Uneventful ’09

Chalk it up as another disappointing year on the Connecticut River
anadromous-fish front.
With the Holyoke fish-lift closed for the 2009 season, a total of 76 Atlantic
salmon and 162,067 American shad were counted in the river. Add to that
the fact that blueback herring have virtually disappeared and it’s
starting to look very bleak. This year the herring total was 39. Is it really
worth counting anymore?
Sixty of the 76 salmon were captured in Holyoke. A breakdown of the
other 16 captured fish shows two taken at the Leesville Dam
on Connecticut’s Salmon River, 12 at the Rainbow Dam on Connecticut’s
Farmington River, and two at the Springfield Project on our Westfield
River. A straggler of two could still show up, but so what? The run’s
over. Why spin?
Ten free-swimmers were left in the river system above Holyoke, nine of
them were tagged for monitoring purposes, and seven are known to be residing
above Vernon, Vt. That leaves 66 at the Cronin National Salmon Station in Sunderland, where survivors will be nursed to optimal health for artificial fall spawning. The progeny from that spawning will ultimately be released into small streams in the Connecticut River system with little chance of ever reaching saltwater, never mind returning as adults to spawn in three to five years. Meanwhile, devoted Eastern Brook Trout anglers continue to carp about immature salmon competing with the native trout in their favorite
streams for a finite natural-food supply. They also complain about the
voracious little salmon disrupting their fishing experience by taking
their bait and alerting native brookies of their presence.
Friends of Atlantic-salmon restoration here in the Happy Valley
are dwindling with the salmon, shad and herring. Sad but true;
inevitable when numbers lay it out in bold black and white.
I guess the question is: Are a few better than none? Although I lean in
that direction, I would guess I’m in the minority.

The prevailing attitude has changed dramatically over the last decade.

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4 Responses to Uneventful ’09

  1. Yeah, I probably should say “pull the plug, it’s over.” That’s the pragmatic approach, for sure. Reality. I believe it’s likely we’ll live to see the day of zero returns due to warming climate and ocean temps, not to mention related factors, such as plankton shortages. But part of me says we’re spending money on a lot worse stuff federally. At least salmon-restoration is mutually beneficial to many salt and freshwater species, not to mention the ecosystem itself. I find myself wondering if some people behind this program when borne knew CR salmon were a myth but used fish of a royal pedigree to get the ball rolling toward cleaning and watchdogging the river and its tribs. At least the salmon-restoration program is not a fox watching a hen-house, which I find reassuring. We have enough watch-foxes. Too many, in fact.

  2. Millerbrown

    When I said “revisionist” I meant the prevailing thought that salmon where a major fish population of the Ct. River watershed. Carlson stated that this major restoration program was based on hearsay, the ramblings of local rustics that were made official by recent “experts”. Programs like this MUST be based on scientific evidence which is sorely lacking.

    You started my rethinking of this program many years ago. I truly believe that, after forty years, this is something that should not have been started without the adequate preliminary work. Why did the CT. River salmon go extinct quickly after the dams were built when that scenario never occurred on any other river like the rivers in Maine?

    Yes, it would be nice to see salmon in this watershed (a few have made it to the Millers over the years) but I believe we are trying to create something that really didn’t exist to any real extent. Now it seems, with all of this classroom stuff, that it will never end. I, for one, would like to see the program halted. The precious $$$ could be used elsewhere.

    I always felt that you felt the same.

  3. Yes, and they call Carlson the revisionist, something you ought to think about when evaluating some of the contemporary right-wing garbage out there. But let’s not digress, back to salmon. You may or may not know what turned me in the direction I’m currently facing. I could, frankly, no longer accept the “official stance” on salmon, the one that says numbers don’t matter, repeated many times by the likes of Henry Booke. When I began to question the viability of the program, or at least asking questions that officials clearly did not want to answer, I suspected they were being less than straight forward, that if I wanted answers I’d have to find them myself. So off I went on a two- or three-year discovery mission that led me through the written histories of many towns up and down the Connecticut Valley. What I found was little evidence of salmon and lots on shad. It became clear to me, just from these written histories, many written around the turn of the 20th century, that the salmon myth was just that, a myth. Salmon were never here in great numbers. After reporting my findings piecemeal over a year or two, akin to my recent cougar stuff, a woman sent me a letter telling me I was on the right track, that she had worked with Dena Dincauze and Carlson on field-research teams, and that the status of 17th and 18th century salmon populations here were overstated. I had been told this earlier by a New England fisheries biologist who had hinted that an article had been written by someone at UMass. A copy of that article accompanied the woman’s letter. The I was able to identify Carlson as the author and find her doctoral thesis, which sits in the bookcase behind me, hardcover, about 75 bucks if I remember right. Booke and other sources I relied on for years (Steve Rideout for one that comes to mind) knew of the this thesis and the condensed article but refused to bring it to my attention. That really ticked me off. I bought the book from the thesis repository at the University of Michigan. The salmon people would like to burn it, wipe it from the records. Imagine that, the only scientific study on the status of New England colonial salmon populations, and they want to vaporize it. Carlson confirmed the conclusion I was heading for through simple local-history research; bits and pieces, here and there. This is now a political scuffle, name-calling, intentional misinformation and incomplete facts. Although I would hate to see the program halted, my guess is that it’s going to happen. What a boondoggle, and I hate using such a pejorative, but how else to describe it? I do wish we had salmon. We don’t. Never will, unless you consider 200 or less annually “having them.”

  4. Millerbrown

    I used to drink the salmon restoration kool-aide years ago. I spent years stocking the Millers with fry. For what?? According to Catherine Carlson it was for no good reason at all because salmon in the CT. River watershed were NEVER a major event like some of these revisionists would like us to believe.

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