Autumn On The EB

Autumn On The EB
Fly Fishing The Millers - With over 30 years of fly fishing this river I will claim more knowledge and fish caught than anyone. There are over 40 miles of river and I will take you to the best sections and if you want to sections that never see another angler. Don't be fooled by those who say the Millers is a Spring and Fall river. I'll show you how to have great Summer action. The "EB of the Westfield" - Wild and beautiful is the only way to describe this river. There's a lot of water here but I know where to go to catch trout. After a trip you will too!! Solitude and trout IS the EB. The Swift - 20 trout days are not uncommon on this river if you know what to do and use. I'll show the way and you catch the trout. RATES - Full Day (6 hours) = $150.00 for one, $225 for two (lunch included). Half Day (three hours) $90.00 for one, $155.00 for two. Beginners Class - 3 hours ffor $90.00, all use of rods lines, reels included.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The End Of The Connecticut River Salmon Restoration Project



As many of you already know, the 40+ year effort to "restore" Atlantic Salmon to the Connecticut River system ended in 2012 as the Feds pulled the plug on this "doomed" project.

I placed two of the above words with quotation marks for a reason. The project was "doomed" because you can't "restore" something that really, in all reality, was never there in the first place.

The were no millions of salmon surging up the Connecticut River in early colonial times. There were millions of shad and herring but the salmon was a rarity. Why do I say that? Because salmon remains do not show up in the archaeological record in the Connecticut Rive basin or anywhere else in Southern New England. Every other anadromous species does show up in the areas where indigenous people fished for them.

So what about the stories that came down through history of salmon abundance on the Connecticut. At worst these were tall tales to showcase this new land and to draw settlers from England and at best they were species confusion (shad became salmon).

Even the tale of the salmon's sudden disappearance is fishy. The first dams were built and in just a handful of years (by 1814) the salmon had disappeared from the ENTIRE watershed. First, why is the Connecticut River the only major salmon river to loose it's salmon so quickly? Other major rivers were dammed but held onto their runs for decades. The Penobscot had dams but still had salmon runs. Spawning habitat existed in the lower reaches of the Connecticut below the dams but no salmon survived there??? Shad and herring survived! Maybe there were no salmon in the Connecticut.

For more on this I suggest that you google "Catherine Carlson NPS Archeology Program" for a very good read. Carlson runs with the theory that the whole salmon restoration was run by a faith in folklore without any REAL scientific (archaeological)facts.

Now we can get busy saving the fish that have always been there like shad and herring.

Ken

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Carlson's thesis that salmon did not exist in the CT River because she did not find salmon bones is based on a fault of logic.

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

In science you can not PROVE a negative. All you can say is that you did not find evidence of what your were looking for...

Scott M said...

What I always found interesting was that even before they built the large dams on the mainstem river. Those dams were usually located on top of existing natural falls (like at Holyoke, Turners Fall, etc.) So its always been a question in my own mind whether there were always significant barriers to preclude upstream salmon migration at those locations even prior to the European colonization and subsequent dam building. I haven't seen anyone talk about that though. Its further a quandry downstream because even the Westfield river watershed is below the first mainstem dam at Holyoke, and there are no salmon there either or even historically mentioned. And what about salmon in CT tribs, there are no mainstem dams until you hit Holyoke, but the salmon aren't in CT either. But who am I to say...

DRYFLYGUY said...

Ken,
the project was what it was regardless of anyones theory or thoughts proven or otherwise.

I like the idea of focusing on other species of fish that we can help support & enjoy.

Tight-lines!

Millers River Flyfisher said...

Anonymous,

I usually don't allow unsigned comments but this is worth it.

"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence".

This sounds somewhat impressive until you match it up to the counter argument by Irving Copi, philosopher and logician when he addressed you exact quote:
" In some circumstances it can be safely assumed that if a certain event had occurred, evidence of it could be discovered by qualified investigators. In such cases it is perfectly reasonable to take the absence of proof of it's occurrence as positive proof of it's non-occurrence".

sorry to derail your train of logic!

