Recent Fisheries Division Activities
February 6, 2015
Little Moxie Pond Project Report - Submitted by Tim Obrey, Regional Fisheries Biologist, Moosehead Lake Region
When our research project began on Little Moxie Pond in 1994, the pond was not considered one of the best trout ponds that the Moosehead Lake Region had to offer. We netted the pond each fall from 1994 to 2001 as part of a statewide study on trout pond regulations. But a funny thing happened on the way to evaluating trout regulations on this 73-acre native trout pond in Shirley. When the project began, the pond was full of common suckers, and while there were a few trout present, most were small and the fishing was slow. As a side project, we also removed all the competing fish species from Little Moxie Pond. Only brook trout were returned to the pond alive. We removed over 3,400 pounds of suckers in the first two years. The changes were quick and dramatic for the native brook trout population. In the first year of the project, we estimated there were 670 brook trout in the pond and only 4 trout exceeded 12 inches. That is not a high quality fishery by our standards. In 1996, after some pretty serious sucker removal, we estimated the trout population to be over 1,300 fish with nearly 300 exceeding 12 inches and several over 16 inches. The sucker removal resulted in better survival and growth rates for native brook trout in this small headwater pond.
The benefits lasted into the early 2000’s when natural drought conditions caused a serious decline in the brook trout population. In 2001, there were less than 60 trout in the pond as a result of two very hot, dry summers. But the trout rebounded nicely and by 2006 the population had increased to over 1,000 fish with no additional sucker removal. This gives us some idea about how vulnerable these shallow ponds are in the summer to high water temperatures, but also how resilient populations are over time and how they can rebound quickly in good conditions.
We returned to Little Moxie Pond in the fall of 2013 for a follow up netting and found that the suckers were also resilient (unfortunately) and were now very abundant after no removal effort since 2006. In 2013 and 2014, we removed 3,300 pounds of suckers. The trout were still abundant but their growth had slowed and there were very few quality sized fish. We plan to return at ice out next spring for another week of netting and removal.
We know that these types of removal projects can greatly benefit native and even stocked trout fisheries by improving growth and survival. By investing a week of netting for just 2 or 3 consecutive years, we can get 10 years of benefit in the right pond.
February 6, 2015
Bald Mountain Pond Arctic Charr - Submitted by Liz Thorndike, Biology Specialist, Rangeley Lakes Region
Bald Mountain Pond is an 1,152-acre water located in Bald Mountain Pond Township in Somerset County. It is sixty-five feet deep, has over half a dozen tributaries, and over fourteen miles of boulder and ledge shoreline. There are only three camps on the lake and a fair boat launch best accessed by shallow hulled craft. Bald Mountain Pond has been known to produce brook trout up to five pounds. A noteworthy quality of Bald Mountain Pond is the presence of landlocked arctic charr. In Maine there are only 14 bodies of water where charr exist; 12 of the 14 waters are considered genetically distinct. The average charr in Bald Mountain range from 6 to 8 inches but can reach upwards to 10 inches.
Recently, there was an illegal introduction of rainbow smelt into Bald Mountain Pond. In most bodies of water, smelt and charr do not coexist due to competition for the same food source and direct predation by smelt on emerging charr sac fry. Unfortunately, charr in some small waters (less than 200 acres) are outcompeted and are often extirpated. In recent history, Maine IF & W has chemically reclaimed two small charr waters with similar situations. However, Bald Mountain Pond is too large and deep to be reclaimed. While we are hopeful that Bald Mountain Pond’s large size and the complex, diverse habitat it provides will mitigate negative impacts on charr, we nonetheless spent considerable time last fall learning about this specific population. This was a critical first step required for developing specific management strategies to protect these fish.
Maine IF & W’s ultimate goal is to learn where the charr population in Bald Mountain Pond spawn in case a relocation or a hatchery culture project is required to preserve this unique strain of fish. This is desirable because large numbers of charr typically congregate at very specific sites during their fall spawning season, and we can readily capture them alive with trapnets. To learn where the charr spawn, fisheries biologists began a telemetry project by inserting radio tags into individual charr. Charr were captured by setting short gill net sets into deep water. Once the charr were obtained, they were surgically implanted with a tag, released, and tracked regularly by boat or plane.
Several complications arose during the project. Charr are difficult to work with after being captured from deep water. Issues associated with a rapid change in temperature and the fish’s inability to quickly adjust their swim bladder caused delays. Ultimately, only four charr were successfully tagged and released. In spite of this, two of these fish lead to possible spawning shoals. In early November divers investigated the shoals, looking for potential spawning substrate or visible signs of charr spawning activity. No signs of spawning were observed, but limited amounts of suitable spawning substrate were located.
