If you’ve a mind to catch a glimpse of an Atlantic salmon, there’s a chance you could find one in Kenduskeag Stream.
And if you choose to harass that fish, or try to catch it, there’s a very good chance that you’ll meet Jim Fahey.
Fahey, a Maine Game Warden, called late last week with an invitation I couldn’t pass up: “You want to go look at a salmon?”
Well, of course I did. And of course, Fahey — always a proactive warden — had a reason for taking me to visit “his” fish.
“From Broadway, Route 15, at Six Mile Falls, to the [Penobscot], is completely closed until Sept. 15,” Fahey said.
Fahey explained that the stretch of the Kenduskeag from Six Mile Falls to Harlow Street is closed each July 1. The Maine Department of Marine Resources, which enforces tidal water, closes the section below Harlow Street on July 15.
Fahey has done his best to let folks know that they shouldn’t be fishing in the stream. He has posted signs at most of the logical access points, advising anglers that the stream is closed and that Atlantic salmon may be present.
Still, some people aren’t getting the point.
On July 21, Fahey became aware of one salmon — a hefty-looking specimen that he estimates weighs eight pounds —that had sought thermal refuge in the slightly cooler Kenduskeag. That’s not rare, and is the reason the law exists. In fact, back in 1978, when fishing for Atlantic salmon was legal in the Penobscot, quite the presence of salmon in the Kenduskeag during the middle of summer resulted in enough of a ruckus that Sports Illustrated covered the resulting melee. (Google it, if you’re curious: Poachers had taken to throwing rocks at fish, hitting them with baseball bats, and otherwise acting in a decidedly unsporting manner).
“The fish remained there Saturday, Sunday. The biologists spot-checked it Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of last week. The fish was still there,” Fahey said. “That’s when the word began to circulate that it was there, because since then I’ve apprehended three people fishing in the same pool. One guy was actually casting and trying to snag the fish.”
That angler, Fahey, was not only fishing in closed water. He had no license to fish in open water, either.
“I stopped him before he actually hooked it,” Fahey said. “He said the fish was trying to bite his hook, but [the rig he was using] had a big brass hook and three split shot [to make the hook sink to the bottom].”
And, as I think we already mentioned, he didn’t have a license.
Fahey said he met with Richard Dill, a biologist for the Maine Department of Marine Resources, and asked for his opinion on the fish. Together the duo decided to leave it alone for the time being.
“We decided to let the fish try to find its way out of the water where it’s holding rather than try to relocate it and stress the fish out,” Fahey said. “That’s been attempted in the past with mixed results, and enough negative results, like fish mortality, that they were hesitant to do anything.”
As of Monday morning, that fish was still in the Kenduskeag, lazily swimming in circles around its holding pool. Fahey said there was enough water for the fish to move upstream if it wanted, but apparently the temperature of the pool’s water is more to its liking.
Fahey said he wanted those who might want to take a stab at catching the salmon to know that it is being monitored closely by him and others. Those who would try to harass or catch the salmon — listed under the federal Endangered Species Act — could be facing both state and federal consequences.
“I just wanted to get that word out there: People ought to check their [law] books and be mindful of the regulations,” Fahey said.
Among the other Atlantic salmon regulations that are particularly important right now: An area near the mouths of many of the Penobscot’s tributaries is closed to all fishing right now. Those tributaries include Felt Brook, Eaton Brook, Meadow Brook, Blackman Stream and Great Works Stream.
You can find complete regulations on those tributaries on page 23 of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s fishing law book.