Ray Hull casts a fly over the water on his favourite pools at Boom Siding on a daily basis.
He knows where the fish lie. He has no trouble spotting them in the pools and doesn’t mind telling other anglers where they should try their luck.
With so much controversy over the salmon stocks this year with catch-and-release angling invoked for most of the year and the retention limit reduced from six fish to a single grilse, everybody has an opinion on how they feel about the returns to the rivers this summer.
Ray Hull has enjoyed a great year on the lower Humber, hooking into some beauties, including several big salmon in the 15-20 pound range in what he believes was positive when looking at the numbers of fish he seen in the river.
“This year I would say I seen twice as many salmon as I seen last year,” Hull said Friday before getting some things off his to-do list before heading to the river.
Hull believes the returns have been comparable to three years back when the number of salmon returning to Newfoundland and Labrador rivers were really healthy and anglers were pretty content with the opportunity to tag six fish — with the two issued blue tags only for use on the Humber River.
Below the bridge heading into Humber Valley Resort at Boom Siding is a dark, deep pool that Hull loves to fish because it’s a spot he sees fish most of the time he goes there.
He’s hooked a fair share of fish in that pool this year and he said there haven’t been too many days that there wasn’t a fish or two resting in the pool.
It’s not only the numbers that caught his attention. He said he's seen more big fish than he ever did during his trips to the river this year, proud of the fact he hooked fish in the 12-pound range and a couple in the 20-pound range this past summer.
“It’s the first time in 10 years fishing Boom Siding that I hooked that many fish,” he said.
One factor in the numbers, Hull believes, is the fact not as many fish are being removed from the water this year with catch-and-release angling imposed on anglers.
“This year, without the blue tags, the fish are being left in the river, which is going to enhance our river for sure,” Hull.
Keith Cormier, a conservationist who is past-president of the Salmon Preservation Association of the Waters of Newfoundland, also found the fishing pretty good this year and felt it stacked up with the great returns experienced three years ago.
Cormier spent time on Southwest Brook where he thought the numbers were below average, Lomond River where the numbers appeared to be above average and the Humber River where he felt the numbers were average when compared to the healthy run of 2015.
“I’m cautiously optimistic about the resource. I’m not as pessimistic as I was at the end of the season last year,” Cormier said. “I’m hopeful that the salmon are going to stabilize and rebound.”
Cormier said everybody has an opinion and anglers' thoughts on the season returns vary from one person to the next based on how much they fish, where they fished and if conditions were good at the time.
He would love to see more money put into science to get a real sense of how many salmon are going up the Humber River.
“We don’t know and we need to know,” he said.