A trademark of the Fédération des gestionnaires de rivières à saumon du Québec
Fishing

Cascapédia River

The Cascapédia River

The Rivière Cascapédia, also known as the Grande Cascapédia to distinguish it from the Petite Rivière Cascapédia, arises in the heart of the Chic-Choc Mountains and crosses the centre of the Gaspé Peninsula before emptying into Chaleur Bay. This mighty river flows some 139 kilometres through majestic landscapes that have provided inspiration for many painters. With an average flow rate of 50 cubic meters per second, the river’s clear waters take on a brownish hue when running high. For over 150 years, it has been known around the world for the size of its salmon, weighing in at an average of 9 kilograms (19 pounds). The record-holding 24-kilogram (53-pound) catch was made in 1886.

A summary

Length
139 km, of which 118 are open to fishing and 18 are private
Sectors and pools
107 pools in seven sectors, all of which are limited-access
Type of fishing allowed
Salmon fishing by wading or by canoe, depending on the sector
Salmon fishing season
June 1 to September 30
Daily salmon catch limit
Two small salmon less than 63 cm/25 inches in length

Operator

Cascapédia Society

Contact information

Address
275 Route 299, Cascapédia-Saint-Jules (Québec) G0C 1T0
Phone
(418) 392-5079
Free Phone
1-877-234-7450
Fax
(418) 392-5070
Email
administration.tv@cascapedia.ca
Learn more about this river

Annual statistics

Moon phase

Moon phases

River Condition(s)

Salmon fishing on Cascapédia River

The Rivière Cascapédia, also known as the Grande Cascapédia to distinguish it from the Petite Rivière Cascapédia, arises in the heart of the Chic-Choc Mountains and crosses the centre of the Gaspé Peninsula before emptying into Chaleur Bay. This mighty river flows some 139 kilometres through majestic landscapes that have provided inspiration for many painters. With an average flow rate of 50 cubic meters per second, the river’s clear waters take on a brownish hue when running high. For over 150 years, it has been known around the world for the size of its salmon, weighing in at an average of 9 kilograms (19 pounds). The record-holding 24-kilogram (53-pound) catch was made in 1886.

The salmon of the Rivière Cascapédia attracted the Mi’kmaq community as far back as 10,000 years ago. In the mid-nineteenth century, adventurers and prominent figures from Canada, England and the United States came here seeking extraordinary fishing experiences. Among them were Robert Graham Dun, of the firm Dun & Bradstreet, Chester Arthur, the 21st president of the United States, and several governors general of Canada, including Lord Stanley of Stanley Cup fame. The rich history of this legendary river is presented at the Musée de la rivière Cascapédia.

Since 1981, the Société Cascapédia has managed access to fishing on the river throughout the season. The Mi’kmaq community also has access to the river and offers visitors sport fishing packages on the first 18 kilometres upstream from the mouth.

The Cascapédia has 107 pools in seven limited-access fishing sectors where both Atlantic salmon and sea-run brook trout can be fished. It is considered one of the ten best salmon rivers in the world, known for great fishing and the biggest salmon in North America.

 

History of the River

The Rivière Cascapédia is of glacial origin, Ten thousand years ago, the river ran through the Chic-Choc Mountains to Chaleur Bay, at the time a frozen lake.

Members of the Mi’kmaq First Nation came to the banks of the Cascapédia in search of food and settle near its mouth, mainly for the excellent hunting and fishing. The indigenous people quickly realized that the river was full of salmon and the alluvial valley was ideal for growing crops. For centuries they had the river to themselves, filled with enough salmon and trout to feed their band.
In the 1850s, many adventurers from England, Canada and the United States began to explore the Gaspé Peninsula and the rivers of Chaleur Bay. Most of them were outdoorsmen who came to enjoy exceptional salmon and trout fishing. Explorers and authors such as Charles Lanman and William Venning visited the region and saw the extraordinary salmon runs on the Cascapédia.

hey wrote about the remarkable size of the fish, far larger than those found on most rivers. These salmon had never seen artificial flies nor been bothered by fishing nets at sea. The salmon catches on the river soon became the stuff of legend.

With the northward expansion of the railroad in the late 1860s, it became possible to travel to the village of Matapédia in relative comfort. From there, other rivers could be reached by boat or by sleigh. Canadian John Shedder fished on the Grande Cascapédia in the late 1860s. He lived on the Woodman farm, just upstream from the village of Grande-Cascapédia.

