CENTRAL, NL – It’s still too early to determine if it will be a successful year for salmon populations, but the first run numbers have brought about some optimism in central Newfoundland.
According to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Atlantic Salmon Fishway counts, as of June 17, three central rivers have exceeded or are on par with numbers recorded the same time in 2017.
On the Exploits River there were 99 salmon counted, opposed to 12 last year, Campbellton had 29, the previous year there were zero. Salmon Brook remained the same with one.
However, salmon are noted to have entered the province’s waterways earlier as a result of less ice in the coastal bays, and none of the rivers have surpassed the five-year average total – 2013-2017 for the June 17 date.
Calvin Francis, with the Gander Bay Indian Band Council, who oversees the Salmon Brook Fishway, near Glenwood, says the indication on Salmon Brook since June 17 have been encouraging.
“The majority of what we’ve been seeing is adult salmon, over 63 centimetres,” he said. “So far, it’s been positive.”
Francis calls this a crucial year for salmon, given the year-over-year declines in returns, and the angling restrictions put in place by DFO that only allows for the retention of one salmon, pending a mid-season review.
“This is a do or die year so I’m happy with the returns as we speak, and the weather conditions have been great, but time will tell what kind of season it will be.”
Newly elected president for the Exploits River’s Environment Resources Management Association (ERMA) Bruce Andrews is looking at the early indications positively as well.
And while the Exploits River stock hasn’t caught up with its five-year average – 156 by June 17 - Andrews said there have always been fluctuations regarding salmon returns.
“I think sometimes people over react when the numbers go back a bit, and become overly cautious,” he said. “I’ve been fishing the exploits for a number of years, and I’ve been studying the stats since 1992, so to see numbers drop and fluctuate is nothing new.”
DFO isn't speaking to the early numbers, but acknowledged it is closely monitoring the numbers as they come in.
“We have recently started to receive information on Atlantic salmon from fishways and counting fences throughout the province,” read a statement. “It is too early to comment on the status of Atlantic salmon stocks at this time. An update on the Atlantic salmon stock will be provided in late July for the in-season review and at that time, a management decision for the remainder of the season will be announced.”