Atlantic Salmon Research Part II by Bob Gregorski

Last month I presented background information regarding fishing for broodstock Atlantic salmon. Here’s more information collected from successful anglers since 1992.

Most use fly rods that are 7, 8 or 9 weight ranging from 8 to 9 feet in length with matching weight lines and reels. A few have landed salmon using 6 eight outfits that weighed less than ten pounds is water that had little to moderate velocity. It is not advisable to go ultra-light. A determined 10 to 24 pound salmon could peel all the line and backing off the reel and perhaps break the rod.

Note: Extra large guides and tiptop is a wise choice for fishing in December-March. Small guides and tiptop freeze more quickly than large ones. Winter steelhead anglers have experienced icing and know how troublesome it is to stop after every few casts to break the ice off guides and tip.

Most anglers use a single action reel; some use one with anti-reverse. The later saves knuckles from being bruised when a salmon decides to peel line off the reel. Large arbor reels help retrieving line quickly. A good to excellent drag system is important. On my first hook-up with a wild salmon in Nova Scotia, the ten-pound fish blew out the drag on my Orvis multiplier reel. I was lucky to land the fish on the broken reel. It wasn’t an appropriate reel. A good to excellent drag will improve the hook-up to landing ratio.

There is no commonality with lines. Floating, floating with sink tips, intermediate and full sinking are used. The middle two are more popular. Weight may not be added to the leader, so getting a fly down deep requires some sinking of at least the first few feet of fly line.

Leaders vary in length fro 6’ to 9’. It’s not wise to use a leader longer than the rod. The line/leader connection may get caught at the tiptop. I believe salmon are not leader shy. Some anglers use a leader tapered to 6, 8 or 10 pound tippet. Some use straight fluorocarbon leader. One of the three salmon I landed recently one was caught on a fly at the end of 6’ of 10 pound straight fluorocarbon leader; the other two on a 9’ straight fluorocarbon leader.

The advantage of shorter leaders is the fly sinks more quickly. If you are fishing Catch & Release, it’s not wise to use light leaders; it takes much longer to land a fish. Exhausting a fish is not good for its health.

I discussed fly patterns last week, now here are some suggestions how to fish them effectively. Nymphs are dead-drifted by casting up-stream and following the fly and line downstream until it completes its travel. Many strikes come at the end of the travel as the fly starts to rise in the water just before it is retrieved. Other wets including woolybuggers may be cast across the current and worked with a jerking motion or dead drifted. It depends on river flow and depth. Bucktails and streamers can be cast across the current, the line mended until the fly is headed down stream. They are worked to imitate a swimming baitfish.

It’s important to watch where you believe the fly is moving. Some fish will follow or swirl behind the fly indicating their presence. When a fish is seen, fish the area well. It showed an interest. Try the same fly for a while. If there is no action, then change flies.

Hooking an Atlantic salmon takes some skill and lots of luck and landing one takes skill. If you play a salmon correctly, you need not use a net. Most broodstock salmon anglers do not carry a net. The tale-tell sign of a novice is an angler carrying a trout net.

When you hook a salmon, look for the quietest water where you plan to land it. You are in charge; you are much larger and smarter. Don’t let it run out many yards of line. Let the combined action of the flexibility of the rod and reel drag tire the fish as quickly as possible. Lead it up to the shore where it is shallow. Grab it in the narrow section just before its caudal fin (tail) or grab it inside its mouth using your thumb and index finger. Use a glove when doing the later and stay clear of the hook. Gently remove the hook. Thank Salmo salar for the pleasure of its company and release it. Good luck!

Atlantic Salmon Research and Experimentation
by Bob Gregorski


The most asked question of anglers who have caught Atlantic salmon broodstock in the Naugatuck River is – What fly or lure did you use? At least 90 percent of the salmon anglers are fly tossers. So, what fly did you use? The second most asked question is – Where did you catch it? Since most successful anglers will share those answers, here’s the background of why 10 percent of the anglers catch 90 percent of the fish.

Since the first stocking of Atlantic broodstock into the Naugatuck and Shetucket Rivers in 1992, many anglers and I have been experimenting with different flies and fly fishing techniques. This was a new fishery. None had existed in the state before that initial stocking. In the early years of the experimental program, fly fishing was the only method anglers could use. What flies would catch salmon and what size rods, reels, and lines would be best for this new sport were questions all salmon seekers asked. Where did they stock them was the second.

