|Photo of two biologists sampling fish in the Connecticut River. - Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The States of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont, as
well as the United States Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife and the
United States Bureau of Commercial Fisheries agree to, and support, a
fisheries program for the Connecticut River Basin. The following statement
shall constitute the official intent of the above-named states and
The objectives of this program are to realize the full potential of the
fishery resources of the River, including both anadromous and resident
species. The intent of this program is to provide the public with
high quality sport fishing opportunities in a highly-urbanized area, as well
as to provide for the long-term needs of the population for seafood.
American Shad - Alosa sapidissima. Historically, the Connecticut River
supported shad runs as far upstream as Bellows Falls which lies in the
River between Vermont and New Hampshire, approximately 35 miles north
of the Massachusetts border. The exact magnitude of the historic run is
unknown but it might have approached six million adult fish at the mouth
of the River. It probably would not be practical to restore the run to its historical numbers but an evaluation of present spawning and nursery areas as far north as Bellows Falls indicates that a run of up to two million fish could be realized. The two million figure is based on the
production of 2.3 adult shad produced per 100 square yard unit of spawning
habitat. The 2.3 figure assumes rather low production, as production
as high as 6.5 adult shad per unit has been realized.
A run of two million shad would require passage facilities for one
million fish at Holyoke; 850,000 at Turners Falls; and 750,000 at Vernon.
If the navigation dam under consideration by the Corps of Engineers is
constructed at Hartford, facilities would have to be provided for a run of
two million shad. In addition to sustaining the run, the passage
facilities should provide an annual harvest of 100,000 shad above
Hartford; 50,000 shad above Holyoke; 42,500 above Turners Falls; and
37,500 above Vernon.
Atlantic salmon – Salmo salar. The magnitude of the original salmon run
in the Connecticut River is unknown, although there are many historical
references that indicate that the run was sizeable and originally went
as far as Beecher Falls near the Canadian Border. Utilizing a unit area
technique similar to that used with shad and evaluating the River as far
as the Cummerford Dam, reveals a potential run of adult salmon at the
River's mouth of 38,000.
This figure is based on the production of three smolts per unit area,
with a survival to maturity of five percent. A realistic approach to
natural production of salmon indicates that man-made changes in the
tributaries prevent the actual attainment of a natural run of 38,000
fish. However, there is no reason why the 38,000 figure cannot be
realized or exceeded through a smolt stocking program.
The problem of salmon passage on the main stem does not require
lengthy discussion as facilities adequate for the anticipated large
shad runs will readily pass the number of salmon involved.
Other Anadromous Species. Various other species occur in the River
that will benefit from a program designed to develop shad and salmon
fisheries. The only species that probably would use passage facilities
to a large degree is the blueback herring, Alosa aestivalis. If a
commercial fishery can be developed for this herring, passage facilities
would have an additional benefit.
Resident Species. In addition to establishing and maintaining runs of
anadromous fishes, we also intend to maintain and enhance various
resident species found throughout the basin.
Benefits. It is always difficult, when dealing with a resource that is
not entirely commercial, to establish the value of said resource.
Nevertheless, an attempt has been made. However it should be realized
that the value of an angler-caught Atlantic salmon from the Connecticut
River, for example, probably is far beyond anything that we could establish with simple dollars and cents.
Some data is available on the value of resident species, but more
information is required and overall fishery values for the River will
be the subject of a later report.
Information indicates that the present average annual retail value of
the shad commercial fishery is approximately $150,000. If economics
and the market permit it, the annual value could be doubled with the
increased predicted runs.
The present shad sport fishery has an annual value of $150,000, based
on 50,000 angler days. Predicted catches, based on a run of 2 million
fish, indicate a sport's harvest of 100,000 fish in Connecticut; 50,000
from Holyoke to Turners Falls; 42,500 from Turners Falls to Vernon; and
37,500 above Vernon. Based on current fisherman day value of $3.00, and
one fish per man per day, the predicted annual additional value gained
from proper management would amount to $537,000.
