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Upper Dam Pool Fishery Management
Fishery Interim Summary Report No. 05-03
By David P. Boucher
Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
Interim Summary Report No. 6 (2003-2004)
Upper Dam Pool is located between Upper Dam, which controls water levels in Mooselookmeguntic Lake, and Richardson Lake. The outlet stream, which is the major inlet to Richardson Lake, is approximately 0.46 miles long, but the fishery is concentrated in the large tailwater pool below the dam. The fishery is comprised of wild salmon that drop down from Mooselookmeguntic Lake and hatchery salmon stocked in Richardson Lake. Brook trout are of wild origin from both lakes and from stockings occasionally made in Richardson Lake. Lake trout are also present from stockings made in Richardson Lake. The Upper Dam tailrace is an important spawning tributary for rainbow smelt, the principal prey species of predator fish in Mooselookmeguntic Lake and Richardson Lake.
Fishing regulations for Upper Dam Pool include fly-fishing only, minimum length limits of 18 inches for salmon and 12 inches for brook trout, and a total daily bag limit of one fish. The smelt spawning run was closed to recreational dipping in 1996. October fishing (catch and release only) has been permitted since 1998. Season-long angler creel surveys were conducted in 1998-1999 and 2002-2004 to evaluate and monitor the fishery.
Total angler use in 2003 and 2004 was within the range of previous estimates, but use during the special October fishery increased considerably, particularly in 2004, suggesting that fall fishing is becoming more popular among anglers in western Maine. Catch rates for brook trout of all sizes were generally within the range observed during the previous surveys, but catch rates for salmon increased in 2003 and 2004. Ratios of sublegal salmon have also increased since 1998. The condition of salmon in the Upper Dam Pool fishery directly reflects conditions in both Mooselookmeguntic Lake and Richardson Lake, where salmon are currently overabundant and growth has slowed markedly in both lakes.
Data provided by volunteers showed that the salmon fishery continued to be dominated by fish in the 10 to 12-inch and 14 to 16-inch size groups. From 1996 to 2000, about seven percent of the salmon catch exceeded the legal size limit of 18 inches. This ratio was essentially unchanged (six percent) from 2001 to 2004, but the proportion of very large salmon (>20 in) declined. The trout fishery continued to be dominated by fish from 6 to12 inches. Twenty-two percent of the brook trout catch exceeded the minimum legal length of 12 inches from 1996 to 2000. From 2001 to 2004 trout over 12 inches comprised 29% of the catch, but trout larger than 16 inches appeared to decline slightly.
About 17 and 28 percent of the total angler use occurred during the special October fishing season in 2003 and 2004, respectively. Fifty-eight and 71 percent of the season’s catch of salmon occurred in October in 2003 and 2004, respectively, and the trout catch in October comprised 32 and 42 percent of the total catch in 2003 and 2004, respectively. The October catch of both species during 2003 and 2004 exceeded the catch observed during all the earlier surveys. We do not anticipate that handling of these mature fish at Upper Dam Pool will compromise efforts to manage wild salmonids in this part of the Rangeley Lakes, but the data clearly indicate the high catchabilty of these fish (particularly salmon) prior to and during the spawning season.
Upper Dam Pool continues to provide high quality salmon and brook trout fisheries that attract large numbers of anglers. Restrictive regulations and high rates of voluntary release should maintain the integrity of this important resource. However, the Upper Dam Pool fishery could be affected by changes in fishery management, water level, and flow regimes currently underway in Mooselookmeguntic Lake and Richardson Lake. A season-long creel survey and angler counts are scheduled for the 2007 fishing season and for every third year thereafter.
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