If you’re planning on fishing Kenduskeag Stream for some of the recently stocked brook trout now swimming in its waters, a fisheries biologists asks that you be aware that you might end up with a bigger fish on the end of your line.
And if you want to avoid an unplanned conversation with a Maine game warden, you’d do well to be aware of what you’re catching … and what special requirements your fishing excursion might entail.
Richard Dill, a biologist for the Maine Department of Marine Resources Bureau of Sea-Run Fisheries and Habitat, said a few Atlantic salmon have been caught in the stream recently by anglers looking to hook one of the 275 brook trout that were stocked on May 2.
Dill explained that there are a lot of salmon in the stream as well, and it shouldn’t be unexpected that an angler ends up incidentally hooking one.
“There were roughly 400 pre-spawn adult Atlantic salmon [that were stocked in the stream last fall],” Dill said. “They were at the hatchery down at Green Lake. They weren’t needed, we had plenty of eggs [for hatchery and restoration demand], so they were stocked pre-spawn so they could spawn naturally in Kenduskeag Stream.”
That Kenduskeag stocking of adult fish that would now measure in the 18- to 28-inch range was a first in recent years, Dill said. In addition, between 1,000 to 1,500 post-spawn adults were stocked in the mainstem of the Penobscot River last fall, as they have been for about a decade. Some of those fish may also make their way into the Kenduskeag, he said.
The problem: Atlantic salmon fishing is not allowed in Maine, and those who catch one of the fish incidentally are required to release the fish alive and uninjured immediately. The fishing rule, listed in the law book under an S-33 code, also requires that “at no time should an Atlantic salmon be removed from the water.”
Dill said that “hero shots” of anglers holding salmon out of the water have appeared on social media in recent days, and Maine Game Warden Jim Fahey is paying close attention to the fishing activity on the stream. Dill did not think any salmon had been kept by anglers.
“I hate to see people get caught because they’re ignorant of the law,” Dill said. “And I hate to see the fish get handled more than they have to.”
Dill said there shouldn’t be much guesswork needed by anglers who catch a large fish on the Kenduskeag. The brook trout that were stocked are between 6 and 9 inches long. A state law also requires any landlocked salmon or brown trout caught on certain waters (like the Kenduskeag) to be released at once if they are more than 25 inches long.
Dill said any fish of that size in the Kenduskeag would not likely be a landlocked salmon or a brown trout — it would be an Atlantic salmon.
Fisheries crews have been working to supplement and conserve Atlantic salmon stocks in the Penobscot and its tributaries for more than 100 years, with varying results.
Over the past two years, the return of salmon to the river have been particularly low. In 2012, 624 salmon returned to the fish trap at the Veazie Dam. Last year, just 372 salmon were counted at the facility.
The Veazie Dam was removed last summer, and fish will now be trapped and counted at the Milford Dam.
“The regulation is you can’t keep an Atlantic salmon in the state of Maine,” Dill summed up. “So if you catch a fish and you think it might be an Atlantic salmon, you ought to let it go.”