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Unique Rivers, and the Matane Goes into Overdrive

Each Atlantic salmon population is unique. Each river’s salmon have made adjustments to the river, to the ocean migration route followed, to ratios of grilse, large salmon and even precocious parr, and perhaps have picked up some extra characteristics particularly their own.

Serpentine River, New Brunswick – photo Conservation Council of New Brunswick

The Serpentine River, part of the Tobique system that flows into New Brunswick’s Saint John River, is a case in point. Before the dams on the river were built, salmon returned to their spawning areas in December, but didn’t spawn until the following autumn. Now they are trucked there, and ASF Research and partners have this summer used radio tracking and other technology to better understand the secrets of this population.

You can read more in the Serpentine project page in ASF’s Research section of the main website.

River Returns of Atlantic salmon

Maine – another milestone for the Penobscot

Penobscot – An exciting moment on Aug. 7, as 2,976 Atlantic salmon had passed through the Veazie Dam this year. That pushes past the 1990 milestone of 2,955, and means this year is the best since 1986 when a huge run of 4,137 salmon went through. If one takes an average between 1978 and 2011, the result would be 1,768, and 2011 is almost 1,200 ahead of that. The modest drop in water temperatures has helped conditions for salmon movement upstream.

Veazie Graph of Atlantic Salmon Returns

Narraguagus – Elsewhere in Maine the runs seem to have slowed. An extra five salmon came into the trap on the Downeast River Narraguagus this week, to total 168 so far in the year. This also is the best year since late in the 1980s.

Nova Scotia

Seal Pool in Autumn, Margaree River – photo Barry Gibson

Margaree & Cheticamp – From René Aucoin, the lower section of the Cheticamp is still fishing well. On the Margaree, the water levels came way up with all the rain (see the graph), and this past week one angler hooked six salmon at Seal Pool. There is much talk about the good fishing in the bottom half of the NE Margaree, with the higher water, but in the upper reaches of the river there was not nearly the bump in levels from the storms, and the angling has been less successful.

NE Margaree River Levels UP – WAY UP!

LaHave – Salmon are still trickling in through the Morgan Falls Fishway. As of Aug. 9 there were 71 large salmon and 271 grilse. The large salmon numbers compare favourably with the 50 returned in 2010.


Eagle River – Fishing is excellent – some of the best runs in years, with many large healthy fish. However river levels are low with less rain than elsewhere in Atlantic Canada and the water temperatures are still decidedly cool since the air temp is in the teens and cooler at night.

Angling success is phenomenal, according to Gudrid Hutchings at Rifflin Hitch Lodge on the Eagle River.

Sand Hill – This river continues to impress, with 8,301 grilse and 942 large salmon to date, far, far above the 1,676 grilse and 138 large salmon that returned by this date in 2010. This river has been bringing comments from everywhere, as people wonder what has happened to the population there.

The other rivers in Labrador continue to see excellent returns, but the water levels in general are below those found further south in Atlantic Canada.


Exploits – As of Aug. 7, 39,878 salmon had returned, compared with 42,811 in 2010. This year’s run is less than 7% off last year’s record return, so it is definitely another great year. The 2006-2010 average is only 31,531, so something is going right there.

Campbellton – As with some other rivers, the 5,398 coming in this year is well above last year’ 4,223, and far above the 2006-2010 average of 3,631.

Conne – This river continues to be of concern, with only 1,189 reported so far, against 1,747 last year and a 2006-2010 average of 2,084, almost double this year’s run.

Harry’s River – The run has finally passed by the 4,000 milestone with 4,015 returned by Aug. 7.

Great Northern Peninsula rivers – For whatever reason, the Torrent River return still lags, at 3,104 this year, against 5,107 last year. And Western Arm Brook has seen only 1,378 by Aug. 7, against 1,810 last year.

New Brunswick

Restigouche – On the lower river, Tom Callaghan at the Ristigouche Salmon Club notes the water level has come up a foot or more in the past few days, slowing down the fishing in what has been an exceptional year. While the future is never predictable when it comes to salmon, there are many saying the salmon run may increase in another week or so, following the full moon on Aug. 13.

Miramichi – The story in the past two days has been rising water levels and cool nights to keep the water temperatures within bounds. Note the graph for the Little Southwest measuring location at Lyttleton.

Little Southwest Miramichi – Water Up Aug. 9



To August 8th, for the season to date, a total of 1,722 fish are reported landed which includes 237 releases.  River conditions will continue to be excellent, the flow increased to 66 cubic m/s from 33 overnight.  This represents 632 more fish landed and released compared to the same date in 2010.

Update on the tagged fish reported on last week.  The fish was tagged as a smolt on May 25th 2008 in the lower stretches of the Restigouche.  Samples about this traveler have been sent to ASF research.  More detailed information should be available soon.  Stay tuned.

Matapedia River, Gaspé – photo Charles Cusson


The Matane has gone into overdrive with the thick of the traditional run happening as you read this report.  To August 8th, 2,610 fish have made it through the fish ladder.  There are 390 more fish in the river than all of last season.  To August 4th, reported captures are 254 salmon and 325 grilse.   Only a few releases have been reported.  A large part of the increase is being produced by the excellent number of grilse migrating to the river.  The salmon to grilse ratio is hovering around 1 to 1.


To August 8th, 895 salmon have been landed and released (99 more than same date in 2010).  The number of captures is up from 340 in 2010 to 594 in 2011.  Since all salmon have to be released in the Bonaventure, the increase numbers of captures continues to be due to a very good grilse run.  A recent increase in the water flow will ensure that angling will continue be good through August.

York, Dartmouth, St-Jean

The in-river counts have been concluded on the York and the St-Jean.  For the York, 1,300 fish were counted (1,071 salmon and 229 grilse), on the St-Jean 847 fish were counted (696 salmon and 151 grilse).  It is important to note that the St-Jean count is lower than expected due to the barrier fence at Big Indian pool was down for a few days due to high water.  To August 8th, all rivers are reporting excellent waters flows and levels with very clear visibility.  Precipitation continues to fall in these watersheds and will ensure good angling for August.  Results of the Dartmouth count were not available at the time of this report.

Ann Smith of Quebec Sporting is reporting good numbers of fresh fish in the lower stretches of the St-Jean.

Gros Mecatina – Lower North Shore

Mécatina River – photo Charles Cusson

Better late than never.  Although the 2011 run was late arriving, Keith Bobbitt of the Pourvoirie Mécatina is reporting much larger numbers of fish migrating to this remote part of the salmon world as traditionally witnessed.  Angling has been excellent, with guests sometimes reaching their limit of released fish before lunch.  The Pourvoirie Mécatina is a recent addition to ASF’s live release outfitter group.

Unique Rivers, and the Matane Goes into Overdrive

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