Penobscot River Smallmouth Bass Management

Fishery Interim Summary Report Series No. 06-05.


New England's second largest river system, the Penobscot drains an area of 8,570 square miles. Most of the watershed is forested, intensively harvested for pulp and saw logs and sparsely settled. Paper mills are located on West Branch at Millinocket and East Millinocket, and on the main-stem at Lincoln, Old Town, Brewer and Bucksport. The Penobscot is home to many fish species, including brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), landlocked salmon (Salmo salar), smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu), white perch (Morone americana) and chain pickerel (Esox niger).

A recent illegal introduction of northern pike (Esox lucius) in Pushaw Lake, a shallow warmwater lake in the lower part of the Penobscot drainage, has been documented. There are no barriers to pike movements from Pushaw Lake into the outlet, Pushaw Stream (a tributary stream to the Penobscot), and eventually into the Penobscot River. Although presence of pike has not been documented beyond the lake, it is logical to assume that if pike do become established in Pushaw Lake, they will move into the Penobscot River where they would be expected to dramatically change the ecology of the Lower Penobscot River for all resident fish species.  

The study area consists of approximately 74 linear miles (10,496 acres) of river, from just above the head of tide at Veazie Dam in the towns of Veazie and Eddington, to the confluence of the East and West Branches of the Penobscot River in Medway.  As in the 1990 study, the river was divided into six sections (Figure 2) based on area, angler use, angler access and broad habitat types. Other regional responsibilities determined that only half of the project sections could be accomplished per year. The three northern sections from Howland/West Enfield to Medway were sampled in 2002, and the lower three sections from Howland/West Enfield south to Bangor were sampled in 2003.

With the advent of the new special bass regulations on the Penobscot River, we expected a general improvement in size quality. Comparison of our survey work in 2002/2003 to 1990 samples showed that the overall size quality has improved. However, the growth rate of bass appears to have slowed in all sections, and at all age-classes as well. 

Further enhancement of size quality will require regulations designed to improve growth rate by increasing the number of smaller bass harvested while protecting the older larger fish. Since most anglers are reluctant to harvest any bass, they need to be convinced of the benefits of harvesting smaller bass to increase growth rates.

Written by Nels Kramer
For more information and a full report, please contact:
Nels Kramer, Fishery Biologist
Penobscot Regional Headquarters
73 Cobb Rd.
Enfield, Maine 04493
Tel. 207-732-4131