Future plans for Bald Mountain Pond will include tagging additional charr, locating smelt spawning habitat, conducting detailed bathymetry surveys to pinpoint suitable charr spawning shoals, and beginning the process of locating suitable translocation sites in the event that conservation option is deemed most appropriate.
Instances of fish introductions have unfortunately become more common in recent years and cause irreversible damage to native ecosystem. For this reason, Maine IF & W strongly urges anglers not to introduce new species into water bodies – and it’s against the law!
October 3, 2014
Sebago Lake Fishery Management - a Manager’s Perspective - by Francis Brautigam, Regional Fisheries Biologist, Sebago Lake Region
Sebago’s togue regulations, adopted in 2012, were intended to restructure the lake trout population to biologically suppress togue population growth and increase smelt availability to grow larger salmon. The structure of the regulations was based on available research which indicates light to moderate exploitation of wild togue populations removes the largest and oldest individuals which can actually stimulate population growth. The new rules remove the minimum length limit, allow for an unlimited harvest of togue less than 23”, establish a no harvest slot between 23 and 33”, and allows for the harvest of one trophy greater than 33”. These changes are designed to rebuild a population size structure that more closely mimics one that is not exploited and more stable. The new rules also place less reliance upon anglers to harvest togue to suppress population growth, although additional opportunities to harvest were provided in the new rule (no minimum size and unlimited bag under 23”). A shift in regulatory approach favoring “biological control” was in part necessitated by a growing catch and release ethic amongst anglers. Our open water angler survey revealed that anglers released nearly 2/3rds of their legal togue catch. This practice was not conducive to reducing the togue population and meeting plan objectives.
April 3, 2014
Downeast Region Fishing Report
January 2, 2014
It’s no secret that Long Lake is the top salmon producing water in northern Maine. For decades this 6,000 acre lake, which sits at the top of Maine and forms the headwaters of the famed Fish River Lakes Chain, has been attracting anglers locally and from afar. Long Lake is well known for its large salmon and produces catches in excess of 6 pounds at a frequent clip. As early as the 1940s there are accounts of fish exceeding 10 pounds, and more recently several ice fishing world records have been set and then broken here. A recent ten-year period of exceptional salmon growth has drawn even more interest. Long Lake has become a destination for anglers from throughout Maine and New England seeking the opportunity to fish for trophy salmon.
Why does Long Lake produce such superb salmon fishing year after year? At a relatively large size compared to most Maine lakes, Long Lake is also very deep with a maximum depth of 163 feet and an average depth of 48 feet. The water is highly productive and maintains high oxygen levels in the hypolimnion (the deepest part of the lake, and the coldest during the summer months). Long’s watershed has abundant farmland with highly productive limestone soils. Combined with a large, deep, well oxygenated lake, these are conditions conducive for producing large fish.
The main forage fish for salmon is rainbow smelt, and they are absolutely dependent upon them for good growth. Long Lake has ideal conditions for smelt, with more than a dozen suitable brooks that flow into the lake that serve as spawning habitat each year during May. The smelt runs at Long are some of the most prolific in the state. Once the eggs hatch in 8-14 days the fry drift downstream to the lake where they enter that highly productive water. It is at this point, we believe, where Long Lake’s great salmon fishing is made or not – that critical point in the smelt life cycle when fry survival hinges on availability of an appropriate food source. We surmise that survival of smelt in Long Lake is unusually high shortly after hatching, and so large numbers of smelt populate the lake as young-of-the-year. Remarkably, the smelt population in Long Lake has been relatively stable when compared to other salmon lakes in Maine.
A period of superb salmon growth and stability in the sport fishery occurred in Long Lake during the 2000-2012 period. Long Lake is managed with the objective of producing “quality size” salmon, as defined by public working groups during the Department’s species planning process. Long is one of about two dozen “size quality” waters in the State. This most recent 13-year period illustrates Long’s potential to produce a fabulous and relatively stable “size quality” salmon fishery. Average size of three-year old salmon hovered around 18 inches (see figure); K-factor (a measure of fatness) exceeded 1.0 during most years; and the occurrence of “trophy” fish in the catch was up significantly. This period of unprecedented salmon fishing resulted from a combination of harvest restrictions (salmon harvest regulations changed in 1996), carefully considered salmon stocking rates, fishing pressure (generally less than about 6000 angler trips during the winter season), and good protections for spawning smelt.
What has caused a recent downward trend in the fishery? Since 2008, the average size of 3-year old salmon has been declining (see figure). The salmon measured during the 2013 winter ice fishing season were the smallest since 1997 (exceptions, 2003/2005) and the catch of older, larger fish was also down significantly. The incidence of wild salmon in the fishery is up sharply, and while typically that is a positive trend, it complicates our efforts to maintain the optimum number of salmon while still maintaining high growth rates. In response, biologists reduced stocking of salmon to its lowest level in decades in 2013 in an attempt to improve salmon growth and reduce predation on smelt. That optimum balance of forage in smelt numbers and number of salmon at large that we had during 2000-2012 has certainly shifted toward increasing numbers of salmon, and consequently, salmon growth and size-at-age has declined. While we are still meeting the objectives of “size quality” management in the sport fishery, we can clearly do better as evidenced by the recent past.
