Perfect Moments

Rivers with Atlantic salmon provide many perfect moments. Each is complex – a mixture of environmental conditions. Such a moment  may include the focus on the fish, perhaps

Pierre-Olivier Mericier releases a salmon on the Petite Cascapedia River. Photo: Pierre Mercier

Pierre-Olivier Mercier releases a salmon on the Petite Cascapedia River. Photo: Pierre Mercier

the roar of rapids  or perhaps the quietness of a pool. The sharing with great friends or family may be part of the special memory, or instead perhaps it is a moment of solitude, alone with the river. And the salmon.

One of those special moments was shared by Pierre Mercier through the photos he took of his grown son Pierre-Olivier and daughter Marie-Julie working together on the Petite Cascapedia as they release a very nice salmon. Absorbed in the moment, and in the ambiance of the river, the photos explain better than words how Atlantic salmon can create memories that are as rich and vivid after decades as they were at the time.

The salmon was hooked in the Milbrook Pool, and was gently held, measured and released within a minute. Yet such are the things memories are made of.

As Pierre-Olivier Mercier supports the salmon in the water,  Marie-Julie measures the salmon to find the weight, using the ASF salmometer. Photo: Pierre Mercier

As Pierre-Olivier Mercier supports the salmon in the water, Marie-Julie measures the salmon to find the weight, using the ASF salmometer. Photo: Pierre Mercier


Ungava – There is a different kind of special memory, at a place at the very northern edge of the Atlantic salmon’s river world. There are numerous ways the Atlantic salmon of the George River and other Ungava rivers in very northern Quebec are different. Not least is that smolt may be as old as seven or eight years before going to sea. It takes them that long to grow to sufficient size. And then the river itself – wild.

Entitled "Lunch Cabin Vista", it shows the George River at its wild best. Photo by Rick Yieser

Entitled “Lunch Cabin Vista”, it shows the George River at its wild best. Photo by Rick Yeiser

Rick Yeiser, a long-term George River angler had some comments this year about the small grilse in Canadian rivers that have been mentioned by many others.

“I have been fishing the Helen’s Falls area of the George River for over thirty years, and was very curious to see whether or not the small grilse phenomenon would affect the George this year. In a word, it did.

The usual grilse there is a 25 to 26 inch football, although some of the males might have a slightly more torpedo-like profile.

Not so this year. Based upon my observations and the experience of others in camp, perhaps a third of the grilse  were “normal.” Another third were well proportioned but noticeably smaller than usual. Another third were the normal 25-26 inch length, but extremely thin. They looked like kelts. It was disconcerting, especially from the perspective of what next year’s two salt fish will look like.

George River Home Pool. Photo Rick Yeiser

George River Home Pool. Photo Rick Yeiser

For what it’s worth, I will pass on two pieces of anecdotal information.

Several folks who were in camp with me fished for sea run arctic char earlier in the summer on the Payne River. They said that the char were much smaller than normal this year.

The guides at the camp hail from fishing villages on the North Shore. They noted that the numbers and size of the capelin had dropped precipitously this year.”

Rick Yeiser

Sunset from Helen's Falls Camp, George River. Photo Rick Yeiser

Sunset from Helen’s Falls Camp, George River. Photo Rick Yeiser

For the rivers surrounding the Gulf of St. Lawrence, rain late last week and over the week-end injected new life in some rivers.  But numbers are still below last years numbers to date.

Matapedia River – To August 19 a total of 781 fish were landed including 179 released.  To that date in 2013, 1,153 fish had been landed which included 142 released.

Camp Manager of Cold Spring Camp, Jack Lyons, reports overall numbers are not that far behind the previous year.  Anglers at the camp have had decent angling, with a definite uptick in the last week due to heavy rain that blessed the Matapedia valley.

Rimouski River – As of August 19, 263 fish were counted (169 salmon and 94 grilse) compared to 489 (312 salmon and 177 grilse) as of the same date in 2013.

Captures to August 19 include 21 released salmon and 17 retained grilse for a total of 38.  As of August 19 2013, 85 salmon had been reported released and 47 grilse retained.

