Penobscot salmon returns still low

Periodically this spring and summer I’ve passed along updates from Maine Bureau of Sea-Run Fisheries and Habitat staffers that have illustrated the woes of Atlantic salmon this year.

Today I’m sorry to report that the trend hasn’t changed: Not many Atlantic salmon have returned to the Penobscot River this year.

According to Mitch Simpson, a fisheries biologist who leads the team that sorts and counts fish at the Veazie Dam trap, a few new fish have arrived in the past several weeks.

The grand total as of Monday: 628 salmon had been trapped.

With the trapping period running short, it appears that 2012 will go down as the second-worst year for salmon returns since the Veazie Dam trap was activated in 1978. Only the 2000 total (524 fish) was lower.

This, a year after a stellar 2011 season, during which 3,121 fish returned to the Penobscot.

Biologists have said Atlantic salmon returns have been low in Canadian rivers as well; while not good news, that seems to indicate that the problem is not Penobscot-specific, at least.

Also of interest in Simpson’s stats: His bureau keeps track of the average number of salmon caught per day, and compares those numbers from decade-long averages compiled since the trap was activated.

In the 1980s, for instance, workers trapped an average of 24 salmon per day during the trapping season. In the 1990s, 21 salmon per day showed up. In the decade of the 2000s, that number slipped to 12 salmon per day.

And this year? The average is an anemic 4 salmon per day.

Here’s hoping for better returns next year.

John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.