CONCORD — This is likely to be the last spring that anglers will be able to fish for large brood stock salmon in central New Hampshire, as the program that was the source of these big fish has been phased out by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"It's hard to believe, but this will be the final season of the Atlantic salmon broodstock fishery," said N.H. Fish and Game Department Fisheries Biologist Matt Carpenter.
Since 1993, Fish and Game has stocked Atlantic salmon into the Merrimack and Pemigewasset rivers to provide a fishing experience that would normally require travelling to Canada. Anglers from all over the region have come to New Hampshire each spring to try their luck at the broodstock fishery, which offers the chance to catch salmon that weigh as much as 15 pounds.
"The broodstock fishery was never meant to be an end unto itself," explained Carpenter. "It was a byproduct of the Merrimack River Atlantic Salmon Restoration Project, which ended in September of 2013 because of poor survival and shifting priorities within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service."
Carpenter assures that the Atlantic salmon available for stocking this spring will not disappoint. "At 4 to 5 years of age, they have had plenty of time to grow, with many fish exceeding 10 pounds," Carpenter says. "We have just under 700 fish to stock this spring, so we should be able to hit all of the usual spots in Bristol, Franklin, Concord, and Hooksett."
The timing of stocking the broodstock fish is always a challenge in the spring, when heavy rains can wash salmon down river and make accessing the river difficult for anglers. Fortunately, trees begin to absorb more water during leaf out, so water levels generally begin to drop a little faster by the middle of May. Fish and Game began by stocking 200 salmon in Bristol on May 12, but with heavy rain in the forecast for the weekend, further stocking will be on hold until flows recede. "We hope to resume stocking some time next week (the week of May 19), depending on the amount of rain that we get," said Carpenter.
To fish for brood stock salmon, anglers need a current New Hampshire fishing license and an $11 brood stock salmon permit. Both can be purchased online at http://www.fishnh.com or from Fish and Game license agents statewide. Only salmon marked by Fish and Game with a T-bar anchor at the base of the dorsal fin may be kept, and the bag limit is 1 per day and 5 total for the season. For more information on New Hampshire's brood stock salmon fishery, including an access map, visit http://www.fishnh.com/Fishing/atlantic_salmon.htm.