Weekly reports are provided by Steve Gephard of the CT DEP.
As of this report, I did not get the weekend update for fish passage numbers in the Connecticut River Watershed outside of the State. While the Connecticut River flow is still below 15,000 cfs it is increasing thanks to this rain, which was sorely needed to recharge and motivate diadromous species. The increased flow and moderate water temperatures should help to prolong the runs of American shad and Atlantic salmon. As if on cue I just got word from Rainbow Fishway that we just trapped a nice bright wild salmon. That fish will make the trip north to the Cronin Atlantic Salmon Station later today (hopefully we get more before the truck leaves). The downstream bypass gate is back in operation so I will be there Thursday night to see where the smolt emigration stands.
Leesville pick-up its first salmon of the year last week, a bright 28” fish. Yesterday while checking the trap, I observed that the striped bass were back along with a very small number of blueback herring. If this is all of the herring run for the year it is disappointing at best. Lamprey continue to spawn in the area and I passed through the fishway two very nice brown trout. I suspect that the larger of the two trout (24”) was a sea-run fish due to its body and fin condition.
Dave Ellis has begun trucking shad from the Holyoke Fishlift to targeted rivers in Connecticut. So far he has transplanted shad into the Quinnipiac, Naugatuck, and Shetucket rivers.
The Rainbow Fishway Open House was this past Saturday and approximately 75 people came-out for the event. Things were a bit slow fish-wise, except for a few sea lamprey and a large carp that rode up and down in the trap all day. The Open House was shortened by a thunderstorm and hail later in the day.
River herring are still being counted and observed in Fairfield County. Mike Aurelia of the Town of Greenwich reports that both species are using the Mianus Pond Fishway – spent alewife going down, and ripe blueback going up. The river herring seasonal for the western coastal streams, James Wenkert, sampled blueback last Friday at Mianus and confirms that they were all ripe up-runners. Since the electronic fish counter does not distinguish between up or down-running fish, it is difficult to say for certain how many blueback herring have passed through the fishway. Mike estimates around 4,500 bluebacks thus far. Today’s rain should promote the spent alewife that remain in the headpond to exit over the dam spillway, alleviating the counting problems. James also reports that the herring run continues in the Pequonnock River, and Dave Dembosky (TNC) reports more counts on the Wood Dam fish counter.
The Greeneville Dam Fishlift is operational again and I witnessed a nice lift of American shad on Friday afternoon during a tour of the facility for the Thames River Basin Partnership. As of last Friday, we have yet to record the passage of tagged shad at Taftville, Occum, or Tunnel fishways; hopefully something happened over the weekend. Tunnel Dam Fishlift started time-lapsed video recording as of this weekend, so if any untagged (or tagged for that matter!) diadromous fish species are lifted there we will eventually know about it.
The Mill River, Occum and Greeneville eel passes are scheduled to open this week. With the numbers of eels that we have been seeing elsewhere in the state (note that the Fishing Brook Eel Pass is over 36,000 for the year – not including today’s check which was estimated at over 2,000 fish) we have high hopes for a great season in all locations.
The rains this past week freshened up Connecticut tributaries a bit but sent the mainstem back up to 40,000 cfs. Temperatures remain very low for this time of year. Rainbow Fishway was 14 C (57 F) and Leesville about the same. The slow increase in fish numbers over the past week can be attributed to these cool temperatures. At Rainbow, we typically don’t trap salmon at temperatures below 17 C so we’re hoping that this week’s forecasted warm-up will bring more fish up. The smolt run at Rainbow was down considerably last Thursday. It is likely that most of the fish that are leaving this year have already left.
The number of blueback herring increased in the Farmington River/Windsors Locks area and at Holyoke (we surpassed last year’s record low number at the fishlift) but they remain light around the Enfield Dam. However, except for one day on the Salmon River and Pine Brook, we have seen virtually no bluebacks in any of our tributaries. Large stripers (~40”) have begun to appear in the upper portion of the river.
Connecticut River boaters/anglers- Our Marine Fisheries Division is continuing its work with Atlantic sturgeon. Among other things, they are implanting ultrasonic transmitters into the sturgeon they capture so that they can track their movements around the lower river and Long Island Sound. The signals from the transmitters are picked up by automatic, electrical ‘listening devices’ attached to moorings at key places. Boaters may see these moorings, labeled “CT DEP Please Do Not Disturb”. Of course, we ask you not to pull them up and look at them. There is nothing to look at—it is just a black cylinder. Please don’t do anything that might interfere with this important work.
