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Annual NH fishing derby reels it in, as inland salmon populations decline

Robert Garrova / NHPR

Organizers of an annual fishing derby on Lake Winnipesaukee have canceled next year’s event due to declining numbers of landlocked salmon.

Dianne Timmins, the inland fisheries division chief at New Hampshire Fish and Game, said the event was originally started more than 30 years ago to help reduce salmon populations.

But recently, the species has been struggling to survive — in part due to too much fishing.

“There's been some changes in our hatchery systems, there's been some changes in the environment. Of course, angling pressure has increased,” she said.

Timmins said there’s been a plummet in older fish — the ones that produce the eggs that conservation officers help spawn into the next generation of fish. Inland salmon are not native to New Hampshire, but have long been managed specifically for sport fishing.

More development of housing and lawns along Lake Winnipesaukee have damaged the salmon’s environment, Timmins said. She hasn’t documented how climate change is contributing to salmon issues, but she says changing winters and warmer waters affect the fish.

The lake is now a better habitat for warmer water species, like bass and perch, Timmins said.

“They tend to do better in these locations that were once dominated by salmon,” she said.

Warmer winters also affected ice fishing on Lake Winnipesaukee this winter, when thin ice prevented a long-running ice fishing derby from using the lake.

Timmins says her team will continue tracking the salmon to determine when the derby can start up again.

The event’s organizers, the Boy Scouts of America, Daniel Webster Council, were supportive of the decision to stop the event.

“Our organization teaches the importance of respecting nature and of conservation so it is part of our mission to protect the resource, even though it means canceling this popular event,” Ray Meyer of the Boy Scouts of America, Daniel Webster Council said in a statement.

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.
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