Thomas Morrison and his son, of Winterport, Maine, were ice fishing Jan. 28 on a secret lake in eastern Maine not far from the coast. Just 20 minutes into their trip, the pair hooked and landed a prized Atlantic salmon, according to a report in the Bangor Daily News.
The heavily spotted fish was photographed and then released alive and well. That’s good because the 5-pound, 28-inch-long salmon has been listed as an endangered species since 2000. Harvesting Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) is illegal in Maine, while landlocked salmon in rivers and streams have different regulations.
“It was hot that day and the fish was released alive and well,” Morrison said.
The Bangor newspaper reported that Morrison was unaware of the significance of his catch until he posted a photo of the fish on a state fisheries Facebook page. Someone who saw the photo of the fish noticed that the salmon had a piece of the fish’s adipose fin cut off. This is a Maine Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) fin-clipping practice used to count fish in their Atlantic salmon fishery program. These “clipped” fish are documented as mature fish from the sea.
Atlantic salmon in Maine are anadromous fish that spend most of their adult lives at sea, but must return to freshwater to spawn. Maine marine salmon experts say some mature Atlantic salmon survive in the state’s lakes and rivers during the harsh winter months, but it’s rare for anglers to catch one while ice fishing.
Atlantic salmon are among the most beloved sport fish in the world. Morrison never saw his salmon jump because of the ice covering the lake, but the species is known for its struggle on the surface. In fact, the Romans called the fish “salio” (The Jumper). Morrison’s catch is an important sign that Atlantic salmon are still hanging around in Maine, a state with the only native population of Atlantic salmon in the US. For anyone in Maine to catch an Atlantic salmon is a major event, but one from under the ice makes this catch remarkable. According to MDMR, this catch “only happens once every two years.”
The MDMR believes more than 1,300 Atlantic salmon passed through Penobscot River dams in 2022. This is the second-highest yield in more than a decade in the Penobscot, traditionally considered the center of the salmon sport fishery Atlantic of the state (when they were). abundant).
“Based on the photo and the size given, it appears to be an Atlantic salmon that has spent several winters at sea compared to a grilse, which would have only spent one winter at sea and would be smaller,” an MDMR spokesperson said . on Morrison’s fish. “Although the body of water is not identified, we do know that Atlantic salmon overwinter in some lakes in Maine.”