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May 19. 2014 8:09PM

End of era

End of large broodstock salmon stocking angers NH anglers


Fish and Game fisheries biologist Andrew Schafermeyer and his son display one of the big brood stock salmon released in 2011. (COURTESY)

NEW HAMPTON — Bob Hoye waded hip deep into the raging Pemigewasset River just below downtown Bristol Monday morning, waving his long fishing pole in the air as he cast a thick line and lure downstream.

Hoye, of Dover, Mass., was at the river’s edge in early May, just after this week’s final Fish and Game stocking of 15-pound broodstock salmon, a fish the size of a small ocean fish.

But Hoye wasn’t enjoying the fishing this time. He got word last week that this week’s stocking of about 700 fish in the Pemigewassett and Merrimack rivers will be the last of its kind. Ever.

Like lots of other river anglers, he’s not happy.

“I come all the way here, every year, just for the broodstock, this is very sad for me,” Hoye said.

“It’s been incredible, these are Atlantic salmon in a river, they are a blast to catch, and then you let them go. The jump, they run, they pull the heck out of you. It’s just so much fun to fish for them.”

The broodstock salmon are not native to either river. About 1,700 have been dropped in the river each year since 1993, having been spawned in Fish and Game hatcheries.

They were stocked as part of the Merrimack River Atlantic Salmon Restoration Project, which ended in September of 2013 because of poor survival of the stocked salmon and shifting priorities within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to Fish and Game Department Fisheries Biologist Matt Carpenter.

One of the reasons for the poor survival rate was the tendency for the salmon to swim downstream rather than staying in the rivers, Carpenter said.

“A lot of people aren’t happy, but it’s just the way it is, this will be the final season of the Atlantic salmon broodstock fishery,” Carpenter said. “By next year, they’ll all be gone.”

The idea of filling the rivers with trophy, ocean-sized fish was to “provide a fishing experience that would normally require traveling to Canada,” Carpenter said.

“It’s a better fishing experience than you can find anywhere inland, by far, they are great to catch,” Hoye said. “I don’t know, I suppose I might come up here for the trout fishing, but it just doesn’t compare.”

dseufert@newstote.com


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