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Rather than focus on the fact that members haven’t been able to fish for Atlantic salmon in the Penobscot River for 10 years, the Eddington Salmon Club is celebrating the resurgence of other species in the river on Saturday, as it stages “Shad Dayz.”
“We used to have a fishermen’s breakfast to commemorate the onset of fishing season, and obviously we’re not fishing for the Atlantic salmon any more,” club president Robin James said. “[This event] is just to bring awareness to people of what you can utilize the river for.”
There has been no Atlantic salmon fishing on the Penobscot — or in any other Maine river, for that matter — since 2009, when the species was declared “endangered” under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Over the ensuing years, as salmon returns to the river have continued to lag, other species have thrived as two dams were removed from the Penobscot and a fish bypass was built at another, all as part of the Penobscot River Restoration Project.
Among those species: American shad. A year ago, 3,958 shad were counted at the Miflord Dam. This year, with the run just beginning, 358 shad have already been counted at that facility. Striped bass, which are also hard-fighting game fish targeted by anglers, are also in the river all the way up to Milford after the removal of the dam.
“We would all love to stand and fly fish for Atlantic salmon again on the Penobscot River. I don’t know if [that will happen] in our lifetime,” James said. “We still consider ourselves stewards of the river and want to protect the river.”
Shad Dayz will celebrate that mindset, and will introduce people to the club, its members and a fish they might not know much about.
The day will kick off with a pancake breakfast from 7 a.m. until 9 a.m., and a variety of activities will follow throughout the day. A barbecue lunch is on tap, and raffles and a bake sale will raise money for the Atlantic Salmon Federation’s Fish Friends program. Fly-tying demos, shad-fishing instruction and games like cribbage and cornhole will be played. A kids coloring station is also planned.
“The river is a jewel for the community,” James said. “[We hope people] come meet the club and see the beautiful Penobscot River.”