November 2019 Issue
October’s Chapter Meeting:
Tuesday, October 22, 2019
This month’s speaker:
Geoff Klane of Brackish Flies
Have you ever wanted to learn more about the rare and amazing sea run brook trout that call Massachusetts home? Have you ever wondered what it took / takes to keep them here? Have you ever been curious about how to fish for them? Come hear Geoff Klane of Brackish Flies and Geof Day of The Sea Run Brook Trout Coalition share their knowledge and experience with these beautiful fish!
Growing up in Massachusetts, I had never really spent too much time outside exploring the grandness of all Massachusetts and New England has to offer, and even less time fishing. It wasn’t until 2014, after moving back to Massachusetts after college that I discovered the Lowell Canal system and thought, “Well, I should probably try fishing in there…”
We travel the state in search of new waters, gorgeous sights, and hungry fish, and relish the opportunity for another adventure. This incredible pastime connects and binds us to nature and the natural beauty which surrounds us in Massachusetts. It is my honor and pleasure to share my ever-expanding knowledge and passion for this sport, this region, and the preservation of its fisheries.
Squan-a-Tissit Chapter of Trout Unlimited assists MassWildlife in stream data collection
This past summer the Squan-a-Tissit Chapter of Trout Unlimited was contacted by Rebecca Quinones of MassWildlife to ask whether our Chapter would help install and maintain temperature dataloggers in tributary streams in the headwaters of the Squannacook River. The Chapter is always willing to assist MassWildlife in any conservation projects that may arise.
MassWildlife provided the chapter with 9 HOBO Water Temperature data loggers, computer software, calibrated thermometers, and other supplies needed to operate the temperature dataloggers. The Squannatissit Chapter provided cables, clamps, cinder-blocks, and tools needed to install the loggers, along with local knowledge of the streams, and manpower to conduct reconnaissance, install dataloggers, collect stream temperature data, and maintain the dataloggers. These are beautiful little brook-trout streams, and this project will provide a great opportunity for folks get out to see them. The project will be ongoing for several years, so there will be plenty of chances for members to get involved!
The temperature dataloggers were installed in upstream and downstream locations in four headwater streams in Townsend and Ashby, Pearl Hill Brook Willard Brook, Trapfalls Brook, and Locke Brook, with one datalogger in the Squannacook itself. The dataloggers were installed in June. Assisting on reconnaissance and data logger installation were Dave Armstrong, Michael Rosser, Tim McDaniel, Scott Hraba, Ken Vondal, Martha Morgan (Nashua River Watershed Association), and Rebecca Quinones (MassWildlife). MassWildlife crews conducted electrofishing surveys at each of the sites this summer, and Rebecca has agreed to give a presentation at a chapter meeting to update us on the project later this winter. So more to come !
The temperature data collection in the Squannacook headwaters is part of a larger MassWildlife project that is looking to document stream temperatures and coldwater habitat in several river systems in Massachusetts that support native brook trout populations. The other sites, rivers, and organizations involved in the study include 9 sites on the Squannacook watershed (Squanatissit TU), 7 sites in the Emerson Brook watershed (Blackstone River Watershed Association), 9 sites in the Ammonoosuc watershed (Ammonoosuc TU/NH Fish and Game Dept.), and 11 sites in the Manhan watershed (CT River Conservancy).
The project is collecting stream temperature and fish community data to provide data to ground truth stream temperature models developed by Ben Letcher at the USGS Conte Anadromous Fish Laboratory in Turners Falls. The models simulate the effect of climate change on stream temperatures and fish communities by simulating brook trout occurrence probabilities under 2, 4, and 6 degree (OC) increases in average July temperature. Mass Wildlife is using the study to help improve their understanding of the amount and quality of coldwater habitat needed to support native brook trout populations. In the second phase of the project, Mass Wildlife plans to map coldwater habitat in the study streams, likely using FLIR infrared camera equipment. Hopefully the Squannatissit Chapter can get involved in that as well.
Eagle Creek Renewable Energy, Pepperell Facility to Add Eel Passage
The Pepperell hydroelectric power station is a 2,139-kilowatt hydroelectric generating station located on the Nashua River in the city of Pepperell, Massachusetts. It is located at the site of the former Pepperell Paper Mill, first developed using water power from the Nashua River in 1834. The current dam and powerhouse were built in 1920 by the Pepperell Paper Company, while the turbines have been upgraded in 2007 and 2013. This facility currently produces approximately 8 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy in a typical year from three existing turbines. Under a new license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission received in 2015 (FERC Project No. 12721), Eagle Creek is constructing fish passage facilities and a new 67-kW minimum flow turbine that will generate an additional 300,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year.
This Major Effort To Restore Atlantic Salmon Involves A Company That Raises The Fish For Food
As many as 15,000 adult Atlantic salmon will be put into the Penobscot River over the next three years, most of them after being raised in penstocks off the coast of Washington County. They are expected to create up to 56 million eggs as part of one of the most ambitious efforts yet at reversing the decades-long decimation of Maine’s wild salmon population.