Matane River – during the period of August 11 to 19, 308 fish migrated through the counting facility (151 salmon and 157 grilse.

A total of 1,184 fish were counted to August 19 for the season, comprising of 637 salmon and 547 grilse.  To August 19 2013, 1,542 salmon and 569 grilse had been counted totalling 2,111 fish

Reported captures to August 19 were 196 (38 salmon and 158 grilse) plus 45 fish (41 salmon and 4 grilse) were released since July 23.  At August 19 2013, 582 fish had been landed (358 salmon and 224 grilse).

Christian Kirouac releases a female salmon estimated to be 25 lb., at St-Jean (North Shore) River on 17 June in the evening. Photo Leon Jackson

Christian Kirouac releases a female salmon estimated to be 25 lb., at St-Jean (North Shore) River on 17 June in the evening. Photo Leon Jackson

Mitis River – As of August 19 2014, the count to that date showed that 376 fish (218 salmon and 158 grilse) had migrated through.  At August 18 2013, 994 fish (649 salmon and 345 grilse) had been counted.

To that date at August 19, 28 fish were landed (11 salmon released, 5 salmon killed and     12 grilse killed).  At August 18 2013, 286 fish had been landed (20 salmon released, 144 salmon killed and 122 grilse killed).

Bonaventure River – To August 19 2014, 800 fish were reported landed (410 salmon released and 390 grilse killed).

To August 19 2013, 994 fish had been reported landed 833 salmon released and 161 grilse retained.

For the years 2008 to 2013, the Bonaventure Minimum Spawning Requirement is recorded at:

2008    77%
2009    142%
2010    183%
2011    125%
2012    99%
2013    121%

The five year average for 2008-20012 translates to 125% of minimum spawning requirement (MSR).

Dartmouth River – To August 19, 78 fish were reported released.  To that date in 2013, 141 fish had been reported released.

In late July, the in-river count was performed and decision was taken to continue mandatory live release of fish longer than 63 cms.  353 salmon and 165 grilse had been counted.

York River  – To August 19, 89 fish were reported released plus 238 killed compared to 144 released and 129 killed at the same date in 2013.

Hidden place on the York River. Photo Charles Cusson

Hidden place on the York River. Photo Charles Cusson

The in-river count was completed on July 23rd resulting in 406 being counted (297 salmon and 109 grilse).  Live release of all fish longer than 63 cms was implemented following the count.

Cascapedia River – Darlene Sexton is reporting to August 15 for the month, 108 salmon and 23 grilse were landed and released.  It was a slow week due to some camps not having anglers.  The needed rain that started on the 15th should produce better results for the coming week.

Leon G. Jackson releases a salmon on the Petite Cascapedia on 22 July. Photo Christian Kirouac.

Leon G. Jackson releases a salmon on the Petite Cascapedia on 22 July. Photo Christian Kirouac.

Newfoundland and Labrador

In Newfoundland the water has been on the high side across the island, with the exception of the Northern Peninsula. However, water temperatures remain on the high side, hovering at the 18  C to 19 C  level.

It is also becoming clear that in the case of Newfoundland, many of the salmon runs were late, as shown by the Aug. 17 DFO counts. It isn’t true of all rivers, but certainly for many.

Exploits River – As of Aug. 17 we had 28,496 counted in 2014, against 32,827 in 2013. Certainly down, but not in a major way.

Middle Brook – 3,012 salmon to Aug. 17, vs. 2,988 in 2013, so an actual improvement – although not by many.

Campbellton River – 4,274 in 2014 to Aug. 17, against 4,595 in 2013.

Terra Nova River – Down this year, to 3,175 vs 4,155 in 2013.

Conne River – A significant drop to 1,183 in 2014, vs. 2,550 in 2013. As a reminder of what this river is capable of, the 1984-1991 average was 6,119 for the Conne.

Rain is predicted for the eastern portion of Newfoundland, so perhaps that will encourage more salmon to come in to spawn.

The Newfoundland west coast rivers are rather interesting.

