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It was catch as catch can
Frank Sleeper
August 14, 1978
After their long swim home, the salmon got a shocking welcome at Bangor
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August 14, 1978

It Was Catch As Catch Can

After their long swim home, the salmon got a shocking welcome at Bangor

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On July 17 the Atlantic Sea Run Salmon Commission announced a hearing for July 26, at which the total closing of the Kenduskeag to salmon fishing for 90 days would be considered. Normally the season would end in mid-October, but the commission is empowered to close it earlier. It had already banned commercial fishing on the stream.

About 40 people turned up for the July 26 hearing, and only two of them questioned the ban. Among those in favor were representatives of two chapters of Trout Unlimited, and a speaker for one of them, Roger D'Errico, a postal worker, said bitterly. "They just turned into animals. It's too bad that the ban can't be more than 90 days." He displayed an illegal gang hook a friend had found on a bank at the height of the slaughter.

The commission quickly made up its mind: from 7 p.m. the next evening, the most heavily fished section of the Kenduskeag would be closed to Atlantic salmon fishing for 90 days.

It was the first time ever that such a ban had been imposed. The chairman of the commission, Maynard F. Marsh, indicated that because of the increasing number of salmon running Maine rivers, there would be a review of all state regulations concerning the species and that by the end of the year new regulations would be put into effect.

Meanwhile, in Bangor, it was clear that a certain amount of civic pride had been aroused by the arrival of the great silver fish. People noted that the Penobscot was a little messy where it ran through the city. The salmon had to nose their way over shopping carts, hubcaps, beer cans and other urban detritus. A cleanup carnival is to be organized.

This shows the right spirit, though it is unlikely that running salmon are deterred by hubcaps on the riverbed. Having fought their way past seals and killer whales on their long journey south, they can cope with a little debris. The two major factors that work against the species are pollution—particularly involving low oxygen content and especially in the rivermouth—and physical obstacles that prevent them from reaching their spawning grounds. Bloody encounters with rocks and baseball bats, so long as they are not totally uncontrolled, are considerably less fatal to the species' survival. As little as 5% of the run getting through to spawn can be adequate.

Nevertheless, the public's reaction to the massacre is heartwarming to those who seek to reestablish the most desirable fish of all in the Northeastern U.S. With public opinion firmly on their side, they have a good chance to endure.

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