Connecticut River Coordinator's Office
Northeast Region
Photo of two biologists sampling fish in the Connecticut River. - Photo credit:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
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 Federal agencies.


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.

Anadromous Fish

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 investigated.

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 needs.

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 fishery harvest.

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 Fisheries.

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


Last updated: February 23, 2016
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