2023 SALMON SEASON
I cannot say that I will look back on the 2023 salmon season here on the Gaspe Peninsula and miss it all that much. It was not a bad season, just lacked muster for the most part. The salmon did come back, as they do each year, but they did not migrate as quickly up the mighty Cascapedia River as they have in past years due to the fact there was very little water for them in early June. We started the year out with fairly low water conditions on all three of our local rivers, and that is never a great thing for salmon anglers.
Like I said, the fish did come back; however, the larger 3 and 4 sea winter fish were almost non-existent. In a month where we usually see good numbers of 30+ pound fish being caught and released - along with several specimens in the 40-pound range - they were almost non-existent during early June, the time you expect to see them. Instead, we saw a good number of 10-15 pound fish returning and being caught. Our first fish of the year was a sad-looking 10 lb male on the 4th of June. Keep in mind we were fishing way up on the Salmon branch of the Cascapedia, so seeing any fish up there at that time of year is cool. However, catching a 10 lb fish on that date in that sector and on that river usually never happens until around mid-July when the second run of smaller 2 sea winter fish are entering the rivers.
This was pretty much the theme for the first few weeks of the season: low water, some fish around but not a huge run, and most definitely a big lack of larger fish we usually see in June. The hardest part for many of us was the fact that we had just come off two amazing years; 21 & 22 were probably two of the best salmon seasons we have seen in the past 25 years. I guess we were a bit spoiled and expected it to last, but sadly it did not.
Although we had low water in June that persisted into July, August was another story. August is usually the month that many anglers and guides dread. Why? Well, that is pretty easy - it is because we usually see low and warmer water conditions that are not really conducive to good salmon fishing. But this year, well, this year was different! It rained almost every day in August. Our poor friends from Italy, who came to visit us, were forced to wear long pants, sweaters, and rain jackets almost every day they were here, which was a total bummer for them and us, who wanted them to see the Gaspesie during the peak of summer... that did not happen; they froze their assess off! A bad time to be a tourist but a great time to be a fish - especially an Atlantic salmon, which, as many of you know, are super water-dependent. Dependent on cold water with a good oxygenated flow. August provided some pretty awesome conditions for visiting anglers for pretty much the entire month.
As August gave way to September, the fun continued with decent water levels throughout that month as well. I cannot speak to the quality of fish or fishing during August and September, as I only fished two times in August and was not able to get out in September. But some of my guide friends told me that these latter two months really helped save a rocky start to the season. Apparently, the dry fly fishing was off the hook for all of August and most of September. My son, Dylan, who guides for Mic Mac Camp, caught more than half of his total 150+ fish in those two months, which is highly unusual.
I am really hopeful that we will see a normal June this year with high water to start, tapering off into the middle of the month and giving way to some lower water during mid-July. But, as with pretty much anything weather-related these days, it is almost impossible to predict what to expect. 20 years ago, we pretty much knew how the season was going to progress, but now, with climate change, it is a continual crap shoot. A crap shoot that remains worth rolling with as our salmon stocks seem to remain pretty strong. Maybe not as strong as 21-22, but still good enough to meet our spawning requirements. Let's hope that this continues in 2024.
Hope to see you on a river near me in 2024!