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Swift River fisheries research

Learn about MassWildlife's ongoing fisheries research on the Swift River including a new trout study launched in March 2021.

MassWildlife is conducting a survey to learn about the survival and movement of stocked trout in the Swift River. Research is focused on the 5.5 mile section between the Windsor Dam and the first Bondsville Dam downstream. Use the information on this page to learn about the project and about the kinds of markings you might see on the fish you catch in the Swift. Anglers can also view a schedule of MassWildlife's sampling dates. 

Table of Contents

Project overview

The Swift River is fed by cold, clean water from deep within Quabbin Reservoir. Water conditions support both wild and stocked trout throughout the year and provide excellent fishing opportunities for the anglers of Massachusetts. The Swift River is one of the most unique and popular trout fishing destinations in Massachusetts, but little is known about the survival and movement of stocked trout from month to month and from year to year.

MassWildlife conducted mark-recapture surveys 2017 and 2018 in the Swift River. It was determined that a more expansive study was needed to get a full understanding of the survival and movement of trout in this section of the river.

The expanded mark-recapture project started in March 2021. MassWildlife will mark each fish stocked into the Swift and then periodically sample the stream and record information on the fish they catch. This type of survey allows biologists to estimate fish populations throughout the year in a certain area where it is impractical or impossible to count each individual.

Trout will be marked in two ways. Biologists will use Visible Implant Elastomer (VIE)—a dye injected just below the skin—to tag trout and indicate the month in which they were stocked.  For 2021 all VIE tags will be placed just behind the left eye and different colors will indicate the month the fish was stocked. Additionally, the adipose fins of fish stocked upstream of Route 9 will be clipped; fish stocked below Route 9 will not be clipped. By looking at the combination of markings, biologists and anglers can quickly learn when and where a trout was stocked in the river. A complete overview of VIE tag combinations and information about their release dates and locations can be found in the table below.

Trout tags and markings

Starting in March of 2021, every hatchery trout released into the Swift River will be marked.

VIE tags

A small line of dye called Visible Implant Elastomer (VIE) will be injected just below the skin. For 2021, all VIE tags will be placed just behind the left eye and different colors will indicate the month the fish was stocked.

VIE tags are quite small and may be difficult for anglers to notice at first depending on the color of the tag and pigmentation of the individual fish.

VIE tags Swift river trout

A rainbow trout with blue Visible Implant Elastomer (VIE) tag behind the left eye.

VIE colors

Trout will be tagged with a different color each month.

Adipose fin clips

Adipose fins of fish stocked upstream of Route 9 will be clipped; fish stocked elsewhere will not be clipped.

adipose fin clips

 

2021 Tag scheme and release dates

Month

Release region

Tag location

Tag color

Fin clips?

March

catch & release area above Rt. 9

left eye

blue

yes

March

between Rt. 9 and Bondsville Dam

left eye

blue

no

April

catch & release area above Rt. 9

left eye

red

yes

April

between Rt. 9 and Bondsville Dam

left eye

red

no

May

catch & release area above Rt. 9

left eye

orange

yes

May

between Rt. 9 and Bondsville Dam

left eye

orange

no

June

catch & release area above Rt. 9

left eye

yellow

yes

June

between Rt. 9 and Bondsville Dam

left eye

yellow

no

October

catch & release area above Rt. 9

left eye

green

yes

October

between Rt. 9 and Bondsville Dam

left eye

green

no

Map of project area

 

swift river research project map

Sampling schedule

MassWildlife staff will use a combination of boat and raft electrofishing equipment to recapture trout and look for VIE tags and fin clip markings. Sampling will be conducted about once a month for most of the year from the Winsor Dam overflow channel just upstream of the Y Pool all the way to the upper Bondsville Dam. To minimize inconvenience to anglers, sampling will be conducted over two days—each day covering about half of the area. The first day of each scheduled survey period will begin with raft electrofishing surveys starting near the Y Pool in the morning, and finishing downstream near Cady Lane in the late afternoon. The second day will be boat electrofishing working in an upstream direction from the Bondsville impoundment in the morning and finishing near Cady Lane in the afternoon.

Anglers on the Swift have found that electrofishing activities only disrupt normal fish behavior for a short time. You can expect the fish to be biting as soon as 10 minutes after the survey team passes. Please keep your distance and do not approach MassWildlife staff when they are using electrofishing equipment. 

2021 survey dates

  • April 20, 21
  • May 17, 18
  • June 21, 22
  • July 8, 9
  • July 22, 23
  • August 25, 26
  • October 12, 13
  • October 19, 20
  • November 15, 16
electrofishing in the swift river

 MassWildlife staff on the electrofishing raft.

More information and FAQs

Are tagged trout safe to eat?
Yes. Visible Implant Elastomer (VIE) is non-hazardous. VIE tags are very small and can be easily avoided when preparing trout for the table.

How does electrofishing affect fish and how will it impact my fishing trip?
Electrofishing is a common method used for sampling fish. An electric current briefly stuns fish so they can be easily netted and inspected. Fish are then quickly released and suffer no permanent harm. Anglers on the Swift River have found that electrofishing activities only disrupt normal fish behavior for a short time. You can expect the fish to be biting as soon as 10 minutes after the survey team passes.

Project contacts

If you have specific questions about this project, please contact Brian Keleher, Connecticut Valley District Fisheries Biologist, at brian.keleher@mass.gov or Adam Kautza, Coldwater Fisheries Project Leader, at adam.kautza@mass.gov.

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