The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department reminds anglers that Atlantic salmon in the Connecticut River and its tributaries remain a protected species and should not be caught or killed.
The once abundant salmon disappeared from the river in the early 1800s following the building of dams. In 1967, Vermont began partnering with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and other state agencies in an attempt to restore Atlantic salmon populations to the Connecticut River basin. Biologists released salmon into the river and then captured adult salmon returning from the ocean each year, bred them in fish hatcheries, and released millions of their offspring back into the river.
Despite this ambitious effort, the stocking program has not achieved the restoration levels anticipated, and the stocking was discontinued in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont in 2013. However, adult salmon will still be returning to the Connecticut River and its tributaries for the next several years and the state of Connecticut continues to stock these fish.
“Anglers should know how to identify Atlantic salmon when fishing in these waters,” said Eric Palmer, fisheries director for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. “If they happen to catch one, they should put it back in the river immediately.”
“The number of adult salmon returning to the river is likely to drop off in four or five years, but it is possible that salmon will persist at some level through natural reproduction,” said Palmer.
Palmer pointed out that while Atlantic salmon can sometimes be mistaken for brown trout, all migrating salmon will be captured and fitted with a small yellow tag attached near their dorsal fin that identifies it as a salmon and directs anglers to release it immediately.
If the tag is missing, anglers can still differentiate an Atlantic salmon from a brown trout through characteristics such as spotting patterns, coloration, and the shape of fins and mouth parts, which are demonstrated in the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Law Digest or online at www.vtfishandwildlife.com.
“When in doubt, an angler should play it safe in the Connecticut River basin and release any fish they think might be a salmon unharmed,” said Palmer. “If anglers catch and keep one of these salmon, they can receive a substantial fine or lose their hunting and fishing license.”
Palmer noted that anglers may still harvest landlocked Atlantic salmon in Lake Champlain, Lake Memphremagog and their tributaries, along with other large lakes in Vermont’s interior. Protected anadromous salmon are found only in the Connecticut River and its tributaries.
Media Contacts: Eric Palmer, 802-751-0107; Lael Will, 802-777-0827; Matt Carpenter, N.H. Fish & Game, 603-271-2612