Barrett Fishway opens for 2012 season
By G. Michael Dobbs email@example.com
HOLYOKE – The Connecticut River rushed over the dam on May 10 with such fury that the staff of the Robert E. Barrett Fishway operated by Holyoke Gas and Electric could not see the fish in the sediment-filled water. That didn’t stop people from
coming to the seasonal tourism attraction, though, nor did it dampen the excitement of the Fishway staff to learn that in a demonstration of the fishlift an Atlantic salmon was found swimming in the water. It was the ninth salmon that
year. Liz Austin, the coordinator of
the Fishway guide program, explained the staff would capture the f ish, place it in a separate holding tank and contact the Richard Cronin National Salmon Station in Sunderland, whose staff would come down to bring it back to their facility. Austin said that 90 percent of
the salmon that come through the Fishway in an attempt to make their way up the Connecticut River to breed in its tributaries are brought to the Sunderland hatchery where they breed and their fry are distributed back in the tributaries. The effort is to rebuild the
Atlantic salmon population and Austin said there are still so few salmon that if left on their own, the males and females would probably not meet each other for breeding. There is also the risk, she said,
of a predator such as an eagle, capturing an adult salmon or an angler catching one. Without
the f ishlift,
anadromous fish such as the salmon would not be able to reach their breeding waters. The two fishlifts literally carry the migrating fish captured in two holding tanks to an area above the dam. The channel into which the fish go allows for the staff to count the various species and separate the rare Atlantic salmon. On a day when too much
sediment is in the water, the staff does not operate the lift because they cannot see the fish to count them. Among the species that go up the river are eels, sea lampreys, blueback herring, gizzard shad, striped bass and sturgeon. The most common fish is the
American shad, undoubtedly the species most closely associated with the fishlift. The annual Shad Derby was scheduled to take place on May 12 and 13 with anglers seeking to hook the largest shad they can. Mother’s Day is also busy day
at the Fishway as Austin said many families make it a family tradition to visit it. As of May 9, 4,046 American
shad have been lifted over the Holyoke Dam and more than 10,000 have been lifted so far in the season. The total number of fish so far is 102,413. Austin said the fishlift season
started early this year because of the mild winter. She explained that when the water temperature reached 55 degrees, the fish in Long Island Sound begin their migrations. Austin said time would tell if
the season will be longer than normal or if it will just be earlier. “We’ll tell you when it’s over,”
she said with a laugh. See FISHWAY on page 13
Through these windows, visitors to the Robert E. Barrett Fishway in Holyoke can view the fish, which have been lifted over the Connecticut River.
The Connecticut River, swollen with recent rainwater, raged over
the Holyoke Dam where the Robert E. Barrett Fishway is located.
Reminder Publications photos by G. Michael Dobbs
This metal tank has temporarily captured migrating fish attempting to cross over the Holyoke Dam and brought them to a water-filled channel where they can be counted and returned to the river.
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