Some of us had fished for wild, riverine Atlantic salmon in Maine and/or in Canada. Those were wild fish that lived most of their lives in the Atlantic Ocean where they fed on a variety of Marine fishes. After three or four years at sea, they entered the Connecticut River and swam upriver

 

 

Atlantic Salmon Research and Experimentation Cont.

to historic spawning grounds. But, they were trapped during their migration and placed in hatcheries where they were spawned artificially. After they spawned, they were no longer needed. Thus came the Atlantic salmon broodstock fishery program in Connecticut.

The progeny of those captured wild salmon were raised in hatcheries until they were ready to breed. That is when they are three or four years old. Thus Atlantic broodstock are many generations removed from wild salmon. They have lived their entire lives in a hatchery until released into the wild.

The number of broodstock that have been stocked annually has varied. It depends on availability of broodstock, post-spawning mortality, two or three year old salmon will not produce eggs or milt or were not needed and fish available from the federal salmon hatchery in Bethel Vermont. The number stocked in the Naugatuck River has ranged from a 169 the first year to about twelve hundred. This year, about 750 fish were stocked into the Naugy, About 350 came from DEP’s Kensington Hatchery; they averaged almost 10 lbs per fish. The other 400 salmon were in the 3-10 lb range. A few massive fish that weighed 20-24 lbs.

So, what flies would catch salmon, and what size rods, reels and lines would be best for this new sport? Anglers tried trout, steelhead and traditional Atlantic salmon flies. After an angler caught a salmon, the word spread quickly about what fly was productive and what equipment was used. That was the beginning of the research and experimentation.

Here’s a synopsis of what flies and equipment has worked for me and what I have learned from other successful anglers.

Productive flies as reported by other anglers include: Grey Ghost, Black Ghost, Mickey Finn, Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear, Blue Charm, Jock Scott, March Brown, Popscicle, Commet, Woolyworm, Matuka, Flat Master, White Marabou and woolybugger, hellgrammite, Clouser, beadhead and stonefly patterns. The list is lengthy. I estimate at least 100 different patterns have hooked a broodstock salmon.

My Personal Experiences: the basis of my experimental work and research are entries in my Fish Catcher Journal (FCJ) and recollections since the fall of 1992. I have been lucky to have hooked ab out 300 salmon and landed at least 100. The average has been one landing per three hook-ups. Included in the average are the unusual six for six in three hours in 1996 and three of fishing recently. More typical is no hook-ups in more than half the outings.

I have hooked salmon on at least 20 different patterns in sizes #16 to #1/0. The flies I have hooked the most salmon with are ones that Bob Carreiro or I created. They are the Yellow Perch, Bruised Butt, Softy, Naugy Ghost, No Body, and Charlotte. The Butterfly, Brown Bomber (dry fly), girdlebugs and a variety of other flies, most mentioned above, have hooked at least one salmon.

So fly tossers, try your favorite patterns or create new ones. You won’t know what Salmo salar (the leaper) will grab in its jaws until you’ve tried your dressed hook. The salmon harvest regulation now in effect through March 31, 2007 is one salmon per day per angler.

Ernie Beckwith, the director of DEP Fisheries Division at the time bestowed the honor of stocking the first Atlantic salmon to me. It was an honor and privilege. Some of us Trout Unlimited members had worked extremely hard to improve the quality of the water and riparian habitat in the Naugatuck River since the early 1970’s. It was truly a memorable day to stock what was one of the worst polluted rivers in the country with the prized Atlantic salmon.

The salmon harvest regulation now in effect through March 31, 2007 is one salmon per day per angler.

Next month I will give my analysis of flies and equipment, why they work and the techniques to use them.

Broodstock Atlantic Salmon
Atlantic Salmon Stocking Continues

DEP stocked another 175 surplus broodstock Atlantic salmon into the Shetucket and Naugatuck Rivers Thursday (October 19th), bringing the number of salmon stocked this fall to 575, split evenly between the two rivers. This latest batch of salmon are 2-5 lb fish from the federal hatchery in Vermont. In November, DEP expects to have 600-800 salmon available from its Kensington Hatchery following spawning. Additional fish may also become available following spawning in federal fish hatcheries in November and December. Reminder- Anglers are allowed to fish for salmon in the Naugatuck River from the confluence of the East and West Branches (Torrington) downstream to the Housatonic River (Derby). Anglers may also fish for Atlantic salmon in the Housatonic River downstream of Derby Dam. On the Shetucket River, anglers can fish for salmon downstream from the Scotland Dam (Windham) to the Water Street Bridge in Norwich (the first bridge upstream of Norwich Harbor). Angling for Atlantic salmon is restricted to catch-and-release only through November 30. The daily creel limit is zero and all Atlantic salmon must be immediately returned, without avoidable injury, to the waters from which taken. From December 1, 2006, through March 31, 2007, the daily creel limit for Atlantic salmon will be one.