Striped bass anglers- The UConn researchers (mentioned above) are once again tagging striped bass in the Connecticut River to get a better handled on the numbers of stripers in the river and to learn more about their relationship with river herring. Like last year, they are using yellow tags that has printed on them: "UCONN" and a five digit ID number, and a phone number(860-486-4694). If you catch one of these fish, deal with the fish according to regulations (e.g. if it is not a ‘legal’ striper, release it) but call the phone number to report the catch. This year, UConn is offering a $15 reward for each report! Help support fisheries research and make a few bucks as well.
Rainbow Fishway Open House- June 2, Saturday, 10:00 am until 3:30 pm. The public is encouraged to visit the fishway and learn about it and the fish it passes. During this day, the public is allowed through the inner gates and able to go downstairs and look at the fish viewing window. Often at this annual event, shad and lamprey are passing upstream and even Atlantic salmon are captured for breeding.
Alewives dribbled into New London County streams during the past week but the run seems to be pretty much over. Spent fish are beginning to leave Brides Lake. Further down the coast into Fairfield County a few streams are still seeing larger pulses of fish, particularly the Pequonnock River at Bunnells Pond Dam, Sasco Creek, and the Mianus. The Mill River in Hamden also saw some alewives this past week. Due to the need to get this report out early, I was not able to wait for other reports that are likely to come in later today. The Quinnipiac River Watershed Association had a couple of good days of passing fish over the Wallace Dam in Wallingford. They lifted 88 blueback herring and one gizzard shad. A strong run of sea lampreys (>75) were also at the base of the dam along with some stripers. We finally got the Kinneytown Fishway tape system working and have seen gizzard shad and sea lamprey passing upstream along with a whole bunch of white suckers and smallmouth bass. We have more tapes to review.
Glass eels: Connecticut River fyke net (4,972 (last week’s data was an error) and Ingham Hill Pond eel pass (11,343.
River flows continue to drop quickly. We have gone from very high flows to below-normal flows in a matter of weeks. With the weather warming up, this coming week should be quite active. The Connecticut River is at 15,000+ cfs, the Farmington is running at 890 cfs, and the Salmon River is at 140 cfs. Water temperatures are also warming quickly, with Rainbow at 64 F (18 C) yesterday and Leesville close to the same.
Fish runs have responded predictably to the dropping flows and rising temperatures with salmon, shad, and lampreys all starting to move up. Holyoke has had some 6,000 shad days and anglers are reporting good catches from the Bissell Bridge up to Holyoke. Even the fish markets are not complaining and finding fresh shad for Mother’s Day was easy. Good shad numbers are rolling up for the West Springfield Dam on the Westfield River (MA) while the shad run at Rainbow on the Farmington River has stalled during the past week. The salmon run for 2007 has begun with two adult salmon trapped over the weekend at Holyoke. As you can see, the Holyoke Fishlift and the West Springfield Fishway have also begun to pass shad. The watershed count for Atlantic salmon is now at 6 with both Rainbow and West Springfield fishways capturing one salmon each yesterday. The Rainbow salmon was bright, 12 pounds (large for so early in the season) and missing a bite (seal?) out of its dorsal fin. We have now sampled the downrunning smolt run at Rainbow on three nights and the run continues to be very strong. Last night we sampled nearly 250 in two hours. This is a good time to remind anglers that they are likely to catch both salmon smolts (going out) and salmon adults (coming in) while fishing for other species and it is essential that these fish be handled as gently as possible and never taken out of the water. If you have problems extracting your hook from an upstream migrant, just leave it in the fish and report it to me and I will try to retrieve your tackle and mail it back to you. Here’s an excerpt from an email sent to Jan Rowan of the USFWS, the program coordinator: “I'm an avid fisherman, and have followed the salmon restoration program closely. I've witnessed the shad and striper increases over the …been a skeptic of the salmon program … however; today while fishing for stripers … I hooked and landed a 6 lb. female salmon....she was released in good condition... I've a bit of a changed mind now, after experiencing the thrill of catching an Atlantic....nothing else in the river compares!”
