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Canada's "Other" Salmon

 

While Pacific salmon are revered as a game and table fish by throngs of Canadian fishermen, at a global scale it's the "other" salmon, the Atlantic salmon, that puts Canada on the bucket lists of the world's travelling anglers.

Many Canadians think of Atlantic salmon fishing as an exotic pursuit reserved for the wealthy elite, requiring oodles of money and time. This impression is not without some merit, as there are few good Atlantic salmon streams near large and easily accessible population centres. Further, it's true that some of the premium reaches are tied up in private hands. But, with a little homework you'll find that Atlantic salmon are more than attainable for the average fisherman. Certainly anyone capable of investing the time and money required to fly- or drive-in to a northern or east coast fishing lodge can access superb Atlantic salmon angling. And if you're one who revels in thrilling fishing, you owe it to yourself to give it a try.


Before you do, there are some caveats you should be aware of. To begin, Atlantic salmon fishing is exclusively a fly-fisher's pursuit. And if freezing a winter's supply of fish is your priority, you should look to the west coast, not the east. Having said that however, fly-fishing for Atlantics isn't anywhere near as tricky as casting to a rising brown trout in a foothills stream; they're not particularly leader shy and the standard presentation is a down and across drift, not the challenging drag-free presentation that's required to fool many trout species. And while they are superb on the table, most Atlantic salmon fisheries have very restrictive harvest regimes. Go for the challenge and excitement, not the meat.


For those more familiar with western angling, the pursuit of Atlantic salmon is more akin to steelheading than it is to fishing for cohos or springs. They're fished exclusively in freshwater as they move upriver to spawn. Atlantic salmon rivers can have several runs annually - the famed Miramichi, for example, has both spring/summer and fall runs of fish. Sharing a reputation with muskies as "the fish of a thousand casts", Atlantics are undoubtedly a fish requiring patience and persistence, but the reward of a hooked fish is worth every hour of the effort to get there. Like steelhead, Atlantic salmon are superb acrobats, and few are the hooked fish that don't leap several times in a desperate effort to spit the hook. Experienced Atlantic salmon anglers for good reason often talk in numbers of fish hooked, not landed.


Beyond the challenge of Atlantic salmon fishing, those who've tried it can't help but be enthralled by the traditions and history. Guided trips for Atlantic salmon in Canada were offered in the early 1800s, and there are lodges in operation to this day that trace their roots back to the latter part of that century. The popular pools and runs all have long-standing names and the classic feather-wing fly patterns sport names like Jock Scott, Green Highlander, Silver Doctor and Lady Amherst, all well steeped in lore and legend.


To the uninitiated, the biggest challenge tends to be the same, "Where do I go and when?" Unfortunately, the answers tend to be ambiguous, not because the respondent is protecting his water, but rather because Atlantic salmon are fish constantly on the move and these travels are not easily predicted. Unlike Pacific salmon that spawn once then die, mature Atlantic salmon will return to their natal streams to spawn annually, sometimes for several years though typically for two or three. They tend to be very sensitive to water conditions when it comes to migrating from the salt into their freshwater spawning rivers. For example, 2012 in many parts of Atlantic Canada was seen as a fair to poor year for salmon angling as river levels were low and water temperatures were high. This impacted both the number and timing of fish entering the river systems. Alternatively, 2013 was just the opposite - water levels were high and fish movements upstream were widely dispersed both temporally and spatially. Therein lies both the mystique and attraction of Atlantic salmon fishing - their unpredictability.


Notwithstanding the above, Atlantic salmon return each year to their natal streams, and some of Canada's rivers are revered in world-wide salmon circles. In Nova Scotia it's the Margaree, LaHave and St. Mary's. In neighbouring New Brunswick, arguably the best and most esteemed Atlantic salmon destination in the world, the Mirimachi tops the list. Considered by many as the single greatest Altlantic salmon river, with annual runs exceeding 150,000 fish, the Mirimachi and her tributaries offer nearly 800 miles of salmon water. And despite what some would suggest, 40% of this is available to the public. Other renowned rivers here include the Saint John, the Tobique and the Restigouche, the latter of which is celebrated for the number of exceptionally large salmon it gives up annually.

Quebec has no shortage of quality salmon streams, found from the Ungava region in the extreme north to the Gaspe' Peninsula, the North Shore and Anticosti Island. The most popular of these rivers include the Bonaventure, the Matapedia, the Cascapedia, the York and the George.


Newfoundland offers several well-known salmon streams, with the most popular the Humber, the Exploits, the Gander and the Grand Codroy. Labrador boasts many quality salmon fisheries, though most are remote and therefore difficult and costly to access. The most popular and accessible today is undoubtedly the Eagle River.

The aura surrounding Atlantic salmon angling has evolved for a number of reasons, including their well-earned reputation as beautiful, hard-fighting fish that live in gorgeous rivers. And for my money, that's enough to put them on the bucket list of any angler who wants to enjoy what is arguably the quintessential Canadian angling experience.


