December Miramichi Salmon Blog 2023

The river is already up a meter this morning, and it will clean out what had been a fairly solid freeze.

A few days ago I had intended to start this blog by reporting that winter was closing in on the Miramichi.  We had a cool November and then a week of quite cold weather and the Miramichi estuary was frozen clear across with thin but stationary ice, and the surface was barely moving as of Friday afternoon 12/8 in

Ice covered and nearly stopped running on last Friday. Boiestown.  Well take another look now!  The water as of Monday the 11th at 9:00 AM is already up a full meter and it will go much higher.  All the ice will be carried out of the Miramichi.  You can see the little rapid increases then sharp decreases interrupting the graph below.  These are probably minor ice jams being overcome and pushed down river.  Weather on the backside of this event is back to normal, but with the increased flow it will be a while before we start to freeze up again.

Up a meter since this time on Friday.

Have you made your salmon fishing plans for 2024?  I have, and here’s my schedule.  First, I’ll be on the Naver River in Scotland for the week starting March 3.  I’ve had this week for 17 years.  Then, I’ll be back again on the Helmsdale the week of April 1.  Both of these are relatively early weeks, but they offer a lot of what I love in fishing.  Early season Scotland has plenty of damp, fishy, overcast weather, and the rugged beauty of a sparsely settled landscape.

Nigel Griffith holds a fine springer from the River Thurso.

While we don’t catch big numbers at this time of year, the ones we do catch are all beautiful specimens.  I’m including here a couple of slides from a presentation I’m giving to the Anglers Club of New York later on this winter.  A slightly modified version of this presentation will also be given via zoom to virtual attendees of the MSA US dinner on Feb. 3rd.

Lower Craggie pool on the River Naver

I’ll be on the SW Miramichi for a few days of spring/kelt fishing when the season opens on April 15, or if conditions are impossible as soon after that as it is possible.  Sometimes the driveway in to Campbell’s is full of snow drifts on opening day, and there is still ice in the river.  Somehow, though, the next week it’s always gone.  The kelt fishery is a welcome start to the salmon season.  It gets me on the river early, and allows me to enjoy all of the Miramichi salmon season.  Some of the best traveled and most experienced salmon fishers that I know make an annual trip to the Miramichi for spring salmon – if you haven’t done it, give it a try.

A nice Miramichi spring salmon from the Ledges in Doaktown

Around the 15th of May I’ll be on the Cains for brooktrout and to see how many smolts are around.  Last year, just below Muzzerol, I witnessed a mixed collection of small brookies and salmon smolts feeding on an insect hatch.  It was great fun just to see it.  I’ll be a little early for sea run brookies, but I’ve caught resident trout over 16 inches.  Another plus is that this is a little earlier than mosquito season.  The fiddleheads will be coming out, grouse are drumming in the woods, and it’s just a great time of year to be on the Cains.






Cains River smolt and brookie taken a few seconds apart from the same pool.

My Miramichi bright salmon season will start around June 10.  If you live near the Miramichi it’s worth it to start trying your favorite pools during the last few days of May.  June 12 was the date that Willy Bacso used to say was the time when, if conditions were reasonable, that there would be some fish consistently holding in the salmon pools of the SW Miramichi.  I’ve found that to be quite accurate.  In 2023 I didn’t land my first fish until June 15, but I saw fish every day I fished previous to that.  The high water made it difficult to make a connection since most of the fish were just motoring through.

I’ll be at Campbell’s until roughly July 10.  The last two weeks of that stretch we’ll be making occasional trips into the lower Cains.  The stretch from the mouth up to Salmon Brook often provides a June salmon, and it seems to hold fish fairly consistently after the first of July.

I’m booked into Newfound Outfitters on the Serpentine River in Newfoundland for the last couple of weeks in July.  I’ve been going there for a few years now, and I find it is a great mixture of wilderness without being outrageously difficult to get to – and quite good numbers of fish.  Last year the Newfoundland rivers were down a bit, but so was everybody.

