Penobscot River to Open for Salmon Fishing

Penobscot River to Open for Salmon Fishing

For the first time in almost seven years, fly-anglers will have a chance to (legally) catch wild Atlantic salmon from Maine's Penobscot River this fall.

For the first time in almost seven years, fly-anglers will have a chance to (legally) catch wild Atlantic salmon from Maine's Penobscot River this fall. In June the Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission voted to open a stretch of the river between the Veazie Dam and the site of the defunct Bangor Dam for an experimental angling season from September 15 to October 15.

But before you book a flight to Bangor International Airport and take a week off to catch some salmon, you should be aware of a couple things: First, Bangor, Maine, isn't quite as scenic as the Gaspé Peninsula (although some folks do talk with a strange accent). Second, the Penobscot River averages only about 1,000 salmon returns in a year, compared to the Miramichi's 20,000-26,000 returns. And third, there is a strict bag limit: one caught-and-released salmon per angler per day. However, this is the only place in the United States where you can catch (OK, let's be realistic, here: "fish for") wild Atlantic salmon--and that's pretty special.

Along with working to restore the salmon returns, opening the river for salmon fishing has been one of the long-term goals of Maine's salmon restoration effort, says Patrick Keliher, executive director of the Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission. The commission had decided that if returns exceeded 1,000 fish, an experimental fishing season could be established, and this year all the factors lined up.

Although the most prevalent comment voiced during the public hearings was a desire for a spring fishery rather than a fall season, the decision was based on science. Each year the commission collects a number of returning salmon from the Penobscot and uses them as brood stock for salmon restoration efforts. According to Keliher, records show that the eggs colle-cted from the fall-run salmon have a lower viability than those collected from spring-run fish, so fishing for the fall fish should have little impact on restoration.

Keliher says he expects to sell at least 100 salmon licenses to "die-hard anglers" for the fall season. The salmon license costs $15 for Maine residents and $30 for folks from "away." Anglers will want to use a traditional salmon set up: a 9-foot, 9-weight rod with a floating line and whatever fly feels lucky. Keliher says the fall fishery will be a mix of bright salmon and darker fish that have not yet spawned.

There is plenty of public access along the Penobscot, and a traditional salmon rotation will be the rule at the pools. Licenses are available online through the Web site:

As Bangor is only a little more than an hour from FR&R headquarters, we have a couple "sick days" scheduled in for the third week of September. We'll let you know how we do.