The current fishery of the Presumpscot River includes managed stocks of trout and salmon; resident species of bass, perch, and bullhead; and migratory species of eels and alewives.
A rich historical record exists which describes the strength and importance of fisheries on the Presumpscot River. The health of the fishery started declining over 250 years ago, when dams began to spring up on the river. The construction of a head-of-tide dam near the mouth of the river virtually decimated the fishery for the entire river.
Today, there is a great opportunity for improvement to the fishery of the Presumpscot River. The head-of-tide dam at Presumpscot Falls was removed in 2002, restoring 7 miles of the lower river to its original, free-flowing condition. In addition, recent changes in industrial usage of the river have dramatically improved the water quality.
Still, the major barriers to improving fish populations on the Presumspcot River are the remaining dams. Currently, 15 out of 27 river miles remain impounded by dams. The impacts of these impoundments include:
Altered ecosystem: The river behind narrow impoundments flows too quickly to support lake or pond ecosystems, but too slowly to support river ecosystems. This results in relatively low numbers of fish in the river, with a preference for those species adapted to impounded environments (e.g. smallmouth bass, pumpkinseed, yellow perch).
Blocking fish migration: Dams prevent both resident and sea-run fish from reaching upstream tributaries. These tributaries are important for spawning and for staying cool in summer.
The most important way to improve the Presumpscot River fishery is to eliminate the barriers to fish migration. This can be achieved either through construction of fish passage facilities or through dam removal. The various advantages to each of these options are discussed at length in the Fisheries report, below.
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