September 2017 Peter Gray Hatchery Update

I know some people wish summer weather would never leave, but when you are operating a hatchery full of endangered salmon you look forward to cooler temperatures outside. Not to wish away time, but these cooler temperatures not only bring on the fall weather, but drop the temperature of the river into the ideal range for fin clipping. Due to the unseasonably warm weather Downeast and the continued drought, we had to push the start of fin clipping this year back a week. On the bright side though, we started in full swing today. Assuming the temperatures stay cool we can continue to clip until all of the 200,000 plus “little athletes” are marked.

For those that are new, we clip the adipose fin off each one of our fish. The goal of this activity is to distinguish salmon stocked from the Peter Gray Hatchery from wild salmon in the river during future assessment (electrofishing and smolt trapping). This allows us to know the precise impact our unique rearing and stocking strategies have on the total salmon population for the East Machias River.

Earlier this month and with the help of the Maine Department of Marine Resources staff, we electrofished 25 sites throughout the East Machias River watershed. Electrofishing is done each year in mid-September to give a snapshot in time comparison of salmon densities from year to year…and in the case of the East Machias River…decade to decade. As you are all aware, 2017 has been a record setting drought year for Downeast Maine, and we have yet to get enough rain to start to bring water levels up in the river. Despite the drought this year and the drought during the summer and early fall of 2016, however, electrofishing results remained promising.

Preliminary numbers for 2017 East Machias River electrofishing:
Min: 1.4 parr/unit (100 meters squared)
Max: 28.2 parr/unit
Drainage wide median: 13.2 parr/unit

Although the 13.2 parr/unit was not quite as high as the 14.9 parr/unit (highest drainage-wide median since 1984) observed in 2016, it is still a good density of salmon throughout the river. This is especially true given the two record setting drought years these fish have experienced in 2016 and 2017. Also, 13.2 parr/unit is still higher than the previous three year median of 11.6 parr/unit. We are also seeing densities of salmon in the East Machias that haven’t been documented since the 1980’s. A certain number of the parr captured during electrofishing made their way to the Craig Brook US Fish and Wildlife National Fish Hatchery to be raised to adult salmon. These adult salmon are what provide the eyed eggs for the Peter Gray Parr Project.


Kind Regards,

Zach Sheller
Hatchery Manager

Peter Gray Hatchery Expansion Update


I don’t know if y’all noticed, but that top picture is a finished cement slab with waste water drains formed in it. This is big news as that is for our hatchery expansion project. At this point we are ready to proceed constructing the building on top of the frost walls. The goal is to have a weather tight building up before winter hits.

The pictures chronicle the process to get to the finished slab.

This expansion will allow the salmon growing in the Peter Gray Hatchery to be spread out into more tanks. Decreasing the densities in each tank will help lower the stress of the salmon and give them an even better environment to develop into the “little athletes” that will survive in the East Machias River, and later, the Atlantic Ocean. Lean, mean swimming machines!

Funders have generously donated to get us started, but we are continuing to raise funds for the expansion project to ensure it is completed this year. If you would like to contribute to this very important project please scroll down to the donation section below.

About Fin Clipping

Each fall, we begin our fin clipping effort to mark over 200,000 juvenile Atlantic salmon with an adipose fin clip. We rely on volunteers to help. Fin clipping takes place at the Peter Gray Hatchery at 13 Willow St. in East Machias and is part of an on-going project to restore the Atlantic salmon population in the East Machias River. Fin clipping typically continues for three weeks after the start date.

All juvenile salmon grown at the hatchery are marked with a fin clip prior to stocking to identify them as fish originating from the Peter Gray Hatchery during follow up electrofishing and smolt trapping surveys.

About Electrofishing & Smolt Trapping

Electrofishing surveys allow biologists to get an idea of the survival rate of the fish stocked into the East Machias River from the Peter Gray Hatchery and to check in on these young salmon while they are still in fresh water.

Spring smolt trapping surveys allow biologists to determine the size of the population of salmon leaving the East Machias River on their way to the ocean as smolt. Because fish stocked from the Peter Gray Hatchery are marked, the number of smolt leaving the river can be estimated.

Want to Volunteer?

If you’d like to volunteer for this important part of the project, please contact Zach at, or call (207) 255-0676.

Read More Peter Gray Parr Project Updates

Help us Restore Maine's Wild Atlantic Salmon Population

$1 per parr. Restore one or restore thousands. All donations will make a difference!

The goal of the Peter Gray Parr Project is to increase the number of parr raised and stocked to over 2,000,000. At an estimated cost of just over $1 per parr, we must raise 2.2 million dollars to support this restoration. For every dollar donated, contributors will quite literally be putting more parr in the East Machias River and directly impacting the restoration of Maine's wild Atlantic salmon population.


Restore over 2,000,000 Wild Atlantic Salmon Parr to the East Machias River.


Financial progress towards restoring over 2,000,000 Wild Atlantic Salmon Parr into the East Machias River

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