Downstream Spawning

A development in July 2006 gave hope for downstream spawning in the Connecticut River basin.

The last three salmon captured that summer were seined in Connecticut’s Salmon River, suggesting that the fish had taken residence there long ago, perhaps due to recurring heavy river-flow that prevented upstream migration well into June. Salmon start entering the river at Long Island Sound in April, seeking suitable spawning habitat in the upper reaches of the basin. However, when spring rains flood the lower valley, fish-passage facilities are temporarily shut down, delaying migration. Apparently, when flooding persists and keeps salmon trapped below Holyoke until the rivers reach to 70-degree range, those stragglers find suitable habitat well below their desired upriver destinations, in southern rivers like the Salmon and Farmington in Connecticut, and the Westfield River, where salmon activity in recent years has been encouraging. Were it not for manmade obstacles in Holyoke, Turners Falls, Vermont, Vt., and Bellows Falls, Vt., these fish would more likely be found in northern destinations like the Deerfield and Millers in Massachusetts, not to mention Vermont waterways like the West and White rivers.

While salmon-restoration officials would undoubtedly prefer the free-swimming fish to make it to their historic spawning grounds in Franklin County, MA., and above, they’ll take what they get pertaining to their struggling program. Thus the initiative on the Westfield River, where salmon are released annually above the DSI Dam to spawn naturally in the landlocked river system above that point. In 2006, two of 34 salmon captured on the Westfield were tagged and released to spawn in the river. The other 32 went to the Cronin National Salmon Station in Sunderland, where they’ll be nursed to optimal health prior to controlled fall spawning.

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