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DEEP stocks Shetucket River with Atlantic salmon

Sprague — Anglers in the region will have a chance for some prize catches soon, after the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection added 50 large Atlantic salmon to a local waterway Friday.

The salmon, brood stock from the DEEP hatchery in Kensington, were stocked in the Shetucket River in Sprague with help from members of the Thames Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited, a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America's coldwater fisheries and their watersheds.

DEEP raised about 1,300 Atlantic salmon this year at the hatchery. The salmon are raised now to maintain the genetic line, should the Atlantic salmon fishery ever come back in the region, according to Brian Eltz, a senior fisheries biologist with DEEP.

The state participated in an effort to restore the fish to the Connecticut River from 1968 to 2012, but that ended when a hatchery in White River Junction, Vt., was closed. The state program now serves to support the recreational fishery in the Shetucket and Naugatuck rivers.

While the salmon may be caught and released immediately after they are stocked, the state fishing season for Atlantic salmon opens Dec. 16 and runs through March 31.

The brood stock — fish kept at the hatchery long enough to breed — weigh between 10 and 15 pounds when they are released.

Over a dozen volunteers organized by Trout Unlimited gathered Friday at the Sprague River Park in the village of Baltic for speeches from DEEP Deputy Commissioner Mason Trumble; DEEP Fisheries Division Director Peter Aarrestad; state Sen. Cathy Osten; Sprague First Selectwoman Cheryl A. Blanchard; CT River Salmon Association President Tom Chrosniak; Thames Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited President Garry Lussier and Kensington Fish Hatchery supervisor Jamie Hays.

The salmon were stocked at four locations along the river: a dozen at the park in Baltic, 13 at Salt Rock State Park up the river, and the remainder split between two more spots on the river.

s.elliot@theday.com

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