840 Atlantic salmon counted on the Penobscot this year

River-watchers saw a small uptick in the number of Atlantic salmon that returned to the Penobscot River this year, but the total — 840 — still meant that for a sixth consecutive year, fewer than 1,000 salmon were counted, according to data compiled by the Maine Department of Marine Resources Division of Sea Run Fisheries and Habitat.

Since salmon returns began at the Veazie Dam in 1978 (now counts are done at Milford), that’s the longest string of sub-1,000 years recorded. Another four-year string of sub-1,000-fish years occurred from 1999 through 2002.

An Atlantic salmon makes its way to a holding tank at the Milford Dam fishway at Brookfield Energy in Milford in 2015 After more than three decades capturing Atlantic salmon at the Veazie Dam, that operation has moved to Milford, where a new fishlift was unveiled in 2014. (BDN file photo)

After a stellar return of 3,125 salmon in 2011, the flow of salmon into the Penobscot hasn’t maintained pace since. That total dropped to just 624 fish in 2012, 381 in 2013 and 256 in 2014 before edging up to 725 in 2015. A year ago, 501 fish were counted at the Milford Dam.

According to Jason Valliere, a marine resource scientist, 309 grilse, or younger fish, were caught at Milford. In addition, 250 multi-sea-winter males and 255 multi-sea-winter females were captured. Another 26 multi-sea-winter fish were counted, but passed through the dam while gates were open.

Of those fish, 50 grilse, 230 males and 235 females were taken to Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery in Orland to serve as broodstock.

More encouraging were trap counts on a few other species of fish counted at Milford. Among them, 1,256,061 river herring were counted, as were 3,868 American shad and 1,603 striped bass.

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.