Western Arm Brook, in Gros Morne National Park soared to 1,451 salmon returning by Aug. 17, vs 776 in 2013 to the same date.

Harry’s River has seen 3,752 salmon, vs 2,943 in 2013.

Torrent River – There have been 3,838 salmon returning, vs 3,039 in 2013. The rivers of the Northern Peninsula have been somewhat low of late, after having had good water previously.

Watching the Atlantic salmon in the Torrent River Fishway and Interpretive Centre. Well worth a visit.

Watching the Atlantic salmon in the Torrent River Fishway and Interpretive Centre. Well worth a visit.

In Labrador the water levels have been low. Nevertheless some rivers have been doing alright.

English River – To Aug. 17 there were 780 grilse and 163 large salmon counted, vs. 362 grilse and 124 large salmon in 2013. In total, the count of 943 for 2014 is close to double that of 486 in 2013.

Sand Hill River – no new information is available on the Aug. 17 report of DFO.

Muddy Brook – 118 grilse and 18 large salmon to Aug. 17, less than half the 2013 numbers of 296.

Paradise River – There have been 178 grilse and 36 large salmon to Aug. 17, compared with 79 grilse and 63 large salmon in 2013.

Flowers River – Some Labrador rivers are certainly low, but at Flowers River the levels appear to be medium, and certainly those fishing have been finding good numbers of salmon, some up to 20 lb. or more.

Nova Scotia

Margaree – The big news is that there is finally rain. The water had been so low that anglers probably should have gone elsewhere. But with the rain over the last couple of days it should result in more salmon activity, and fishable conditions for anglers.

Northeast Margaree finally received enough rain to increase the Atlantic salmon activity.

Northeast Margaree finally received enough rain to increase the Atlantic salmon activity. Levels of 1.5 and above are considered good  for salmon angling on the Margaree, according to many of this river’s anglers.

LaHave River – Morgan Falls has had 42 grilse and 21 large salmon as of Aug. 15, compared with 72 grilse and 103 large salmon in 2013.

Sackville River – To Aug. 15 there were 7 grilse and 3 large salmon, compared with 5 grilse and 3 large salmon in 2013.

New Brunswick

Miramichi – The Northwest Miramichi Barrier deserves special mention, to note that while the water levels were high and caused problems, it did not fail in the post-tropical storm Arthur in July, as the Dungarvon Barrier did on the Southwest Miramichi. That being said, it is especially important to look carefully at the low numbers being counted at the NW barrier. Note live release remains mandatory on the Northwest Miramichi for the remainder of the season. Click here for DFO’s note

nwmiramichiTo August 17 there were 130 grilse and 58 large salmon, compared with 140 grilse and 196 large salmon in 2013. It is not the end of the season, but still the numbers are cause for concern, especially as 2013 was in itself a low return.

The August 15 numbers are now available for other facilities as well. The Southwest Millerton trapnet reported 283 grilse and 185 large salmon, significantly lower than the mid-August 2013 counts of 407 grilse and 298 large salmon.

Those on the river say that connecting with a salmon is something of a challenge at this time – or perhaps they are being more unpredictable than normal, for a species always known for being unpredictable.

Saint John River – The Mactaquac count for Aug. 15 is 126 grilse and 66 large salmon, historically the second lowest returns, and below the poor returns of 296 grilse and 79 large salmon in 2013. As a reminder, the average for 1996 to 2000 was 3,403 grilse and 1,263 large salmon.

Nashwaak River – Paralleling returns on the Saint John, the mid-August count is 46 grilse and 14 large salmon against the 2013 nmbers of 52 grilse and 30 large salmon.

Kedgwick River – There have been some interesting reports coming out of some lodges regarding salmon activity this year, and what it might mean for the future. A recent note recently from Danny Bird at Kedgwick Lodge is one:

We appear to be the benefactor of a good run of fresh fish in all sizes. In seventeen days from July 31 through yesterday noon, our guests have release over 100 fish and have probably lost half that many. Very few grilse and those are in excellent shape. Salmon are mostly 12-15 lbs and appear very fresh in most cases. we have yet to notice any undersized grilse.

