The 2023 fishing season is now underway in Margaree, however the DFO marked kelt recapture program has been underway since February 1st with our fishers reporting over 200 fish to date. The success has been attributed largely to very low water conditions through February and March and minimal snow cover allowing access to the pools. The spring melt has now begun and the river has risen some, but is still very low for this time of year. This is in part, due to our part of Cape Breton being sheltered from storms this past winter and above normal temperatures resulting in a minimal snow pack.
These low levels are of particular concern with the trend of seasonal warming temperatures. This past summer the Margaree had some of the lowest water levels in many memories, this paired with a prolonged dry-spell and high temperatures triggered the warm water protocol which resulted in closures of sections of the Margaree river for a period of about 6 weeks.
Winter in Margaree seemed to have a delayed start and a quick finish. The usual parade of snowmobilers getting gas in Margaree Centre didn’t even start until March as cross-country skiers had to trek into the hills of Portree and the Northeast in order to find skiable snow. The effects of this shortcoming in snowfall can be seen in the tributaries and small springs that usually pour out of the mountains this time of year; which have been reduced to a trickle.
This early onset of poorly supplied springs and runoff tells us that the groundwater in the highlands, which helps supply a consistent baseline of water, is already in trouble. Water levels at this very moment are great for fishing, but with less snowpack in the hills, and a seemingly depleted groundwater supply already; river conditions we will be dependent on rain storms and if we do not get enough rain this season, it wouldn’t surprise me to have low water and high temperatures earlier than expected which will again necessitate triggering the warm water protocol. (See our website if you wish to find out what the “Warm Water protocol” is about). Gravel berms and bedrock normally only showing in mid-August are already exposed and serve as an ominous reminder that the norms we come to rely on in Margaree have changed and you should keep this in mind when planning your summer salmon angling adventures.