A run of 38,000 salmon should produce a catch of 9,600 fish, based on a
25 percent harvest. Considering the extreme pressure that might be
generated by a salmon run in the Connecticut River, this figure may be
low. Using the current figure of $120.00 per angler-caught salmon,
the annual value would amount to $1,152,000.
The potential combined annual value for new shad and salmon sport
fisheries amounts to $1,689,000.
Problems And Needs. To attain the objectives that have been discussed,
many problems must be surmounted and much work must be done.
The water quality of the River must be maintained and improved. All
of the Connecticut River states are now active in classifying their
waters as to water quality, and it appears that the standards to be set
will be suitable for shad and salmon. The threat of thermal pollution
is a very real one, with one nuclear plant shortly going into operation
in Connecticut and another one proposed at Vernon, Vermont. The
Connecticut Yankee Atomic Power Company, as a condition of their
Construction permit, present1y is supporting a study to determine the
effects of their heated discharge water on shad. We need more information
regarding thermal pollution tolerance and effects on salmon. This
type of work will be outlined in the Research Plan to be drawn up by
the Technical Committee for Fisheries Management of the Connecticut
River Basin. Although subject to future research findings. it appears
that any increase in the water temperature at Vernon could seriously
hinder salmon and shad restoration in the upper basin.
The Corps of Engineers is considering the construction of a dam at
Hartford for navigational purposes. The dam will create fish passage
problems; and perhaps more important, will eliminate fishing sites
and excellent shad spawning areas. We must oppose the construction
of this dam because it would be inconsistent with the aims of the
fishery restoration program.
Based on the present fragmentary data available on the Northfield Pump
Storage Project, it appears that this project poses definite limitations
to an anadromous fish restoration program. These limitations
involve the physical loss of eggs, larvae, and young fish of both
anadromous and resident species, and an orientation problem for both
upstream and downstream migrants attributed to pumping large volumes
of water. Studies, designed to minimize the potential adverse effects
to fishery resources, should be undertaken in development of the design
for the Northfield Pump Storage Project. In related studies, fish
screens, barriers and deflectors, and flow regimen must be thoroughly
If the runs outlined are to become a reality, there are also major
problems to be solved for the passage of both upstream and downstream
migrants over existing dams. Larger runs may require modification of
the Enfield Dam; facilities must be developed at Holyoke, Turners Falls,
and Vernon for shad; and a fishway for salmon will be required at
Bellows Falls. There are many unsolved problems concerning fish passage
facilities, particularly with regard to shad. Members of the Technical
Committee have made a start on these problems; and a full-fledged
research project will be forthcoming in the near future. Considerable
work must be done on the various tributaries to evaluate fish passage
Lack of low flow augmentation is another problem, and the Technical
Committee proposes to develop these needs and to work with the Corps
of Engineers and private companies to solve this situation.
A thorough review must be made of the many proposals to build multi-
purpose dams in the basin, particularly with regard to their effects
on the fishery restoration program.
When the proposed fisheries becomes a reality, the four states involved
will cooperate to establish regulations that will maintain the fisheries
as well as assure that each state receives its just share of the
Presently, there is a need for fishermen access sites on the River and
the need will greatly increase as the program progresses. Connecticut
and Massachusetts already have made progress in providing access; and
all of the states will develop a large-scale program in the near future.
We endorse and support the Technical Committee for Fisheries Management
of the Connecticut River Basin, as the group designated to design and
implement needed research programs as well as to develop and recommend
sound fishery management procedures. The Committee shall consist of
representatives from the Connecticut Board of Fisheries and Game, the
Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Game, the Massachusetts Division
of Marine Fisheries, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, the
Vermont Fish and Game Department, the United States Bureau of Sport
Fisheries and Wildlife, and the United States Bureau of Commercial
Director, Connecticut Board of Fisheries and Game
Director, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Game
Director, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries
Director, New Hampshire Fish and Game Department
Commissioner, Vermont Fish and Game Department
Regional Director, U. S. Bur. of Sport Fisheries & Wildlife
April 20, 1967