Miramichi salmon season opens, Greenland and Scottish springers

Eddie Colford guided this SW Miramichi angler to 3 salmon and a grilse this morning.


Fishing Friends: 

The salmon season on the Miramichi River opened on April 15.   Ice out has been a bit unusual as there had been no rain.  Warm weather this past week after a long stretch of cold and snowy spring weather softened the river ice and sent a lot of snow melt into the river.  The Miramichi rose about 6 feet in the last week or so and was very milky on opening day.  This condition depressed the catch, but it rebounded some on the second day as water height more or less leveled off at a good height of 3.3 meters.  Country Haven Lodge reported that its anglers landed 30 salmon on Sunday. 

An e-mail this morning from Eddie Colford of the Black Brook Salmon Club confirmed that fishing is improving as the water continues to clear up.  His angler got three salmon and a grilse this morning – not bad at all.  With the catch and release limit at five I’m sure they took it easy to save one for the afternoon session.  The shoreline in Eddie’s photo is one of the most famous and popular stretches on the Miramichi.  It is part of what was once referred to as the Golden Horseshoe, a stretch that runs more or less from just above the mouth of Cains downstream to a little beyond Morse Brook.  Along with the mouth of Cains River, the horseshoe would have been the main area worked by Wade’s Fishing Lodge on those spring days when they’d have 25 canoes out on the river.  With the small motors and non-planing hulls of the day they couldn’t go too far from the lodge.  I’m noting that there is not another boat in sight.  Remarkable!

NW at upper Oxbow 4/17/23

Debbie Norton sent me a photo from in front of her lodge at Upper Oxbow Adventures on the NW branch of the Miramichi.  She said that the meadow on the left of the photo is flooded, and that the ice is rotten but so far holding in place.  This branch often loses its ice a week or more after the SW.

If you’re thinking of heading up you can always get the latest forecast from your outfitter.  Most of the lodges and clubs that offer spring fishing are listed in one group on Fish Pal.  Here is the link.  While you’re on the site don’t forget to sign up on the home page to get rod alerts.  This will keep you in the know as to availability throughout the season.  There are often some attractive specials.

I have some particularly positive hopes for the 2023 spring season as we had our third year of increasing salmon returns in 2022, and we landed and saw some particularly large fish last fall.  A few years ago I remember reading an article by a Norwegian biologist who said that many of the largest salmon are taken as kelts because as bright fish they simply will not take a fly, but after spawning they are feeding again, and much more susceptible to being caught on rod and reel.

John Young guided this happy Helmsdale River angler to a 19-pound springer on Friday the 14th.

The springer season in Scotland is continuing at a pace more or less similar to last year.  Reports from the Naver, Halladale, Thurso, Helmsdale and Brora were all of low to moderate catches for the past week.  In bare statistics this is an average catch of one fish per angler for the week, though of course it doesn’t work that way.  Two of the best ghillies I have fished with in Scotland, John Young of the Helmsdale and David Johnstone of the Naver both said, in their own words, that springers are caught through persistence.  Beyond that I would say that where you find one it is very likely that you will find another.  These fish travel in schools in the ocean, and so when conditions are ripe for them to enter the river a number of them are likely to do it at the same time.  If you are lucky enough to come upon a small aggregation, you may very well get more than one – if not in the same pool, then in the same section of river.  Actually, I have had a number of weeks over the years where I was into a springer almost every day for a week on the river.  Is fishing all week to catch one springer salmon worth it?  Of course, that depends on who you are, and what you want out of salmon fishing, but I often compare it to whitetail deer hunting in New England.  People will often hunt for a week and not see a deer, but they keep coming back year after year.  Is catching a springer as rewarding as shooting a deer?  Again, that depends on the person.  It definitely is to me.

The reward can be quite dramatic as this photo sent to me by John Young shows of a Helmsdale River angler with a 19-pound springer.   Having caught carbon copies of that fish I know what it would be like on the line.  Of course, all salmon don’t fight the same, but it is likely that when it felt the hook the fish went absolutely berserk, jumping wildly across the surface of the pool before running all the way from wherever it was hooked down to the tail of the pool at absolute warp speed, giving the angler a sense of panic as to whether everything could possibly hold together under such an onslaught.  Often it does, though, and this nicely composed photo is the proof.

Historic Inuit salmon fishing equipment.

Greenland’s Atlantic salmon catch is in the news again.  NASCO is going to discuss salmon again this June, and from what I read one of the most important items for the US delegation is Greenland’s continued reported catch of some 45- plus tons of wild salmon, almost none of which are spawned in Greenland.  In fact, I read a few years back that something like 40% of Greenland’s catch was thought to be of Miramichi origin!  Assuming that is true it would put Greenland’s catch of Miramichi salmon at something like 3,000 fish.  Compare that to an allowed harvest of 0 for all Miramichi anglers.  It is beyond ridiculous.  Greenland’s rebuttal is that stopping the salmon fishery in Greenland would “…devastate the Inuit population which makes up to 90% of Greenland’s population… Surviving off the resources that nature can offer has been the way that the tough Inuit of Greenland has survived for thousands of years…”  The fallacy in this logic is that prior to the 1960s Greenlanders did not even know that Atlantic salmon were found in their waters, nor did they have the power boats and monofilament gill-nets used to catch them.  This is a new fishery of modern times.  Whatever Greenland officials are talking about for natural resources that sustained the Inuit for thousands of years it wasn’t salmon.  Char, caribou, sea birds, musk ox, polar bears, hares and marine mammals certainly, but not migratory salmon.  Greenland needs to recognize that the salmon population is in trouble and stop harvesting them in any amount – as NASCO scientists have instructed.  There is no question that this catch can be replaced and then some with aquaculture salmon if nutrition is the issue.  Let’s see, that’s 90,000 pounds at $2.50 a pound wholesale for fish in the round, or $225,000 USD.  This amount isn’t even a rounding error on the value that those 7,500 wild salmon have alive.  NOAA is spending $900,000 a year trying to bring salmon back to Maine Rivers.  You can at least double that for other grant money and private donations.  All to provide fish that Greenland can gillnet and eat while it is illegal for US citizens to even fish for them!  I only hope that there will be a salmon messiah in the delegations of salmon producing countries that will have the backbone to stand up to Greenland’s phony logic.  Greenland needs the outside world much more than the outside world needs them.  We just need some negotiators with a little backbone to make the complete cessation of Greenland’s harvest of wild salmon the only acceptable end to the discussions.

Thanks for reading.  Brad Burns

PS  I am now updating my Salmon Report with the latest information most days.  Here is a link.  Just add it to your favorites and keep in touch with the river.

4 Comments on “Miramichi salmon season opens, Greenland and Scottish springers

  1. Another excellent newsletter. The Greenland fishery is so frustrating when one compares the damage done to the species with the “benefits” to native Greenlanders.

    • Thanks for the comments Rick. What frustrates me is not the Greenlanders. These folks are acting very predictably in their own self-interest, and our governments – US and CA have allowed them to get away with it. This is an emerging country that desperately needs our support in many ways. Bargaining a deal on the wild salmon catch would be easy if our politicians just set down and did it.

    • Thanks Phil. As you know better than most, a lot about politics is being able to get the ear of participants. I hope that those who do have the ear of Canadian and US officials will urge them to fix this situation with Greenland. It is really a terrible case of the tail wagging the dog.

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