UMass Amherst Needs Volunteers for Annual Spring Salmon Stocking in April and May

AMHERST, Mass. - The Massachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit is putting out the call for an unusual bucket brigade to help carry more than 2 million tiny salmon fry to rivers and streams that empty into the Connecticut River.

The annual stocking program runs from April 9 to May 11 this year. Volunteers are needed to carry buckets of the inch-long fish and to pour them into suitable habitat in selected stretches of local waterways, said Donald H. Pugh Jr., of the research unit. The fish are to be put into the Westfield, Deerfield, Millers, Fall, Mill and Sawmill rivers.

The hatchery-raised salmon fry that are stocked will live in the stream for between one and three (usually two) years learning to be "wild" salmon. By the time they grow to be smolts (six to eight inches in length), the salmon begin migrating downstream to the ocean. After one to three (usually two) years at sea where they grow and mature, the salmon return to spawn in the rivers or streams where they were born.

The once bountiful salmon were a victim of development, dams, and pollution along the Connecticut and have been gone from the rivers and its tributaries for more than a century. Salmon are anadromous fish - born in freshwater, then migrating to the sea where they grow larger and stronger, only to return to their freshwater birthplace to spawn - and therefore require freedom of access throughout the watershed. In recent decades, fish ladders and lifts have been built to allow the anadromous species to get past dams and back into their place of origin.

The stocking program is a key element of the overall work to restore the Atlantic salmon to the region. For information on volunteering, call Mike Briggs at 413/545-0128 or e-mail at the University.

The Massachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research unit is a collaboration between the University of Massachusetts department of forestry and wildlife management, the U.S. Geological Survey-Biological Resources Division, the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, the state Division of Marine Fisheries, and the Wildlife Management Institute. The unit is charged with conducting fisheries and wildlife research and offering graduate education in fisheries and wildlife.

Martha E. Mather of the UMass department of forestry and wildlife management supervises the fisheries program at the cooperative research unit and can be contacted at 413/545-4895 for additional information about salmon stocking and other fisheries research underway there. The cooperative research unit works with other state and federal agencies involved in the effort to restore the Atlantic salmon to the Connecticut River watershed.