What’s the outlook? At a public informational meeting in September 2013, biologists made the following points based on our recent sampling:
Biologists have recommended the following in the interest of maintaining “size quality” management for Long Lake:
December 6, 2013
Penobscot Region Fisheries Report
April 4, 2013
Invasive fish threats in the St. John and Fish River watersheds – what’s next?
The 70 mile long Fish River finds its origins in the North Maine Woods west of the town of Portage in Aroostook County, flows southeast to Portage and then north through a scenic, forested valley to its confluence with the St. John River in the town of Fort Kent. The Fish is unique in that its watershed is dotted with large lakes connected by thoroughfares, most of which provide phenomenal coldwater fishing. The most popular lakes in the drainage include Fish River Lake, Portage Lake, St. Froid Lake, Eagle Lake, Long Lake, Cross Lake, and Square Lake. Historically, these were home to native populations of brook trout, togue and whitefish. The expansion of railroads and visiting anglers into the area spurred the introduction of landlocked salmon and rainbow smelt into the Fish River Chain around 1894. These fish became instantly popular and along with brook trout and togue, have been the staple of an economically and culturally important fishery for over 100 years.
Muskellunge have been in Maine longer than most people think. They were introduced in 1970 by the Quebec government into Lac Frontier, a headwater lake in the St. John River drainage. The fish quickly made their way into the headwaters of the St. John in Maine, reportedly caught by anglers beginning in 1973. The fish populated the river and became more widespread in the following decades, being caught as far as 400 miles from the source of introduction as early as 1988. More recently, muskies have become very abundant throughout the entire length of the St. John River, the St. Francis River (including Beau and Glazier Lakes), the Allagash River below Allagash Falls, and the Fish River below Fish River Falls.
The presence of muskellunge and bass in northern Maine waters poses a huge challenge to the Department’s Fishery Division. The expansion of their populations and impacts to native fish must be documented and monitored with very limited resources. Stopping the spread of these species into new waters is a daunting task. Additionally, these fish are becoming very popular among a dedicated following of northern Maine anglers and visitors. Support from the public to manage these species is growing rapidly, and must be weighed with the impacts management might have on native fish. Like it or not, invasive species are changing the fisheries landscape of northern Maine and beyond, forcing us to take a closer look at how our overall management must adapt to preserve native fish while providing quality angling opportunities long into the future.
December 20, 2012
Cooperative effort to repair Cobb Hatchery water intake
Submitted by Dana DeGraaf, Fisheries Biologist
Weeks ago, work was scheduled at the Cobb Hatchery in Enfield to repair a leak at one of the water intake lines in front of the filter plant. To facilitate this work, volunteer divers from FPL (Bill Hanson and Kyle Murphy) and the MDIFW Fisheries Dive Team were utilized to cap the deep water intake line in order for repair work to be completed in the dry. Fisheries biologists from Region F and Cobb Hatchery personnel assisted with operation logistics and boat support. The nature of this work was extremely complex and dangerous. Water depth was 45’ with limited visibility and water temperatures hovered near freezing. Air temperatures were below freezing.
The deep water intake structure had to first be located by the divers. A trash screen was then removed from the 24” diameter water line and a 220-pound steel cap was lowered from a boat to divers. Air lift bags were utilized underwater to enable the divers to move the cap into position and then lower onto the open pipe. The divers then bolted the cap into place. The pipe was then drained for the repair work.
As the pipe began to fill, air temperatures declined to single digits for several nights. This presented a danger of pipe freezing and elimination of water flow to the hatchery, thereby impacting fish production dramatically. The call was made to remove the cap in order for the pipe to fill immediately and allow water to begin to flowing to the hatchery. The challenge was significant however - the pipe was not completely filled, so divers could not remove the cap themselves without also being sucked into the pipe. The MDIFW Fisheries, Hatcheries, and Engineering Divisions coordinated with the Department of Transportation (DOT) dive team to pull off the cap safely while under extreme pressure. The DOT utilized an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) equipped with video cameras and lights to evaluate the work area and check flows. Divers unbolted the cap, hooked tow lines to it and then surfaced. Once divers were aboard, the cap was pulled off with the DOT dive boat. Once the line was filled with water and any remaining air purged, the line was shut down again at the hatchery to eliminate flows. The ROV confirmed no flows, and the divers reinstalled the trash screen. This work allowed the hatchery to return to full operation.