Ken

flyfisher1000 said...

ken ...i live in greenfield... i fish below the turners-falls dam alot....caught many huge rainbows in the conneticut, just below the dam but i have also caught alantic salmon out of the fall river...which is the very 1st tributary below the turners-fall dam.....but i do think that they have migrated from N.H. and swam down-stream....just my thought!!

Bob O said...

I am quite enjoying this blog subject.

How or why might the early settlers have named streams in Connecticut - the Salmon River (near Colchester) or Salmon Brook (near Granby)? I don't think the early settlers were stupid or confused about the difference between salmon or shad. The migratory season of each is different (Atlantic salmon in Quebec begins in mid summer, well after the shad run is past).

Bob O

Millers River Flyfisher said...

Bob O,

Actually early settlers were confused with migratory fish. Shad were called White Salmon in Connecticut back in the day. Shad from the Hudson, were no salmon existed during colonial times, were caught and then dyed in a barrel to take on a reddish color and then were shipped to England as salmon.

Shad and salmon do overlap in rivers but you didn't need salmon for shad to "become" salmon.

flyfisher 1000,

The Fall River has been stocked with salmon fry for decades. The fish will stay and grow until about 6 inches and then try to make it to the ocean. Nothing came downstream from New Hampshire.

Ken

flyfisher1000 said...

ken...

so...if they're 14 inchers...they are "hold-overs"

Will said...

Argh... forgot to choose an identity and my post was deleted... so in the name of brevity:

1.) It's sad, but reasonable given the lack of success along the way - regardless of history, it's very hard to restore a population, especially when that population was probably at the end of it's possible range of existance any way.

2.) There are so many cold water projects worth supporting, it would be great if the dollars that had gone to the salmon project could help protect land's or sponsor other cold water projects.

Will

A Simple Man said...

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? In this case, which came first the salmon or the dams? From what I have read and personally witnessed, salmon did migrate up the CT. As a matter of fact, the White River in VT was one of the premier spawning grounds for salmon. Over the past 5 years I have personally witnessed 3 returning salmon in that watershed, know of several others that have witnessed salmon. Know of one that was caught and killed and may have accidentally hooked (and lost)one on my own. The largest I saw was over 35" long with the broad back of a striper (viewed for over 10 minutes from ledgerock over a spring fed pool. The two others were all of 30" (viewed from a low overhead bridge in separate years) and the one I accidntally hooked while trout fishing in Septmeber, ran my 4 weight into its backing then leaped 3' out of the water twice before spitting the hook. He was in the mid to upper 20"s. Chicken or the egg? Next time, remove the damn dams or create true fish passages before trying to restore salmon in the CT. They at least deserved a fighting chance.
-BT

clawson said...

Simple Man,

i hate to burst your bubble on the White, but those fish came from the federal hatchery located in White River Junction. They occasionally release broods too old to be breeders into the White. They're not making it over those dams down below on the CT.

A Simple Man said...

Clawson,
You are wrong. I am intimately familiar with White River hatchery in Bethel. I spoke with them on following each of these sightings. They confirmed that they had not released or lost any escaped fish and that on each occasion these were returning fish. Also, you may recall last summer the man who caught a 30" salmon from the White River in Stockbridge. The fish had a transmitter embedded just below it's belly. Fish & Game confirmed placing that the transmitter in the fish at the Holyoke Dam. These are the facts.
SM

Millers River Flyfisher said...

Simple Man,

You are confused about what this whole post is about. It's about the late Salmon Restoration Program. Of course there were a few returnees from the federal/state stockings over the years but not enough to make any difference. Hell, one or two made it to the Millers River!!! Only 55 salmon made it back last year on the Connecticut.. That's what you saw. Without the hand of man there would be no salmon in the Connecticut.

