Connecticut River Coordinator's Office
Northeast Region
Black Branch of the Nulhegan River, NH  - Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Black Branch of the Nulhegan River, NH. Credit: USFWS

The Connecticut River, at a length of just over 400 miles, is the longest river in New England. It begins at the Fourth Connecticut Lake in Pittsburg, New Hampshire and flows through New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. The environment throughout the watershed varies from urban areas in the lower valley to rural and forested areas in the headwaters. Thousands of dams in the watershed create highly regulated flow in the main stem. Summer water temperatures averages 70-80° F though the tributaries tend to maintain cooler temperatures. Most of the degraded reaches are along the main stem in Connecticut and Massachusetts. This is expected given that 84% of the watershed’s 2.3 million people live in this region.

Watershed: Area draining into a river system

Mainstem Connecticut River in rural Sunderland, MA    - Photo credit:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mainstem Connecticut River in rural Sunderland, MA. Credit: USFWS

What Fish Need

There are about 142 fish species found within the Connecticut River watershed. Of these, 14 species of migratory fish inhabit the area including, Atlantic salmon, American shad, alewife, blueback herring, American eel, and shortnose sturgeon. Other introduced and native species found include carp, suckers, pickerel, bass, eels, catfish, and walleye. In general, fish need rivers clear of obstructions like dams and culverts. They also need strips of trees and vegetation along the stream bank, called riparian buffers, to provide shade and to cleanse the streams of debris and contaminants. Wetlands are also of key importance to fish. Fish go there to spawn, hide, and feed. Each species has specific habitat requirements. For example, Atlantic salmon prefer water temperatures from 41-66° F. Juveniles live in fast-moving fresh water. They inhabit areas with rocks sized from golf balls to grapefruits, allowing them to hide from predators. They prefer deep shaded riffles, whereas adults prefer deep covered pools. For more information about the habitat preferences of migratory fish, refer to the link on Migratory Fish.


Restoring aquatic habitat has enormous ecological benefits. Bringing fish back to our rivers will also mean more opportunity for anglers. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, recreational fishing contributed $37.8 billion to the American economy in 1996. In addition, the American Sport Fishing Association concluded that the overall economic impact was $108.4 billion, with 1.2 million jobs and $28.3 billion in personal income.


Last updated: February 23, 2016
Connecticut River Coordinator's Office
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