MILFORD, Maine — Striped bass and American shad are in the Penobscot River, but local Game Warden Jim Fahey has a reminder that prospective anglers should heed.
Learn about fishways and avoid them.
“Regarding the newly evolving fishery on the Penobscot River at Old Town’s Milford Dam, there’s a prohibition on fishing within 150 feet of any fishway,” Fahey said. “We need to let people know that there are actually three fishways on that dam.”
The three fishways: a fish lift on the Milford side, a Denil fishway that’s about one-quarter of the way across the span from Milford to Old Town, and an eelway that is midway across the river.
Up until a few years ago, this stretch of the river wasn’t targeted by anglers too often, Fahey said. But after two downstream dams were removed as part of the Penobscot River Restoration Project, fish have had an open run from the ocean to Milford, and they often move into freshwater, either to spawn or to feed.
The result: Burgeoning fisheries on stripers and shad that have attracted the attention of anglers.
“When word’s out that the stripers are in, there are evenings when you can look across the river from Old Town and count six, eight, 10 different fishermen,” Fahey said. “It makes me think of when men had to fish a pool by rotation, put their rod in a rack and take their turn during the heyday of Atlantic salmon fishing in the river.”
Atlantic salmon are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act, and actively fishing for them is not allowed. But the arrival of stripers and shad upriver have provided other fish to target.
“It’s a popular fishery. It’s evolving, and people are buying specialized tackle and learning about tactics for shad or [stripers],” Fahey said. “People are excited to have another angling option.”
On Tuesday, fellow Warden Jonathan Parker was on the Old Town side of the river, posting a sign that warned anglers that they shouldn’t get too close to the fishways. The wardens pointed out warning devices that should make it easy for anglers to figure out how close to the dam they can fish.
Red stripes are painted on concrete walls on both the Old Town and Milford sides of the river, marking a spot 150 downstream from the fishways. In addition, red or orange stakes have been stuck in the riverbed in the middle of the Penobscot River to mark the 150-foot mark, and an orange mooring ball has also been deployed 150 feet from a fishway.
Fahey said anglers who focus on local streams have a couple more rules to consider beginning Sunday, July 1. Those rules are outlined on page 38 of the Maine fishing law book, and deal with tributaries of the Penobscot that are partially or entirely closed to fishing from July 1 until Sept. 30. Those waters include Felts Brook, Eaton Brook, Blackman Stream, Great Works Stream and Meadow Brook.
“That’s a measure to protect Atlantic salmon,” Fahey explained. “Some years in periods of extra hot weather, like we’re going to see next week, according to the forecasters, the river is so warm that even these tributaries that are far from spring fed are still putting a little bit cooler water into the main stem. It’s called a thermal refuge, and the salmon will seek out, even if it’s only a few degrees cooler, those cooler influences.”
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