In 3 or 4 years the last of the salmon will disappear from this watershed.

Ken

A Simple Man said...

Sorry Ken but I disagree. I am not confused about WHAT the post is about at all.
You state that salmon never truly spawned in the CT river watershed system.
I disagree and stating they did belong in this watershed as proof of what I have heard, read and witnessed first hand.
My point is simply the errors made in the manner in which they tried to re-introduce salmon to the watershed. Cart before the horse. Rather than spend millions of dollars raising and releasing hatchery paar, they should have first invested the money to ensure that there was safe fish passage to the ocean and back to prime spawning grounds. THEN, raise salmonids for distribution throughout the watershed. The stategy was doomed to fail before it began. Salmon were in this watershed along with shad. They just needed a fair chance to prove it.

Millers River Flyfisher said...

Simple Man,

What you "witnessed first hand" was a failed attempt to introduce salmon to that river. What you read about historical runs of salmon were most likely folklore with no scientific evidence to support it.

Read the Carlson study that I mentioned in my post. It will open your eyes!!!!

Ken

Anonymous said...

It's a scientific fact that many of the world's waterways are connected. This would explain how marine species are able to migrate into fresh water masses so far inland that the only explanation for their presence would have to be the result of stocking. This has been going on since the beginning of time.
The Carlson Study you mentioned is only one piece of documentation. Marine geology is still being defined. If you or your readers are lucky enough to catch mature atlantic salmon in fresh water areas, then go with it, & enjoy it! Nature is a funny thing, & can't always be explained. The purpose of any blog is to share knowledge or ideas of the subject on all levels, not to always agree with its author.

A Simple Man said...

Ken,
Unfortunately, we'll agree to disagree on this subject. I've been fishing the White for more than 25 years and can tell you that salmon have been witnessed by folks most every year (in local Vt. circles, general public usually does not hear of it). Beyond the "study" of which you speak, the argument is silly to continue discussing especially considering the salmon program was flawed to begin with. How many dams are there on the CT, something like 100...? and how many have actual fish passage? The fact that any salmon made it back year after year is testament itself...never mind the changes that have occurred in the ocean over the past several hundred years...
Simple Man

Millers River Flyfisher said...

Anonymous
So stocking has been going on "since the beginning of time"??????? No wonder you don't sign your comments.

Simple man
the salmon you folks see (saw) are stocked fish. Don't imply that you may have a wild population because you don't.
Ken

A Simple Man said...

Ken,
Regardless, clearly these anadromous(sp fish, stocked or otherwise, had attempted to return based on their inherent instincts as proof by the ones that actually found a way back. And I for one would love to have had an opportunity to legally fish, hook and land a 36" atlantic salmon. One that had been introduced to the watershed years earlier, migrated out to sea for years only to return to this same river system. SO when we use terms like stocked fish, please, lets not try to compare these fish to the hatchbows and hatchbrown types dumped in the Millers and EB that might provide you a 30 second battles. Ken, I think you'd agree that you would have enjoyed latching onto one of these trophy fish as well.
Just a shame the process was not thought through more clearly before they began incubating millions and millions of fry without first clearing the hurdles of a hundred plus dams.

Millers River Flyfisher said...

Simple man
I have caught large Atlantic salmon-the real thing-in new Brunswick. We wasted millions of$$and decades trying to create something that may have never existed while the REAL THING is flickering into oblivion in northern Maine.
Stop talking about dams. The penobscot had native runs for decades after dams were built. The dam theory is a fallacy. Why does that theory only apply to the Connecticut river?

Ken

Anonymous said...

Stocking hasn't been going on since the beginning of time...unexplained marine migration through undetected underground waterways that have been in existance since then has. How else could ocean species make it to freshwater lakes? It's rare, but still happens. Stocking was the only logical explanation until recent times. My post is grammatically correct.

flyfisher1000 said...

to anonymous...

fish-eggs are spread over vastly wide-spread areas due to attaching to birds' legs ... (Grampa always said!!)