The grant will pay for successive annual infusions of 5,000 Atlantic salmon — half of them female — into the river until 2022, said Sean Ledwin, director of sea-run fisheries at the Maine Department of Marine Resources.
While only a tiny fraction of the 56 million eggs are expected to survive long enough to contribute to restoring Maine’s wild salmon population, the program could still lead to a 20-fold increase in the number of eggs that Atlantic salmon leave in the river. Atlantic salmon have been listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act since 2000 and can be legally harvested in the U.S. only from fish farms.
With previous efforts placing as many as 500 fish in the river annually, the 15,000 fish represent the largest infusion of Atlantic salmon into the river in modern history. The program grows out of a $63.5 million effort that began 15 years ago when a power company agreed to demolish two Penobscot River dams and create a fish bypass in a third, opening nearly 1,000 miles of habitat that had been closed to river-run fish since the 1800s.
“The scale and the timing of the project to utilize the high-quality habitats we now have in the river gives us our best opportunity yet to try to realize salmon recovery in the Penobscot River,” Ledwin said. “The large numbers of fish and high-quality habitat should yield the largest numbers of naturally reared offspring that have been seen in the river in decades.”
If successful, and reproducible in other Maine rivers, the program could all by itself get the Atlantic’s salmon’s endangered species status downgraded in Maine to threatened, meaning that the fish’s extinction would no longer be considered imminent, Ledwin said.
Once a thriving industry, Maine’s commercial wild salmon fishery ended in the 1940s. Today, only farm-raised Atlantic salmon are found in U.S. supermarkets. The Atlantic salmon’s endangered status has led the U.S., the world’s largest market for the fish, to import 98 percent of its supply, and more recently prompted companies to seek permits to construct land-based salmon farms in Bucksport and Belfast.
Like most of the Atlantic salmon generated for other river-seeding programs, most of the first 5,000 salmon — about 4,500 — that go into the river in fall 2020 will have been grown to smolt size at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hatcheries on Green Lake in Ellsworth and Craig Brook in East Orland.
The rest will come from penstocks off the coast of the Washington County town of Cutler.
In each of the following years, however, a growing percentage will come from the penstocks, having been caught as smolts — fish that are 1 to 2 years old — in the Penobscot and grown in the penstocks for two years before being released back into the river to spawn, said Casey Clark, a resource management coordinator with the Department of Marine Resources.
Program leaders hope that by 2022, all 5,000 fish will have originally come from the Penobscot, Clark said.
“What you are missing there [with hatchery-grown fish] is all the natural selection from a fish having to survive in the wild and adapt to the environment in the Penobscot River. Those fish have various levels of exposure to natural selection, but they are coddled in the fish hatchery,” Ledwin said.
Atlantic salmon are anadromous, typically spending two or years in freshwater after hatching there, migrating to the ocean for another two or three years, and returning to their natal river to spawn.
The fish grown in penstocks for two or three years after having been naturally reared in the river should benefit from that exposure and are expected to come back to the river “at a significantly higher rate” than past restoration efforts have produced, Ledwin said.
No one should expect the wild salmon population in the Penobscot and its tributaries to explode in the next three years, said Andrew Lively, a spokesman for Cooke Aquaculture USA, which raises salmon in farming pens off the Maine coast and is aiding in the restoration effort.
“It has to work gradually. The river has to be able to handle the fish,” Lively said, “but it will certainly be something that will enhance the number of Atlantic salmon in the river.”
The 56 million eggs expected from the 15,000 salmon represent a maximum estimate, given that a single female salmon can create as many as 7,500 eggs. Even if only a fraction of that number survive, they and the 15,000 fish should be enough to fill habitats created by the Penobscot River Restoration Trust’s $63.5 million demolition of the Great Works Dam in 2011 and the Veazie Dam in 2013, as well as the opening of the Howland fish bypass in 2016.
In addition to Cooke Aquaculture and Maine’s Department of Marine Resources, the other partners in the effort are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Penobscot Indian Nation.
As the state’s sole commercial grower of sea-penned Atlantic salmon, Cooke’s involvement will vastly improve state revitalization efforts, said Dwayne Shaw, executive director of the Downeast Salmon Federation.
The company will help with building the coastal pens, along with feeding and providing the fish with veterinary care. It will also transport the fish to the Penobscot River when they’re ready, Ledwin said. Those offshore pens will vastly expand the number of fish the state can grow for the restoration efforts, he said.
“The two federal hatcheries and our own pair of private hatcheries cannot produce a sufficient quantity of quality salmon for stocking,” Shaw said. “Stocking ‘wild-exposed’ adult salmon is another proven strategy.”
This story appears through a media sharing agreement with Bangor Daily News.