Jon Greenwood: (603) 271-1743
Jane Vachon: (603) 271-3211
October 8, 2003
Brood Stock Atlantic Salmon Offer BIG Fall Fishing Adventure
CONCORD, N.H. - Anglers who are up for some challenging catch-and-release sport fishing while they're out enjoying the fall foliage should head to the Merrimack River to hook what many anglers consider the "King of Fish," Atlantic salmon.
This fall, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department will release the biggest fish ever for the program -- about 100 brood stock Atlantic salmon weighing from 10 to 18 pounds and another 400 fish weighing from 2.5 to 3.5 pounds each.
"These big fish can really put up a fight!" says Jon Greenwood, coordinator of Fish and Game's Merrimack River Anadromous Fish Restoration Program. "And it's a beautiful time of year to be fishing."
Raised in the Nashua National Fish Hatchery, the salmon are surplus brood stock no longer needed for the Merrimack River Anadromous Fish Restoration Program. This program, created in 1993 by Fish and Game in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is working to restore migratory fish populations to the Merrimack. The brood stock salmon, as their name suggests, are kept to produce offspring, or "fry," more than a million of which are released each spring in an effort to restore sea-running fish to the Merrimack River basin. After spawning at the hatchery, the large brood stock salmon are released in the Merrimack watershed, creating the only managed Atlantic salmon fishery in New England.
In the life cycle of the Atlantic salmon, the fish are born (or released) in a watershed like the Merrimack. After two years, they make their way downstream to the ocean. The salmon grow to adult size during their years in the Atlantic Ocean and eventually return to the stream of their origin to spawn, or lay eggs.
The Merrimack River watershed has been home to migratory fish for centuries. The Merrimack strain of sea-run Atlantic salmon was extirpated in the mid-1800s, when people began building dams that prevented their free travel up and down the Merrimack. In recent years, some of the lower Merrimack River dams now have fish ladders which allow salmon and other migratory fish to reach suitable freshwater habitat to spawn. Future plans for the program include the construction of fishways at the rest of the major Merrimack dams, to allow migratory fish to reach their historic spawning habitat.
The brood stock salmon released in the Merrimack watershed in the spring and fall are an indirect benefit of the restoration program, one that gives New Hampshire anglers an exciting recreational fishing opportunity. This fall, the large fish will be stocked in the Franklin-Bristol area. Good spots to try for the big salmon are below the Ayers Island Dam in Bristol, the Profile Falls Recreation Area and below the Eastman Falls Dam in Franklin, according to Greenwood. Because the fish are migratory, anglers should also try fishing downstream as the season progresses, including near Boscawen, Penacook and Sewall's Falls Park. Click here to learn more about the Atlantic salmon program and download an access map.
The brood stock Atlantic salmon season runs year-round, but anglers should note that all salmon caught from October 1 through March 31 must be released immediately. Anglers need a New Hampshire fishing license and a $10 Atlantic salmon stamp (available at license agents along the Merrimack River and at Fish and Game's Concord headquarters). Brood stock salmon anglers can help out Fish and Game by reporting their catch; fishing diaries must be submitted by January 15 to be eligible for a prize drawing.
A User-Pay, User-Benefit Program
Researching and managing fisheries and teaching people about aquatic ecosystems are funded by your license dollars and by the Federal Aid in Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Program. Your purchases of fishing equipment and motorboat fuels make a difference to New Hampshire's fisheries. Click here to learn more.