For over 40 years, there has been an ongoing US Fish & Wildlife program to restore an extirpated population of Atlantic salmon to the Connecticut River. This restoration effort has been one of the main drivers of fish passage enhancements throughout the Connecticut River. Annual catches of returning salmon at the Robert E. Barrett Fishway have ranged from 529 in 1981 to 41 in 2001. Most salmon that return to the river are captured at the Fishway and transported to a federal hatchery for spawning stock.
Salmon fry from the hatchery are released into various Connecticut River tributaries where they develop for two to three years in natural habitat before they reach the smolt stage and emigrate. Downstream migration to the sea occurs in spring when the water temperature reaches about 10° C. Downstream passage is provided for the smolts at the Project.
- Salmon can jump up rapids and waterfalls about as high as a basketball hoop.
- Atlantic salmon are listed as endangered species in Maine. Pollution, dams and unfavorable conditions in the ocean threaten their survival.
Atlantic Salmon Restoration History
- In the early 1800’s the Atlantic salmon became extinct in the Connecticut River due to prevalence of small dams on tributaries and the large dam at Turners Falls that blocked migration to spawning habitat.
- In the 1860’s salmon were stocked into the river with limited success.
- In 1967 a combined federal and state restoration effort began. This was met with moderate success which declined as time passed. It is believed that changes in the ocean were major contributors to the low numbers of returning adult salmon. Due to low returns and severe hurricane damage to a hatchery in Vermont, US Fish and Wildlife withdrew support of the program in July 2012. However, salmon will be stocked in 2013 and adults should continue to return to the Robert Barrett Fishway through 2017.