Substantial coordination and teamwork allowed all repair and dive work to be completed on-time, safely, and successfully. From their experience working around hydropower facilities, Bill Hanson and Kyle Murphy of FPL provided critical expertise during the planning, safety coordination, and diving phases. Fisheries staff from the MDIFW Dive Team, Region B and Region F, Hatcheries, the Engineering Division, and the DOT dive team worked seamlessly on this project. The DOT dive team is responsible for bridge and dam inspections; despite their critical duties, they were on site in Enfield within 24 hours and brought a specialized ROV to complete the final stages of this work. This project is a perfect example of safe and effective teamwork and cross-agency coordination. With assistance from FPL and by utilizing all the State’s in-house resources, we were able to save our Department thousands of dollars by avoiding contracting the dive work out.
November 29, 2012
Regulating Harvest- Some Management Techniques and Their Effects -
In North America, fishing regulations were implemented well before the turn of the 20th century. For example, season closures for some marine fisheries were implemented as early as the 1600s and by the time of the American Revolution, numerous statutes were in place regulating fish harvest. Since the 1960s there has been a broad trend toward more restrictive harvest regulations including the reduction in the number of fish that can be harvested and the use of restrictive length limits. Additionally, water and species-specific regulations have become common throughout the United States. Whereas seasonal closures and creel limits were often the only regulations implemented at the turn of the 20th century, slot length limits and length-based creel limits are now used more widely to control harvest.
Fishing regulations are implemented for many reasons. In Maine, fishing regulations are implemented to improve fishing quality or to maintain population viability, to alter community dynamics, or to encourage the control of exotic species from certain waters. In addition, fishing regulations can be applied for public safety concerns, such as consumption advisories due to contaminants (e.g., lead, mercury, PCBs). Regulations may also be implemented for social reasons, such as accommodating the desires of individual user groups. Both social and biological data are used by our Fisheries Division when implementing or altering fishing regulations and policies. Suffice to say, developing, maintaining, and changing fishing regulations is no easy task! With any regulation, careful design and regular monitoring are essential in order to be effective.
If you’ve fished in Maine then you may recognize that state-wide there are a diversity of fishing regulations that all anglers must follow. Fishing regulations are as diverse as the people and the waters in Maine and are based on many factors including the water body, location, water quality, and species composition. Waters in Southern Maine are uniquely different in many regards than waters of Western and Northern Maine. In addition, user groups are vastly different throughout the state. Understanding the sociological aspects of a given fishery is a critical component when selecting regulations, as individual wants and needs often differ within a group using the same fishery. Below are some fisheries management techniques that we hope define and explain why certain regulations exist.
Small Bag Limits: Lower bag limits are intended to distribute the catch over a longer period of time and among more anglers. Low bag limits usually coincide with restrictive regulations such as high minimum length limits.
Slot Limits: These regulations are bound by the upper and lower length limits with the intent of directing harvest to specific parts of a fish population while protecting others. A slot limit may be used to “thin out” smaller fish but allow the remaining fish to grow faster and enable large fish to be caught and released or kept. The protected size slot protects fish and allows them to continue to grow and reach a larger size class. Anglers are important with this regulation! Without harvesting fish of a given size, the regulation does little for management of the resource.
Catch and Release: This regulation is intended to return fish to the water alive, thus giving them the chance to grow larger and be caught again. This regulation may be effective on waters where natural recruitment and population size is very low and growth rates are excellent, or on waters where there is a strict need for conservation (imperiled or endangered species, for instance).
Fly Fishing or Artificial Lures Only: These “terminal tackle” regulations are applied to reduce mortalities in released fish and are often an effective and necessary companion to restrictive bag and length limits.
To learn more about why and how fishing regulations are used in your area, please contact your Regional Fisheries Biologist.
November 15, 2012
Progress at Big Reed Pond Continues - Frank Frost, Regional Fisheries Biologist
The Department continues to follow the progress of the Big Reed Pond restoration project that was aimed at restoring a population of rare Arctic charr and wild brook trout. These important fish populations declined precipitously after rainbow smelt were introduced in the late 1980s, and prompted the Department and a team of partners to begin a large-scale restoration effort in 2007. Our work at Big Reed was highlighted by the large and logistically challenging reclamation project carried out in October 2010. In the ensuing two years since reclamation, trout and charr have been reintroduced and we continue to monitor their growth and reproduction.
Artic Charr caught recently at Big Reed Pond.
There are only twelve populations of wild, native Arctic charr in the lower 48 States, all of which occur in Maine. These fish, also called blueback trout, are truly a unique Maine fishery resource. All of the populations that once existed in the Northeast U.S. and Eastern Canada are descendants of an ocean ancestor that colonized inland waters as glaciers retreated. Because of their inability to coexist with many other fishes, their range in the U.S. has shrunk considerably over the last century. As a result, the Department manages these fish as distinct populations worthy of individual protection and conservation. Without significant intervention at Big Reed Pond, this population would have surely been lost.