Blueback herring have been captured in the Hartford area by the UConn researchers, particularly in the Wethersfield Cove, Windsor Locks, Enfield, and Holyoke areas. Their numbers are still not very large for this time of year and we have yet to document any blueback herring in any tributaries. Lots of lampreys are moving. The Rainbow data is very misleading since we haven’t reviewed our night images yet. I was at Rainbow last night and by 11:30 pm, lots of lampreys were moving through. Lampreys have begun to nest on the Coginchaug River. Sea-run brown trout seem to be having a good year. Four more beauties at Leesville on the Salmon River and one (frankly) rather ugly one at Rainbow. An angler reports catching a 16-inch Atlantic salmon on the Connecticut River but since 16 inch salmon are extremely rare in freshwater (too big for a smolt and too small for an adult), I suspect it may have been a sea-run trout. Another species seen at the Connecticut fishways include lots of white suckers, all types of trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and one carp.
Striped bass anglers- The UConn researchers (mentioned above) are once again tagging striped bass in the Connecticut River to get a better handled on the numbers of stripers in the river and to learn more about their relationship with river herring. Like last year, they are using yellow tags that has printed on them: "UCONN" and a five digit ID number, and a phone number(860-486-4694). If you catch one of these fish, deal with the fish according to regulations (e.g. if it is not a ‘legal’ striper, release it) but call the phone number to report the catch. This year, UConn is offering a $15 reward for each report! Help support fisheries research and make a few bucks as well. (See note on Rainbow Fishway Open House below.)
The shad run on the Shetucket River is picking up and you can see that the count at the Greeneville Fishlift is now approaching 1,000. No shad have passed upstream fishways yet but we hope to start tagging shad at Greeneville later this week so the receivers at Tunnel, Taftville, and Occum dams can monitor for the movement of these fish. The alewife run on the Shetucket has slowed down and most of what is being passed at upstream fishways are trout, bass, suckers, a few sunfish, and even some bullheads.
Alewives continued to run along the shoreline during the past week but in reduced numbers. Runs were noted in the Shetucket, Poquetanuck Brook, Latimers Brook, Pattagansett, Brides Brook, East River, Hammonasset, Housatonic River, Sasco Creek (pretty strong run), Mill River, and Mianus River. Every time we were able to sample the fish, the results indicated that all herring were still alewife, not blueback herring. One of the highlights for the week was the discovery of alewives using the brand new Jordan Millpond Fishway on Jordan Brook in Waterford. This was completed in February and the news of its success makes it a trifecta! All three fishways new for 2007 (Ingham Hill Pond, Jordan Millpond, and Tunnel Fishlift) have passed alewives during their inaugural year. The numbers counted at the Wood Dam are not real high but exciting nonetheless as our first season that fish passage has been documented. Sally Harold has snorkeled below the dam and observed alewives approaching the fishway. This is a conservative count since some fish made have migrated upstream while the fish counter was knocked out of service by high water. Also conservative is the count at the Clark’s Pond Fishway, where Ray Baldwin has lifted 18 fish since the floods washed away some critical baffles but other, uncounted fish certainly passed upstream prior to the floods. The fishway will be repaired after the spring runs are over. On Saturday, there was a strong run of sea lamprey at the base of the Wallace Dam on the Quinnipiac River in Wallingford. The Kinneytown Dam Fishway on the Naugatuck River in Seymour was opened last week but we didn’t have power to video tape until last Friday so we don’t have any fish passage data yet. However, a large number of sea lampreys were observed trapped below the dam in the bypass reach (between the entrance of the fishway and the spillway) and staff netted them out and carried them above the dam. Over 100 lampreys were passed this way. Up until 2004, no lampreys had been seen on the Naugatuck River. In 2004, we saw one using the fishway, in 2005 it was 5, in 2006 it was 87, and we’ve already surpassed that this year.
At this point, we think the glass eel run to the Connecticut shoreline has been pretty strong. Not only have we set a record with our Connecticut River fyke net (4,999) and had a great rookie season for the Ingham Hill Pond eel pass (9,442) but we’re seeing them in many locations across the state: Saugatuck River, Pequonnock River, Indian River (Milford), Jordan Brook, etc. Other eel passes are up and running but we need to repair the Greeneville, Leesville, and Mill River eel passes, which will be done soon.
