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Making Sense of the Latest Salmon Count Numbers

With July 1 in the past, one would think this is a good time to look back at the early Atlantic salmon season. But not so fast.

Nashwaak Counting Fence on June 25, 2013

Nashwaak Counting Fence on June 25, 2013. Photo by Geoff Giffin/ASF

Numbers are up on DFO’s website for Newfoundland & Labrador, and for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The NL & LB site is fairly straight forward, but definitely not the DFO site for NB & NS. To begin with, both DFO and provincial people feed the numbers into the NB & NS website. One major problem is that if a visitor is looking at the June 30 counts, a number may be seen – but if the count for June 30 has not been entered by the office responsible, the June 15 number automatically shows for the present year, along with the June 30 count from 2012. There is no note on the website that explains this problem, or alerts the viewer that it is occurring.

To add to any confusion, there are no contextual remarks. The counts for Mactaquac and Nashwaak are abysmal for June 30, and to some degree that is in sync with the low numbers returning to the Penobscot.

However, an email to DFO brought some context to the situation on the Saint John River:

“At Mactaquac, there was at least an 8 to 9 day time period when the fish-lift could not be operated due to high water levels in the tailrace.  More recently the spilling at the dam has most likely made it difficult for salmon to find the fishway entrance and therefore likely delayed returning salmon from entering the fish-lift.”

“High water delayed the installation of the Nashwaak counting fence by 3 weeks so the direct counts are not comparable to last year.  Therefore salmon passed by the counting fence location uncounted.”

The point here is that contextual information is needed to explain numbers, and it makes a direct comparison with previous years invalid. It would help the viewer if the comments were added to the website.

For the record, at Mactaquac, as of June 30 there were 33 grilse and 15 large salmon this year, vs. 84 grilse and 104 large salmon in 2012.

On the Nashwaak, there were only 5 grilse and 7 large salmon counted in 2013, vs. 16 grilse and 38 large salmon in 2012.

For both the Saint John and the Nashwaak, these low numbers are of great concern, but having the context helps.

OVERALL, except for the Gulf of Maine and the Bay of Fundy, both salmon returns and angling conditions have been better, perhaps much better, than in 2012.

River Reports

New Brunswick

Miramichi – Overall, anglers and guides have found reason to be satisfied with the conditions and angling success.

Northwest Miramichi Below Redbank

Northwest Miramichi Below Redbank

Debbie Norton of Upper Oxbow Adventures says, “There have been good water levels, and temperatures good. But now they are starting to drop, and temperatures are beginning to rise with the hot, clear days. Conditions right now are certainly better than last year.”

“Everybody has been hooking up with salmon. Some are getting away, of course,

Same Thing Murray. Photo by Debbie Norton

Same Thing Murray. Photo by Debbie Norton

but many are being landed. Best results here have been with the Same Thing Murray and Green Machine.”

On the Southwest Miramichi, Keith Wilson is also reporting good water levels that are starting to drop now, and the salmon angling most definitely better than last year. Temperatures have been cooler, but will start to heat up now. Bigger fish are moving in and conditions ideal for angling them.


Anglers have been more than happy with results. The Ristigouche Salmon Club is about 160 large salmon ahead of last year, with grilse numbers about the same as 2012.

Mark Ramsay of Larry’s Gulch was also positive:

“Fishing is actually not bad considering the raise of water on Saturday and Sunday. The Little Main Restigouche was running chocolate brown and the Kedgwick clear as usual.  We had our second best June since 1971 landing and releasing 64 large salmon and 7 grilse.  We only opened the 8th of June and do not fish Friday night or Saturday morning so that was real good! For me, this proves that Live Release for Sporting Lodges is the way to go.”

For comparison, last year Larry’s Gulch landed and released 42 salmon and 4 grilse in June.

Upsalquitch Salmon Count to June 30, 2013

Upsalquitch Salmon Count to June 30, 2013 (Not posted on DFO Count Website as of July 4, 2013.)

The Upsalquitch Barrier has its counts in for June 30, with numbers rather different than the angling success experienced. There have been 11 grilse and 100 large salmon, compared with 77 grilse and 134 large salmon in 2012.

