Fishing Friends – the July 31 numbers are posted for the New Brunswick counting stations on the Miramichi. There were 172 salmon caught, tagged, and released from the Millerton fish trap on the Main Southwest Miramichi. This compares to 397 in 2016, 340 in 2015, and 153 in 2014. I shouldn’t really include 2014, though, because Hurricane Arthur washed the net out in that year, and the records missed two weeks of the river’s best run. There is a full story on that event in my blog from July of 2014. You can scroll back in the blog entries to read about it. In longer term averages only the 1994 through 1998 period was lower. Only 133 salmon were averaged to that date for that five year period, so some years had lower counts than now.
The grilse numbers are even worse. At 356 the Millerton grilse number are really without peer. 2014 was a little lower, but it is not accurate as stated in the last paragraph. Clearly the numbers of both salmon and grilse – especially grilse – to date in 2017 are very weak. Are they now waiting in the estuary for decent conditions? Only time will tell now if it is simply due to this warm rainless summer, and will be made up in the fall, or if there are bigger problems. Eventually we will get rain and cooler temps. I don’t have the summer’s rain numbers at my fingertips, but I was in camp every weekend during June and early July. I don’t think we had more than a sprinkle for the entire period. Personally I’ve never seen anything quite like it, but I’m sure that historically it has happened many times.
Statistically the NW Miramichi has fared a bit better. The numbers from the Cassillis trap net for salmon are comparable to the longer term averages, and so are the grilse numbers. Certainly the NW is the earlier run river and normally runs a degree or two cooler, which may add a little credence to the view that the Main Southwest run is especially down because of the warm, low water summer that we’ve had so far. The reports from other rivers around the Province also show lower returns than last year.
Warm temperatures continue after a very short reprieve from the worst of summer heat we are again facing critically warm water for the salmon. This is being exacerbated by the unusually low water level for the first of August. I guess that we can thank our lucky stars that we aren’t looking at the mid 30Cs of a few years back. The air temp late yesterday was at about 30C and the river in Doaktown reached 26C or 79F. Unlike 2010 when the water temperature stayed up in the mid 70s at night for over a week last night’s air temp was a moderate 13C/ 56F bringing the water this morning down to 20C or about 68F. This is quite good under the circumstances. The MSA’s Mark Hambrook says that this break in the temperatures is very important to the survival of the fish in the river. Beginning today we are supposed to see showers coming in – any rain or even cloud cover is a major help – and the heat should finally break up over the weekend.
Important News – the DFO has again closed all of the 26 cold water pools to fishing. Go to the MSA website for a complete list.
The last blog drew a comment from Earle Fletcher who says that he has been fishing the Miramichi in September since 1987, and that the best fall fishing he can remember has come in years like this. He bets that there are plenty of salmon and grilse waiting in the estuary for water temperatures to reach low 60s or better. We just hope that we don’t have some cataclysmic rain event later this month to suck the forestalled portion of the run up the river all at once.
The Atlantic Salmon Federation “ASF” successfully brought suit in Newfoundland to overturn a provincial decision to move forward with a new salmon aquaculture project without doing the correct environmental assessment. That doesn’t mean that the project won’t ultimately be approved, but it hopefully does insure that the potential environmental impacts get disclosed and considered in light of the existing laws. It was great to see someone step up to the plate and fight for the salmon.
Anyone who cares about Atlantic salmon should make the modest investments to become members of both the Atlantic Salmon Federation and the Miramichi Salmon Association. Please go to the links to their websites and sign up today if you aren’t already a member.
Why both? While the missions of the ASF and MSA do have some overlap, and in fact they often cooperate with each other on work like smolt and kelt tracking, and team up for advocacy work, the ASF’s mission is broader in scope addressing the things that effect rivers all over Canada. The MSA is more focused on issues within the Miramichi watershed. An example of that work is the Friends of Cold-Water Initiative that is currently underway. You can read about the work that has been done at this link on the MSA website, and you can go to Make A Donation from the menu on the left side of the website’s home page. You can specify Cold Water Initiatives in the drop down box. There are additional grant funding sources available, but the MSA must come up with money of its own on each project. It is great work, and we all need to help.
by Brad Burns
PS As always, please feel free to contribute with a comment. If you have already successfully commented in the past your comment will automatically be posted. If this is your first post I will approve it as soon as possible and you will then be set for the future. I’m finding that the comments provide some nice breadth of views and experiences on the subjects we are discussing.