On Saturday, the DEP hosted the latest in a series of “Great Park Pursuits”, held at a different State Parks. This month it was Beardsley Park on the Pequonnock River in Bridgeport. Since it is right at Bunnells Pond where we have a fishway, myself and Dave Ellis staffed the fishway during the day and conducted tours and answered questions about the fishway. The event in the park included lots of family fun activities including family fishing, stocking trout, and games. If you’re interested in learning more about this ongoing series of events, visit the DEP’s website and look into “No Child Left Inside”. Over 1,600 people attended and many visited the fishway. Alewives were not actively ascending the fishway but there were a bunch holding below the dam and several families saw an osprey swoop down and grab an alewife by the fishway and fly off with it. It was a great time.
River flows have dropped considerably, but during the past week the water temperatures have remained cool due to cold evenings and therefore we haven’t seen a lot of fish during the past week. With the weather warming up, this coming week should be quite active. The Connecticut River is at 21,400 cfs (slightly below average for this time of year!), the Farmington is running at 1,100 cfs, and the Salmon River is at 208 cfs. Water temperatures are still in the 54 to 57 F degree (12 – 14 C) range, which is cold for this time of year.
The salmon run for 2007 has begun with two adult salmon trapped over the weekend at Holyoke. As you can see, the Holyoke Fishlift and the West Springfield Fishway have also begun to pass shad. Anglers are reported good catches here and there.
At Rainbow, the shad run has begun, with 84 making it upstream and another 35 still sitting in the trap. Alewives filled the lower fishway a few days ago, spawning in the fishway, but none made it to the window. Lots of smolts and white suckers are also passing. Monday night, Tim and I operated the downstream bypass for the first time this season and were overwhelmed by the smolt run. In less than 2 hours we processed 530 smolts and they just kept coming. We shut down the sampler by 11:00 pm and just let the rest pass directly to the tailrace. Conditions for the smolt run were perfect last night. Snorkeling in the Salmon River and tributaries also indicates a strong smolt run there, too. The tessellated darter spawning run is on and there are thousands congregating below the Leesville Dam and fishway, which they cannot use. The fishway has been passing lots of suckers and one sea-run trout.
All Connecticut fishways are back in working order. The flashboards are back up at Rainbow and the downstream bypass is working. The stoplogs are back in at the Leesville Dam thanks to the work of the CTDEP’s Wetland Habitat and Mosquito Management (WHAMM) program. They brought an excavator on site and were able to lower tidegates down across the slots to dewater the area and allow placement of the stoplogs.
The alewife run seems to have gone into hiatus. Very few reported in the tributaries during the past week. A few in the Salmon, Pewterpot, and the Mill—although the big wave we get each year at the Mary Steube fishway has not yet materialized and we don’t know if it is coming. The good news on alewife is that fishway monitor David Bingham has documented 20 alewives hanging around upstream of the Ed Bills Pond Fishway on the East Branch of the Eightmile River in Lyme this past week. No fish were transplanted there this year so these fish came up through the Moulson Pond Fishway, up the East Branch, and up the Ed Bills Pond fishway. While we have suspected passage there previously, this is the first proof positive. The time is right for the blueback herring to enter the river and we have suspicions that an early wave may have been in last week—but the temperatures are still low. We could see a mixture of the two species this coming week.
The catch of glass eels at the mouth of the river is dropping off quickly but our other eel trap on Fishing Brook (just outside the Connecticut River in Old Saybrook) has already surpassed the CT River trap at 6,477 and still increasing. Anglers are reporting strong runs of hickory shad at the mouth of the river—and, of course, striped bass, which are everywhere.
Someone on the shad listserve shared this website about shad. I haven’t had a chance to look at it but I pass it along in case you’re interested: http://discovermagazine.com/blogs/discoblog/archive/2007/04/24/be-not-sad-for-the-shad.
Shad began showing up on the Shetucket River below the Greeneville Dam this past week and Greeneville is now lifting them over. The numbers of alewives has dropped off and the gizzard shad are starting to pick up. I have not received any report this week from the Taftville, Tunnel, or Occum fishways. I hope to have something to report from them next week. Last week I showed a photo of the first alewives being lifted over the Tunnel Dam in over 100 years, courtesy of the new fishlift. Below, I offer a photo of the new fishlift.
