Aug. 12, 2019

Our 2019 fishing season has just wrapped up and I believe its safe to say, it was another success. Mind you, it was considerably different from the previous 50 seasons for a few reasons.

Our most experienced fishing guide – Alex Chant – retired at the end of the 2018 season – after 48 years of service. That’s quite the accomplishment for sure! So, our 2019 season was our first without Alex.  We still caught fish (more on that later) but Alex’s absence was felt by all.  Happy retirement Mr. Chant and thanks for all your hard work and dedication over those 48 years!

Transporting supplies from the Lower Camp (in North Bay) to the Upper Camp – over 3 miles of very rough terrain – has always been a challenge. Very few vehicles are built for that type of service – up and down over kettle-size rocks; through 18-24 inches of water during multiple river crossings and along a ‘trail’ often partially blocked by alder bushes and trees.  In the past we used farm tractors pulling trailers that hold the supplies.  We still have one of those in service.

But 2019 was the first season for our new (to us) Polaris Ranger 6x6 ATV. It was quite the feat just getting our new ‘green machine’ to the river.  I hauled it by trailer from Bedford, Nova Scotia to the Marine Atlantic ferry terminal in North Sydney in early June.  In Newfoundland, the Ranger was taken off the trailer in Rose Blanche and hoisted aboard the Challenge One – the coastal ferry that travels between Rose Blanche and the out-port of LaPoile – for the trip to LaPoile.   Monford, Roland and Phil (Salmon Hole Lodge fishing guides extraordinaire) organized the last leg of the journey – where the Ranger sat atop a dory (temporarily equipped with a wooden platform) – which was towed the final 10 mile leg of the journey to it’s new home, North Bay.

I’m happy to report the Ranger served us well in it’s first season – no problems with those big rocks or river crossings.

Our 2019 season was also the first for our new cook – Joan. Joan has worked in the past managing kitchens at work camps in Canada’s northwest.  There, she prepared meals for hundreds of workers so she made cooking for 10 folks at Salmon Hole Lodge look effortless!  Joan did a fine job and she was a welcomed addition this past season.

As for the fishing, we had a smaller group of customers in 2019 (16 in total) but, with an effort of 85 rod-days, they hooked a total of 102 salmon and grilse. Not bad, considering the salmon returns throughout eastern Canada were lower than in past years.

From the customer feedback that I received, our guests enjoyed the fishing, food and accommodations. I wish I could control the fishing, but fly-fishing for Atlantic salmon has always been an unpredictable business.

If you are one of the 2019 guests from whom I have not received feedback, I would very much like to hear from you. And if you captured any photos or video showing ‘fish on’ action, I will gladly exchange some ‘killer’ LaPoile flies in return for you sharing your images.

Speaking of video, we were able to capture some great footage from 2 videographers (Shaun Lowe and Corey Purchase) who visited with their drones. The aerial footage is amazingly clear and provides us with bird’s eye views never before seen.  We’ll be featuring some of this awe-inspiring video here on this site in the near future – so stay tuned.  Thanks for reading, Scott Smith (Owner)


April 17, 2018

As mentioned in my previous blog post, not all farmed Atlantic salmon is created equal. More than 90 percent of the fresh Atlantic salmon eaten in the USA comes from giant fish farms that are located in ocean waters (usually sheltered bays), and those farms have big problems. These “net-pen” raised salmon are treated with pesticide to remove sea lice and antibiotics to deal with bacterial infections; the protein in their feed pellets comes from land-based plants (not marine life); dye is added to their feed to give their flesh the nice colour we associate with Atlantic salmon; they may contain high amounts of PCBs and toxins; the fish farms pollute the area under the sea-cages (to the point where nothing can grow there); escapees from these sea-cages interact and breed with wild Atlantic salmon thus weakening the gene pool and competing for habitat; and the list goes on.

On the other hand, there is a small but growing segment of the Atlantic salmon farming industry that is doing it right. These farms are located on land and the salmon are grown in very large tanks filled with water that is circulated continuously. Various tanks contain salmon as they progress through their various stages of life – fry, parr, smolt, grilse, large salmon. Factors such as water temperature, salinity, oxygen level and even number of hours of daylight are controlled to provide optimum growing conditions.

These farmed Atlantic salmon never see any pesticides, antibiotics, chemicals or other drugs. The protein portion of their feed pellets is marine based, not land-plant or land-animal based. They are not exposed to PCBs or toxins that may be present in the ocean. The continuously circulated water goes through filters where the salmon’s fecal matter is removed, de-watered and dried for use as fertilizer. These farms don’t cause any pollution.

One such company that successfully raises Atlantic salmon in land-based facilities is Nova Scotia’s own Sustainable Blue. To learn more about this company, it’s leading-edge technology and its environmentally-safe process, please go to: http://sustainableblue.com/ .

“Sustainable Blue, located near the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, is a Canadian producer of sustainably raised fish of the highest quality. We use our proprietary aquaculture technology to operate an earth-friendly land-based recirculation fish farming operation. We’re committed to product quality, environmental responsibility, and commercial success through sustainable practices.”

Salmon Hole Lodge is a long-time proponent of land-based closed-containment Atlantic salmon aquaculture. Specifically, we are a big fan of Sustainable Blue, the high quality of their farmed Atlantic salmon and what their company stands for: sustainability. The Sustainable Blue brand of farmed Atlantic salmon is of the highest quality and far superior in taste and quality when compared to conventional ‘open net-pen’ farmed salmon. It can be purchased online from Afishionado Fishmongers (https://www.afishionado.ca/) and either shipped directly to your home or picked up at a location in north-end Halifax.

In summary, the benefits associated with Sustainable Blue’s facility and eating its products?

• Their recirculation system provides consistently clear, clean water for the fish.

• All organic waste (from the fish) is held on land and may be used as fertilizer.

• All incoming water is sterilized so the fish lead a disease-free life.

• No disease means the fish lead a drug-free life. No anti-biotics and no lice pesticides.

• Water parameters are set for optimal growing conditions.

• These ideal conditions mean our Atlantic salmon use precious resources, including food, very efficiently.

The next time you want to buy Atlantic salmon to feed your family, you should try Sustainable Blue salmon available only at Afishionado Fishmongers. I highly recommend buying a whole salmon which weighs about 8 pounds (gutted with head on) and yields about 6.2 pounds of meat – at a cost of $80. This works out to roughly $13/pound of the best salmon you’ve ever tasted. It may cost a bit more but it is well worth it considering the superior taste, food safety and impact on our environment.

Disclosure: Salmon Hole Lodge Ltd. and owner Scott Smith have no investment in or relationship with Sustainable Blue or Afishionado Fishmongers.


April 10, 2018

A couple years ago, salmon surpassed tuna as the most popular fish in the United States. Atlantic salmon is also extremely popular in Canada. Doctors have told us to eat more of it; our fitness and diet regimens have put it in heavy menu rotation.  Since wild Atlantic salmon are not fished commercially, the only way to satisfy consumer demand is through salmon farming.

The problem is not all farmed Atlantic salmon is created equal. More than 90 percent of the fresh Atlantic salmon eaten in the USA and Canada comes from giant fish farms that are located in ocean waters (usually sheltered bays), and those farms have problems. Big ones. There are a few farms that grow Atlantic salmon “the right way”. These farms are located on land and use very large tanks filled with continuously-circulated salt water. The land-based farms are the topic of our next blog posting but for now, here are the facts about those farmed Atlantic salmon that are raised “the wrong way”.

• Large-scale Atlantic salmon farms in the United States, Canada, Scotland, Norway and Chile have attracted large numbers of parasites (marine insects) called sea lice that attach themselves to the fish, causing skin lesions and secondary infections, killing the host or rendering meat inedible. The damage these lice have inflicted has caused Atlantic salmon prices to soar in the past 18 months. To get rid of these parasites, farmers doctor their feed with a pesticide called Slice, or emamectin benzoate, which causes tremors, spinal deterioration and muscle atrophy when administered to rats and dogs.

• Large Atlantic salmon farms also use high levels of antibiotics to treat bacteria that cause lesions and hemorrhaging in infected fish. Why is that bad? Overuse of antibiotics, either in farming or for human medical treatment, speeds up the development of antibiotic resistance.

• Farmed Atlantic salmon are fed pellets made out of fish oil and smaller fish, ground-up chicken feathers, genetically modified yeastsoybeans and chicken fat.

• Wild Atlantic salmon get its lovely rose color from eating krill and shrimp. Farmed Atlantic salmon, because it eats those feed pellets, is grey. To make it more appetizing to consumers, farmers add dyes to their feed.

• Studies show that farmed salmon contains up to eight times more PCBs — cancer-causing industrial chemicals that were banned in 1979 — than wild, as well as high levels of mercury and dioxins from herbicides like Agent Orange.

