10 had recently reported hooking 40 fish in one day.
Eagle – Fishing is still good, but water temperatures have been rising to 69 F with this unusually hot summer.
Penobscot – Salmon continue to come in to the Milford Fish lift. To Aug. 4 there have been 79 grilse and 174 large salmon, totalling 253. In 2013 there were 272 salmon returned when the Veazey fishway was closed to begin dam demolition.
Kennebec – 2 grilse and 13 large salmon have returned as of July 31.
Androscoggin and Saco – each have had 3 large salmon return as of July 31.
Pleasant – This Downeast River has had 2 grilse and 1 salmon.
River Reports from Europe
In Finnmark county, the season so far in rivers like Lakselva, Vestre Jakobselv and Repparfjordelva seem to be at an average level. There are varying reports from typical grilse rivers in Finnmark, of which some say that the fish are plenty, but catches are low due to low water.
River Reisaelva in Troms county seems to copy last year’s weak catches.
Further south, in Nordland county, River Ranaelva reports much better salmon run than last year.
In the well known rivers of Trøndelag, the season started very well in river Namsen. Good catches of large fish. This was the opposite of rivers like Orkla and Gaula where extraordinary fishing regulations were implemented due to very modest salmon runs. The reports now say that a fairly good run of grilse may save the season in several rivers.
In western rivers such as legendary Lærdal and Årøy rivers the season so far has been good.
Rivers in southwest and south, are spate rivers, being very dependent on rainfall to fish well. So far the summer in south has been warm and dry. No water, no fish and no fishermen is the general report from several rivers. Heavy rainfall last weekend could be turning point that ensures a good last month of the season.
Despite warm and dry conditions, river Otra in Kristiansand, and river Numedalslågen further east report good runs and good fishing.
The Ponoi, on the eastern edge and up the centre of the Kola Peninsula, has been having a very good year, with 6,703 fish landed in the first half of the season, by July 13. This is 300 more than to the same point in 2013. There had been a cold, late spring, but by mid-July the Kola was experiencing a wonderful summer period, with normal temperatures.
Meanwhile the rivers of the northern Kola appear to have also been having a good year. The Kharlovka, Rynda and nearby rivers have had the usual range of large fish. There were some high water levels in June, but July has settled down nicely. The Atlantic Salmon Reserve was noting water temperatures around 16 C. lately. On the week ending July 18, the Rynda River was reporting more than 200 salmon landed and released for the week, with the largest at 28 pounds.
So far most salmon numbers, from angler landings, are well behind last year. The Blanda and then East Ranga are doing the best so far. It appears likely that many rivers will not see half the Atlantic salmon landed as in 2013. There are also reports of very small grilse being found in some rivers, especially in the southwest of Iceland.
Sweden and Finland (Baltic Sea Rivers)
In summary, the salmon run for the Baltic Salmon stocks seem to reach record numbers in a few rivers in the very northern part of the Baltic Sea, and the largest and most important river, Tornio River, the border between Sweden and Finland, seems to reach almost 100 000 ascending salmon which is almost a 70% increase from its second best year 2012, and an all time high.
However several other river are struggling and are not reaching last year’s numbers. The only truly untouched and wild river, the Kalix,is only showing numbers around 6,000 compared to last year’s run of 15 000 salmon. The southernmost river of Mörrumsån has seen weak numbers of returning spawners so far this year. Readers must bear in mind that the season is far from over yet in the Baltic Sea and we may still see increases.
But there are dark clouds on the sky. Especially worrying is an disease outbreak of still unknown causes. Large numbers of dead salmon are reported from many rivers and all testing so far has not given any conclusive results. A virus or fungus are likely culprits but results from labs are not finalized as of beginning of August.
The north of Sweden has seen record temperatures this summer and some speculate that this is has had an impact and is part of the explanation. High water temperatures has also made the fish less interested in biting and anglers have had a harder time this year.
Following a big accumulation of snow on the mountains over the winter which is usually associated with good spring runs of MSW salmon prospects looked very good for 2014 and for some places spring fishing was extremely good, much better than expected during February and March.
It was however peculiar that only certain beats fared well whilst many other usually good spring beats did badly. The waters ran cold and high during these months and it appeared that fish stopped when they met with cold water in the lower to middle reaches of the rivers, especially when they were confronted by an obstacle.
Looking at spring catches overall none of the major rivers have reached the totals made in 2013. Dee and Tweed spring catches were a little better than half of the five-year average, Tay catches bettered the five-year average but the average figure is little more than 1000 fish following a trend of diminishing spring catches until last year when unexpectedly the spring catch almost doubled. Figures for some beats are flattering and conceal a fairly dismal time for others. For instance Park on the Dee landed 34 fish against a five-year average of 174 and many beats have suffered a reduction of more than 50% in their spring catches. Catches in July on the major rivers appear to be around 25% of 5-year average catches, again very poor.
At present (August 1) grilse are conspicuous by their absence in normal numbers. Best hope is that warm weather and low water have discouraged fish from entering rivers and they will arrive in quantity when conditions improve.