Brook Trout caught recently at Big Reed Pond.
Over the last three weeks biologists at the Ashland Regional Headquarters have maintained trapnets at Big Reed Pond to check on the fish released since the 2010 reclamation. These trapping efforts provide an enormous amount of information on the current population size, growth of individual fish, and natural spawning activity. To date, we have captured brook trout ranging 5-13 inches and several blueback trout that are approaching 15 inches and weighing more than a pound. Nearly all of the charr are sexually mature but we have not yet determined their exact spawning location. All fish are extremely healthy and growth is excellent, as we expect at reclaimed ponds. We are hopeful to document natural and successful spawning of both fish species over the next several years.
November 8, 2012
Penobscot Region Fishing Report - Nels Kramer, Regional Fisheries Biologist
While some dams are considered detrimental to fish populations, especially cold-water populations, some dams are recognized as being extremely valuable for creating and maintaining high quality fisheries habitat. Consider the dam on the outlet of Grand Lake Matagamon in T6R8 WELS, impounding both 1st and 2nd Lake Matagamon. Built to replace the timber crib structure constructed in the 1880’s, the present structure was built in 1941 and is 218.5 feet long and 30 feet high.
In October of 2000, the Matagamon Lake Association (MLA) was formed, comprised of camp owner, tribal, and resource agency representatives in response to the divesture of dams by the ownership of the East Branch Improvement Co., a consortium of utilities and paper companies that managed hydroelectric storage in the East Branch of the Penobscot system. The ownership of the Matagamon Dam was transferred on January 8, 2001 to the Matagamon Lake Association, Inc. for the expressed purpose of maintaining the structure for the benefit of fish, wildlife, recreational values and downstream safety.
In addition to the public members and camp owners that make up the Matagamon Lake Association, there are a number of other organizations that are contributing members of the MLA, including The Boy Scouts of America Matagamon High Adventure Base, Penobscot Indian Nation, and Matagamon Wilderness Camps. Biologists from Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, Penobscot Indian Nation, and the Department of Marine Resources sit on the Board of Directors in an advisory capacity. Donald Dudley, who operated Matagamon Dam for the East Branch Improvement Co. since 1978, is both President of the Association and primary operator of the dam.
Riverine ecosystems are affected by flood flows and droughts; these are major regulators of aquatic communities. The quantity and duration of stream flow determines the availability and quality of fish habitat. As flows decrease, there is a resultant decrease in available habitat for Atlantic salmon and brook trout and other water dependent species. Streams with stable flows are typically more productive than streams with wide fluctuations in discharges. Survival of juvenile salmonids is positively related to discharges, especially those flows occurring in the summer and winter. Flow regulation occurring at the Matagamon Dam enhances fish survival and production in the East Branch by reducing the magnitude and duration of low flows, and by maximizing the amount of habitat available for salmonid use.
October 31, 2012
Moosehead Lake weekly fishing report
Submitted by Tim Obrey, Regional Fisheries Biologist, Moosehead Lake Region
You have to make hay while the sun shines the old saying goes, and if you’re a fisheries biologist for IFW, the time to evaluate your coldwater fisheries programs is September and October. As the water temperatures fall, brook trout and salmon begin to cruise the shoreline making them fair game for our trapnets. Trapnetting is a sampling technique to capture a considerable number of fish to monitor age and growth. The fish are then returned to the lake unharmed.
IFW Specialist Steve Seeback with a much improved salmon from First Roach Pond
It has been another very busy fall for the Fisheries staff in the Moosehead Lake Region. In September, we started our fall trapnetting on a number of wild brook trout ponds in the Chamberlain Lake area. We were very impressed with the number of quality-sized brook trout we were able to sample. Clearly there is no shortage of big trout in the North Country.
In October we turned our focus to a number of salmon waters in the Greenville area including Maine’s largest water, Moosehead Lake. We are still netting as I write, but initial impressions are very good. The salmon at Moosehead Lake seem to have really turned the corner. In 2008, IFW liberalized the size and bag limits on lake trout on the big lake in an effort to reduce competition for food and improve growth for both salmon and lake trout. In the following 3 years, an estimated 80,000 lake trout were harvested by anglers. Since then, forage has improved in the lake and we have readjusted the regulations. We have documented good smelt runs in the spring for the past several years, and both salmon and lake trout growth rates have improved each year.
Seasonal assistant Henry Obrey with a nice little trout from Up North
We have documented similar results on First Roach Pond where salmon growth crashed after a very restrictive regulation was put in place. We liberalized the fishing regulations and slashed the stocking rate. This fall the salmon have shown a remarkable improvement.
