Any evening from now until mid-October will find anglers from the beginning of the Merrimack in Franklin to Garvins Falls trying their luck on the Merrimack River, hoping the next cast will be the one to prompt a decent fish tale. But not all those who plumb the great river’s depths are pursuing the trout, salmon, bass, and other fish that call the Merrimack home.
Some, it turns out, are seeking much smaller prey – mayfly, stonefly, and caddisfly larvae – in an effort to determine the health of the river and its inhabitants and help the communities that share its banks decide how to manage to the resource. Volunteers with the Upper Merrimack River Local Advisory Committee’s (UMRLAC) Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program (UMMP) will be setting traps called “rock baskets” from Franklin to Bow to catch the bugs that will tell the tale of the river’s health.
Catching those bugs and other invertebrates such as clams, snails, water mites, and crawfish and getting a sense of how many of them are in the river is one of the surest ways to determine the water’s ability to maintain life and it’s one of the tasks UMMP volunteers happily tackle every year.
UMRLAC was created in 1990 by the New Hampshire Legislature to provide the six communities – Boscawen, Bow, Canterbury, Concord, Franklin, and Northfield – the Upper Merrimack flows through assistance in developing policy regarding the river.
If a town wants to know the effects of development on the river’s banks, UMRLAC’s Program can help answer those questions. UMRLAC also keeps track of activities, such as planning and zoning efforts in each town along the river, and lets the state know what’s happening on the banks of the Merrimack, which for decades was an industrial workhorse powering mills and feeding industry.
The river’s industrial days are long gone, though, and it now features fantastic habitat for an array of wildlife while also serving as a resource for boating, swimming, and fishing as well as providing clean and plentiful water to the communities that line its banks – a situation UMRLAC hopes will continue.
The Committee, currently at fourteen members, manages the inverebrate collection effort and the subsequent bug identification program that takes place during the cold, dark winter months.
Over time, the collection and identification efforts will give environmental scientists enough information to understand the river’s health and the direction in which its heading and will help policy makers decide how to both protect and use the Merrimack. The rock baskets may mean that some fish have to search a little harder for their next meal, but that may just mean better luck for the angler on the bank.
This month’s River Ramblings column was written by Dave Kirkpatrick, Representative from Bow to the Upper Merrimack River Local Advisory Committee. Please visit www.MerrimackRiver.org to learn more about the river and watershed, view water quality data, access natural resource information and tools, and to sign up to be notified about river events and news. For further information, please call 603.796.2615 or email UMRLAC@MerrimackRiver.org.