Alewives continued to run along the shoreline during the past week but the numbers have dropped off. Runs were noted in the Shetucket, Poquetanuck Brook, Trading Cove Brook, Latimers Brook, Pattagansett, Brides Brook, Fishing Brook, Hammonasset, Pequonnock River, Sasco Creek, and Mianus River. The large run at the Mianus Pond Fishway referenced in last week’s report was featured in a news article in the May 3 edition of the Greenwich Times. According to Mike Aurelia, the run has slowed down a bit now but several schools of 200 fish each were spotted circling around the fishway entrance this past week by our staff. The Quinnipiac River Watershed Association reports schools of assorted herring milling around the Wallace Dam—where the QRWA is about to start design work on a future fishway. The Nature Conservancy, the Saugatuck River Watershed Partnership, and our staff cooperated to get fish passage restored at the Wood Dam on the Saugatuck River this past week following the disruption of the heavy floods in that watershed. The guidance booms were re-installed and the fish counter re-activated in a new, more high-and-dry location. Alewives have been documented using the fishway since this time. Yellow perch are still spawning below this dam and some have been seen using the fishway. Upstream, the Lees Pond Fishway was heavily trashed by the flood and many thanks to Sally Harold of The Nature Conservancy for her help in clearing off loads of dead trees, roots, and river trash from on top of the fishway grating. The Kinneytown Dam Fishway on the Naugatuck River in Seymour was finally opened for the season this past week. Opening had been delayed due to high water, trash, and lost flashboards. The video camera has been operating only for a couple of days and we do not have any data on fish passage to share at this time.
Yesterday, many of us involved in fish passage in Connecticut gathered in Branford to receive Presidential Awards for the Branford Water Supply Ponds Fishway project, completed in 2005 and operated for the first time in 2006. The Coastal America Program issues four Partnership Awards nationwide, each year. In 2006, the Branford fishway project was one of the four, nationwide. Individual recipients of plaques included project manager Tom Cleveland, the Branford Land Trust, the Town of Branford, NOAA Restoration Center, Save the Sound, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Corporate Wetland Restoration Partnership, Nathan Jacobson & Associates, Rich Pinder Construction, David Post of Yale University, and the DEP’s Inland Fisheries Division. That last plaque is now hanging in my office. Congratulations to all. It was the partnership that this award recognized that made this such a great project. Not receiving any plaque or recognition of any kind was the alewives themselves, who have made the fishway a success. Over 3,000 used the fishway in 2006 and already over 1,100 have used it this year. David Post announced that of those fish, 629 have made it to the upstream Linsley Lake, where another fish counter is located.
During the past week, the mainstem Connecticut River has remained very high, submerging floodplains to a greater extent than seen in recent years. In the last couple of days, the river has begun to drop quickly and is now back down to ‘typical’ springtime floodplain flooding. The flowrate is 45,000 cfs and the water temperature is 45 F (7.2 C) at Holyoke and 50 F (10 C) at the mouth. The shad run has now begun, with catches by netters near the mouth of the river reported as good and last night a few were netted as far north as Cromwell, according to Joe Zaientz. Shad has just begun to appear in local markets. The chat on the New England Shad Association website indicates anglers are catching some shad near the Holyoke dam. [The run on the Susquehanna River seems to be on the same timetable. Conowingo has been lifting shad for a few days and this morning their count stands at 1,592 and well as 404 alewives and over 100,000 gizzard shad.] Holyoke Dam has not started lifting yet due to the high water. There is some hope that the water will drop enough to allow lifting by the end of the week. River herring have spread up the Connecticut River, as well, with fish seen in Mill Brook, Eightmile River, Moodus River, Salmon River, Salmon Brook, Porter Brook, and the Farmington River. No fish were seen in the Mattabesset but with lots of fish seen in the Coginchaug and Sawmill, they have to be there. Fish earlier in the week had all appearances of alewives but now with May having arrived, we wonder if the current wave may include blueback herring. We need to start sampling the runs to verify the species. By the way, the May-June issue of Audubon magazine (with a wolf on the cover) has a short article on river herring in New England, with quotes by David Post of Yale, Mike Armstrong of MA DMF, Joe McKeon of USFWS, and myself.
The fishways in the Connecticut River system are back in working condition. The stoplogs are still out of the Leesville Dam from the ice control structure construction last fall and creating poor attraction water conditions. When the Connecticut River had backflooded that rooster tail, we passed over 500 white suckers and some trout. Now that the river is back down, the rooster tail has returned and trap catches have dropped to a couple of suckers a day. The experimental underwater camera at Moulson Pond took a bath in the high water and a replacement was just installed. The Rainbow Fishway suffered electrical problems with the lower fishway went underwater for the first time in many years but the fishway can be operated manually while we get those straightened out. The Army Corps of Engineers have ended their large-scale releases of flood waters from the Colebrook project and flows to the Farmington River has dropped to the point where the Farmington River Power Company can lower its pond to replace missing flashboards. We hope that task will be completed in the next couple of days and will allow the operation of the downstream bypass by early next week at the latest. Anglers on the Salmon River have reported catching some salmon smolts. I suspect that many smolts left during the high water but with the water temperatures in the tributaries now routinely 13 – 15 C (55 – 59 F), the smolt run should be accelerating.