• We’ve all heard that omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients for nervous system, heart and brain health. Omega-3 in fish are derived from plants like algae, leaves and grass. Because farmed Atlantic salmon are fed a lot of soy, they are high in omega-6, which you don’t want: Omega-3 fights inflammation while omega-6 promotes it.

• Then there are environmental concerns: pollution from fish excrement and uneaten feed; farms releasing diseases to wild fish stocks; escapees unwittingly released into the wild where there are no natural populations and then outcompeting native fish populations.

Next Up: How to Raise Atlantic salmon “the right way”

Sources: Seafood Watch, Washington State Department of Health, healthline.com, watershed-watch.org


Sept. 19, 2017

The following excerpt is borrowed from the excellent article 'Moments of Beauty' written by Charles Thompson and published in the Autumn 2017 edition of the Atlantic Salmon Journal.  It provides an interesting look into the psyche of the Atlantic salmon angler.

Cards were being shuffled and one senior member of my bridge club remarked “We missed you last week, were you away?”

“Yes,” I replied, “I was in New Brunswick fishing.”

“You went all the way to New Brunswick to fish, aren’t there any fish in Cape Breton?”

“Sure,” I continued, “but I was after salmon.”

“Salmon,” he mused as he examined his hand. “I had a lovely piece from the fish man today. It was a bit pricey but you must have spent a lot more for your fish when you count in the cost of gas and license and food and everything else! Seems like a bit of a waste of money.”

“Well, as it turns out, I didn’t catch any and, even if I did, I would have put them back. I practice catch and release.”

There was a pregnant pause: only the sound of the cards being shuffled could be heard. “You travelled all the way to not only not catch anything but, if you had, you would have put it back? Seriously? That is unbelievable! You need to see someone!”

On an intellectual level, perhaps it truly is hard to explain. Sometimes even harder to rationalize to myself. Live release is the purview of what I like to call the “lunatic fringe,” an exclusive, but expanding, club of which I have been a charter member for over 50 years. The privileges of membership are many—days spent in blistering heat or freezing cold trying, usually in vain, to catch a fish that even if I am successful, after countless hours, I will return oh-so-gently to the river, without even removing it from the water.

Even in my infrequent lucid moments, I don’t completely understand it myself. Everyone who salmon fishes does it for different reasons. Perhaps it’s just a desire to be outdoors, or as an escape from everyday pressures like family crises, money worries, or declining health. Another author, Roderick Haig-Brown wrote, “You never see a worried man fish.” For some, it could simply be something they are good at, effortlessly throwing a line in perfect synchronicity.

Whatever your poison, it’s impossible to explain to the unknowing or uninitiated. The joys derive from an internal, very personal place, there is nothing like it. For me, and for many women and men, it is a passion with no equal and as long as it makes sense to you, that is all that matters. To paraphrase the founder of Esquire magazine and angling author, Arnold Gingrich, “A salmon is a moment of beauty known only to those who seek it.” While I ponder all this as I cast, suddenly (it is always suddenly), there is a sharp strain on my shoulder and a taut line pulls away. As my heart rate accelerates like a dragster at “The Big Go” in Indianapolis, I think “What was the question?”

Salmon fishing is not a sport that requires anyone else to understand it to make it special. How many you have caught, where you have fished, be it Norway or Nova Scotia, none of it matters, other than a deep, inexplicable satisfaction. Some years, (yes years!) you stand up to your waist in a cold, rushing river, swatting away flies or wiping snow and rain from the brim of your hat. And right about when you start thinking that maybe, just maybe, you will purchase that new six iron and move on, there is an intense tug on your line and all hell breaks loose.

I have been fortunate enough to fish steelhead in B.C, Chinooks in the Pacific Ocean, striped bass in New Brunswick, groupers in Florida, but there is nothing like that first pull of an Atlantic salmon, regardless of season or size. Probably because it is so hard to succeed, regardless of skill or level of knowledge, that when one finally grabs your fly, it is always unexpected, always thrilling.

A lot of time is spent discussing what fly to use, how much leader, to strip or not, or whether to use the hitch. Salmon fishing, with its poor success rate, creates its own army of insecure, neurotic fishermen always looking for an edge. Countless books have been written on the subject, many proposing to know what you have to do to be a good angler, whatever that means.


The harsh truth? Most of it does not matter. In the end, it is the most personal of activities, and yet, each one of us can be part of that unique club who fish only to let every salmon go—The Lunatic Fringe. After all these many years, I still feel fortunate and proud to renew my membership.


Sept. 12 - Recently the Newfoundland and Labrador Outfitters Association (NLOA) requested our 'position' on possible mandatory catch & release angling for Atlantic salmon in Newfoundland and Labrador.  (FYI - New Brunswick and Nova Scotia implemented mandatory catch & release angling for Atlantic salmon a few years ago - a wise move considering the declining number of returning spawners!)  FYI, here are my answers to their questions:

NLOA Outfitter Angling Survey 2017

1) Do you support Catch and Release as a measurement of conservation as a result of DFO Science showing minimal salmon returns for 2016 and 2017? Yes

2) What will be the impacts to your business, positive or negative, if the industry went full Catch and Release? I don’t know but I suspect (and hope) most of my regular customers will understand the need for these regulations and will return to fish with us.

3) Does your business practice Catch and Release only or do you offer retention angling when permitted? Each week (for 4 to 6 weeks each year), we host a maximum of 6 anglers. The vast majority of our customers release everything they catch (Atlantic salmon).  On a special occasion, and since it is legally allowed, a group of anglers may keep 1 or 2 grilse so this group may have one meal of fresh Atlantic salmon.  This would happen no more than once per week and does not happen every week. 

4) If retention is permitted, on average, how many salmon would a customer normally retain?  As mentioned above, normally our customers do not retain any Atlantic salmon – even if retention is permitted.  This has been the case for at least the past 10 years.

5) Considering many of you angle on non-monitored rivers, which river(s) do you angle on and in your opinion, for each river you angle, were salmon returns in 2017 low, average, or above average? My camp, Salmon Hole Lodge, is located on the LaPoile River in SFA 12. This is the only river that we angle.  2017 was a below-average year for us - due to a decreased number of returning spawners.

6) With Salmon returns for the past two years being very low, and most rivers performing well below spawning requirements, what do you think should happen in 2018: limited tags for 2018, full tags for 2018, or Catch & Release only?  I strongly believe that all outfitters and anglers (including aboriginals) in Newfoundland AND Labrador MUST start, in the 2018 season, releasing all Atlantic salmon and grilse that are hooked.  All remaining commercial and/or ceremonial salmon fisheries in eastern Canada must stop.  This stoppage of killing Atlantic salmon should extend throughout all provinces whose rivers contain wild Atlantic salmon.  Maintain this policy for the 2018 and 2019 seasons then re-evaluate.  Anyone caught possessing a wild Atlantic salmon (dead) – angler, outfitter, commercial fisherman, poacher, aboriginal – should receive a very heavy fine and be unable to fish for at least 2 years.


August 21, 2017 - (an excerpt from North Bay Narrative by Walter Staples)

“Bears had always been a problem at the Salmon Hole cabin (in the 1970’s). Carl Ross (a regular member of the fishing party led by Salmon Hole Lodge founder Duncan Smith) vividly remembers waking one night at the old log cabin (the original ‘camp’) as the door appeared to explode. Thinking it must have been a gust of wind, he got up, pulled the door closed, and hooked it.  Telling the experience at the kitchen table the next morning, he was reminded there had been no wind during the night.  A daylight look at the outside of the door revealed new deep claw marks left by the would-be visitor.  The fishermen agreed that the bear may have found the inside smell offensive, causing his retreat.”

Note from Salmon Hole Lodge owner Scott Smith – While close encounters with resident black bears may have been common in the 1970’s and prior years, thankfully nowadays, sightings of black bears in the LaPoile River valley are rare and usually occur at our compost pile (1 km from the Lodge).


August 15, 2017 - This is a very interesting book that provides an accurate chronological timeline of the development of a recreational Atlantic salmon fishery on Newfoundland's LaPoile River.  Many thanks to Mr. Walter Staples for researching and documenting this interesting period in time. - Scott Smith

The North Bay Narrative is the remarkable story of a remote Newfoundland fishing village and its evolution from a community of a few families where men built boats by hand to today’s collection of cottages, including the Salmon Hole Lodge, where local residents guide visiting Atlantic salmon anglers.

Author and ardent fisherman Walter Staples made his first trip to this wild area of southwest Newfoundland in 1980. He had heard about the beautiful LaPoile River valley and its prolific runs of wild Atlantic salmon. What he discovered, however, was a much more complex story about rugged pioneer families who moved far from the nearest village in hopes of carving out a livelihood from the dense forest.

