Regional fishery folks are testing new ways of getting salmon ready for the Saranac River, a river salmon once thrived in but were blocked from 200 years ago by dams.
I explored the relationship among the river, the dams and the salmon in a series of stories last year. This spring, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation plans to stock salmon in the river, which it has done for years, but this time keep some in a pen for several weeks. In the pen, the fish, who were born in a hatchery, will be fed and cared for by Trout Unlimited. The idea is these fish will have a better chance to survive and learn the river before they leave it for Lake Champlain. That learning, called imprinting, might make it more likely for the salmon to return to the river to spawn in years to come.
DEC head Basil Seggos said he hopes to increase the salmon’s survival for “greater returns of adults to tributaries for improved angling opportunities and spawning.”
Right now, some of the river’s ideal spawning habitat is blocked the Imperial Dam in Plattsburgh, which DEC partly owns. The state tried for a while to tear the dam down but now has a plan to upgrade the dam, which is long-unused and considered structurally unsound. Part of the upgrade would be to install a ladder for salmon to use to get upriver, past the dam.
Officials will also be testing the desire of salmon held in the pens to return to the river, dam or no dam. The fish will be tagged so salmon reared in the pen can be compared to other salmon that are simply released into the river.
In the past decade, DEC has stocked more than 1 million salmon of various sizes and ages in and around the Saranac, mostly near its end in Plattsburgh.
Photo by Mike Lynch/Adirondack Explorer
Editor’s note: This first appeared in Ry’s “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.