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Maine Salmon Season Canceled!

April 30, 2009

– The month long catch and release season for Atlantic Salmon on the Penobscot River has officially been called off. Originally slated to start on Friday, this season would have only been the second in the last decade. While the Penobscot still remains the only river in the United States with a sizable Salmon run, numbers are still incredibly bad, with over 90% of the spawning fish coming from federal fish hatcheries. Read the full article from The Bangor Daily News.


Penobscot River, Milford Dam

Penobscot River, Milford Dam

Maybe I’m alone here, but the fact that over 90% of the migrating Atlantic Salmon come from hatcheries troubles me much more than the cancellation of any season. Hatchery fish compete with the native Salmon, and if practices aren’t changed quickly eventually these native fish will disappear. While most won’t see that as an extinction, that’s exactly what it is. The Penobscot river Salmon fishery should be managed through conservation efforts involving the removal of dams and the regulation of fishing (yeah I said it), not bombarded and covered up with hatchery fish. To learn more about the current condition of the river’s fisheries, and what you can do to help restore the Penobscot River, please visit the Penobscot River Restoration Trust website.

Happy Castings (Just not for Atlantic Salmon)


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5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 2, 2009 7:42 pm

    Thanks for the comments, Ben. I felt the same way about the bass when I went to UMO. Fished for bass on the Penobscot maybe once or twice, but it didn’t feel the same as trout fishing up north. There are some brooks out on the Stud Mill Rd. (you probably know of them already) that kind of resemble northern Maine and have a few brookies, but it isn’t the same. Pickerel, bass, sunfish, etc. really mess up the brookie populations. The warmer water probably has some to do with it too. But there are some good places up near Millinocket area. Speaking of, it must be close to smelt dipping time up at Ambajejus about now.

    I don’t really update the fish geek blog anymore. Since I work as a state fisheries biologist in Montana now, I try to keep from being perceived as political on the web and opt for a more neutral stance on things that have my name attached to them (at least in fisheries). Plus, it was a lot of work! Can’t seem to bring myself to deleting it all though!

    Keep up the good work on your blog, it’s fun to read.

  2. May 1, 2009 1:14 am

    That’s a real bummer. There was a lot of buzz about the season finally being reopened, something that the old timer survivors of the riverside salmon clubs could only dream about until just recently. I think it did revive some interest in salmon fishing while it lasted.

    The thing I think you’re missing in your post, Ben, is that the decision was political, and not based on science. The feds are pushing their weight around with the threat of further listing on the horizon, and it isn’t going to help their so-called ‘cooperation’ with the state.

    From the BDN article: “But Ruhlin’s additional statement that “the era of cooperation is over” between the state and federal regulators highlights the frustration underlying the canceled season.”

    As far as stocking goes, it’s a reality we have to deal with. The bottom line: if there were no stocking, there probably wouldn’t be a salmon run at all in the Penobscot or any of the DPS rivers. I understand that research on the West Coast has taught us some about wild/hatchery competition, but I don’t think it applies here simply because (unlike Oregon, Washington, Idaho, etc.) we don’t have a truly wild salmon population left. Those 90% returns on the Penobscot are virtually all smolt returns, too. The Commission and the Feds stock tons and tons of fry every year that turn into bass food or end up gosh knows where. If it were up to the Feds, they would only stock fry, opting for the ‘natural’ recovery at all life stages. This is done primarily in the DPS rivers, which have recorded runs that you can count on your fingers and toes each year, often in the single digits. The only reason the Penobscot even has any resemblance of a salmon run is because of the smolt stocking, which stems back (far as I know) to an agreement with the Penobscot tribe that Green Lake Hatchery would be funded primarily for smolt stocking, meaning the feds have no choice but to produce these fish. Nearby, the Craig Brook facility operates as the ‘river-specific’ fry hatchery. Millions and millions of dollars have shown that fry stocking doesn’t work in these systems. Perhaps it would be different if they truly swamped the system with astronomical numbers of fry (like they do in Scotland, Norway, etc.) but maybe not. And I don’t even want to get started on the river-specific conversation. Someone could write a book just on that topic, and perhaps someday somebody will. Just look at past stocking records to get a better understanding of how ‘pure’ the ‘river-specific’ strains actually are. In short, they’re not.

    I think that there have been too many changes in Maine rivers to turn back the clock. In my opinion, it’s the nonnative species that will make salmon recovery impossible. And sadly, removing the dams will only increase the spread of these invasives into other inland systems, like the West Branch of the Penobscot, a very popular landlocked salmon fishery. Seems like we have two options: 1) stock tons and tons of smolts (larger salmon), accept the fact that we will never have a truly wild salmon run again, and rebuild a popular sea-run salmon fishery for 90+% hatchery fish, or 2) continue the status quo, dump millions into salmon research, monitoring and fry-stocking, and continue to see the same dismal results, no possibility of a sport fishery, and lots of tax dollars down the drain.

    Sorry for the rant, guess I’ve been around Maine salmon issues too long not to have formed an opinion on this. Had to vent sometime 🙂

    I look forward to the possibility of fishing for Atlantic salmon in Maine someday myself.

    • May 1, 2009 7:36 am

      Wow, A Ton of great info here! Thank you so much for all of that. Lots of sad truths to what you said there. And your right, the nonnative species will make the recovery nearly impossible. It’s sad that while removal of the damns is usually cited as a solution to many of the rivers problems, in the grand scheme of things we lose more than we gain in some cases. Personally, I’ve never really had the urge to Fish the Penobscot. I have this “Northern Maine Grudge” against warm water fish like Bass. While I’ve been told 10000000 times that Bass are great fishing and loads of fun, It just seems unnatural for me to enjoy such an ugly fish.
      I’m adding your blog to my blogroll. Sorry I didn’t get to it sooner!

  3. April 30, 2009 3:04 pm

    The short season was designed to maintain angler interest in recovering the Atlantic Salmon, but it looks like things are so dismal even that couldn’t be supported.


    • April 30, 2009 3:05 pm

      To be honest, Very little people even know that Atlantic Salmon run in the Penobscot. People in Maine think Bass and thats about it. Sad Sad World!

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