The catch of glass eels at the mouth of the river went way down during the high water event and has yet to rebound. At 3,537, it is still one of the best run on record. Our other eel trap on Fishing Brook (just outside the Connecticut River in Old Saybrook) has begun trapping eels and the count stands at 733 glass eels and 28 elvers. This is a brand new eel pass and early indications are that it is working very well. A strong glass eel run to the base of the old mill on Mill Brook was reported yesterday by Sandra Tripp.
I check out the fishway camera on the James River in Virginia today at www.dgif.virginia.gov/fishing/shadcam and saw catfish and river herring swimming past.
Fish appeared all along the shoreline during the past week. Stream flows dropped a lot quicker in the smaller coastal drainages than in the Connecticut River and the water warmed faster. Alewife runs were noted in the Shetucket, Poquetanuck Brook, Trading Cove Brook, Latimers Brook, Pattagansett, Brides Brook, Fishing Brook, Chalker Millpond Stream, Hammonasset, Pequonnock River, Sasco Creek, and Mianus River. We have an interesting situation at Mianus—a fish counter has been in place in 2005 (4,889) and 2006 (6,515). This year, the count is over 80,000! It is clear that we are seeing a phenomenal run at the fishway, which is clogged with fish daily. However, with the high water and trash potentially affecting the electronic fish counter, we are trying to determine if the run is truly that high. We’ll be working with the Town of Greenwich and its volunteer to verify these counts. We are also pleased to note the first successful passage of alewives up the new Ingham Hill Pond Fishway on Fishing Brook in Old Saybrook, completed last fall. Another exciting first is the first passage of alewives at the brand-new Tunnel Dam Fishlift on the Quinebaug River. This lift was finished mere days ago and is still undergoing testing and fine-tuning by FirstLight, the hydro operator. On the first day of official lifting, two alewives and some suckers were passed. I have more photos of the fishlift still in the camera that I will feature next week but will show the historic alewives (first in the Quinebaug River since around 1850?) below. (Fish are not routinely ‘dry-docked’ like this. It was done for photo-documentation
The shad season in Connecticut started with the passage of 14 shad at Greeneville, along with more alewives, one broodstock salmon and a large northern pike. Taftville and Occum have yet to see anadromous fish but are passing suckers and trout and some broodstock salmon. The Branford Fish Counter has documented over 800 alewives passing (awards program scheduled for that fishway on Monday) and the upstream fish counter has documented about 200 of them reaching Linsley Pond. UMass grad student Abby Franklin has tagged over 300 alewives at Capello Pond on the East River in Guilford as part of the study with Dr. Alex Haro to evaluate the Lower Guilford Lake (semi-natural) Fishway. On the negative side- the Kinneytown Fishway on the Naugatuck River has yet to open due to high water. We expect that to happen later this week. The guidance boom and a new fish counter will be installed on the Wood Dam on the Saugatuck River on Thursday. (Fish may be passing there but with the fish counter out of commission, we can’t count them.) And passage has been interrupted at the Clarks Pond Fishway on Indian River in Milford where the floods washed out two lower baffles. Ray and Nick Baldwin have been netting alewives below the fishway and hand-passing them over the dam to keep the run going. Great work on their part. Nick, a student, is also monitoring Calf Pen Meadow Creek for us to determine if it supports an alewife run.
Most Connecticut River tributaries in CT are back down around normal seasonal levels. The Farmington, Salmon and Eightmile all exhibited normal, gradual declines in flow during the past week. However, the Farmington—which started Monday at about 3,000 cfs at Rainbow—is back on the rise. The US Army Corps of Engineers had been holding back flows from the Colebrook Dam for CT’s Opening Day of fishing season on Saturday and to let the Connecticut River flood subside a bit. Later, on Monday, they cranked open Colebrook to dump another 3,000 cfs, which will send it back into a modest flood again but nothing like experienced last week. The mainstem Connecticut River is experiencing a broad crested flood, dropping only a little since last week. Today it was still running near 80,000. That may be due to a combination of floodplains draining, the Corps dumping from upstream projects, and snowmelt up north. All of the meadows in Connecticut remain flooded, providing good habitat for spawning alewife and northern pike.
