FISHERIES Anadromous Fisheries. The Maine Rivers Study identified the Kennebec River as of highest significance regarding anadromous fisheries due to its high habitat quality and quantity, species diversity and abundance, presence of endangered species, and high recreational importance.
The Kennebec's estuarial complex hosts a very diverse assemblage of finfish species. The upper estuary, including the Androscoggin River, Merrymeeting Bay, and its tributaries, is essentially tidal freshwater habitat. This section contains most of the finfish species commonly found in inland freshwater systems. It is an important spawning and nursery habitat for many anadromous species, such as American shad, rainbow smelt, alewife, shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon, and striped bass.
A few marine species -- such as bluefish and menhaden -- also enter Merrymeeting Bay occasionally.
The mid-Kennebec River estuary from Chops Point at the outlet of Merrymeeting Bay to Doubling Point just below Bath is an area of transition. The salinities vary both seasonally and over a tidal cycle. During spring freshets this section is entirely freshwater, but during summer low flows salinities can reach 18 ppt at Doubling Point. Freshwater, marine, and anadromous fish species can be found in this section of the river, with the marine species being found mainly in the summer months.
The lower Kennebec River from Doubling Point to Bay Point is highly saline. Mostly marine and anadromous species are found in this section. Some seasonal migrants such as menhaden and bluefish are very abundant in the lower Kennebec River during August and September. Large fish kills of menhaden and bluefish occurred in 1984 and 1985 in the mid- and lower Kennebec River due to the inability of the river system to meet the respiratory demands of the large schools of menhaden. Although this section is highly saline, many freshwater species have been captured in this section. A list of marine finfish species which have been captured in the adjacent Sheepscot River estuary, and which probably occur in the lower Kennebec as well, are listed in Table 12.34 In its natural state, the Kennebec was tidal at least above Augusta; ecologically, the river from Merrymeeting Bay to Waterville can be considered an extension of the bay. The stretch of river between Augusta and Waterville was major spawning habitat, the juveniles there using the stretch below the dam and into the bay as nursery habitat.
Anadromous fish runs constitute a valuable renewable fishery resource of great importance to the coastal fishing industry. In the Kennebec River below the Augusta dam alewives, Atlantic salmon, rainbow smelt and striped bass support significant recreational and/or commercial fisheries. American shad and alewives are of particular importance as existing and potential food and bait fish resources. Self-sustaining shad and alewife runs co-exist with cold and warm water fisheries on numerous Maine river segments. American shad in southern New England are highly sought after as a food fish and as a sport fish. With proper protection and management, this species can make a major contribution to the commercial and recreational fishery of the coast. The alewife is a particularly important commercial fishery resource that is extensively used as bait by the Maine lobster fishery. In addition to commercial and recreational values of anadromous fish, adult alewives and juvenile shad/alewives provide a significant forage feed for freshwater and marine sportfish and as food for avian predators, such as bald eagles, ospreys, kingfishers, cormorants and herons.
The principal fisheries for anadromous species occur in the home rivers as the adults return from sea to spawn in fresh water. Most of the harvesting gear used in these fisheries is stationery gear and the homing characteristic of the species makes them readily available to coastal fishermen.
The development of hydroelectric generating plants can have adverse impacts on existing and potential anadromous fish runs unless adequate fish passage facilities are incorporated into the projects.
Anadromous Fisheries Goals and Objectives The State's goals and objectives related to anadromous fish resources, as stated in the State of Maine Statewide River Fisheries Management Plan, June 1992, are as follows:
* To restore, maintain, and enhance anadromous fish resources for the benefit of the people of Maine.