The reason for writing this article was the discussion of the Autumn season on the river Varzuga. Is it as good as spring? And what is the difference and why? It turned out that many of us have different information about the river and often some facts contradict others, which is, in general, a common occurrence not only in fishing.
The best time here on the Varzuga river is considered by many is Spring. This is the end of May and the first half of June. Indeed, in licensed areas located near the village of Varzuga and above, a considerable amount of salmon accumulates during this period. Many people regard this as evidence of the intensive spring movement of fish from the sea. Is it so? Some say yes, others doubt it.
Here i can consider 3 options:
1. It is really fresh fish, which entered the river in Spring (May – early June)
2. It is a mixture of fresh fish and fish which entered river in Autumn
3. It is mostly Autumn run fish that have taken places in holding pools waiting for Spring to come
Understanding this is important because the result allows us to plan the correct time and place for fishing.
If this is really an intensive move of salmon from the sea, the physical condition of the fish should be near excellent. Usually, the salmon that just entered the river are distinguished by a silvery color, fat body with no trace of a long stay in fresh water. Such a fish should appear first in the lower parts and gradually climb up the river. More or less evenly spreads along the river and its quantity in catches increases in the upper parts by the end of June.
If this is the second option, then along with fresh fish, there should be fish with traces of being in the river for some time. The appearance of this fish will depend on the time spent in the river and the duration of its stay in fresh water. Signs of overwintering can be the appearance of a violet hue of varying intensity, skin damage, and so on. It is logical to assume that at the beginning of the fishing season, the percentage of fresh sea fish will be higher in the lower parts of the river, and the percentage of Autumn – winter fish will prevail in catches in the upper parts of the river, in the places where it will hibernate in deep calm waters.
If the third option is closer to the truth, Autumn salmon will gather in the holding wintering pools. At the same time, the pools will be equally fishy both in the lower and upper parts of the river. The effectiveness of such wintering pools will rapidly decrease by the end of June, when the fish leave them and more evenly spread throughout the river bed. The condition of the fish should be completely different, as it depends on the time of the appearance of salmon in the river. This will be a mixture in which we will see the September fish with a clear purple color and silvery fish, which entered the river in late autumn or early winter and look very similar to fresh fish. The latter group of salmon may have barely noticeable purple hues on the back or be completely silver, since its time in fresh water was short and fell on the cold season, when the rate of such changes is minimal.
Thus, if option 1 is correct, then we should start fishing in the middle of May in the lower parts of the river (Dog Camp, Mill), and from mid-June we should move up to the camps located in the upper parts of the river (Middle Varzuga and Grand Varzuga). The effectiveness of fishing will strongly depend on the state of the river and the movement of fresh fish from the sea.
If option 2 is closer to the truth, then our tactics of choosing the time and place will not change much. It is logical that you should pay attention immediately to areas located in the middle part of the river (Island camp.), It is worth taking the “golden” middle, which can work in any conditions.
If the 3rd option is right, then the period of cold water will be effective (usually this is the end of May - the very beginning of June) in areas with holding wintering pools. Practically these are all 3 camps (Dog camp, Island Camp(middle) and Grand Varzuga camp).
With the warming of the water, the catch numbers will fall everywhere. Salmon will leave wintering pools and gradually move up.
All such attempts to understand the behavior and migration in the rivers of salmon look unconvincing even in the case of one particular river. Our information is mainly based on the results of fishing, even for a large group of anglers over many seasons. You can even argue the opposite - that the experience of catching leads to complete confusion in the views on the situation. The fact is that the results of fishing are extremely individual and variable. Attempts to estimate the amount of salmon in a river are presented in previously published articles on our blog:
More objective assessment methods are needed that would not depend on the state of the water, the individual qualities of the angler, and so on. Are there any such methods?
Oddly enough, they have been used for a long time. Atlantic salmon has always been the object of catch in the sea and in rivers. Before popularization of sport fishing, the main tool was fishing nets. On many rivers of the Kola Peninsula, you can see those nets infrastructures. The mode of their work has changed and is changing, but the principle remains the same - the net blocks the entire channel of the river and each salmon climbing up the river falls into a special trap. Its further fate may be different, but each fish passed up or withdrawn for sale is recorded.
Thus, for many years, the salmon population has been monitored and counted in the Kola, Varzuga, Kitsa rivers and so on. With all its pros and cons, this method of accounting allows you to accurately determine the quantity and quality (size, sex, age) of migratory fish. Especially if a qualified team of scientists is involved in this business.
Using the data published over several decades, I will try to evaluate and discuss our 3rd possible scenarios on the Varzuga river as it seems very valid to me. And I would like to draw your attention to the fact that it is not only about Varzuga, this picture is characteristic of the entire population of Atlantic salmon that spawn in the rivers of the White Sea basin (south of Kola Peninsula). And this is almost 3/5 of the whole coast of the Kola Peninsula.
To be continued...