Darrell Warren holds a nice late summer Cains salmon taken by a guest who purchased a donated trip in 2023.

I’ll be back on the Miramichi again around the 10th of September to fish until the season closes.  Over the last 20 years the first week of October has produced my highest rate of daily catches.  Actually the river usually starts cooling down earlier than September 10, and some very good catches are often made in late August.  I donate most of that time around Labor Day to various conservation fund raisers.

Urgent, this is Wednesday! If you’re interested in hearing more about salmon conservation you should check out this link to Registration (   This link will allow you to register to see a presentation by DFO called “What We Heard” which is the document that I mentioned a couple of blogs back that summarizes the results of the surveys of public opinion that DFO gathered last fall.  There are aspects of it that give me some hope that DFO will be more helpful going forward on rebuilding the Miramichi’s salmon population.  The presentation is this Wed. the 13th and it is free of charge.  I’ll sure be watching it.  If you go to the website for The Foundation for the Conservation of Atlantic Salmon you’ll see a selection in the menu bar called webinars.  They do informational webinars like this on a regular basis.  They are all open to the public and free of charge.

Winter is the time for the MSA US fundraising events, and there are quite a lot of fun things happening. 

  • First, we have the MSA US Christmas Auction – this is a small auction of hand-picked items. The items include a terrific fly collection, a 1932 fishing map of the NW Miramichi, a special salmon fishing trip to Black Brook with June availability, two Sci Anglers fly lines, jet boat tour of the Cains River, and last but not least a one week vacation to an oceanfront home in Friendship, Maine with striper fishing off the dock.  While you are on the auction page you’ll see the message that message that Raffles Are Open.  We have three great raffles up there right now.  Get some early tickets.  Check it all out at this link Products | Brad Burns Fishing.
  • Tickets are now available at this link for the MSA US Winter Event to be held at the Portland Country Club in Falmouth, Maine.  We were there last year and it was great.  This year’s dinner will feature guest speaker Sir Michael Wigan from the River Helmsdale in Scotland.  Come meet Michael and chat about what the Miramichi has in common with one of the greatest small salmon rivers in the UK.

The event can be attended virtually or in person.  We will be broadcasting live as we did last year.  Virtual attendees will be able to bid in the live auction and participate in the paddle raise.  In lieu of the dinner we will present a slide show about salmon fishing in the Northern Highland’s of Scotland that will be shown later this winter to the Angler’s Club of New York.

Marc LeBlanc is a great supporter of Miramichi salmon conservation.

The MSA is supported by some of the most talented fly tiers in New Brunswick.  Among these is Marc LeBlanc of Monction, NB.  Marc is a highly regarded Classic Atlantic Salmon Fly tier.  What is a bit unique about Marc is that the flies he fishes personally have retained many of the classic construction concepts.  Along with Jacques Heroux, Marc is one of the pillars of the Dieppe Fly Tying Club.  When we started holding online MSA auctions in the US I mentioned it on Facebook and Marc contacted me and volunteered to donate a fly collection.  Marc has a big following and we quickly found out that translated to some serious bidding.  We will have both a summer and a fall collection of hair wing salmon flies by Marc LeBlanc in this winter’s auction.  In fact he sent me a menu of flies and said that he was ordering some extra materials from Doak’s and would get right to work on them…  I thought some of you might enjoy the photos he sent me of the flies that he personally fishes with.

Marc LeBlanc’s personal Miramichi fly wallet.


Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays.  Brad Burns

3 Comments on “December Miramichi Salmon Blog 2023

  1. Thanks, Brad!

    Only thing missing from your fishing season is some steelheading! Let me know if you get the itch 🙂

  2. Hi Brad,

    Enjoying your book “On the Cains”. It was gifted to me for Christmas. I would humbly request your autograph when you come back here next Spring if you are so inclined to provide same. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2024!

    • Somehow missed this Maurice. I’m glad you liked the book and will be happy to sign it whenever we can get together.

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