Saint John River – see the comments at the beginning of the blog.

Magaguadavic – one large salmon has come in, on July 3. The fishway was only in operation from July 1.

Nova Scotia

LaHave – As of July 3, the Morgan Falls Fishway has had 98 large salmon and 56 grilse. In 2012, the figures for July 4 were 27 salmon and 17 grilse. So, approximately 3 ½ times the returns this year, which is definitely an improvement.

Margaree – Lewis Hinks has been fishing on the Margaree in past few days and noted the water levels were good, but falling. He had heard of three fish landed on the NW Margaree on Monday. He also commented that there were a lot of fishermen along the river. “Cars everywhere,” he added.

Margaree - July 3, 2013

Upper part of NW Margaree, with photo taken evening of July 3, 2013. Lewis Hinks/Atlantic Salmon Federation

Cheticamp – On July 3 the levels were still good, and temperatures good. Success for Lewis Hinks and an angling partner were a bright fish each, so the salmon are certainly coming in at this point.


Badly needed rain has improved conditions in the Saguenay, Lower St-Lawrence and Gaspésie regions but unfortunately bypassed the North Shore.

Des Escoumins River

As of July 2 2013, 120 fish have been hooked in the pools below the waterfall (site of the former dam), with 59  of the salmon released and 3 grilse retained  The fish ladder at the Petit Sault waterfall also began operation on July 2 with all concerned anxious to observe the results, now that the dam has been removed.

Matapedia River

The precipitation on June 29 and 30 improved conditions greatly.  As per the flow meter located in the Routhierville area, the flows increased from 40 to 68 cubic meters per second but are now dropping slowly.

  • To June 30 2013, 365 fish were landed, including 32 releases
  • To June 30 2012, 213 were landed, including 23 releases
  • To June 30 2011, 559 fish were landed including 63 releases
  • To June 30 2010, 215 fish were landed including 42 releases
  • To June 30 2009, 86 fish were landed including 17 releases
  • To June 30 2008, 120 fish were landed including 22 releases

Causapscal River

This small but mighty tributary of the Matapedia also benefited from the recent rain.

  • To June 30 2013, 143 fish were landed, including 20 releases
  • To June 30 2012, 101 fish were landed, including 15 releases
  • To June 30 2011, 130 fish were landed, including 9 releases
  • To June 30 2010, 69 fish were landed, including 7 releases
  • To June 30 2009, 96 fish were landed, including 17 releases
  • To June 30 2008, 79 fish were landed, including 20 releases

Matane River

Historically, the bulk of the migration on the Matane happens in mid-July to early August.


The precipitation late in June improved angling conditions a great deal.

As of June 30, 260 salmon had been reported released in comparison to 255 salmon released at the same date in 2012.

Madeleine River - fishway

Madeleine River – the fishway.

Madeleine River

Jocelyne Campion of the Zec Madeleine is reporting very good numbers of fish migrating via their fishway which began operation June 19.  Since then as of July 2, 376 fish have been counted (353 salmon and 23 grilse).  At July 2 2012, 341 fish had been counted.



Gaspé Rivers – York, Dartmouth, St-Jean

Jim Gourlay releases a gorgeous salmon on the York River Section 2

Jim Gourlay releases a gorgeous salmon on the York River, Section 2 in 2013.

Angling on all three rivers continues good to date and the rain that blessed this rich Atlantic salmon bastion has contributed to maintaining angler success.

Angling results as of June 30 for the York report 115 salmon released and 53 salmon retained.  On the Dartmouth, 98 reported releases and 9 retained grilse.  For the St-Jean, anglers have reported  21 releases.

With the concern about the health of the York salmon, an in-river count will be done on July 4 and 5.

Moisie River:  Low water but cool water temperatures has helped angling, landing fish is another story…

Upper Pools, Moisie Salmon Club

Upper Pools, Moisie Salmon Club

Camp manager Yvan Létourneau is reporting to July 1, 20 salmon retained, 123 releases and an additional 124 that were “long distance releases”.