Although a few large fish (30lb+) have been landed this year another noteworthy feature is the trend of diminishing weights of salmon and grilse most noticeable in recent years. MSW fish of less than 5 lbs have been reported giving substance to theories that feeding conditions in salt water may be harsh. It will be interesting to see if the phenomena of tiny and apparently anorexic grilse that have become increasingly common over the past few seasons continues. Whether these small fish are capable of sustaining salmon populations is debatable and worrying. Right now it is fingers crossed for decent runs of autumn grilse and salmon.
We enter the late summer with renewed hope for the wild Atlantic salmon in Ireland. The Autumn season in salmon terms, is called the ‘back end’ salmon run period. It is a time when the more important part of the wild Atlantic salmon numbers arrive from the far North Atlantic to take up tenure in our main spawning natal rivers of Ireland.
The year 2014 is encouraging, as some small improvements in conditions are taking place, despite the usual threats to the species that state management could resolve.
To date the restrictions on commercial fishing of springer fish are bearing fruit as club anglers plan and cooperate with state bag limits and voluntary catch and release measures to ensure greater numbers get to their spawning destinations.
While the grilse or summer runs are by far the most abundant, with the majority of them once again arriving in June and July, their decline this year raises concern into August which we hope will be rectified.
The average weight of 3-6 lbs is well down this season with many very small grilse released. This “downsizing” of grilse is of grave concern to Irish anglers and the reasons for the change urgently need further scientific examination.
Some rivers such as the Moy in County Mayo – the jewel in the crown of Irish rivers – are performing very well with a record quota returning year on year, while sadly some others are in decline.
The Moy produced some great sport especially at the Ridge Pool when water levels were favourable up to July end.
Stretches on Gannon’s, Foxford, Clonagee and Knockmore were performing well with over 170 salmon recorded in the last week of July.
The Cork Blackwater looks set to continue in second place once again having started late with the first fish on May 13th by Marcus Bale off the Castle beat on the Fortwilliam fishery. Careysville performed well in July as reasonable fishing conditions were enjoyed.
Final returning numbers will not be accessed until early October, at which time we will all know which rivers need attention as we await the Standing Scientific Report on the performance of each river. In all, the Independent Standing Scientific Committee for Salmon (SSCE) assesses 143 of the IFI rivers.
For this 2014 season:
- 57 rivers are open, as a surplus of fish has been identified in these rivers;
- 30 rivers have been classified as open for angling on a “catch and release” basis only; and
- 56 rivers are closed, as they have no surplus of fish available for harvest in them.
There are three state authorities managing salmon and seatrout in Ireland:
- Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) manages the Republic’s 143 salmon designated rivers
- The cross-border Loughs Agency
- Northern Ireland’s DCAL manage the remaining important twenty rivers on the island.
The whole conservation system in Ireland operates on a coloured tagging scheme. The system often puts commercial netsmen and anglers at odds, especially when angler-driven conservation efforts increase numbers, and subsequently commercial quotas are increased.
The Drowes River – Northwest County Leitrim – The first Atlantic salmon of the year are often landed on the Drowes. It also is the river exiting Lough Melvin, the least impacted water body in all Ireland.
Report below by Shane Gallagher
Our season got under way on January 1st 2014 to some of the highest floods
ever experienced on an opening day. The first salmon of the new season was
taken on spinner on January 7th. The flood waters persisted and were
accompanied by very stormy conditions until the end of February. During this
time, despite the very high water, good numbers of spring fish were seen and
a total of 23 fish were reported caught to the end of February.
March fished relatively well and water levels and conditions remained
favourable. A total of 51 fish were reported during the month. April was
more disappointing as the water level steadily dropped during what turned
out to be one of the driest April’s on record. We struggled to record a fish
a day for April and the total for the month was 34 fish. The largest fish
reported for the season so far was taken from the Wash Stones by David Reid
and weighed 18lbs 4oz.
Fishing improved somewhat in May as some early grilse arrived but the water
level continued to drop making conditions increasingly difficult. A total of
85 fish were reported for May.
June and July have been marked by extremely low water levels as the last
flood we have had was in March and rainfall amounts have been well below
average. Lough Melvin is at its lowest level for many years, even lower than
after last summer’s heatwave. By all accounts there are still plenty of fish
at the estuary, waiting for some fresh water to run.
Smolt numbers were very encouraging this year and if the survival at sea
rate doesn’t deteriorate further it should bode well for the future.
Note: Map of Salmon Rivers of France (missing some of the Breton & Norman Rivers)
France has a number of very short rivers on both the north and south coasts of Brittany, as well as a few salmon rivers in Normandy.
But the principal salmon rivers remain the Loire, where Atlantic salmon may travel more than 500 km. to spawning areas, especially on the tributary Allier that passes through Vichy, with its fish ladder . In 2014 there have been 568 Atlantic salmon pass this point, a somewhat disappointing number, as the general hope is for 1,000 or more. Dam removal continues to be a priority on the Loire system.
A summing up of salmon returns in Europe for 2014
As always, it is difficult to find overall patterns, but it appears that for most areas 2014 may be shaping up as a year not as successful as 2013. Certainly rivers in the far north continue to be very healthy. Those in the south are somewhat mixed. Ireland, Scotland and France are perhaps down somewhat. In the Baltic something interesting is going on with the Torn (Tornio) and perhaps some other rivers. In Iceland there may be some issues at sea, and given the presence of small grilse, perhaps it is in part due to possible issues with overwintering food supply.