The Hammond River Angling Association Begins Kelt Reconditioning Program

The Hammond River Angling Association looks to improve Atlantic salmon numbers with its kelt reconditioning program

The Hammond River Angling Association has started our first kelt reconditioning program in coordination with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. A "kelt" is one of many nicknames for an Atlantic salmon which has over-wintered in the river of their spawning grounds, and are now off to sea to resume their feeding. Since they do not eat while in freshwater, these fish get very skinny and in some cases almost look like an eel. The reconditioning program, which has been tried with success in various locations, consists of capturing these kelts as they are on their way back to sea after having spawned in the fall and over-wintered in the river. We then transport them to a facility where they will be cared for and fed, then brought back and released in the river to spawn in the fall.

The logic behind this is that we will have 100% returned for spawning, as opposed to a very small percentage of them. For various reasons, most Atlantic salmon do not survive their stay in the ocean, (many are caught by commercial fishing, have been eaten by bigger critters than themselves, etc.) and we therefore get very few returns in the fall to spawn. By reconditioning them however, assuming we get no mortalities in the process, we will get all of them back to spawn, thus prompting an increase in numbers over time.

Over the last two decades or so, Atlantic salmon numbers have been on a steady decline worldwide, including the Hammond River. The Hammond River Angling Association, which is dedicated to the well-being of our watershed and wildlife in all its forms, is committed to bringing back Atlantic salmon numbers to sustainable levels. The kelt reconditioning program is our latest attempt of many projects to help make this a reality. So if you see anglers on the river this week when you know they shouldn’t be there yet (fishing on that stretch does not open until May 1st), don’t worry. It’s just our volunteers along with UNB biologists, staff members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources attempting a valiant effort to help restore our Atlantic salmon numbers.

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