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Well it doesn't sound possible that predators are the problem at Squam, but after this year, hard to believe it could be anything else, what other factors could it be.
Sometimes they feel high spring water could suck allot out the Squam River, but this year we had no high water all year, plus the fish are put in as far away from the river as you could get, maybe 11+ miles from the river..
We have lots of Loons, Cormorants, Bass, Pickerel, Otters and yes "maybe" a handful lakers still, all of which would find the bite size stockings of 2008 and 2009 very tasty. And of course “adult” Salmon and Bows would not be above eating a nice bite size Salmon.
So if this years stocking was 8 or 9 (maybe 10) to a pound when they went in and we had no high water to speak of. So where could the yearling Salmon go this year (if in fact missing at all) if not eaten. Does seem hypothetical I know especially when you consider the 2007 stocking was only a tad (7.9 to a pound) bigger than 2010, they did super and they actually make up a huge percentage of the adult Salmon present in the lake today, with less than five 2 and 3 year olds netted to date. So even with all my doom and gloom, I feel the yearlings are still in there this year, if not, Squam is in real deep doo-doo and will be soon a Rainbow fishery.
Based on the fall net totals (3 pulls of the net, over 3 week period) so far and our creel surveys, based on historical data, mathematically, it seems were fishing for about 200/250 adult Salmon this fall. There have been less than 200 netted in 3 pulls in as many weeks, 50 to 60 percent of theses are re-captured fish already netted in previous weeks, they do mark the netted fish.. John Viar already has names for some of them that he has seen in all 3 pulls, as well as in previous years, there’s Sally, Jake, Tom, etc. only kidding of course but even without the marks he can recognize certain fish by other obvious markings, hook wounds, etc..But they do mark them.
The Bows are 12 to 13 inches when put in and seem to survive fine. But keeping Salmon at the hatchery til this big is not a viable option, there comes a time in their development (when they move into the smolt stage, get the silvery color) when they do not benefit staying in the hatchery any longer more and “they have to go in the lakes”. It was explained to me again yesterday by the biologist, “it's very simple to hold them longer, but no additional growth will result”. If you visited the hatchery sometime you would be shocked at the size of Browns, Bows, etc. and all are the same age as the Salmon. They are huge right now compared to the Salmon, seriously they are 4 or 5 times bigger in overall size/weight. By the way, the 2011 batch of Salmon are quite a bit ahead of last years group already, I would say average length is about 4 to 6 inches, some bigger and it’s only October. Growth will slow a little as the water gets colder this winter, but they eating well and should be as big and possibly allot bigger than this springs stocking.
While the weather is still nice, visit the Powder Mill hatchery, a great take.
Thanks for the informative post, John. Send me those 3rd pull results via e-mail if you get a chance.
Cormorants could definitely deplete a yearling population if they are in abundance. I'm sure they are in the area, but I've personally never seen them at Squam. If they were there in large numbers, they'd be decimating the yellow perch population as well. More than likely some of these big rainbows and adult salmon are the culprits. Who knows though? I just hope its not some disease or parasite that is effecting the yearlings directly or possibly the smelt population (as Viar would say... the groceries). It's too bad there wasn't a 2010 trawl to check the biomass of smelt in the lake.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that things get back to normal. As much as I'd like to catch one of those Viar marked big boys, I think I'll be just as happy to land a healthy two year old.
If the otters are around the nets. There looking for a free meal. And if anything is eating the small salmon. It is more then likley otters. There are very fast swimmers. And they eat fish.But its hard to believe all the young salmon were eaten.The little salmon usually head for deep water. Which would make it hard for anything to catch them.
How many smallmouths are being brought up in the nets, John. Having fished for bass in Squam for 50 years, I have taken many more in deep water in recent years, often spitting up smelt. And also many trolling for salmon down to 50 feet where I don't remember encountering them so much years ago. I feel many are simply suspending out there and could be taking many of the first year fish, though maybe they are there mostly for the current abundance of smelt?
That's strange I haven't seen the cormorants. I certainly know what they look like, we have them in droves out here. They can dive up to 30 feet I hear and are considered eating machines.
I've caught Chain Pickerel in Squam and Little Squam, but never any Northern Pike. I have no data to backup this statement, but I doubt the culprit is pike or even chain pickerel for that matter. Hopefully the yearlings just did a better job than usual at staying out of sight.
i think the missing salmon were hiding with the smelt, smelt seemed to be located differently this year on my pond, the whole summer seemed different, more sun, less rain etc. i was finding smelt in really shallow water this year, almost no need for downriggers for me, towards the end i was leaving the downriggers off the boat and just sticking with 2 to 4 colors lead and maybe 150 to 200 feet of wire line. wasnt catching unless i was in shallow with the rocks losing flies. every year is different, where were all those big salmon hiding last year on winni when everyone was in a panic, they were there this year, didnt hear any bad winni reports