“I’m Not Dead Yet — The last hurrah for wild Connecticut River strain Atlantic Salmon” from American Angler

A long title, but a good quick read on the last few returning Connecticut River strain Atlantic salmon. “I’m Not Dead Yet” (Holy Grail fans will appreciate the reference) is a tale of ambitious environmental intentions and epic fail. Or, if you want to get biblical, what is a man profited if he should gain an industrial revolution and lose a majestic species? “Im Not Dead Yet” first appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of American Angler.

I’m_Not_Dead_Yet_Atlantic_Salmon

“Bring out your dead!” These little guys have long since been eaten.

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Survivor: Farmington (Browns Built To Last)

“Survivor: Farmington,” an essay about the CT DEEP’s Farmington River Survivor Strain Program, first appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of The Drake. The photo and caption did not appear in the article, and this is my original text. 

by Steve Culton

They took her from the river in September, 2012. She was chosen for her wild traits and rounded belly that indicated a healthy female ready to spawn. Once her eggs were harvested, she was returned to her home waters. But not before a red elastomer was inserted near her left eye. That color and placement would forever identify her as a broodstock female, one of many mothers of the Farmington River Survivor Strain Class of 2013.

The next April, I fished the West Branch of the Farmington. The Hendrickson hatch was winding down, and the trout were transitioning from taking emergers in the film to picking off duns that haphazardly lingered on the surface. Her take was powerful enough to rip the line from my fingertips and cause my drag to buzz in protest. I rarely put trout on the reel; this was going to be my first of 2013. What’s more, this fish was not going to come easy. I ended up walking a fair distance downstream to land her. It wasn’t until I was reviewing the day’s photos that I noticed the elastomer. I had sensed there was something readily distinguishable about the way she hit, bulldogged, and refused to come quietly. Now, it all fell into place. Survivor Strain.

Here she is in all her glory: the actual fish I was writing about.

Big Survivor Strain brown hen

The Farmington River Survivor Strain program was initiated in 1993 by what is now known as the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP). Neal Hagstrom, DEEP Senior Fisheries Biologist, describes the program as, “an attempt to use the river to select the best possible animals for that environment. We take certain trout to the hatchery, spawn them, then put their progeny back in the river, assuming that those fish will be best adapted for the conditions they’ll face.”

Survivor Strain’s inaugural class were descendants of stocked Cortland, Rome, Bitterroot, and Seeforellen browns. “The hope was that we would get improvements in production and survival,” says Hagstrom, “and we saw that in the first year. We went from about a 20% holdover rate to about 50%. We now find fish in the West Branch that are upwards of eight years old.”

Broodstock for the program are collected through electroshocking. Each September, the Metropolitan District Commission draws down the flow from Hogback Dam so that DEEP crews can complete their harvest. Their goal: one hundred brown trout worthy of producing the next generation of Survivor Strain. Like an NFL scout on draft day, Hagstrom explains the DEEP’s talent evaluation process. “We try to get fish that have spent at least a year in the river. We want genetic diversity. We want browns from multiple age classes, and multiple sources like Survivor Strain, and most importantly, wild fish. We want a lot of different parents to get as many possible combinations of genetic material.”

The DEEP harvested approximately 80,000 eggs in 2013. That biomass will generate 70,000 fry. In keeping with the tenet of genetic strength and diversity, the hatchery will set up dozens of parental combinations for the young ‘uns: wild mother/ wild father; wild mother/Survivor father; small wild father/large Survivor mother; and so on. This elasticity creates a population that is well equipped for the natural challenges of the river – not to mention heavy fishing pressure. Young-of-year Survivor Strain are wary of humans, even in their hatchery pens. Where standard-issue stockers are indifferent to people, Survivor Strain fish will dart away. “When we first saw it, it was like, wow, this is really cool!” says Hagstrom. “We had two tanks together, and their behavior was like night and day.”

To facilitate their annual trout census – and inadvertently, enable you to track your catch – the DEEP color codes Survivor Strain trout with elastomers. Left eye placement means the fish is an adult; right eye, a yearling. Colors change every year; 2011 yearlings received red or yellow, while 2012 yearlings received green. Thankfully, for those of us who are color blind, Survivors also have their adipose fin clipped off.

Not surprisingly, anglers are the program’s biggest fans. What’s not to like about cantankerous trout with breathtaking colors that grow to trophy size? As a bonus, the West Branch has seen an explosion in the wild brown population since the introduction of the program. A new record was set in 2013 of just over fifty percent of trout that were naturally spawned in the river. That bodes well for those of us who live for chasing gator browns. Mike Humphries, DEEP Inland Fisheries Biologist, says it’s a myth that the river’s lunkers are pen raised. “The highest percentage of big trout on the Farmington aren’t hatchery fish. They’re wild.”

And to think it all started with one tough mother of a stocked brown.

Public Hearing on Striped Bass Management, August 26, 2014, Old Lyme, CT

This information comes from Charlie Kreitler, a fellow striper and fly aficionado:

Please take a moment to read up on the proposed management plans for striped bass in 2015 and beyond. There is only one public hearing on this in Connecticut, which will be August 26 in Old Lyme.

http://www.asmfc.org/calendar/08/201…ddendum-IV/563

The Draft Addendum can be read here:
http://www.asmfc.org/files/PublicInp…licComment.pdf

Options that are being considered are:
* What level of harvest reduction should be made?
* Should the reduction in harvest take place over 1, 2, or 3 years?
* Should bag limits and minimum size change, and should a slot be imposed?
Specific options under consideration are in the proposal. I suspect that supporting one of them is much more effective than proposing your own solution, but that’s just me.

Public comment is being accepted in writing or in person at the hearings. 

To me, the most important thing here is that fishery managers are FINALLY acknowledging that the species is not healthy and that action should be taken. Let’s encourage them to be responsible and protect the health of the species.

~

Thanks to Charlie for the alert. Grass-roots activism, baby. Grass-roots activism. If you can’t attend, make your voice heard and send Mike Waine your thoughts at mwaine@asmfc.org.

How can you refuse a beautiful face like that?

FridayBIBass