On Friday evening one of our guests released three fish – one in the twenty pound range- one in the 30 lb range and one over 40 pounds – all hooked in Looking Glass on a 3/0  Red Abbey in the course of two hours. He was a first time salmon angler from Colorado and went home very happy!

Although our overall numbers are down some it doesn’t appear there is any shortage of fish on this end of the river after the recent heavy rains over the past few weeks.

If the excellent fishing we are currently experiencing continues, we will not be far off of our 2013 numbers on these particular waters.

Perhaps the Restigouche is bucking the trend that is being experience elsewhere which almost automatically lends me to think there is no enhancement whatsoever up here and there hasn’t been for some time now.


Penobscot – The Aug. 18 numbers at the Milford fish lift are for 175 large salmon and 79 grilse,

Elsewhere, the Kennebec has had 15 large salmon and 2 grilse counted at the Lockwood Dam, and otherwise numbers remain unchanged in the past few weeks.

Wales (UK)

The Wye River has extensive tributaries in central Wales, Photo Stuart Smith

The Wye River has extensive tributaries in central Wales, Photo Stuart Smith

A report on the returns to the Wye River in Wales came to us too late for the European overview in the previous blog-post. It certainly makes interesting reading in light of the other reports we featured. Note that it was written Aug. 8.

Individual catch reports on the Wye River are also available online – check them out. Click here


Overall 2014 has been a very disappointing season so far with only 377 fish caught compared with a 5yr average of 581 and some 760 in 2013.

August has continued that trend  with only 2 fish reported as we speak!

Grilse and 2sw fish seem quite absent and with little rain, low flows and hot conditions fish where present are not takers and as a result fishing effort is inevitably falling. We are very worried about the levels of algal growth in the main stem of the river, a product we suspect of increased phosphate levels.

The season started reasonably well with 62 fish taken in March, the heaviest a 25lbs + fish to David Harrington from Caradoc. With another 46 taken in April we were just about on the 5 yr average.

With plenty of water in May fish were well spread out and catches were made all through system.  144 fish were reported slightly up on 5yr average but down on 2013. How fishing began to tail off quite badly in June with effects of low water and algae bloom take effect and only 88 fish were reported compared with 276 last year. Andy Fenner took a super 30lb fish from Cadora at the beginning of the month and the few fish reported were again well spread out with an American trout angler capturing a 16lb salmon nymph fishing and 83-year old Gordon Clamp returning two fish of 12 and 14lbs.

With 35 fish, July again fell well below the 5 year average with prospects very poor indeed, all but one of these caught in the lower tidal river below Monmouth.

We now need some sustained rain before sport recovers.

Stuart Smith
On behalf of Wye Salmon Association

Riffles on the Wye River in Wales. Photo Stuart Smith

Riffles on the Wye River in Wales. Photo Stuart Smith



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2 Responses to Perfect Moments

  1. Rob Harlow says:

    Just fished the margaree Saturday and Sunday my 9 year old Gavin hooked his first salmon 10 lb 10 minutes in . What a thrill to share with his brother uncle and cousins . It sickens me to see the number of fish retained in some rivers. Please think about the future of these thrills for future anglers when your deciding whether to kill or release. Release is a thrill in its own. By the way my son, his 6 year old brother and his 9 and 4 year old cousins named the salmon squirmy. I wish that our government would institute a catch and release policy for all salmon everywhere until a time comes that the number of salmon is no longer threatened . I find it hard to believe that the number of salmon fisherman would decrease if they were not allowed kill, this is a passion that would be impossible to walk away from. Haddock and halibut are great tasting fish and everybody loves a good steak!

  2. Scott Stone says:

    I just don’t get it. Nobody knows where the fish have gone? Why are the numbers so bad?
    According to the report, on the Matapedia over 1,000 fish killed only 10% released. On the Matane 2% of grilse were released.

    If these sports were brook fishing in my neck of the woods in Maine we’d call ’em
    “Hook n Haulers”. Do they follow the stocking truck around? I would like my kids to have a chance at a Salmon someday.

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