Previous Fishing Articles

(1) Old Man River

(2) The Pink Salmon of the Squamish River

(3) Small stream BT fishing

(4) Fly fishing beyond Trout: getting started

(5) In The Walleye Zone

(6) Zoo Trout

(7) Fly Selection for Beginners

(8) Fly Fisher's Christmas

(9) New Waters

(10) Big Bad Burbot

(11) Looking Back

(12) Out of Africa

(13) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams

(14) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish

(15) The Browns of Autumn

(16) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons

(17) Walleye Town

(18) River Fun - One Bite At A Time

(19) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers

(20) Going With The Flow

(21) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman

(22) Swinging The Fences

(23) A View From The Aerie

(24) Dixieland Delight

(25) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts

(26) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon

(27) Montana's Cool Missouri

(28) Pretty Is As Pretty Does

(29) Toothy Critters

(30) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake

(31) Top Ten Flies

(32) Northern Exposure

(33) Home Water Lessons

(34) Chicken Of The Sea

(35) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish

(36) Deep In The Heart Of Texas

(37) Keep It Up!

(38) River Fishing for Fall Walleye

(39) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the flood

(40) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity

(41) Hawg Holes

(42) Saltwater Salmon

(43) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing

(44) Down a Lazy River –
A Fly-rodding Adventure on the Lower North Saskatchewan

(45) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead

(46) IN SEARCH OF SPECKLED FOOTBALLS

(47) FISHING CANADA'S PRAIRIE CITIES

(48) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver

(49) Canada's "Other" Salmon

(50) Fall Walleye

(51) Wet Flies

(52) Versatility the Key to Success

(53) Grayling of the Boreal

(54) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish

(55) Size Matters

(56) Fly Fishing Small Streams

(57) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time

(58) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel

(59) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas

(60) The Point Of It All

(61) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day

(62) Fall Fly Fishing

(63) Personal Pontoon Boats 101

(64) Big River, Big Fish

(65) Bottom Bonanza

(66) Fishing Small Flies

(67) So Many Choices, So Little Time

(68) Four Seasons of the Bow

(69) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot

(70) GEARING UP FOR SMALL STREAM TROUT

(71) Trout Hunting - New Zealand-style

(72) Don’t Leave Home Without Them –
10 Lures That Should Be In Everyone’s Tackle Box

(73) Edge Walleye

(74) FLY FISHING STRATEGIES FOR HIGH WATER

(75) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge

(76) Four Corners – Four Waters

(77) Chasing Pothole Trout

(78) Springtime Stoneflies

(79) The Torrents of Spring

(80) Drift Boat Fly Fishing

(81) Bust Them With Bait

(82) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book

(83) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months

(84) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout

(85) Terrestrials

(86) Fly In For Fishing Fun

(87) Rocky Mountain High

(88) Reading the clues

(89) Where the Trout Are
The art of locating feeding trout
in rivers and streams.

(90) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin

(91) Fly Fishing 101

(92) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod

(93) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay

(94) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder

(95) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead

(96) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital

(97) Eliminating the Spook Factor

(98) Trust Your Electronics

(99) The Most Important Hatch of the Year

(100) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout

(101) Finding Success for Ice Trout

(102) Walleye can be Humbling

(103) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed

(104) Winter Flyfishing

(105) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Gem

(106) Hot Fall Pike Action

(107) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down

(108) Reading Trout Stream Waters

(109) Frequently Asked Questions

(110) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout

(111) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice

(112) Deep Water Perch

(113) Post Spawn Brookies

(114) A Fisher's Life

(115) The River's Last Stand

(116) The Big Ones Come out at Night

(117) Coho on the Coast

(118) Chasing and Catching Halibut

(119) Summer in the Mountains

(120) Peak Walleye Season

(121) Slow and Steady Wins the Race

(122) Last Ice Rainbows

(123) The Burbot Event

(124) Tackle Matching

(125) Ice Fishing Strategy #2 - Going Light

(126) Ice Fishing Strategy #1 - Location

(127) The Lure of Brook Trout

(128) The Shallow Water Hunt is On

(129) Hot Backswimmer Action Happening Right Now

(130) Fishing Among Giants-Pursuing Lake Sturgeon on the Prairies

(131) Adventure at Davin Lake Lodge, Northern Saskatchewan

(132) The Vesatile Plug

(133) Bead Head Flies, Plugs and Shot and other Spring Favorites for Pothole Trout

(134) Planning your Upcoming Angling Adventures

(135) Good Fishing at Last Ice

(136) Maximize the Odds - Use Multiple Presentations

(137) Daily Fish Migrations

(138) Fish Migrations - Following the Spawn

(139) Lake Whitefish - An Ice Fishing All Star

(140) Pick Your Favorite Brook Trout Lake...and Go Fishing

(141) A Look Ahead to Great Trout Fishing

(142) Wrestling White Sturgeon on the Fraser

(143) The Fun in Ultra Light

(144) Flyfishing and Leadcore Lines

(145) Embrace the Spirit of Adventure

(146) Never Stop Learning

(147) Ice Fishing is Getting Hot

(148) Jigging through the Ice

(149) An Ice Fishing Unsung Hero – The Setline

(150) Rainbows on Ice

(151) The Season of Ice Begins

(152) Red Hot Fall Pike Action

(153) Hitting it Right with Water Boatman

(154) Facts On Cats

(155) West Coast Adventure

(156) June Walleye Frenzy

(157) Aerated Lakes are Big Trout Factories

(158) "First Fish of the Year - Pothole Rainbows and Browns"

(159) "Northern Exposure"

(160) Sometimes There is More to Fishing Than Catching Fish

(161) Early Season Pike On The Fly

(162) Man Overboard