Concerning article regarding Salmon and bait fish populations in the Merrimac [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Concerning article regarding Salmon and bait fish populations in the Merrimac

05-11-2009, 04:54 AM
There was an article in the Nashua Telegraph about the declining populations of Salmon and associated bait fish. It listed populations for the last 26 years and although most have been aware of the struggling effort to get Salmon fishing re-established, I was unaware of the huge decline in shad and herring (including alewife). Are there similar reports on other areas showing a decline in bait fish that Stripers usually pursue?

05-11-2009, 05:54 AM
Thanks for the thought-provoking info. Here's the site where stats are kept up with historical at bottom FYI

In my opinion these runs thrived for eons before we destroyed them with dams and other human intervention. What's left to struggle is then compounded by natural influences but it's like saying the straw that broke the camel's back is the culprit vs. the bale. We are the bale, and need to acknowledge that before this once great river can live up to it's name once again.

The removal of the Souhegan Dam is a good baby step forward, I used to see salmon below Merrimac frequently when I lived out that way and the river supports a holdover trout population so it's hospitable to salmonids.

05-11-2009, 01:20 PM
Connecticut River shad and herring numbers have slumped over the decade. Historically it's VERY cyclical on the CT River and I would guess that it is the same for the Merrimac. The failure to repopulate the Ct River with salmon has very little to do with shad populations and I would guess that it also holds true for the Merrimac.


05-11-2009, 01:33 PM
All natural things are cyclic, but the CT in particular can credit it's demise of anadromous species to the damning (pun intended) operations from headwaters to sea. Repopulation can not succeed without safe bi-directional passage which has never been restored to this once magnificent north american salmon river, in fact all american atlantic salmon rivers have been destroyed by dams.

05-12-2009, 04:48 AM


Juro - thanks for the link. I guess my question is, what was being done in the late 80's/early 90's to get the numbers up where they were? It seems like we went backwards from there. I'm sure the Salmon was from stocking efforts, but what about the Herring and Shad?

05-12-2009, 07:45 AM
That's an interesting question for biologists - we should contact them and get their views.

But for me the questions is what percentage of the natural population is the peak of those years? Salmon = less than one percent; shad / herring less than 10 percent (?)

Since the dams rendered the run extinct, the only sea-run atlantics in either river are from man-made brood. So one could argue the percentage of the legendary salmon runs on the CT and Mac has been zero since the industrial era.

BTW I had a project up on the uppr CT in Vermont. The number of freestone streams and the quality of the habitat up there is astounding.

22 mainstem dams and over 1,000 in the watershed - salmon never had a chance and still don't.

05-12-2009, 04:19 PM
Conventional wisdom states that the large historical runs of salmon on the Connecticut River were wiped out by the construction of dams. I refer anyone who holds this belief to the studies of Catherine Carlson (nps archeology common ground) who states that the runs of salmon on that river and many other NE rivers were historically SMALL and of minor significance. Google it up. It's a good read and an eye opener.


05-13-2009, 07:24 AM
I tried to read the article although I found it painfully incapable of delivering a concise point and biased toward her personal anecdotal anthropological view. However I could not possibly read further beyond this complete and utter crap in the fourth paragraph:

To an anthropologist, the importance of the reportedly dense salmon runs of New England in the past is the valuable food resource that the fish would have provided the native peoples of the area long before the Europeans arrived. In the Pacific Northwest, where vast runs of Pacific salmon have survived up to the present day,


It appears she is a victim of the general ignorance and indifference people have historically had for these runs since the industrial era. Even after evolving into the Technology era hundreds of years later we barely took note of Onchorynchus and Salmo genera run sizes yet we know that between 1930 and the late 1990's (a span of less than 70 years) approximately 87% of the Columbia River Salmon runs were destroyed by dams..

I think it's common knowledge that countless native strains have either been supplanted by inferior hatchery drones or perished because of dams... except for at least one NPS employee :roll:

I question the ability of a person with such a lack of understanding of a statistically known situation in the Pacific Northwest to understand the situation in the northeast hundreds of years before we as a people gave a rats ass.

05-13-2009, 04:07 PM
Carlson isn't talking about that at all. She's talking about the historically large runs of salmon and the effect that it would have on a soceity in a cultural sense, something that was missing from the New England native American population if the historical runs of Atlantic Salmon were to be believed. Atlantic salmon do not show up in the archeological record in New England to any significant degree. That's in her study. She states that the current recovery program is based on historical heresay much of it seperated from the events by one or more generations. There is no archeological evidence to support the conventional wisdom of large runs of Atlantic salmon in southern New England and as far as I know nobody in the scientific community, who doesn't have a stake in the recovery program, has refuted her study.

I spent years stocking salmon fry after drinking the salmon recovery kool-aid. I am very skeptical of the program now and not just because of it's 40 year record of minimal returns. Her study is valuble, not difficult to read, and if one reads it with an open mind one might skepical of the program to.


05-13-2009, 05:10 PM
Before my enthusiasm comes across the wrong way I admire you for your contribution to the fry-stocking cause and read all of your posts for their insightful offerings to the forum.

