This week I bring good and bad news for chasers of silver. I’m going to buck the convention of bad news first and boost your spirits from the get-go.
On June 12, I received an email newsletter from the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) that contained wonderful breaking news for those big, multi sea winter (MSW) salmon that we all love so dearly.
Those are the ones that live and feed in the ocean for two or three seasons and grow often to massive proportions. They live totally separate lives from grilse once they part from their natal freshwater homes in springtime.
The grilse stay at sea for just one winter and return the following summer, typically weighing in between three and seven pounds. The MSW salmon journey all the way to the waters off Greenland and mingle with other salmon from just about all countries with rivers flowing into the North Atlantic. They prey upon the ocean’s protein-rich bounty and grow up to 50 pounds. These international wonders of the salty abyss are truly amazing creatures that deserve both our respect and best conservation efforts.
So, here’s the news. The North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) announced, after a critical meeting in Edinburgh, that the moratorium on Greenland’s commercial drift net salmon fishery would continue for another three years.
Salmon conservation organizations had fought long, expensive battles to bring this ban about in the first place, and breathed a collective sigh of relief that it didn’t end, as it could have, in 2012. That would be detrimental to what is still a fragile population of international fish.
Please join me in praising NASCO for their hard work and dedication to their mission and cause. They are like the United Nations of the Atlantic salmon world. Canada, the United States, Norway, Denmark representing Greenland and Faroe Islands, the European Union, and the Russian Federation all have seats at the table.
At annual NASCO conferences, these nations are represented by their federal governments for agreement negotiations and resolutions to conserve and restore wild salmon populations across the North Atlantic.
NASCO works closely with 35 non-governmental organizations. These include dedicated conservation groups like the Scottish Anglers National Association, Salmon Watch Ireland, Norwegian Association of Hunters and Angler, and the list goes on.
In Canada, we are represented at NASCO by the Atlantic Salmon Federation and that organization has a director in each province where salmon swim. An old university buddy of mine, Don Ivany from Corner Brook, has dedicated himself to the position for several decades. You may have seen him on TV promoting the cause of both salmon and anglers.
Don works closely with grassroots affiliates of the ASF in Newfoundland. These include organizations like SPAWN, the Salmon Preservation Association for the Waters of Newfoundland, and SAEN, the Salmonid Association of Eastern Newfoundland. This is how you can make a difference to salmon and salmon fishing. Through organizations like these, you can influence what goes on at the highest levels. Much of the work is done by volunteers who devote whatever spare time and energy they have to help preserve and enhance our salmon stocks. In recent years it seems to be paying off; runs have been up. And the continued ban on Greenland’s commercial fishery is fantastic news for everyone.
And now …
Now I’ll give you the bad news. So far this year, salmon runs seem to be down.
Many well-heeled anglers are saying it’s the worst start to recreational salmon fishing that they have ever seen. So, what’s going on?
It’s hard to say just yet. The DFO fishway counts won’t be available for another week or so, and estimates on numbers of salmon are purely anecdotal. But in the past, anglers’ opinions have typically been pretty close to what the hard data later confirms. Hopefully the salmon are out there in our bays waiting to come in. It could be that they are holding off due to the low water levels that most of our rivers are experiencing. We salmon fishers live in hope and eternal optimism.
Low water is the plague of both salmon and anglers. Many outdoors people relish the warm spring sunshine, but it isn’t at all good for salmon. Our lovely spring weather combined with an almost snowless winter has left the countryside and woods pretty darn dry. Rivers all over Newfoundland are low and warm.
I haven’t heard much on Labrador just yet, but given the problems they are having with forest fires, I’m expecting pretty low water there as well. I’m heading to the Pinware on July 2 so I’ll know all about it first hand at that time.
I’m so hoping for a downpour, not just a few hours but several days of torrential rain. Sorry golfers, hikers and campers. All you anglers get outside and do a rain dance around a campfire. Pray to the salmon gods. You never know, it might help, and there’s not much else we can do.
Hopefully we will get some life-sustaining rain and the salmon will come swimming into their natal waters, flashing their silver sides and leaping through rattles and riffles. Maybe my next update on salmon will be all good news.
Either way, I’ll be waist deep in water, swinging flies and soaking up the river’s charms. If only the entire world were as optimistic as anglers.
Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every
opportunity. He can be contacted