Back to Greenland: Tagging Adult Atlantic Salmon

Research fisheries biologist Tim Sheehan is currently in Qaqortoq, Greenland with collaborator Jon Carr Vice President of Research and Environment for the Atlantic Salmon Federation tagging adult Atlantic salmon with special pop-off satellite tags. These special tags will help collect information about adult salmon movements and behaviors in and around Greenland, and during their migration back to their home rivers to spawn. Here’s what Tim’s reporting.

Qaqortoq, Greenland from the sea

Qaqortoq, Greenland as seen from the fjord. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries/Tim Sheehan.

The trip to get here was a solid 36+ hours capped off with a slow ferry (5+ hour) boat ride from Narsarsuaq to Qaqortoq, Greenland. Got in safe and sound late Tuesday night, October 2 and was on the water all day Wednesday, October 3.

Qaqortoq is located in southwestern Greenland on the Labrador Sea. Qaqortoq is the 4th largest town in Greenland. It is located within Igaliko Fjord and has a population of about 3,000.

Google earth image with Qaqortoq Greenland pinned

Qaqortoq, Greenland (red marker on map) is located in southwestern Greenland in the Labrador Sea. Photo credit: Google maps.

Trolling in the Fjord

On October 3 we were fishing with a local, trying to live capture and release adult Atlantic salmon with a pop-off satellite tag.

We are trolling in the fjord right outside of Qaqortoq. Trolling is a fishing method that drags lures through the water. While it’s an uncommon fishing method here, it’s a common technique across many parts of the world, especially the U.S.  It’s usually associated with recreational fishing as catch rates aren’t nearly as high as using gillnets, the more common (commercial) fishing approach for salmon at Greenland or other commercial gears.

Pop off sateelite tags

Mark Renkawitz, Center biologist also working on the tagging study, demonstrates how the pop-off satellite tags will be attached to adult salmon through their dorsal area using stainless steel wire. Tags (black housing with yellow tape and antenna) are connected to the black and green attachment bars. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries/Heather Soulen.

The local we’re working with has been trolling for salmon for 10+ years – mostly for fun and to catch a few fish for his own personal use. Fishing for salmon for fun in Greenland is very uncommon, as  I have encountered very few people here that recreationally fish for salmon.

Our first attempts at trolling were moderately successful.  We hooked a few fish and were able to tag and release one.

Man returning tagged salmon to sea

Jon Carr of the Atlantic salmon Federation releases the team’s first tagged Atlantic salmon of the 2018 Greenland tagging trip. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries/Tim Sheehan.

Fish Traps Are Another Option

Jon Carr of the Atlantic Salmon Federation arrived a few days before me and set up different types of traps to try and passively catch salmon. They’re up and running and we shall see how they operate.

Stay tuned!

Tim Sheehan, NEFSC research fishery biologist


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