The 2016 season so far and the coming fall run

The 2016 season so far and the coming fall run

This morning, Tuesday August 10th the water temperature from the automated station in Doaktown is a relatively cool 67F.  After an even cooler start yesterday the temp reached about 74F, and that is not too bad for an early August mid-afternoon reading.  It will be warm the next two days, but then it looks like much needed rain for the weekend  – and hopefully a fresh run of fish with it.  So after the summer doldrums we are hopefully going to resume our Miramichi fishing season shortly.  How has the salmon run been so far relative to other years, and what is the prognosis for the rest of the season?

One of the best measures that we have is the Millerton trapnet which we have discussed on this blog before.  The government website can be found at this link.   I won’t bore you with a long tutorial because many of you understand how the trap works already, but for those that don’t but who are interested, just go on the site and spend some time changing the dates, clicking salmon or grilse and looking at the results.  Compare the current period with earlier years that are also listed.  There is no other way to learn it.

On July 31 the trap reported 397 salmon for the season to date.  This compares to 213 avg for the same period from 1998 through 2002, and 349 from 2003 through 2007.  It is also well ahead of either 2013, 2014, or 2015.  So far so good, but it is less than the 494 from 2008 to 2012. The 397 represents just the Main Southwest branch, and the trap catches about 5% of returning salmon.  That means that so far in 2016 we have had about 8,000 salmon enter the MSWM.  This isn’t bad, especially compared to just about any other salmon river in North America.  The grilse count was 536 which times the 10% efficiency for grilse puts the run so far at about 5,000.  This is about half of the normal grilse returning by July 31 for all but the most recent years – which have generally been lower than 2016.  Like the MSWM, the Northwest Miramichi branch is having quite a good year on salmon, but not great on grilse.

So what does all this mean for the fall run?  Jason Curtis always says that you can judge the whole season to come by the early fishing.  He reasons that the early fish are a certain part of the total run, and if that early component is bigger than the whole run will also be larger.  It’s like the old bell-shaped curve.  If the outer edges of the bell are wider and thicker the bell is likely to be larger.  Certainly that is the way it was with the 2011 run which came in hot and heavy early and continued that way until the end of the season.  One day this mid-June 2016 I came in off the river and sat on the bench next to Jason.  I had just had a half hour of rolling and touching salmon, but not getting a solid hookup.  You have to be feeling pretty good about the number of fish we saw in the tail of the pool tonight, he said.  There were plenty of Atlantic salmon coming in to the Miramichi until that first heat wave at the end of June.

After that first short but intense period of heat right at the end of June the fishing was knocked out for a while.  We then had maybe a week when we were firing on all cylinders and the trap numbers were good.  Since mid-July though, fishing has been very tough including the closing of the cold water pools back on July 25.  Things are changing, though, and the fish that would have come over the last month will enter the river in this second half of the season and we’ll get our crack at them.  I’m expecting some great fishing!


Catch and Release Salmon Fishing

There has been considerable debate regarding the need for catch and release only angling on the Miramichi.  There are certainly some strong feelings on this complicated issue.  I guess my fairly simplistic view is that the river is often below the minimum number of spawners needed to seed the beds, so why kill any of the returning adults?  They are a sustainable resource – or should be – and if there are enough spawners to do the job properly I see no problem with a modest bag limit.  The surplus spawners have to be there, though, and in recent years they haven’t been.  In any case, catch and release angling has gained great acceptance as a management tool the world over.  You may be interested to read this letter from Fish Pal in Scotland regarding the government’s support for salmon angling clubs in instituting c/r angling for Atlantic salmon:


….Support for Angling Clubs

As many of you are aware a number of angling clubs expressed concern during the extensive consultation period about the potential impact that mandatory catch and release could have on angling participation.  To help mitigate this potential impact the Scottish Government announced a funding package of up to £100,000 to support clubs concerned about the impact of the measures.  I am now pleased to announce that FishPal have been appointed as the delivery partner for the programme to promote catch and release as a sustainable activity.

The two year programme will:

  • support angling clubs to mitigate membership decline as a result of mandatory catch and release;
  • provide direct assistance and guidance for angling clubs through a marketing and promotion strategy to advertise catch and release as a sustainable and desirable activity;
  • promote catch and release more widely as a sustainable method;
  • support angling clubs to improve catch reporting to feed into the Conservation Plan process; and
  • promote good handling practice.


Any angling clubs keen to learn more about the programme and how to access support should complete the form on the FishPal website or alternatively they can contact Tom Cater on 01573 470 612 to discuss….


Brad Burns

PS  If you have any questions or comments fire away to me by reply e-mail.  If you want to discontinue receiving my broadcasts just reply opt out.

Also, if you order a copy of Closing the Season for an additional copy for camp, a gift etc.  Just e-mail me to send you a copy of my October Killer fall salmon fly.  There will be an ad offering the fly in the fall addition of the ASF Salmon Journal so I’m making it good here too.

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