A novice salmon fisherman must find the location of salmon rivers in the area he wants to fish and the location of the pools on those rivers. Speaking with local angles or talking with flyshop owners or staff can provide valuable information on locating productive salmon waters. You can make contact with informed individuals by joining local associations or clubs and by taking various courses that may be offered. The Atlantic Salmon Federation is an international, non-profit organization which promotes the conservation and wise management of the Atlantic Salmon and its environment. Most of the Atlantic Provinces have provincial salmon associations (e.g. Nova Scotia Salmon Association), which you can join. They have periodic meetings and newsletters that provide excellent information and contacts. Most provinces have river associations (Z.E.C.'s in Quebec) for each of the major salmon rivers in the province (e.g. Margaree Salmon Association, St. Mary's River Association, etc.) which you can also join. Generally, you can find contacts for the river or regional associations through the provincial associations. It is recommended that salmon anglers join such organizations not only to learn more about the sport but to support salmon conservation and good sportsmanship. Many of the provincial and /or river associations have maps of the better known salmon rivers with details of the pools and access points. Some associations mark the pools along the rivers with signs indicating the name and location of each pool. There are also a limited number of books available describing in detail, the better known rivers. The province of Nova Scotia produces a provincial map indicating the location of various fish species, including, salmon throughout the province. Information is also available from the Canadian Federal Government through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Most responsible salmon fisherman are concerned with the future of the Atlantic Salmon. Fishing for salmon is a privilege that we could very well lose unless we all contribute to a solution. For these reasons many salmon fisherman have decided to voluntarily practice total catch and release.
A great deal of analysis and education has been undertaken on proper catch and release techniques. Studies have shown that mortality rates of less than 5% can be achieved by using proper techniques. One of the most important issues is exposure to air. A recent study conducted by a Nova Scotia fisheries biologist suggests that air exposed fish experience devastating additional stress levels resulting in significantly higher mortality rates. This additional stress may be all it takes to push an exhausted fish past the point of no return. When removing the hook or taking photos try to keep air exposure to a minimum.
Another important issue in releasing salmon is taking enough time to revive the fish. Hold the fish upright with one hand around the tail and the other under the fish just behind the gills. The fish should be pointed up river into the current to allow the water to wash through the gills. Some suggest moving the fish back and forth however there is no evidence that this is beneficial. It is more important to hold the fish into a good current flow. Hold the fish until you are absolutely sure that its energy has returned. This can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 minutes or longer. Many fishermen make the mistake of releasing the salmon too soon. Do not be deceived, although you may see the fish swim away after only reviving him for a short time, the salmon may actually die some time later. Have patience. You can usually feel the response in your hands. A hand tailed, properly handled fish has an excellent chance of survival. Most anglers who practice catch and release for salmon do not use nets. It is believed that certain material in nets can do irreparable damage to fish's eyes, scales, gills or protective coating. If you must use a net, use one with knotless, cotton mesh. Water temperature is also a critical consideration. Studies indicate that the higher the water temperature the higher the mortality rate for released fish. Good sportsmanship suggests that fishing for salmon should be curtailed when water temperatures reach 70 degrees. Any salmon hooked in warm water should be played quickly and handled with great care.