Friday, February 4, 2011

A Monster Maine Atlantic Salmon

This is a photograph from fisheries scientist Ed Baum's 1997 book, Maine Atlantic Salmon: A National Treasure, which is the scientific and cultural magnum opus on the subject. It's a snapshot of a very happy young man, Cameron Clark, with a 27 pound Atlantic salmon he caught on a flyrod on Maine's Machias River on June 19, 1982.

This photo, perhaps more than any I've seen, gives you a sense of how truly monstrous Maine Atlantic salmon are. This salmon is the size of a typical repeat spawner or three sea winter spawner in the Kennebec prior to the decimation of the run in the early 1800s. Our Wiscasset Register informant from 1825, who ran 300 foot drift nets for salmon at Popham Beach at the mouth the Kennebec around 1800, stated that the 'first shoal' of salmon they caught in early May averaged 18-22 pounds, which means that to obtain such an average size there were quite a few salmon of this size and larger in the schools.

It is of demographic note that this Maine commercial Atlantic salmon fisherman from the early 1800s referred to salmon in the 8-12 pound range as 'small' salmon. Adult Maine salmon in the 8-12 pound range are now considered 'big,' only because salmon of the size caught by Cameron Clark in 1982 no longer exist in Maine.

So this Atlantic salmon caught by Cameron Clark in 1982 is fairly representative of the size of the salmon that used to come up the Kennebec River by the tens of thousands each spring and summer, and now, sadly, are almost completely gone.

Thanks to Ed Baum of Hermon, Maine for preserving and publishing this iconic photograph.

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