These evaluations are very important for the management of the fisheries resources. Our work will determine whether a management program is working or needs refinement. It can result in stocking changes, regulation changes, and hopefully, a better fishing experience for the anglers.
October 25, 2012
Rangeley Region Fishing Report - Dave Howatt, Fishery Biologist
This time of year, Regional Biologists are kept busy sampling trout and salmon spawning runs. The information we gain from these surveys is important in developing management strategies for each fishery. With a limited staff and a compressed “work window” during which time fish are exhibiting spawning behavior, we can sample only a small number of waters each fall. This year in the Rangeley Lakes Region we seined the Kennebago River for landlocked salmon, completed a Scuba survey in the Rapid River, and conducted trapnetting surveys on four lakes.
The Kennebago River was seined on October 18 to sample the spawning run of landlocked salmon from Mooselookmeguntic Lake. Two seine passes yielded 146 salmon and 13 brook trout. The salmon range from 8” to 20” and the largest brook trout was 15”. These data will be compared with previous years’ samples data to evaluate recent changes in regulations for the lake.
October 18, 2012
Region C Fishing Report
Gregory Burr, Regional Fisheries Biologist, Grand Lakes Region
Regional fisheries biologists in the Grand Lakes Region have made it a priority to help secure fair and equitable public access to lakes, ponds, brooks, streams and rivers in the Downeast area. Biologists state wide have understood for many years that with the human population increasing and the land around water being limited that the department needed to develop a program to purchase public access before all the land was bought and developed. Biologist have the been the point people for this effort because of their knowledge of the access locations on the waters in their regions and what lands might be able to be purchased for public access. Public access is also an integral part of the success of fishery management programs across the state because of the Dept. of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife policy that basically states that the department can not stock a water without the public having the same access advantage as the private landowners on that water. Therefore, equitable access for all is a crucial part of biologists being able to stock as many waters as possible to fulfill their mission to “maintain, enhance, create and conserve inland fisheries resources for the benefit of the public”.
Long Pond T10 SD launch
On remote ponds with walk-in access only, equitable access means maintaining the back-country nature by securing the land around the pond for walk-in access only. Ponds such as these if necessary can be stocked by backpack or by plane. Ponds located closer to public rights of ways but that still have a remote character may only allow carry-in access for small boats, canoes and kayaks. In these cases the department tries to secure abutting lands for carry-in access only. On medium sized and larger lakes and ponds that have a few camps with shallow gravel back-in boat launches, the department purchases land and develops similar gravel launches with small parking areas. On larger lakes that have numerous homes and camps with many highly develop private launches the department purchases larger parcels and develops planked back-in launches with larger parking areas.
Since the 1980’s regional fisheries biologists from the Jonesboro office have successfully helped broker 18 public access sites on lakes and ponds in Hancock and Washington Counties. At many of these sites biologists helped the department partner with towns, the Maine Dept. of Conservation and the US Fish & Wildlife Service to secure public access in perpetuity. The public access sites that have been purchased in the last 25 years are as follows: Cathance Lake – Cooper, Indian Lake – Whiting, Walker Pond – Sedgwick, Branch Lake – Ellsworth, Long Pond – T 10 SD, Spectacle Pond – Osborn, Mopang Lake – T 29 MD, Upper Lead Mtn. Pond – T 28 MD, Lower Lead Mtn. Pond – T 28 MD, Pleasant River Lake – Beddington, Heart Pond – Orland, Jacob-Buck Pond – Bucksport, Pennamaquan Lake – Charlotte, Beech Hill Pond – Otis, Craig Pond – Orland, Graham Lake – T 8 SD, Rocky Lake – Whiting and Pocomoonshine Lake in Princeton.
Branch Lake boat launch
Recently, one of the largest public access endeavors that regional fisheries biologists have ever pursued is being completed on Branch Lake in Ellsworth with a grand opening set to take place in April of 2013. This facility has taken over 14 years to come to fruition through the hard-work and planning of Maine Dept. of Conservation, the City of Ellsworth, IF&W regional fisheries biologists and planners, camp owners and many members of the public. Thanks to all these cooperators public access has been restored and the department is now is the process of rebuilding a once great stocked landlocked salmon fishery.
On tap for 2013 the department is planning to install a new boat launch on Bog Lake in Northfield and the Maine Dept. of Conservation is planning on installing a new boat launch on Spring River Lake in T 10 SD. Once both of these facilities are complete stocking of trout and salmon will commence and the department will once again work to build successful fisheries for the people of the state of Maine.