 

Broodstock Atlantic Salmon
Atlantic Salmon Stocking Continues

During the open season, the legal method for taking Atlantic salmon is limited to angling using a single fly, or an artificial lure with a singlefree-swinging hook. No additional weight may be added to the line above the fly or lure. Note: There are three designated Atlantic salmon broodstock areas that are stocked, one on the Shetucket River (from the Scotland Dam to the Occum Dam) and two on the Naugatuck River (Route 118 to the Thomaston Dam, and from Prospect Street in Naugatuck to Pines Bridge Road in Beacon Falls). From October 1st through March 31st, fishing for other species in these areas is restricted to the gear legal for Atlantic salmon.

Wild Atlantic Salmon
CT River Atlantic Salmon 2006

There has been an increase of 12% (25 salmon) this year compared to 2005. The 210 known returns are: Connecticut River at Holyoke, MA (116), Farmington River (42), Westfield River (34), and Salmon River (16) and CT River at Vernon, VT (2).There were 185 known returns last year.

Of the116 counted at Holyoke, 14 were tagged and released including 6 detected at Deerfield River, 3 at West River and one each at Mill River and Bellow Falls. One detected at Turners Falls and one at Deerfield returned downstream. And one not detected after release. The increased number of salmon returns reflects the 95,000 smolts that were released in 2004.

The American shad and blueback herring count on the Connecticut River System are: 154,715 American shad at Holyoke, 1,534 at the West Springfield Dam on the Westfield River and 73 at the Rainbow Fishway. Only 21 blueback herring were counted at the Holyoke Fish Lift.

Shad numbers continue to remain low, and blueback herring numbers continue to be disastrously low despite stiff conservation measures statewide and regionally.

Other data includes: 86 salmon at the Essex Dam on the Merrimac and 983 at the Veazie Trap on the Penobscot River. There may be a limited Catch & Release season on the Penobscot this fall.

Note: The Penobscot Trust in partnership with the State of Maine, The Nature Conservancy, the Atlantic Salmon Federation and Trout Unlimited have been working toward.

Atlantic Salmon

ATLANTIC SALMON Stocked for a fall and winter fishery. Anglers from Connecticut and nearby states enjoy catching Atlantic salmon from 8 to 24 pounds in the Naugatuck and Shetucket Rivers in Connecticut. DEP began its annual stocking of surplus broodstock Atlantic salmon on October 6 by releasing 200 salmon into the Shetucket River and the Naugatuck River. An additional 200 salmon were released a few weeks later. These fish were 8-9 lb salmon from the federal hatchery in White River Junction, VT.

DEP stocked over 600 additional broodstock Atlantic salmon into the Shetucket and Naugatuck Rivers November 6th-10th. Each river was stocked twice (about 150 fish per trip). This will bring the number of salmon stocked this fall to over 1,200, split evenly between the two rivers. The salmon are 3-15-lb fish from DEP’s Kensington Hatchery. Additional fish may also become available following spawning in federal fish hatcheries in November and December.

Reminder- Anglers are allowed to fish for salmon in the Naugatuck River from the confluence of the East and West Branches (Torrington) downstream to the Housatonic River (Derby). Anglers may also fish for Atlantic salmon in the Housatonic River downstream of Derby Dam. During the open season, the legal method for taking Atlantic salmon is limited to angling using a single fly, or an artificial lure with a single free-swinging hook. No additional weight may be added to the line above the fly or lure Note: There are two designated Atlantic salmon broodstock areas that are stocked on the Naugatuck River (Route 118 to the Thomaston Dam and from Prospect Street in Naugatuck to Pines Bridge Road in Beacon Falls). From October 1st through March 31st, fishing for other species in these areas is restricted to the gear legal for Atlantic salmon.

Naugatuck-Pomperaug Chapter Trout Unlimited