The rain and moist circumstances throughout the spring and early summer season might not have been good for out of doors recreation, but it surely seemingly helped with the return of Atlantic salmon, that are federally protected below the Endangered Species Act, to the waters of the Penobscot River.
An estimated 1,489 salmon have handed by means of both the fish elevate in Milford or the Orono dam up to now in 2023 as of July 22, stated Jason Valliere, marine useful resource scientist for the Maine Division of Marine Assets. That continues a optimistic pattern for Atlantic salmon returns. It marks probably the most fish counted since 2012.
As was the case final 12 months, it’s seemingly that greater river flows ensuing from intensive spring and early summer season rains performed a job in cooling the water and enabling Atlantic salmon to ascend the rivers and get into fishways extra effectively in 2023.
After a current low of 772 salmon have been seen in 2018, the numbers have usually been higher. Returns within the Penobscot have been 1,196 in 2019, 1,440 in 2020, a disappointing 561 in 2021 and 1,324 salmon in 2022.
That’s a mean of 1,202 over the past 5 years.
“We’re as much as 1,455 salmon. It’s been a superb 12 months to date,” Valliere stated in his July 12 report. “Let’s hope they maintain coming and we see one other good push this fall.”
Maine is dwelling to the one remaining populations of untamed Atlantic salmon in america. The Penobscot River options the state’s best salmon run, however fishing for them is prohibited.
One other species that has continued to flourish within the Penobscot because the elimination of the Bangor dam is river herring, which incorporates alewives and blueback herring.
This 12 months’s rely is nicely above the earlier excessive, with an estimated 5,490,195 having handed the Orono and Milford dams. That shattered the prevailing year-to-date determine (by means of July 22) of two.9 million fish that was recorded a 12 months in the past.
Because the elimination of Bangor’s Nice Works Dam in 2012 and the Veazie Dam in 2013, river herring have surged from 200,000 in 2014 to almost 5.5 million in 2023.
Farther to the south, the Kennebec River additionally has skilled an unusually productive Atlantic salmon season.
The Kennebec stays a a lot much less engaging possibility for Atlantic salmon, which can’t get previous the Lockwood Dam in Waterville — the primary of 4 hydroelectric tasks on the river operated by Brookfield Renewable — with out being captured in a tank after which transported by truck roughly 50 miles to conventional spawning grounds within the Sandy River.
Regardless of these dynamics, DMR personnel have been busier than ordinary counting and dealing with Atlantic salmon within the Kennebec. By July 24, a complete of 151 salmon had made their manner by means of the Lockwood and Benton Falls dams.
That’s the most since at the least 2011 and comes on the heels of a 2022 season throughout which 87 Atlantic salmon have been reported. The common over the 10-year interval from 2012-2021 was solely 28.3.
Sean Ledwin, the ocean run fisheries and habitat director for the Division of Marine Assets, stated beforehand that quite a few components have an effect on what number of Atlantic salmon come into Maine rivers in a given 12 months.
The important thing dynamics included the survival degree of the fish whereas at sea, the water circumstances that exist throughout their time within the river and the hurdles Atlantic face making an attempt to get round or by means of dams at hydropower tasks.