October 4, 2012
Auburn Lake Fish Kill - By Francis Brautigam
Fisheries staff from the Sebago Lake Region recently investigated a fish kill at Lake Auburn and collaborated with a variety of concerned stakeholders, including the Auburn Water and Sewer District. Lake Auburn not only provides the municipal water supply for the twin cities of Lewiston and Auburn, but also sustains one of the region’s most productive and well utilized fisheries for quality-size lake trout and salmon. Needless to say, regional fisheries staff remain deeply concerned by the unexpected and drastic reductions in deep water oxygen levels that precipitated the lake-wide kill of lake trout, a species with low tolerance of declining lake water quality.
Several dead lake trout from Lake Auburn
The prospect of a fish kill involving lake trout in such a deep, clean “oligotrophic” lake seems rather improbable, particularly considering the watershed stewardship role assumed by the District and the City, which focuses on controlling nutrient inputs to this public water supply. That said, there are certainly other examples in Maine where such dramatic changes in water quality have historically occurred, including waters like China and Cobbosseecontee Lakes, which historically also supported fisheries for lake trout. Prolific planktonic algae blooms and associated changes in lake water quality on both these lakes now preclude management for native coldwater fisheries like lake trout.
Floating lake trout in Lake Auburn
Water quality data collected by the District revealed rather dramatic declines in water quality on Lake Auburn over the last two years. Last year the loss of deep water oxygen occurred in late fall when cool inshore water temperatures and oxygen levels provided lake trout suitable refuge in shallower areas of the lake. However, this year oxygen levels plummeted earlier in the growing season due in part to an early ice out, a very wet spring (conducive to nutrient loading from surface runoff) including a unusually large precipitation event in late June, and a long, hot growing season. These conditions allowed algae populations to flourish and became very abundant in August. As the algae died and settled to the bottom, oxygen levels were depleted by decomposing microorganisms. Since oxygen levels are restored to deeper areas of the lake only twice a year - during spring ice out and fall turnover just before ice in - the next opportunity for restoring oxygen to the deeper areas of the lake will be in mid-November, when the lake “turns over” as a result of cooling denser surface water sinking to the bottom. While the warm upper regions of the water column remain well oxygenated from plant photosynthesis and wind, this zone does not mix with the deeper water once a temperature density gradient is established along the “thermocline”. Since lake trout require cold water (50° F) found in deep water, and deep areas are devoid of oxygen, the lake trout were initially observed surfacing in 70+ degree water and gasping for oxygen, only to succumb to temperature shock. Salmon and smelt have not yet been impacted to the same extent and may survive this year, but it is unlikely many lake trout will pull through. Fall sampling for salmon and lake trout after fall turnover is planned to more fully evaluate the magnitude of the fishery impacts.
At this time it is unknown if the recent water quality changes observed in 2011 and 2012 on Lake Auburn will persist in the future. If they do, these changes will significantly impact our ability to manage for desirable native lake trout and salmon fisheries.
September 13, 2012
Baxter State Park, founded by Maine Governor Percival Baxter in 1931, has long been a destination for hikers, photographers, nature lovers and anglers. Although the 209,501 acres making up Baxter State Park comprise only 6.5% of the total acreage of the Penobscot Fisheries Management Region (5,044 square miles), the fisheries resources of Baxter State Park are the most important within the region, certainly for brook trout aficionados.
Our objective is to manage Park waters in keeping with Governor Baxter’s intentions when he established the Park, which is to provide for a high quality experience to fish for native species in a natural setting, and that quality has priority over quantity. To that end, Inland Fisheries & Wildlife works closely with Baxter Park staff to ensure that all fisheries management activities conform to Governors Baxter’s intentions.
Of the 72 surveyed ponds within the Park boundaries, about 90% have brook trout populations at least seasonally, and some of the best brook trout fishing for wild trout in the state of Maine occurs in the Park. There are a total of 49 waters in the Region with principal fisheries for brook trout that have never been stocked or influenced by stocking. Over half (25) of all of these “A List Waters” are found in the Park, and 13 of the 28 “B List Waters” (those with principal fisheries for brook trout and not stocked in the last 25 years) are also found in the Park. Wild trout are the Holy Grail in this part of Maine, and they offer anglers a number of options, from small trout rising to every cast to matching the hatch for an opportunity to hook a trophy!
However, there are some ponds that because of a lack of trout spawning or nursery habitat, Inland Fisheries and Wildlife stocks with wild strain brook trout to maintain trout populations. Many of these ponds are located close to much of the visitor activity in the southern end of the Park along the Permiter Road, including Rocky Pond, Round Pond, and Abol Pond. These ponds, because of their location, offer a chance for anglers to enjoy an angling experience without walking a long way into the interior of the park, and give younger anglers a chance to hone their skills as well.