The alewife run in the Connecticut River is now in earnest. In four days the water temperature at Leesville on the Salmon River went from 7 C to 14 C (39 F – 57 F). Alewives had been reported in low numbers at the Mary Steube Fishway (Mill Brook/Lieutenant River, Old Lyme) weeks earlier but on Friday our staff observed them in Pattaconk and Great Brooks in Chester, on Saturday they showed up at Moulson Pond Fishway on the Eightmile River, according to Linda Bireley of the Lyme Land Conservation Trust, and on Sunday I observed a strong wave to the base of the Johnsonville Dam (Moodus River) and the Leesville Dam (Salmon River) in East Haddam. We have yet to see them in the Middletown or Hartford area but due to flooding, those streams are harder to observe. If there not there yet, we expect them there at any time. The white suckers are finally moving up in large numbers, as well. Leesville passed nearly 300 over the weekend and the ospreys were cruising the area.
Despite the high water, Holyoke is operating—at least to a degree. There is no news about lifting fish but on Monday the downstream bypass captured a down-running spawned-out Atlantic salmon. I heard from Mickey Novak at the Cronin National Salmon Station before he had seen it but it appears that this may have been a salmon that passed upstream last spring, spawned in the fall, and is now heading to sea. If so, this fish will not be including for this year’s count.
No real information on the shad run yet. One has to believe that they’re chompin’ at the bit at the mouth of the river and as the water warms and the flows subside a bit they will be making their move. But for now, the fish markets are crying the blues!
I was not able to get updated numbers on the glass eel catch at the mouth of the river due to my attendance at the Northeastern Fish and Wildlife Conference hosted by Connecticut this year at the Mystic Marriot. Today was the general diadromous fisheries session and we had papers on smelt runs in MA, shad runs in VA, scale analysis of shad, sea-run brown trout in New England, silver eel passage at hydrodams. Tomorrow is the Special River Herring Session when we’ll have presentations by researchers in the morning and updates from state biologists on the status of their stocks in the afternoon.
The storm damage to fishways along the shoreline was mercifully light, with more impact in the west than the east. Following up from last week’s report: Clarks Pond Fishway in Milford lost TWO baffles not one and although monitor Ray Baldwin has attempted to fabricate a temporary fix, it is unclear how passable this pool-and-weir fishway will be this spring before we can do a more permanent repair. It appears now that only the lower half of Mill River Eel pass in Hamden was swept away and we may be able to locate that by snorkeling at some point in the future. The Lees Pond Dam Fishway on the Saugatuck River in Westport had some big trees land on it and lost one of its aluminum grate panels but appears to be operational. See the photo below for an update on the Wood Dam Fishway just downstream of the Lees Pond Fishway. Conte Lab’s alewife trap on the East River in Guilford seems to have ridden out the storm in good shape—inexplicably. Dr. David Post seems to have resuscitated the Linsley Lake electronic fish counter (perhaps not as ‘good as new’ but serviceable) and we’re still working with The Nature Conservancy on the Wood Dam fish counter. In the meantime, we hope to shift a counter earmarked for the Dorr’s Millpond Fishway to the Wood Dam fishway. The Mianus Pond Fishway fish counter was high and dry but the counting array was clogged with trash.
The Greeneville and Occum fishways on the Shetucket River remained closed most of last week and just re-opened on Monday. It will be several days before we can view those video tapes but based on what was happening throughout the state, I assume that it began lifting alewives right away. Can American shad be too far behind? We expect the Taftville fishway and perhaps even the Tunnel fishlift to begin operation for the season later this week. The high water has delayed the final finishing touches of construction at Tunnel. The Kinneytown Fishway on the Naugatuck River in Seymour has still not opened, dealing with high water, trash, and the loss of flashboards. We expect action on that fishway later this week.
Note in the table above that a big slug of alewives finally came in at Brides Brook in East Lyme. Over 23,000 were counted on the electronic fish counter over the weekend. We have no fish counting facilities at our Bunnell Pond Fishway on the Pequonnock River in Bridgeport but it appears a few alewives came in over the weekend. Thousands of alewives came into the mouth of Poquetanuck Brook in Preston, moderate numbers at Gorton and Branford fishways, a good catch in the trap at Latimers on Monday, and a few at Sasco Brook in Fairfield/Westport. The warm weather has got the fish thinking it’s spring!