My angst is directed at (1) the ambivalence of past generations toward a national treasure, the american (atlantic) salmon and (2) the failure of modern society to deal with the real cause of recovery failures which are impediments to passage in two directions in literally a thousand places on the CT river system.

Per anecdotal/archeological references - statistics can be manipulated but a lack of statistics can be manipulated even more. I am sure of one thing, if a tree falls in the forest and no humans are around to hear it, it still makes one hell of a loud noise. If only the native landlocks in the Upper Connecticut Lakes / headwaters could talk about their ancestors...

"they used to swim upriver.... BOTH WAYS" :lildevl:

05-13-2009, 07:39 PM
Ok, my final words on this.

1. Carlson is dealing with EVIDENCE, NOT STATISTICS. Her studies reveal very little evidence of salmon abundance in New England during early colonial times.

2. Landlock populations were exclusive to Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Lake Champlain and Lake Ontario before we began to salt the waters with them everywhere. Upper Ct. watershed landlocked populations were introduced.

3. I like this give and take and respect your opinions. That's what a forum is for.


05-13-2009, 08:13 PM
I can't say this will be my last word on the subject, since I work at a computer all day (and sometimes all night) and my equivalent of a coffee break is to look at something I like on line as a quick distraction.

And so with a quick google search I've found reams of EVIDENCE on the abundance of salmon in the US not only in staggering records of metric tonnage but also in terms of breadth from Long Island Sound to the Canadian Border, all of which were rendered virtually extinct with but a few sparse exceptions.

Maine alone has plenty of concrete evidence of staggering abundance to near extinction on line for those who make even a cursory examination. Reputable organizations like NOAA, nemfc, asf, state and federal government agencies all provide plenty of information to speak of the abundance of not only salmon but shad, herring, etc. So I can only conclude that her examination was faulty when a mere sportsman with a computer job can stumble upon such information.

Overall the question is not (to me) whether a NPS editorial defines the loss or not... but that there was indeed something of great importance lost. Quantifiable evidence notwithstanding, and perhaps more meaningful to some than others - an american treasure.

05-14-2009, 05:10 PM
"staggering records of metric tonnage" Hmm...anecdotal evidence is not scientific evidence. We have been force fed the former to the exclusion of the latter. Maybe it's from the same computer simulations that gave us a yearly return of salmon to the CT. river of 10,000+ salmon by 2015!! Robert Behnke, maybe the world's foremost authority on trout and salmon, called those predictions faulty and not because of dams on the river. My concern is the CT. river. We have been told that salmon runs ceased soon (within 4 or 5 years) after the dams at Turners Falls and Windsor. What about the runs below that river? The Penobscot has been girdled with dams for 200 hundred years but salmon runs continued up to the dams untill the river became too filthy. Was the CT. River an exception? I think not. The salmon just were not there in any significant numbers.

I agree with you about Atlantic Salmon being an "American Treasure". I, for one, consider it a disaster that so much time and resources (hundreds of millions of $$$) were spent trying to recreate something that may not have existed while the "Real McCoy", the Genuine Article, THE SALMON OF THE LAST 8 RIVERS IN THIS COUNTRY, have been allowed to flicker into near extinction!

As I said this is a good forum and although I might disagree with the content at times it is worth something more then my posting. Throw my contribution into the hat.


05-14-2009, 07:12 PM
I tried not to get involved in this thread but Miller Browns last entry spurred me to make a comment.
"I, for one, consider it a disaster that so much time and resources (hundreds of millions of $$$) were spent trying to recreate something that may not have existed."

Although I understand this point of view that you and others that I know have, I feel that it is a myopic way of looking at things. It fails to take into account the side benefits that program such as the salmon restoration project. These benefits begin with the greater scrutiny that the Ct River and its tributaries receive. This scrutiny is imperative to maintain the habitat and water quality not only for Salmon but for other species as well. The fish passage systems that have been created for Salmon and other anadromous species, although not perfect, at least allow for a minimal passage up and down river for most if not all the species in the river. This up and down passage is imperative for the health of the rivers inhabitants because it permits greater genetic diversity.

I for one feel that even if the Salmon (not my wish) never gets re-established in the Connecticut River, the river and us, as fisherman will be better off because we tried.
Larry aka Shadfreak

05-14-2009, 08:09 PM
Good point. All of this attention to other species should have been fought for regardless of the salmon restoration program. Years ago, on the Ct. River watershed, it was all SALMON and no mention of other species. Now it is all multi-species probably because of the lack of success with salmon returns. I've talked with salmon restoration people and they will say that without the salmon program all other species will suffer. This doesn't give a lot of support to individuals and groups who fight for their watersheds that don't have salmon or glamorous species. They fight the good fight too. Native species should be protected. Salmon in the Connecticut??? Maybe not.


05-14-2009, 08:20 PM
Now if you want to see a REAL waste of money... :Eyecrazy:

Thank God it's May... ;)

05-15-2009, 05:00 AM

We can agree on that!!!!!

I'm going fishing.