We do, however, stock a number of ponds away from the road system that provide some of the best size-quality brook trout angling to be found within the Park, including Billfish Pond, Celia Pond, Frost Pond and Draper Pond, where brook trout that are measured in pounds is the norm.
Visitors to Baxter State Park that have an interest in fishing for brook trout have a myriad of opportunities to choose from, and they would do well to take the time explore this vast resource.
August 24, 2012
Unfortunate Update on Largemouth Bass in Grand Falls Flowage - Joe Overlock
Last fall department staff received an unconfirmed report of largemouth bass in Grand Falls Flowage in Washington County. Earlier this summer fisheries biologists at the Grand Lakes Regional Headquarters received a report that a local fishing guide had caught and killed a largemouth bass at the flowage. The next day another fish was caught and this specimen was confirmed by biologists to be an illegally introduced largemouth bass.
Fishing for Largemouth Bass
Following that confirmation, fisheries staff (with the help of Warden Service and the Passamaquoddy Tribe) began a thorough investigation of the area where the fish had been caught using the Department’s electrofishing boat. Two exhaustive days were spent sampling suitable largemouth habitat. No largemouth bass were found as a result of this effort and we concluded that the population was still quite small.
This introduction will have a major impact on the vitally important smallmouth bass fishery in Grand Falls Flowage. This smallmouth bass population is already limited due to a lack of adult spawning habitat as well as young-of-the-year habitat.
August 9, 2012
Sebago Lake Region – Lake & Pond Brown Trout Evaluations (submitted by Jim Pellerin, Region A, Fisheries Biologist)
Brown trout are an important coldwater species for Maine anglers, particularly in southern and central Maine where many waters are incapable of providing quality fisheries for native salmonids like brook trout and landlocked salmon. Browns are often utilized in lakes and ponds with more marginal conditions including: late summer water quality limitations, moderate to heavy competition from other fish species, and/or where smelt populations are inadequate for salmon. They may be stocked alone or in combination with other salmonids, but brown trout are expected to provide some holdover and the opportunity to catch a salmonid of good size quality.
Between 2005 and 2011, MDIFW regional staff sampled 30 of our 38 brown trout waters and handled a total of 433 browns. Across all sampled waters the mean length and weight were 16.5 inches and 1.9 pounds, respectively (Table 1). Twenty seven percent of the 433 browns sampled were 18 inches or larger in length! The remaining unsampled brown trout waters (8) had recent and adequate data for evaluation. Overall, 34 of the 38 waters (90%) evaluated met the average length criteria of 15 inches, and 32 waters (83%) met the trophy length criteria of 18 inches or larger. While our browns are performing well in terms of size quality, the abundance of brown trout in many waters appears to be relatively low. Specific causes for the low abundance of browns are unknown. One theory; poor genetics and fish health are resulting in high post-stocking mortality. The field performance of the “old” strain and two new strains of browns are currently being evaluated to investigate this issue.
Go fishing, take a child, make some memories, and perhaps catch your own trophy!
August 1, 2012
First Impressions (submitted by Dana DeGraaf, Coldwater Fisheries Biologist)
July 25, 2012
Fishway on Lower Aroostook River Tributary due for Reconstruction this Summer
It is no secret the Aroostook River has become one of the premier wild brook trout rivers in Maine. When conservative fishery regulations were placed on the lowermost section in the early 1990s, the angling public in the County was hesitant to support the changes. After nearly 20 years though, brook trout fishing on the stretch of river in Caribou and Fort Fairfield is terrific, supporting a popular fishery throughout the summer.
Derrick Cote (left) and Dave Basley sample brook trout on the lower Aroostook River in 2005.
At the heart of this special regulation section is the Little Madawaska River, a large tributary joining the Aroostook in Caribou and extending to the north, originating in the towns of Perham and Westmanland. Approximately 10 miles upstream from the Aroostook is a 50 year-old dam that creates a small reservoir providing a water supply to the Loring Development Authority (LDA), site of the former Loring Air Force base. The base closed in 1994 but the need for water remained to support the various redevelopment efforts there.
The LDA dam has a fishway to allow fish to pass upstream. As river temperatures warm in mid summer, trout seek thermal refuge habitat throughout the entire Little Madawaska watershed; significant habitat for all stages of brook trout exist here, in particular spawning and juvenile habitat in many cold tributaries. Since the late 1990s, however, the fishway has had serious maintenance issues that have worsened over time. In recent years brook trout have been observed nosing against the base of the dam, searching for access upstream. Late in 2011 the LDA secured a grant to upgrade their water treatment facility and reconstruct the fishway with state-of-the-art engineering. The upgrade will provide more efficient fish passage at all river flows, and has provisions to allow MDIF&W to trap and sample fishes. When the improvements are completed this September, the entire Little Madawaska River watershed will once again be providing great habitat in support of the lower Aroostook River sport fishery.