The storm recounted on the Connecticut River page hit western Connecticut the hardest. All streams went into flood and no significant fish counts have been reported in the past week. All Shetucket River fishways are shutdown due to high water. The Kinneytown Fishway cannot be opened due to extreme high water. The Clarks Pond Fishway lost a baffle due to highwater and we’re not sure if it will be operational when the waters subside. The Mill River Eel pass in Hamden was swept away in highwater and will definitely NOT be functional for sometime. We may go snorkeling looking for it when flows decrease. The fish counters at Linsley Lake, Branford (Yale University) and Wood Dam, Westport (The Nature Conservancy, see below) were inundated by high water and no longer functional. One of the fish guidance booms at Wood Dam also became detached but is now tied off. Fish counters at Brides, Branford Water Supply Ponds, and Mianus Pond survived the deluge. No word from Alex Haro and the Conte Lab on how the trap on the East River fared in the flood.
Note that Greeneville has passed more alewives in the last week and we are caught up with tapes for the moment. Also passed at Greeneville was a whopping total of 1 white sucker and 1 Atlantic salmon broodstock. The Tunnel Dam Fishlift has not yet been completed but word from owner FirstLight is that it may be operational by early next week. Ray Baldwin reports fresh fish scales at Clarks Pond, so some alewives probably got up prior to the flood damage, and our crew report signs of fish at Gorton Pond and Poquetanuck Brook (Brookside).
This week’s featured fishway is the Wood Dam Fishway on the Saugatuck River in Westport (see photo below). This fishway was built in the early 1990s by the Aquarion Water Company, which owns the dam. Alewife, blueback herring, and sea-run trout are targeted and there are three additional fish passage facilities at upstream dams. The Nature Conservancy and the Saugatuck River Watershed Partnership worked with Aquarion to implement improvements to this fishway. First, using a grant from Save the Sound, it fabricated aluminum extensions to the steeppass so it remains above water during high tidal stages. Second, using that same Save the Sound grant, it designed (with technical assistance from our program) floating fish guidance booms to help migrating fish find the entrance to the fishway. The booms float up and down with the tide. And finally, with a grant from Aquarion, they purchased and installed an electronic fish counter that we helped installed at the fishway exit so we can get exact counts of fish using the fishway. To date, it has counted 40 fish before the floods submerged the electronic unit. We hope to get it back into action soon. This fishway is on water company land and not opened to the public, although anglers wading up from tidewater may see it from a distance.
Brrrrrrr. Water temperatures are way below average. There have been times this past week that we measured the Salmon River at 2 – 3 C (33 – 38 F). That is comparable to January and February! In fact, this morning a Hartford television station reported that the first 14 days of January were warmer than the first 14 days of April! Spring is slow in coming, indeed. Streamflows have dropped since last week, with the Connecticut River running at around 25,000 cfs (much of the precipitation this past week in northern New England was snow not rain???), the Farmington River is around 1,700 cfs and the Salmon River back to 300 cfs after a big spike. I snorkeled the Salmon River below Leesville last week after opening the fishway and saw only 22 white suckers, 4 tessellated darter, and one trout. No sign of alewives up that far north.
All Connecticut River fishways in Connecticut are now open except for the Rainbow Dam Fishway, which will be opened next Monday. With the cold weather, you can see that not many fish are moving. Moulson Pond reported seeing some yellow perch in addition to that one sea-run brown trout. The fish counter at Mary Steube has only logged 34 hits for alewives.
The glass eel run remains strong and with unseasonably low flows and light trash, it has been easier for us to operate our net. The current count is near 1,700.
Not much else to report! Repeating from last week:
The River Herring Closure remains in place. The Commissioner signed the authorization that extended the closure from April 1, 2007 to March 31, 2008. Data from last year’s season showed no recovery for alewife or blueback herring in 2006. The states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island have also closed their waters to the taking of river herring.
Salmon fry stocking begins this week with the Eightmile River. Stocking on the Farmington River begins on April 16. After that, we’ll be on the Farmington and Salmon rivers daily for the next four weeks.
Seasonal Employees needed for the Diadromous Program in Connecticut. We have one opening for a six-month position beginning on May 15. If you know of someone who might be interested, have them contact me at 860-447-4316.