During in 1870s – boom years in North America – wealthy Canadians and Americans came to enjoy the cool summers of Quebec’s forests and great salmon fishing, a new sport for most of them. In 1872, the accomplished American angler James B. Blossom travelled all the way here and saw for himself the exceptional quality of the fishing on the Cascapédia. He shared his experience with his friends and other Americans, including Robert Graham Dun (of Dun & Bradstreet) and Chester Arthur (who later became President of the United States). Within a few years, these wealthy businessmen bought the riparian water rights of the land along the river, thereby ensuring their exclusive right to fish on the river and keeping control firmly in the hands of the elite. When Lord Lorne became Governor General of Canada in 1879, his wife, Princess Louise (Queen Victoria’s daughter), wanted a vacation home away from the heat of the Ottawa summers. They had a fishing “camp” built overlooking the Cascapédia, later called Lorne Cottage, where they spent weeks fishing, painting and otherwise enjoying the summer with family and friends. The next two governors general, Lord Lansdowne and Lord Stanley (who gave his name to professional hockey’s championship cup) followed in Lord Lorne’s footsteps, each building a camp that remains in use today. The presence of all these notables on the Rivière Cascapédia certainly helped to establish its reputation. In 1893, it was decided that the government would no longer automatically grant free use of the forty miles of Crown land along the river to the governor general (Lord Aberdeen, at that time). It so happened that when the new railway reached Chaleur Bay, linking the Matapédia valley to most of the villages of the southern Gaspé Peninsula, a small group of wealthy Americans had let the government know of their interest in bidding on the fishing rights on the Cascapédia just weeks before the season.

Granted a ten-year lease on the river rights, the initial group of five businessmen took possession of New Derreen, Lord Lansdowne’s old camp, creating the Cascapedia Club. The area around the Rivière Grande Cascapédia thus became a favourite summering spot for affluent men like Edward W. Davis, Robert Graham Dun, William K. Vanderbilt, Frank Griswold and Henry C. Frick. Over the years, the Cascapedia Fishing Club reported many large salmon catches, including some weighing over 50 pounds that were heralded around the world. The Club survived for almost forty years, but when the financial crisis hit in 1929, the few remaining members were obliged to think twice about travelling to the Gaspé coast for their summer holidays. The decision was finally made not to renew the lease from the government.

But Amy Guest, daughter of steel magnate Henry Phipps Jr., had other ideas. She had spent several summers at Camp Chaleur, a home her brother had built on a plateau with a breathtaking view over several pools on the river, and she had the means to pay the $7,500 per year demanded by the government for the river rights. In return, she was also allowed to take possession of the Cascapedia Club’s former headquarters, New Derreen. She now had nearly forty miles of the river to herself, but to reach the upstream pools, she had to face an often-impassable narrow dirt track or an arduous two-day canoe trip. So she decided to sublet portions of river to other individuals. Within months of obtaining the lease in 1933, she divided the river into three sections: the New Derreen section, which she reserved for her own use, the Middle Camp section, and the Tracadie Camp section, comprising the last twenty miles of the river. A new club was created and its members took possession of and renovated the three camps built by Lord Lorne, which the old Club had been allowed to fall into disrepair. Two years later, William Beach built a fourth camp, Three Islands, sharing use of the coveted upstream pools with the owners of the Tracadie Camp.

The various camp owners came and went, each leaving their mark. Middle Camp and Camp Chaleur were eventually burnt to the ground. Nonetheless, the peace and quiet of the Cascapédia valley remained largely undisturbed until Route 299 was built in 1957, becoming one of the few roads to cross the Gaspé Peninsula from north to south. Although sport fishing on the river has been affected by commercial fishing along the coast, the keys to salmon survival have been limitations on the number of sport anglers and the imposition of catch limits.

In the late 1970s, a new progressive government was elected, putting forward the notion that access to Quebec’s rivers should be open to the public. Fortunately, a local conservation organization, the Bay of Chaleur Association, was already in place and well known to the provincial government officials. Discussions between the two parties led to an agreement in 1981: the Société Cascapédia inc. was designated the organization responsible for managing the Rivière Cascapédia. Today, the Société Cascapédia manages access to fishing on the river throughout the season. The Mi’kmaq community also has access to the river and offers visitors sport fishing packages.

The Rivière Cascapédia now combines public and private fishing access in a practical mix. The annual salmon runs are usually better than they were fifty years ago. Many large salmon are caught each year and, regardless of size, the vast majority of those caught are released to participate in the fall spawning season.

The river is still considered one of Quebec’s great fishing destinations. Many salmon anglers still cherish the dream of casting their flies into the cool waters of the Grande Cascapédia, if only for a day.

Hoagy Carmichael
Author of The Grand Cascapedia River, A History
Available at the Musée de la rivière Cascapédia.

 

Note

  • Annual statistics are provided by the Government of Quebec.