North Bay’s first settlers began building ocean-going fishing boats, cutting trees by hand, pulling them from the woods to the banks of the LaPoile River, and floating the logs downstream to the village. The logs were pulled ashore in North Bay and cut into boards by men using pit saws. The completed vessels, some sixty feet long, were launched by hand to the river, and sold to fishermen along the coast. From 1890 until 1968, three generations built over 150 vessels.

The people of North Bay, never more than 80 at any one time, began moving away from the village after World War II. Although the last year-round resident left in 1968, the village was already in transition. Many former residents returned during the summer and old houses were replaced with cottages. The LaPoile River still runs by the revived village of North Bay and local residents, working at the Salmon Hole Lodge, guide fishermen who cast their flies for Atlantic salmon.

Until this book, the old North Bay existed only in the memories of the few remaining people who were born and lived there. In the North Bay Narrative, their story lives on - a reminder of other small Newfoundland communities now abandoned and soon to be forgotten.
Go to Amazon.com to purchase the book:



August 7, 2017 - following is an excerpt from The North Bay Narrative - a book written by former Salmon Hole Lodge guest Walter Staples and published in 1998:

shall never forget the pool, the details, or the experience of the next afternoon, June 29, 1980.  From their position on the ledge, (the guides) could look into the water and see several salmon and were trying to help me position my casts for the proper approach: "A little longer cast."  "Too far beyond."  "You're getting close".  A salmon they had not seen suddenly rose and took my fly. He streaked the length of the pool, the reel screaming, the line into the backing. He went to the deepest part of the pool and sulked for several minutes while I, shaking like a leaf, attempted to regain composure. There was help from the guides, verbal: "Keep your rod tip up."  "Don't let that line get loose."  "Drop the rod tip when he jumps."

That salmon was an acrobat.  He was in the water, out of it, and back in again. He came straight for me and made abrupt turns as if to climb the rocks on either side.  My line was loose, my rod tip down. Reeled almost to the net, he skipped across the surface of the pool in leaps and bounds again and again.  When Lewis finally netted that six-pound fish, I had no idea how long it had been since he took the fly.  I stood in a cold sweat, trembling and unsteady on the rock.  Lewis grabbed my arm, afraid I was about to fall into the river.  I think I was.  Resting, I sat beside Dunc (Duncan Smith - founder of Salmon Hole Lodge) and in all sincerity confided that I, as well as the salmon had just been hooked, hooked on Atlantic salmon fishing and on the LaPoile River in Newfoundland.'

Shown below, a photo of Duncan Smith, circa 1968, with a beautiful LaPoile River salmon!  - Scott Smith


August 3, 2017 - We will soon be entering our 50th year of operation.  Definitely a time to reflect on the past.  One way of doing this is by going through photos.  Our photo library contains hundreds of nice, old photos showing a proud angler holding his (or her) prize catch!  You won't see many of those photos on websites or FB pages these days because it is considered by some Atlantic salmon organizations "to be in poor taste" to show pictures of "dead salmon" when we are trying to promote catch and release.  Well, guess what?  That was then, this is now.  These days we strongly promote catch and release angling for Atlantic salmon.  But over the next little while, I'll be sharing here a few old photos anyway.  Here's one taken in 1968 of Salmon Hole Lodge founder, Dr. Duncan Smith (far right) and two awesome fishing guides - holding Atlantic salmon (and Brook trout) that were caught during the previous few days.  These fish would be cut into pieces, the fish pieces placed in cans of water, the cans sealed, then the sealed cans cooked in a pressure cooker over an open fire for several hours!  Before the era of refrigeration and ice making on the LaPoile River, all salmon was brought home, pre-cooked, in cans - imagine that!     Scott Smith


July 27, 2017 - A reminder to all of our 2017 guests -

Now that you’ve returned home from your Salmon Hole Lodge fishing trip and you’ve had a chance to go through the photos you took, please remember that I would be very happy to make a contribution to your salmon fly collection.

A picture is worth a thousand words – especially to a fishing camp outfitter! Past, present and (possibly) future guests really enjoy seeing pictures and videos of salmon – your salmon!

So, here’s the deal ……..

If you email me your digital images of either:(1) an angler playing a LaPoile River salmon or (2) an angler holding a live LaPoile River salmon prior to release, I’ll send you this nice collection of custom-tied flies – proven to be effective on the LaPoile River!! If I display your pic, I will check with you first to see if you want me to with-hold names.

Your pics or videos can be emailed to: scott@salmonholelodge.com

Thanks!  Scott Smith