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Techniques
Posted January, 1999

Atlantic Salmon in Connecticut
by Ron Whiteley

Like to fish for Atlantic Salmon? Well now you don't have to go far to do it. Right across the Sound, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (CT DEP) is stocking broodstock Atlantic salmon into two rivers in the state. The Shetucket River in the eastern part and the Naugatuck River in the western part both receive stockings of excess Atlantic salmon brood stock fish.

History

Prior to 1992, instead of stocking the fish for anglers, the CT DEP killed the fish and gave them to a veterans home as food. Pressure from fishermen and successful brood stock programs in other states convinced the them to stock the fish for fishermen. The fish are hatchery-raised progeny of Connecticut River fish captured when they return to the river to spawn. Each year some of the eggs are held back and raised in the hatchery in case of a bad sea return year. These fish are spawned each October to provide eggs for the Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Restoration Program.
After they are reconditioned at the hatchery, they are stocked into the rivers. The first stocking usually consists of barren fish, that have not spawned and occurs in October. The second stocking occurs in mid to late November, and a third occurs in December. A total of about 800 fish are put in each river annually. The fish average between 3 and 14 pounds and provide excellent angling through the winter.
One of the goals of the Atlantic salmon brood stock fishery is to teach area anglers the most effective, and rewarding, traditional methods to catch them. When, and if, Connecticut ever gets a substantial return of sea return Atlantic Salmon that would allow opening a fishery, fishermen should then be familiar with the tackle and methods to be successful in catching them.

Where to Fish

The Shetucket River

The Area of the Shetucket River that is stocked is between the Scotland Dam in the Town of Scotland and the Occum Dam in the City of Norwich. The area can be reached from I-95 by taking the I-395 north exit. Take the route 97 exit, Exit 83 off of I-395, Go north on Route 97 for about 8 miles to the bridge where route 97 crosses the river. The fish are stocked both above and below this bridge. They are also stocked at a place called Sandy Beach. To get to Sandy Beach from the route 97 bridge, proceed north on route 207 for about 4 miles to Holton Road. Make a right turn on Holton Road, go about 1 mile to a dirt road on your right. There is a sign that says Mukluk Rod and Gun Club -- No Trespassing. Take the dirt road through the woods for 1.75 miles and you are there. Don't worry about the posted signs. The owner of the property is Henry Konow, a retired state conservation officer and he allows fishing on the property. From there you can go about a mile upstream or four miles downstream without seeing a house.
You can also take the ferry from Orient Point to New London and go north on Route 32 to I-395.

The Naugatuck River

The most popular sections of the Naugatuck River are the area between the Union City Dam in Naugatuck and the Rimmon Dam in Seymour, and the area between Route 118 and the Thomaston Flood Control Dam in Litchfield and Thomaston. The Naugatuck River runs parallel to Route 8 and is visible from the road much of the time. Where it is not visible, there are other roads that provide easy access the river.
You can reach the river from I-95 by taking the Route 8 north exit, Exit 29 and continuing north on Route 8 about 15 miles. You will see the river on your left when you reach Seymour. You can also take the ferry from Port Jefferson to Bridgeport and take Route 8 north.

Where the Fish Go

After they are stocked some of the fish migrate upstream to the base of upstream dams, some migrate downstream and collect at the base of downstream dams. Many of the fish remain in the area where they are stocked. A few of the fish migrate out to the salt water and stay in the estuaries. The base of the Derby Dam on the Housatonic River and the Greenville Dam on the Shetucket River are good bets later in March and April.
A reminder that these fish are not raised for food. They do not have the traditional bright orange flesh or flavor of a wild or farm raised salmon. For $3.99 a pound at the market, you can buy a farm-raised salmon that tastes far superior to the hatchery-raised brood stock fish.
From an economic standpoint, a salmon swimming in the river has a far greater value to the local economy than a dead one in a freezer.

Regulations

The current regulations for these areas are Fly Fishing Only for the Atlantic salmon, however, at press time the state was considering several options that would allow the taking of salmon by spinning and bait casting tackle. Check the latest regulations when you get your license.
Currently, an angler can catch and keep 1 salmon per day by fly fishing. Most fishermen practice catch and release on the rivers, so there are fish present all through the winter.

Licenses

A three-day non-resident fishing license is $8.00. A season fishing license is $25.00.
Fishing licenses are available at Town Clerks's offices in the Town Halls. They are closed on weekends, so you will have to try some local tackle shops.
Ted's Bait & Tackle in Bridgeport (203-366-7615) and The Fish Connection in Preston (860-885-1739) sell fishing licenses.

Tackle

You have to remember that these are hatchery-raised fish and, although they will hit traditional Atlantic salmon patterns, they will also hit streamers and even saltwater flies like a Lefty's Deceiver. The Mickey Finn and White Ghost are patterns that also produce fish. Many bright, flashy patterns are effective.
Later in the winter, darker colors seem to be more productive.
Fly rods from 6- to 8-weight are generally used, depending on the size of the flies you're casting.
Floating and intermediate lines are the most successful.

Technique

Some local fishermen have never fished for Atlantic salmon in the native rivers. Many learned to fish for Salmon in Lake Ontario waters, where using sinking lines is a successful technique. The most effective method for Atlantic salmon is the traditional method of casting downstream at a 45-degree angle and letting the fly swing across the current. These fish seem to prefer something swinging across the current and over them.

Caution

This is a very cold water fishery. Remember to wear warm clothes and insulated neoprene waders or you can have a less than enjoyable trip.

More information on stocking dates can be found on the web at: http://members.aol.com/rnwhiteley/.




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