The Atlantic salmon returns to the Penobscot River, the lone Maine river with a significant salmon run, have been dwindling in recent years.
After a solid year in 2011, when 3,125 salmon returned and were counted, the yearly totals dropped to 624 in 2012, 381 in 2013, and an all-time low (since 1978) in 261.
Mitch Simpson of the Department of Marine Resources’ Bureau of Sea-Run Fisheries and Habitat reported that last year the numbers counted at the Milford Dam increased.
“The Milford Fishlift was closed for the 2015 season on Nov. 16,” Simpson reported. “The final count of the Atlantic salmon on the Penobscot River [finished at] 731.”
In addition, the counting facility was busy with other fish species.
Simpson reported a whopping total of 589,503 river herring counted at Milford. Add in 1,806 American shad and a variety of other fish, and it made for a big year.
The shad total bears some watching: Many fisheries experts have predicted that efforts to restore shad in the river will pay dividends quickly, and they say it won’t be long before anglers decide to take advantage of a new, exciting recreational fishery. In just a year, the number of shad in the river doubled, Simpson said.
As for river herring, restoration efforts have certainly paid dividends in a big hurry. The 2015 total was more than three times higher than those of a year ago.
“Let’s hope these trends continue in the future,” Simpson wrote in an email.
Let’s hope, indeed.
The ice still isn’t safe
Unless you slept through the rainstorm that ripped across Maine early this week — and unless you never learned that when it’s raining out, lakes aren’t likely to freeze over — it should come as no surprise that ice anglers are still frustrated by a lack of opportunity to fish.
Some anglers, hopefully careful ones, have found spots near shore, where they can place a few traps in shallow water and try their luck.
But most of the rest of us remain on dry land, waiting for a real ice-producing cold snap to hit.
Sub-zero for a week? Sign us up!
Unfortunately, some folks aren’t being that careful. In fact, on one Maine lake an ice shack fell through the ice, twice, in two days.
Apparently the fact that the shack had to be dragged out of the water the first day didn’t indicate that the ice wasn’t quite ready to hold the hefty structure — someone decided to try again the next day.
Luckily, we haven’t had any reports of injuries or deaths — yet.
Unfortunately, there’s snow in the forecast for this weekend, and early-season snow isn’t an angler’s best friend.
Instead, when that snow piles up on a thin sheet of ice, it serves to insulate that ice from the colder air above and slows the freezing process.
What does that mean to you? Your favorite lake might look like it’s covered in a thick winter coat but may in fact be wearing a snow-covered wind-breaker instead.
Check the ice early. Check it often. And, when in doubt, think about these words shared by a BDN reader this week: No fish is worth dying for.
Tell us about your derby!
‘Tis the season — for ice fishing derbies. Usually.
As I mentioned above, we’re struggling to make ice in these parts, and derby organizers must be pulling their hair out as they wait for colder weather and safer ice.
If you’re a derby organizer, keep in touch: If your ice isn’t safe and your derby isn’t going to go off as scheduled, let us know so we can let our readers know.
And if you haven’t sent us a news release, poster or email letting us know that your derby’s scheduled, we hope you do so soon.
We regularly include fishing derbies and tournaments in our weekly Outdoor Calendar, and every so often we’ll venture out to attend one and let readers know what you’re up to.
One problem: If you don’t tell us about your derby, we won’t know about it.
So reach out. Tell us what you’re up to. Is your derby on? Off? Postponed? We want to know.
John Holyoke can be reached at email@example.com or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke.