Spring Season on the Penobscot [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Spring Season on the Penobscot

03-07-2008, 09:57 AM
It's official- The ASC has decided to allow spring fishing on the Penobscot for the first time since 1999. :whoa:

Here's a story:


03-07-2008, 07:07 PM
That's great news (I think). What's your assessment of the likelihood of 50 fish?

Shades of my youth: somewhere way upstream there's a dam named for my Grandfather.......I wonder if his ghost would be ticked if we blew it up?

03-08-2008, 07:52 AM
Your grandfather was named "Ripogenus"? That's weird.:hihi: From the people in the know ( I am not one) 50 fish with right water conditions is a real possibility. A lot of the old timers didn't fish the fall season the last two years because they all knew the Penobby was a spring river. They just hung out at the clubs instead, Salmon Clubs that is.

I'll give it a shot this spring. The biggest fish last year was a 40' striper caught below the dam in Veazie.:whoa:

03-09-2008, 08:54 AM
The article says only 50 people had bought a salmon license last year, I geuss that puts me in good company. I fished a few days on the Penoby in 2006 and 2007, the last week of Sept. I have mixed feelings about the May fishing in 2008. I don't think it will harm the fish too much. They take 660 or so broodstock, as long as they get those it should be OK. Any thoughts either way?

Tight Lines,

Jim Y

03-09-2008, 07:14 PM
Nope, his last name was Weldon; the dam is by Mattawamkeag.

03-14-2008, 01:43 AM

Since I am now responsible for the future fishing opportunities of my 2 year old American daughter, I have to put in my 2 cents worth regarding the Penobscot. Feel free to share this rant with anybody interested.

The Penobscot river in Maine used to receive the largest runs of Atlantic Salmon in the United States, estimated as high as 100 thousand fish annually by historical evidence. The run is now in the low thousands, and people are debating wether it is safe to catch 50 fish in the 2008 season.

The river has reached this point for two reasons. One is the extensive damage done to the river by dams, logging, pollution & habitat damage, which has been the fate of countless rivers in the US and Canada. The second reason, far less appreciated than the first, is the inability of the State (which owns almost all the fishing rights) to give anybody a chance to carry out repairs, in return for a fair portion of the rewards.

Outside the US, reasonably healthy salmon rivers in private ownership are worth tens of millions of dollars, due to the popularity of fishing permits sold locally and internationally. Most of the rivers are far smaller than the Penobscot, and the Penobscot would dwarf most of them in popularity and catches if it would be brought even halfway to its former standing. However, with no plans in place to make future license revenue pay for the millions of dollars needed to fix the damage, the State of Maine has never made it economically viable for anyone to fix the Penobscot. Conservation organizations such as the ASF, volunteers and all those who want to rebuild the river, have been left with the daunting task of raising millions of dollars in purely charitable donations. Rebuilding salmon rivers always takes money, diligence, patience & passion, but the Penobscot is a bigger bite to chew than most, and bigger still if the river will eventually be left in the hands of a historically negligent owner with no plan to let the resource pay for its own wellbeing.

The economics of this situation are quite remarkable. With good water quality and habitat management, the Penobscot looks like it should be able to support an annual run of over 3 million smolt, based on the vast area of suitable habitat in the river system. If the descent route for the smolt run is made safer to achieve an adult return rate of 2%, this should produce a return of 60 thousand salmon, which could produce a seasonal rod catch of about 15-20 thousand salmon. If the state sells access to the river at an average price of 300$ per each salmon caught (approx. one third to half of what people pay in Canada, Iceland & Scotland), the license revenue will be 4 to 6 million dollars per year. The pricing strategy could be anything from 60$ for a day permit with an average daily catch rate of 0.2 salmon per rod-day (similar pricing with better catch rates than many Quebec rivers), up to top-end licenses at 1200$/day with 2 salmon per rod-day (similar pricing with better catch rates than many Icelandic or Scottish fisheries). Regardless of how the river would be split up in higher or lower priced fisheries, the income is far more than enough to pay for the dam removals or other river improvement schemes capable of making this happen. If the river produces a net annual return of 3 million, spending 25-30 million $ on resurrecting this fishery is obviously worth it.