At July 1 2012, numbers are quite close to this season with 7 salmon retained, 118 released and 125 LDR’s.

Moisie Nipissis

Charles Langlois is reporting since the start of the season in early June, over 200 fish have been hooked with 125 landed and released.  There are anglers booked until July 25 whose success will be very dependent on rainfall going forward. At July 2, numbers echo 2012 for the same time period.

Jacques-Cartier River

As of July 2, 99 fish have reached the counting facility (92 salmon and 7 grilse).  Unfortunately, this river that was one of the most prolific in Quebec until the early 1900’s and restored by a dedicated group in the 1980’s is now closed to fishing.  The factors point to a lack of proper downstream passage for smolts at small hydro facilities.

At the comparative date in 2012, 201 (189 salmon and 12 grilse) were counted on their way back to the spawning grounds.

Saguenay Region

A Mars River

A Mars River

À Mars River

To June 28, on the pretty stream which is the À Mars River, 57 salmon have been counted with 17 salmon reported released and another 20 “LDR” salmon.  To the same date in 2012, 80 salmon and  one grilse had migrated through the counting facility.  Also, 33 salmon had been reported released along with 26 “LDR’s”.

Sainte-Marguerite River

To June 30, anglers have reported releasing 35 salmon which is considerably less than the 71 reported to June 30 2012.  Much needed rain during the last days of June will most likely improve angler success during the 1st week of July.


Exploits – As of June 30, 8,174 had passed through the counting facility this year, against 11,396 in 2012, and the most recent five-year average of 7,317. ASF’s Don Ivany impression is that the Exploits is producing well, with many thousand yet to arrive. Fred Parsons on July 4 noted the count had reached 11,968, and pointed out that the run was very early last year (13,000 by July 4), but the year before was late (6,300 by July 4!)

Campbellton River – 2,213 as of June 30, vs. 1,743 in 2012

Middle Brook – 1,005 in 2013, vs. 738 in 2012. Kevin Stroud adds that the water level is high.

Terra Nova – 211 in 2013, vs. 806 in 2012. When asked about the numbers, Kevin Stroud had this to say:

“Water levels are very high, and the water is still cool. There ARE a lot of fish in the river – they just have not gone through the fishway yet. Interesting, there are a lot of large fish this year.”

Conne River – 2,136 salmon had been counted as of June 30, vs. 1,874 in 2012. This is certainly an improvement, especially with the very low numbers experienced in 2011 and 2010.

Note that the Conne River will be closed Friday to Monday, with a mid-season assessment by DFO.

Harry’s River – 1,588 had been counted by the Didson radar unit, against 1,160 the year before.

Western Arm Brook – 16 were counted by June 30, against 10 last year. There certainly is a puzzle here as the 2008 to 2012 average was 173.

Humber – Don Ivany reports the Humber is doing well, with many salmon landed. Conditions are good at Humber Falls right now.

OVERALL – Rising water temperatures are soon going to be factor in many Newfoundland rivers.


Overall it is a late Spring in Labrador.

Eagle – Gudie Hutchings of Rifflin Hitch Lodge, notes:

“The run has just started on the Eagle – nice large hen fish being released. The river is normal height and temperature now   – perfect for fishing. Fish are  showing good signs on the White Bear, North, Paradise, Black Bear, Alexis and Sandhill as well.”

Flowers – Jim Burton of Flowers River Lodge notes their first guests will be arriving July 14, so too early to determine the state of the salmon returns. Jim remains concerned about the amount of ice near shore where the Flowers meets the ocean.

Sand Hill – Certainly the Sand Hill experiences great variation in return, but 2013 is down overall in the June 30 count. There were 105 grilse and 495 large, totaling 600. In 2012 there were 580 grilse and 326 large salmon. Nice to see an increase in those large salmon in 2013.



Trap cage in Veazie Dam. Tom Moffatt/Atlantic Salmon Federation

Penobscot – The low number of returns continues with 333 as of July 1 at the Veazie Dam. That is approximately 60 per cent of last year’s run to the same date, and only about 13 per cent of the spectacular run in 2011.

Making Sense of the Latest Salmon Count Numbers

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