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Thunderstorms Above, Salmon Below

It will be interesting to see what the scientific evidence will indicate as the reasons for the excellent large salmon runs this year. Are they due to the health of the food web off Newfoundland, Labrador and Greenland? Or do they owe their strength to a benefit derived from the Greenland Agreement between ASF,  its partners and the Greenland fishermen bringing a moratorium on the commercial fishery there? Perhaps there has been less predation on migrating salmon. Whatever the combination of reasons, this year’s runs are  a very positive base for building back our wild Atlantic salmon runs.

As to the continued upstream movement of the salmon, the abundant rainfall is playing a part. Across the Atlantic salmon range in North America, numerous thunderstorms have been adding water – cooling water – to many rivers, maintaining good conditions. It all bodes well for August returns.

Numbers Returning to the Rivers


Exploits – Amazingly, as of July 31, the Exploits had reached a return of 38,331, only 7% off from the record of 41,229 that returned by the same date last year, and far above the 2006 – 2010 average of 30,054

Terra Nova – Maybe this river is typical of many on the island this year. There were 4,174, only 1 per cent off the 2010′s 4,218 and way above the five year average of 2,577.  There are so many others in a similar situation. Lots of cool water and the runs are near or at last year’s superb returns.

Conne River – This south coast river, located near the heart of Newfoundland’s aquaculture industry, needs to be watched carefully. Numbers are lower here – 1,189 to July 31, compared to 1,747 last year, and a 2,082 average for 2006 -2010.

Harry’s River – This west coast Newfoundland river, now being measured by electronic sonar near Stephenville Crossing, has had 3,978 returns this year.

Torrent River – This Northern Peninsula river has been doing poorly , for whatever reasons. There have been 2,585 returns this year, as opposed to 4,258 in 2010 and a five-year average of 3,828.

Rest of Northern Peninsula – From Barb Genge at Tuckamore Lodge – Atlantic salmon returns in most of the rivers are on par with last year’s great runs, but there have been times when water levels in some of the pools have made them too deep to fish. Days have generally been warm and sunny in the past week, but cold at night, helping to keep water temperatures cool.

Very large icebergs along the coast, with the huge ice island only about 15 mi/25km off St. Anthony’s.

Underground Salmon Pool, near Roddickton– Along Beaver Creek, flowing up

Underground Salmon Pool – Upper Entrance – photo Tom Moffatt

through caves that make up the Underground Salmon Pool, it has been much easier in the last week to see the salmon swimming up into the caves on their way to spawning beds further upstream. If this place existed in Ireland instead of Newfoundland, it would probably be part of the Celtic legend of the Salmon and the hazelnuts of wisdom.



Sand Hill – This must be one of the more extraordinary stories of 2011. There have been 7,952 grilse and 892 large Atlantic salmon so far this year – compared to 1,494 grilse and 120 large in 2010, and certainly more than double to total of 3,846 for the 2005-2010 average.

Water levels have been high on Labrador rivers, but are dropping, as you can see from the profile of the Eagle River below.

Eagle River Water Levels



Matapedia River, Gaspé – photo Charles Cusson

To July 31, a total of 1,570 fish were reported landed (1,202 in July alone).  To July 31, 155 releases had been reported to the CGRMP.  River conditions continue to be excellent, consistent amounts of rain and reasonable air temperatures have contributed to the exceptional angling success.  This bodes well for August.  On July 20, a salmon was landed in the lower Adams pool with a numbered tag attached to its dorsal. Information about this Atlantic traveler will be available in the upcoming Fall Issue of the Atlantic Salmon Journal.


The Matane continues to produce great numbers.  To July 30, 1,913 fish had made it through the fishway (1,073 salmon and 840 grilse).  In total, this is 551 more than at the comparable date in 2010.   The season to date reported captures are 227 salmon and 241 grilse.   Only a few releases have been reported.  The river conditions are maintaining themselves which are contributing to the quality angling.


To August 1, this small stream situated up river from the Matapedia which flows into the St-Lawrence is reporting a total run of 1,099 fish (439 salmon and 660 grilse) compared to 735 to date in 2010.  To date, like most rivers in Quebec, the angling conditions have been very good and have resulted in 83 salmon and 198 grilse reported landed.  18 releases to date have been reported.   The increase in the overall run is due to the high numbers of grilse, the salmon numbers are almost identical.


To July 31st, 819 salmon had been landed and released (99 more than same date in 2010).  The number of captures is up from 278 in 2010 to 501 in 2011.  Since all salmon have to be released in the Bonaventure, the increase numbers of captures is due to a very good grilse run.  This could be a sign of good 2 sea winter salmon numbers for next season.  Since the in-river count will not be possible before August 9th, mandatory live release of all mature salmon will continue to be in effect until September 30.


Reports from anglers for the better part of the season to date are pretty straight forward, “The river is perfect”.   For July, to the 28th, 905 had been landed.  883 salmon were released and 22 grilse retained. Water levels have dropped recently, but conditions for angling continue to hold.  Rain up river will be needed to maintain success in August.