Millers River Flyfisher said...

Anonymous,

"unexplained marine migration through undetected underground waterways..."

OOOKAY, if you say so!!! Jeez, I always took the scientific explanation of, let's say, landlocked salmon and how they became "landlocked" through seismic shift or glacial activity. Maybe you're taking about the Lock Ness Monster. That theory has been floated to explain that myth but like all "out there" theories it has sunk without a trace.

I guess you're the same unsigned "anonymous" that owns the previous posts. Identify yourself going forward. That's the rule here. Your previous posts will be deleted soon.

Ken

Scott M said...

I think we can agree that whether or not the Salmon were here or not to begin with, the program overall was a failure. I don't know all of the reasons for this, but of the millions of fry that were stocked, its pretty clear that sufficient numbers of outmigrating smolts were produced that it should have worked better, the Conte Lab can back that up, and incidently I've heard them say the Millers was actually one of the best smolt producing tributaries from genetic testing. BUT, for some reason, they didn't seem to find their way back..I wonder why that was?

A Simple Man said...

You've got to be kidding me. Are you seriously comparing why stocked salmon have not returned to the CT watershed vs wild salmon of 200 years ago? Hmm... let me see, over 100 concrete impassable dams with turbines to start, water pollution, over fishing, global warming. Just for starters guys. Time to move on. This topic is as dead as the Ct. Salmon Restoration program is.
Lets think about GOOD things, like brown trout and hatch'bows being dumped into pools of waiting fisherman that can drop powerbait as soon as the truck leaves. Then again, that's another topic for conversation.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the Penobscot, what are the chances of Sea run Salmon returning to that river?

Mike

Millers River Flyfisher said...

Mike,
The Penobscot lost its salmon by 1960 decades after dams were built although there are some fishery people that believe a remnant population may have survived. The stocking program has some success with hundreds of fish returning. Maybe some day they will return and spawn naturally or maybe not.

Simple man,

Read Carlson!

Ken

Tom said...

If you want info on the Penobscot River Restoration Process check out http://www.penobscotriver.org/ , there's a ton of good info, especially the January 2013 newsletter.

Anonymous said...

A Simple Man does have some valid points, along with the beginning of an impressive New England Fly Fisher blog of his own. flyfisher1000's 'fish egg, bird leg' statement is actually true. The unsigned posts weren't totally off base either. Why all the hostility? This is still a public forum. Switch to another blog domain that requires a signature for comments, or one that can block an IP address if you want to restrict access.

Jay

Millers River Flyfisher said...

Jay,

The purpose of this post was to give a reason why salmon could not be re-established in the CT river and that was because it never really was a salmon river to begin with and the whole venture was built on folklore and hearsay. I gave a scientific reference to support this. Any talk of dams is a moot point!!

Nobody disagreed with flyfisher1000 "eggs on feet" statement. We know it's true although it may not apply to salmonid species as it does to others.

The unsigned posts were lunacy!!

There's no hostility on my part, just a spirited discussion although I got a few private emails scolding me for having the nerve to criticize the restoration program. They were hostile!!

I'll use any domain that I want and will set ground rules.

Ken

Douglas Watts said...

Ken -- You might want to examine these Connecticut River town meeting and legislative records from thew 1600s and 1700s before you stick your foot up your mouth any further:

http://www.friendsofsebago.org/connecticut.html

Thanks,

Doug Watts
Augusta, Maine

Anonymous said...

Well said Doug.

Jay

Millers River Flyfisher said...

Doug Watts,

Just saw your comment. Guess what? We have old town records here in the Connecticut River Valley too AND they are filled with hearsay and folklore. I'm tired of saying this: READ CARLSON'S WORK especially about bogus fish stories. I site scientific data before I make a statement. Restoration people on this river don't.

Ken