August 24, 2019
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Atlantic salmon returns to Penobscot River now highest since 2011

John Holyoke | BDN
John Holyoke | BDN
Workers from Brookfield Renewable check the waters below the Milford Dam for Atlantic salmon that may have ended up following an attracting flow after flash boards, or hinge boards, were installed on the dam.

After a record-setting 107-fish day earlier this month, solid Atlantic salmon returns have continued at Milford Dam, according to marine resources scientist Jason Valliere of the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

In a regular email report that he filed on Tuesday, Valliere said the total number of salmon counted at Milford had reached 597.

“Looks like we are having the best salmon year since 2011,” Valliere reported, referring to a year when salmon were still being counted at the Veazie Dam farther downstream. That dam has been removed, and since 2014 the first upstream barrier to sea-run fish has been in Milford.

This year’s total is actually a bit higher than it sounds, as another 18 salmon have been captured at the Orono fish lift, bringing the total count this year to 615.

That total is dwarfed by the 2011 count for the same date — 2,362. But it is the highest recorded since, and may bode well for this year’s run. The total salmon returns by June 25 over the past several years: 2018: 432, 2017: 520, 2016: 351, 2015: 470, 2014: 74, 2013: 311, 2012: 549.

Valliere, who works for the DMR’s Division of Sea Run Fisheries and Habitat, also clarified the situation at the Milford Dam in the wake of some criticism that has appeared on social media in recent days after workers with nets were seen at the base of the dam, moving fish into the headpond above the facility.

“Although this is technically a ‘Trap Count’ — a count of fish that pass through the Milford fishway — we have included the few salmon that Brookfield [Renewable, the dam owner] has assisted over the dam on the ledge side since they are known fish that have passed the dam,” Valliere wrote in an email. “Brookfield staff made a decision supported by DMR to net these fish as they were easily accessible and could be quickly and safely passed over the dam in a matter of seconds rather than waiting for them to retreat down the egress channel from the large pool in the ledges, back to the main river, and then find the fish lift which could have taken hours or days.”

In addition, Valliere objected to one characterization of the fish that has been made by some critics.

“Please note these fish are not stranded as some people have claimed,” Valliere wrote. “Brookfield has maintained adequate flow into the ledge pool to support these fish if they choose to stay and adequate flow to allow them egress if they choose to leave. There are radio tagged study fish in the mix and fish have made both choices. With current flows and river temperatures the fish in the pool are safe. Brookfield and MDMR will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments as necessary.”

Also of note: Crews have counted 1,583 American shad and 29 striped bass at Milford.

Valliere’s advice: “If you want to catch some shad or stripers in the Penobscot, now is the time to go!”

 



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