This small river which greets good sized salmon each year is also seeing record numbers.  To August 1st, 342 fish had migrated through the fishway (187 salmon and 155 grilse).  To date, 40 salmon have been released and 43 grilse harvested.  These numbers reflect an increase of 85 salmon returning and virtually the same number of grilse.

Moisie and Nipissis Rivers

Moisie River at Sunset – by Charles Cusson

With operations now finished for 2011 at the Moisie Nipissis Camp, Charles Langlois (ASF Canada board member) reported that angling was superior to 2010.  Water levels which were very consistent until late July contributed greatly. More fish were observed on the Nipissis during the season and were holding in many different pools.  The perennial favourite 13 mile pool did not produce as well due to high water.   During the two month season, more than of 200 salmon were released.  All customers left very happy wanting to reserve for 2012.

At the Moisie Salmon Club, more than 200 fish were registered released in June and many more “Long Distance Releases” were recorded.  Again, water levels greatly contributed to the quality angling.

York, Dartmouth, St-Jean

To August 1st, all rivers were reporting excellent waters flows and levels with very clear visibility.  Consistent precipitation has been the key factor in regard to the angling success this season.

Ann Smith of Quebec Sporting is reporting good numbers of 20lb + fish being observed, hooked and released in the lower sectors.  Total fish landings and releases are higher than last season.  The full moon on August 13th should help more fish to migrate through.

The counts have been done on all rivers but the results are not yet available.

Godbout River

Godbout River – Deeply Embedded – photo Charles Cusson

On the Godbout River, more fish have been landed and released already than for all of last season.  This bodes well for the local stakeholder association that has just signed a new agreement with the provincial government to manage the river.  Water levels have also benefited from recent rain.



Escoumins, Laval and Trinité

The Escoumins, Laval and Trinité rivers are also producing numbers that surpass all of last season respectively.

Saguenay Region

To July 25, the Sainte-Marguerite River continued to have very good water conditions; 170 fish had been landed, including 136 releases.  Last season is a mere shadow to this year’s dream world.

To July 25, the Saint-Jean reported out of this world angling compared to prior years.  131 fish had been landed with 87 reported releases; compared to 53 fish landed with 18 reported releases for all of last season.

New Brunswick

Salmon Counting Sites of DFO – NB & NS

Saint John River – Compared to any year in the past decade, the return of large salmon is encouraging.  By July 31, 588 had been counted at Mactaquac, compared to 311 in 2010 and a 2003-2007 average of 403. Definitely good news.  On the Nashwaak the numbers were even more encouraging – 183 this year, against 78 last year and the 2003-2007 average of a mere 45 large salmon.

While the large salmon numbers on the Saint John are great, the grilse numbers have dropped significantly, with 903 at Mactaquac by July 31, vs. 2,196 last year.  On the Nashwaak, there have been 355 to date, against 691 in 2010.

Miramichi – July 31 numbers have been posted for the river. Large salmon appear to be lagging behind 2010 at present at the Northwest’s Barrier Fence, with 189 vs. 245 last year.  At Millerton on the Southwest, there were 470 large salmon vs. 551 last year.

Grilse numbers at Millerton are down significantly, with 1,479 to July 31, vs. 1,966 in 2010. Meanwhile on the Northwest, numbers are slightly lower than 2010, with 529 vs. 553 last year.

At the Sutter Salmon Club near Doaktown, news on Aug. 1 was that Atlantic salmon were being caught every day, but not in the numbers they were in early July.

Restigouche – According to Tom Callaghan at the Ristigouche Salmon Club numbers are still ahead of last year. Water levels have been a little high, but dropping nicely. This area didn’t get the rain from the thunderstorms passing overhead. Deering Irvine at Restigouche River Lodge noted water temperatures were about 69 or 70 F, but steady. A few salmon are moving but quite a number are laying in the deep holes at the moment. Still, the number of salmon and angling success has been far above last year’s to date, he notes. Meanwhile, at Larry’s Gulch the water temperatures continue to be low, water levels good, and many large Atlantic salmon are moving. Mark Ramsay notes the combination has made the angling far ahead of last year, and it is continuing to be.

Kedgwick – This river is a world all to itself and, in this case, it is one area that presently has low water. According to Don Sullivan at the Kedgwick Salmon Club, the water temperature is about 56 F. The salmon, some very large, continue to show their presence, and the angling – and salmon numbers to date – are still far above last year. Around 550 have been brought in, and released, so far this year, compared to around 330 last year.

Nepisiguit – Good run of fish is now moving up the river.


Penobscot – With the heat in the middle of July, the upward migration through Veazie had dropped off, but with the cooler temperatures and rain of the past week there have been several fish a day – bringing the total by August 1 to 2,951, ahead of every year since 1990. And the full year return for 1990 was only 2955. The next biggest year was 1986, with 4,137 at Veazie.

Narraguagus – The return of 163 by Aug. 1 is also good, but only a single fish ahead of last week’s count (see last week’s post in River Notes).


Thunderstorms Above, Salmon Below

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