Now, if it costs the State of Maine less than 300$ per rod-caught salmon to resurrect the stock, isnít it fair that those of us who love to catch salmon are at least given the chance to pay 300$ per fish to make it actually happen? Why should the state continue to spend millions of dollars on half-measures, when all it has to show for after decades of effort is a catch of 50 fish per season? Why should the taxpayers of Maine pay for no results when there are plenty of fishermen willing to pay for real results? And is it not the duty of the State of Maine, the primary residence of the Atlantic salmon in the United States of America, to give US citizens a fair opportunity to catch the King of Fish?

In my opinion, the way forward is as follows:

The State agencies and other stakeholders should come up with a system, to quantify the likely gain in juvenile salmon production for each of the hundreds of habitat improvement projects possible on the river. This may seem a huge task, but a vast amount of research has already been done by many of the parties involved. An open competition for project proposals would also be a good way to get new ideas, and get the public more involved in the project.

The State should obtain the necessary permits for carrying out the most feasible projects, and then host an open bid for a 25+ year lease of the river. Each prospective developer would have to propose its plan of river improvement projects, likely salmon returns and how it would manage permit sales on the river.

The bids would then be evaluated with a predetermined score system, where the bids would score more or less points based on factors such as the share of moderately priced permits available to state residents, cost of the permits, likely returns of salmon and quantifiable risks with the project. The State would also have to put additional value on habitat projects which carry significant environmental benefits other than helping the salmon, and lay out to the developers how it would contribute to the plans with its existing know-how and resources (such as hatchery facilities).

Once the winning bid has been identified, the winner can go ahead with the plan, and the Penobscot will finally be in the hands of a private or semi-private enterprise with a financial stake in seeing the resurrection through. The winning plan could well be an elaborate version of the ambitious plan proposed to remove the two lowest dams, or perhaps something different with more emphasis on the upper tributaries.

The State would still own the fishing rights, but be obligated to sell the permits according to the developerís plan during the lease period, and pay a large portion of the revenue to the developer. The State would still be responsible for guarding the river from poaching and pollution, and would have to sign up for tight restrictions on activities which could threaten the fishery.

This is the best plan I can envision for the Penobscot, and the best way for future generations of American salmon anglers (such as my 2 year old daughter) to catch Atlantic Salmon on their home turf. All it should take is sensible policies, patience, and a road trip to Maine.

Tight lines,


03-14-2008, 07:30 AM
to remove the two lowest dams

Ari -

Your post is excellent and I am inspired and motivated to be part of the resurrection of the American salmon.

The key to it's success are the 6 words above, and if private management can achieve that then the perceived benefits could be realized for all parties.

I want to see this in my lifetime.

03-14-2008, 07:43 AM
Juro- More than half od the money has already been raised to remove Veazie and Great Works in Old Town ( approximately 25 million needed) and improve fish passage at the next Dam in Howland, as well as some of the tribs.

Here's the site for the lead organization for the river, which I am proud to live along.:)


Ari- Great post- I would love to see your ideas get to more people involved here in Maine- check out the "Spring Season" Threads on Flyfishinginmaine dot com and maineflyfishdot com.

This summer as part of the on-going research into just what really swims up and down the Penobscot, We are holding a "tag and release" tournament for stripers on the river from June 21-July 26, in conjunction with NOAA, CCA, the Penobscot Watershed Council and the Trust. Additionally, all of the above organizations are advocating strongly for better fish passage not only for salmon, but also for the river herring and shad.

It's an intersting place to be right now. I would urge anyone interested to hop on over to the Maine sites in put in your $0.02.

Juro- only 62 days until the 'Clave- got my tuffleye today. See you at the Squire.:whoa: