Regional Fishing Information - Region E (The Moosehead Region)
MDIFW Regional Office
P. O. Box 551
Greenville, ME 04441
April 14, 2006 - Department response to splake article in the Maine Sportsman
In the April edition of the Maine Sportsman, there is a column critical of stocking splake in Maine waters. In that column, it is wrongly stated that splake are "threatening some of Maine's finest wild salmonid waters". Our data does not support this contention.
We have stocked splake in Maine since the mid- 1980's. In fact, fishery managers across North America have utilized splake since the turn of the century. It has been well documented in Maine and in other States and Canada that splake can provide excellent coldwater fishing opportunities where other species, such as brook trout, have not succeeded.
In Maine, we stock splake in waters where past stockings of brook trout have failed to create a fishery and no wild fishery exists. These waters commonly have suitable water quality to sustain coldwater gamefish, but lack spawning habitat. They often contain a variety of rough fish such as white and yellow perch, which provide competition for brook trout but are often utilized as forage by splake.
Nearly all waters currently managed for splake were stocked with brook trout in the past 20 years and those programs failed to provide a decent fishery. If splake were not stocked in these waters there would be a significant loss of fishing opportunity to anglers in the area. The splake program is considered put-grow-take, just like the salmon, lake trout, and some brook trout programs in Maine. Typically, splake are 8-10 inches when stocked, and most survive and grow to larger sizes.
The public has told us that they would like us to provide a diversity of fishing opportunities. While some people may be only interested in fly-fishing, some Maine folks are only able to fish during the winter months, and many of Maine's anglers and enjoy all types of fishing. The stocking of splake, in no way, jeopardizes any of these practices, rather, it enhances them.
Some anglers complain that splake should not be stocked because they don't reproduce. Others are afraid they might reproduce. Nearly all waters stocked with splake lack suitable salmonid spawning habitat, which very rarely can be sufficiently enhanced or restored to support a self-sustaining population of coldwater gamefish.
In these situations it does not matter what species is stocked; there will be no reproduction without suitable habitat. Therefore, it is our job as fisheries managers to develop a management plan that will best suit the resources of a particular water. Where stocking is necessary we must select the species that will provide the best fishery, given the physical and biological characteristics of that water. It should also be noted that the cost of stocking a splake is essentially the same for a brook trout of the same age, therefore, replacing stocked splake with stocked brook trout would not produce any cost savings.
These fish are not genetically engineered. Very simply, splake are a cross between our Maine Hatchery brook trout and a Maine strain of lake trout. Our first generation splake are essentially a hybrid charr from local Maine strains. Yet even though these fish come from Maine strains, some would rather see us stock rainbow trout and brown trout, two exotic species that can become permanently established.
As previously mentioned, splake are commonly stocked throughout North America because of their well-documented positive benefits. Splake do not pose any threat to the genetics of native trout in Maine. They are not stocked in waters where the genetic integrity of wild salmonids is an issue. It is true that a limited number of splake have occasionally migrated to other waters that may contain wild trout. These cases are reviewed individually to determine if a management change is needed. Hatchery brook trout have had access to these waters in the past and possibly presently.
We have never documented any splake reproduction in Maine despite intensive evaluations of many stocking programs. Fisheries biologists have monitored the brook trout populations regularly on the Rapid River and the Magalloway River. It is true that anglers have caught a limited number of splake in these rivers, however, we've observed and photographed the major spawning concentration of trout in the Rapid River for the past 3 years. We commonly observe several dozen trout of various sizes during these surveys and we've never observed a single splake participating in these spawning rituals.
Since 1998, we've handled 1,267 fish from the Rapid River and Pond in the River during all seasons except winter and not one has been a splake. In the Magalloway, we seined a large concentration of pre-spawning trout at the mouth of Abbott Brook in 2002 and not one was a splake. We're serious about protecting and preserving the Rapid River brook trout fishery, and if splake ever pose a threat to this resource it will be addressed immediately.
Splake have been stocked in the Chesuncook drainage since 1994. Since then, summer voluntary anglers have reported a total of 1,431 days of fishing in which 3,247 salmon, 13 lake trout, and 10 splake were caught. We have also seen a few splake during our winter clerk surveys. This is an incidental fishery at best. It is true that splake will feed on smelts. It is also true that splake feed on white perch which are a more serious competitor for smelts because they are much more prolific than coldwater gamefish.
In 1999, a University of Maine at Orono masters study was conducted to examine competition between hatchery salmon and splake stocked in the same water. The study lake also contained white perch, smelts, suckers and the typical assortment of minnows. The study documented a significant increase in salmon growth after the introduction of splake. Splake were feeding heavily on white perch. In another water, splake were partially responsible for the complete elimination of white perch. In this pond, the smelt population has now increased to the level where we have reduced the number of splake stocked annually and will be able to stock a limited number of salmon. These are just a couple of the many success stories of Maine's splake stocking program.
Those who dislike splake often point to one study in Colorado in which splake were successfully used to reduce brook trout densities by direct predation. The stocking rates in these waters were excessively high. In fact, stocking rates were as high as 50 fish/acre in 3 small ponds. One of these study waters was just 8 acres. In Maine, we stock most principal splake fisheries with less than 5 fish/acre. In the Moosehead Lake Region, we have detailed food habits data from 777 splake. Not one contained a salmonid. This includes a sample of 30 splake collected from Thissell Pond in 2005. Thissell Pond was stocked with splake in an effort to eliminate smelts that were illegally introduced into this wild brook trout pond in the mid-1990s. Incidentally, several wild trout were captured in the nets with the splake. We netted tens of thousands of smelts in three years after the initial introduction. No smelts were taken in 2005 in the nets or in splake stomachs.
The column also states that a recent poll in the Maine Sportsman showed 40 % of the respondents were in favor of eliminating the program. Actually, the April 2005 Maine Sportsman Reader Poll (question 12) shows that 35% would eliminate the program while 52% are in favor of keeping the program. Also, the 2001 Splake Plan details the demand for (popularity of) splake fishing: "Winter use (in Maine) directed at all coldwater gamefish declined nearly 21% from 1994 to 1999. Winter use on waters with principal splake fisheries increased 429% from 4,749 angler-days to 25,112 angler-days during the same period. This dramatic increase in use is reflective of anglers' acceptance of splake and the increased opportunity the fish provides. Clearly, more anglers are actively seeking out splake during the winter months because these fish are easily caught and in many cases are of quality size. Also, the total acreage of splake water increased 81% over the same period. The total number of angler-days during the open water fishing season increased 82% from 39,156 in 1994 to 71,442 in 1999."
In 2001, species plans were developed for all of Maine's major fish species including splake. A Coldwater Working Group was formed representing a cross-section of the various angler interests in Maine, including: winter anglers, open water anglers, SAM, TU, and others. This group reviewed data presented by IF&W and formulated a plan with goals and objectives. According to meeting minutes, the SAM representative stated that while he saw the benefit of the splake program, especially in creating high-quality fisheries, SAM would vote against the splake plan. Nonetheless, a plan was formulated and passed by the group. Clearly, the majority of the angling public has a different perspective on this very effective splake program.
Splake will continue to play a role in fisheries management in Maine. We have learned from our research that splake can greatly enhance fishing opportunities in Maine. Data collected from the study waters comparing stocked brook trout to splake are conclusive, splake outperform hatchery brook trout in waters where water quality is adequate and where use and harvest are not excessive. In fact, in some waters, the returns of splake were better than for stocked salmon. Quality fisheries, in terms of catch rates and size, can be achieved in many waters, where currently there are no active stocking programs or where hatchery fish have provided poor results.
Regional Fisheries Biologist
April 14, 2006 - IF&W's position with regard to splake interactions at Chesuncook Lake
In 1992, the Moosehead Regional Office submitted a proposal to increase the minimum length limit on salmon at Chesuncook Lake from 14 inches to 16 inches and reduced the bag limit from 2 fish to 1 fish. This was a proactive approach on our part to maintain and improve the quality salmon fishery at this lake. In 1994, this office submitted a comprehensive proposal for quality/trophy salmon management in the West Branch drainage, as part of then Commissioner Bucky Owen's Fishing Initiative. This proposal included a harvest slot that protected the larger wild salmon in Ragged Lake, Chesuncook Lake, Caucomgomoc Lake, Harrington Lake, and the West Branch of the Penobscot River. Unfortunately, the public rejected this proposal. Therefore, we maintained the 16-inch minimum length limit and a one fish bag limit on Chesuncook Lake.
We are fortunate to have recruited several dedicated anglers at Chesuncook Lake in the late 1980's to keep voluntary records for the IF&W. These folks have provided us with a tremendous amount of data regarding the salmon fishery. We have also conducted several clerk surveys at Chesuncook Lake. From 1987 to 1993 (prior to the effects of the regulation change), the catch rate for fish less than 13 inches was 0.119 fish/hr. From the period of 1994 to 1999, under the 1 fish, 16 inches regulation, that catch rate nearly doubled to 0.213 fish/hr. The catch rate for 14-15 inch fish also doubled during this period. However, there was no substantial increase in the catch rate of larger fish. In addition to the increasing numbers of smaller fish in the lake, we also documented a decline in growth rates. Mean lengths at age and condition factors were declining. Prior to the regulation change, age 5 salmon represented a significant proportion of the catch and averaged 18.0 inches. They had a mean condition factor of 0.93 which is considered very good. Currently, age 5 salmon average 16.1 inches with a condition factor of 0.82. This is a serious decline in growth that we recognized in 1998. It is not the result of removing the larger fish in the lake as Mr. Mallard states. Emergency legislation was passed to liberalize the regulations to allow the harvest of these smaller fish and restore historic growth rates. Initially, a 2 fish bag limit was adopted with a 14-inch minimum length limit. That regulation was later modified to allow 3 fish between 14-18 inches and only 1 fish could exceed 18 inches. This would encourage anglers to harvest some of the smaller fish but restrict the harvest of quality size salmon. This proposal was thoroughly discussed and passed by the Fisheries Division's Regulations Committee and the APA process. The catch rate of fish less than 13 inches is still high. In fact, the catch rate for sublegal fish is about 3X what it was in the late 1980's. In 2003, the sublegal rate was nearly 5X the historic level. Clearly, smaller slower growing fish are still very abundant and need to be removed if growth is to improve.
We also have voluntary data from the West Branch fishery above Chesuncook Lake, known as the Foxhole. This is a fall fishery for Chesuncook Lake salmon that enter the river to spawn. This was historically known as a very high quality fishery with very few fish less than 15 inches in the catch. The trends in catch rates are essentially the same as we documented on the lake. Before the restrictive regulations went into effect, the catch rate for fish less than 15 inches was 0.174 fish/hr. After the regulation change, the catch rate increased to 0.432 fish/hr. Quality fishing declined. Catch rates for fish greater than 16 inches declined from 0.835 fish/h to 0.526 fish/hr. Again, this was not a case of cropping off the larger fish. These smaller fish are sexually mature and the same ages as in the 1980's. Instead, it is a case of slowing growth due to overcrowding in the lake.
Mr. Mallard raised several issues in his two emails I received.
1. The decommissioning of the Harrington Lake and Umbazooksus Dams.
The FERC determined that Great Northern Paper (GNP) would be required to license these dams in the late 1990's. GNP determined that it was not feasible to go through the time- consuming and expensive relicensing process for these two dams and the dams at Rainbow Lake, Dole Pond, Long Pond, Loon Lake, and Penobscot Lake. Therefore, GNP made a business decision to remove the gates at these dams. "We" (the IFW) had no say in this matter. It was the result of federal law. Historically, these dams were used to catch spring snowmelt then, as storage became available downstream in Chesuncook Lake, these storage facilities were emptied. In many years, the impoundments never reached full capacity and they were generally emptied by mid-summer. The removal of these dams has had no impact on the salmon fishery at Chesuncook Lake. They are essentially natural, run-of river operations. Mr. Mallard states that the removal of the dam at Umbazooksus Lake has forced white perch into Chesuncook Lake. We would gladly review any data he can produce to support this claim. This dam has never enhanced or prohibited fish passage in the past or currently. Chesuncook Lake has always had a principal fishery for white perch. In fact, there is a historic whiter perch fishery in the mouth of Umbazooksus Stream. This fishery has been established for many, many years; long before the removal of the gates on the dam. The outlet of Harrington flows into Ripogenus Stream, which does contain some salmon habitat. Flows are now essentially run-of the-river, natural flows. We do not see any degradation in salmon habitat due to the natural flows in the stream. Also, lack of habitat is not an issue at Chesuncook Lake. The West Branch of the Penobscot is roughly 24 miles long and 100 ft wide. It has extensive amounts of spawning and nursery habitat. As noted above, there is an abundance of salmon production in Chesuncook Lake.
2. Smelt population before and after the regulation change.
As stated above growth rates have declined since the regulation change. This indicates the smelt population has declined due to the increasing number of smaller fish held in the lake due to the higher length limit. We have closed the entire lake to smelting and liberalized the bag and size limits to reverse this trend. Mr. Mallard states that we have mismanaged the lake by allowing smelt dipping at Ragged Stream. This was a traditional smelt fishery and we attempted to accommodate this fishery while salmon growth rates remained favorable. It was a very popular site that was easily accessed. The fishery is limited to an area approximately 50 yards long and 15 yards wide. Extensive smelt run surveys in the late 1980's documented smelt runs at 8 tributaries to Chesuncook Lake. These other runs were virtually untouched by dippers due to their remote location. Most notably, smelt eggs were located the two largest tributaries to the lake: Caucomgomoc Stream and nearly 3 miles upstream on the West Branch.
3. Effects of dropdown splake on the fishery.
A limited number of splake are dropping into Chesuncook Lake from stocked waters upstream. Splake stocking started in 1994 in this drainage. Since this time, summer voluntary anglers have reported a total of 1,431 days of fishing in which 3,247 salmon, 13 lake trout, and 10 splake have been caught. We have also seen a few splake during the winter clerk surveys. This is an incidental fishery. Splake do feed on smelts, but they also feed heavily on young white perch and yellow perch to a lesser extent. At Piper Pond in Abbot, splake can be partially credited with eliminating a white perch population. The result has been a much-improved smelt population. The splake fisheries at Ragged Lake, Deer Pond, and Chesuncook Lake are highly desirable, especially for ice fishermen. These waters would not have a principal coldwater fishery without a splake program. There are few or no wild fish and past stocking programs have failed. If we felt splake were a serious threat to the recovery of salmon growth rates at Chesuncook Lake, we would be the first to take action.
Finally Mr. Mallard states that we do not support quality fish management and have failed to protect larger fish at Chesuncook Lake. Nothing could be further form the truth. This region has 43% of all trout ponds in the State managed with catch and release or a 1 trout; 18-inch minimum length limit. We have promulgated a new slot limit on 3 ponds in an effort to create trophy trout fishing. These water previously had a 1 fish; 18-inch minimum length limit. Our extensive evaluation revealed that waters with trout densities greater than approximately 20 fish per acre failed to produce a trophy fishery due to high rates of recruitment, while we were more successful in waters with fewer than 10 fish per acre. We have already scheduled staff time to fully evaluate these new experimental regulations. This region has a long history of supporting and advancing quality management strategies. In regards to Chesuncook Lake, as mentioned earlier we proposed a vast and comprehensive plan in 1994, before the Classic Salmon Initiative (CSI) was conceived. We fully support the current CSI plan at Chesuncook Lake and Lobster Lake. We have assisted Larry Fiori with public presentations and continue to work with him. The lack of snow and poor ice conditions this year has caused a substantial decline in winter use and harvest. If anglers do not remove some of these smaller, very abundant fish then the cooperative program designed to create larger salmon will certainly fail. We do not want that to happen. It is our hope that the current regulations will be temporary and we will see an improvement in growth in the near future. At that point, we will develop a progressive slot regulation that will likely allow some harvest of smaller fish yet provide protection for the larger fish.
Tim Obrey, Regional Fisheries Biologist - Moosehead Lake Region
The Moosehead Lake Region encompasses 4,400 square miles of West Central Maine, and includes 127 townships plus Moosehead Lake. The region is drained by 330 miles of main stem rivers, into which flow 3,850 miles of smaller tributaries. During the last glacial era more than 1,200 natural lakes and ponds were carved into its landscape, varying in size from one-acre ponds to Moosehead, at 74,890 acres Maine’s largest lake, and one of the largest natural freshwater lakes in the United States. The total area of all standing surface waters in the region is more than 238,000 acres - 24% of the total area of lakes and ponds in Maine!
Because it lies at the headwaters of the Kennebec, the West Branch of the Penobscot, the Piscataquis, the Pleasant, and the St. John rivers, the Moosehead Region has experienced fewer biological and physical changes than other areas in Maine. Anglers will find, and enjoy much of the natural beauty described by Thoreau and other nineteenth century visitors to the region.
The Moosehead Region is best known for Maine’s three premier coldwater game fish species - brook trout, lake trout, and landlocked salmon. Brook trout are native to waters throughout the region. Maine’s wild brook trout resources are unequaled in the Northeastern United States, and the Moosehead Region is well-endowed with wild trout populations. Lake trout, known for the large size which they attain in some waters, are also native throughout the region. Landlocked salmon, originally native only to Sebec Lake, in the southern part of the region, have been introduced throughout the region. There are also opportunities to fish for Maine’s other coldwater species: burbot (cusk), lake whitefish, char (blueback trout), and brown trout. Even smelts, which are perhaps known best as an important forage fish, also provide fisheries in some waters. Splake, a hybrid between the lake trout and the brook trout, have been introduced to overcome competition from nongame species and create successful fisheries where other native fish, such as the brook trout, have not been as successful.
Coolwater and warmwater game fish species, though more limited in their distribution, are also present in the region. White perch, pickerel and yes, even the yellow perch have provided popular fisheries in the southern part of the region for years. Recently, smallmouth bass have increased in popularity throughout Maine. Although once very limited to the southernmost part of the region, they now provide fisheries in several waters around Moosehead Lake. Muskellunge have created new opportunities in the northwest corner of the region.
Moosehead Lake, central to the region, is a popular destination for anglers, both winter and summer. In addition to the fishing, the clear water, miles of undeveloped shoreline, magnificent scenery, and the opportunity to observe wildlife all make a trip to Moosehead a memorable experience. Landlocked salmon, lake trout, brook trout, and cusk provide the principal fisheries which have attracted anglers for many years. Natural reproduction maintains the lake trout, brook trout, and cusk populations. Although annual salmon stocking contributes to the fishery, wild salmon produced in the tributaries comprise approximately half of the catch each year.
Moosehead Lake’s major tributary is the Moose River. It originates near the Canadian border to the west of Jackman, and all of the headwater streams offer fishing for wild brook trout. Just to the west of Jackman the Moose River flows through or near a series of lakes - Holeb Pond, Attean Lake, Big Wood Pond, and Little Big Wood Pond. Historically all of these waters were noted for salmon and brook trout. After yellow perch appeared in the drainage, in the late 1960’s, brook trout fishing in the lakes was compromised. Nevertheless brook trout continue to contribute to the fisheries, and splake have been successfully introduced to add to the offerings of these waters. Salmon from annual stockings as well as some wild fish continue to provide fishing action in all of these lakes. The unique arrangement of these lakes relative to the Moose River allow for a canoe trip - the Bow Trip - which begins and ends at the same location, either on Attean or Big Wood, with only one major portage between Attean and Holeb.
East of Jackman the Moose River flows through Long Pond to Brassua Lake, where salmon and brook trout again provide the major fisheries in these waters. Smelts also provide a popular fishery in Brassua. Downstream from Brassua, especially the mile of river immediately below its outlet dam, the Moose River is especially noted for salmon and trout fishing from June through September.
Throughout the Moose River drainage there are numerous small trout ponds accessible over gravel roads or by trail. Many are wild trout ponds, others are stocked annually by aircraft. All await discovery by those willing to get back off a paved highway.
The Roach River drainage, to the east of Moosehead Lake, is Moosehead’s second largest tributary. The six miles of river between First Roach Pond and Moosehead offer seasonally excellent fishing for salmon and brook trout, in a small-river environment. This section of river is restricted to fly fishing only, catch and release fishing. First Roach Pond, the largest and deepest water in the drainage, is noted for salmon, trout and togue.
Flowing out of Moosehead to the southwest are its East and West Outlets. The East Outlet is well-known for salmon and brook trout. The East Outlet is one the waters in the Moosehead Region open in October to catch and release fishing, and anglers are beginning to discover this late season opportunity to fish before putting away their rods for the winter. The West Outlet, open to general law fishing, offers both brook trout (yearlings are stocked in the upper reaches each spring) and smallmouth bass fishing. Although much smaller than the East Outlet, an adequate flow all summer allows a leisurely day-long canoe trip down to Indian Pond. Both the East and West Outlets flow into Indian Pond, where both salmon and smallmouth bass are found. Many small trout ponds drain into Indian Pond, and into the Kennebec River downstream from Indian Pond. Some of these ponds are accessible over gravel roads, many require a hike in. Especially noteworthy are the ponds that lie at the headwaters of Cold Stream, to the east of Parlin Pond. Wild brook trout and one minnow species are the only fish in these fly fishing only waters, and the trout thrive there in the absence of competition.
South and east of Moosehead the region is drained by the Piscataquis and Sebec rivers. Most of the Moosehead region’s year-round population lives in this area, and many of the ponds are developed with seasonal camps. The headwaters of the East and West Branches of the Piscataquis River, above the town of Blanchard, support wild brook trout. The main stem of the Piscataquis between Guilford and Sebec is stocked with yearling brook trout each spring, and yearling brown trout each fall. These stockings have created a fishery where one did not exist prior to 1990. Smallmouth bass are also present in the Piscataquis below Guilford, and provide good fishing. There are no dams to control the flow on the Piscataquis, so during the summer it gets quite low. However, spring water levels are conducive for an excellent float fishing trip down the river. Many of the ponds which drain into the Piscataquis are stocked each year with either brook trout, salmon, or splake. Ponds such as Kingsbury, Whetstone and Piper Ponds attract anglers’ attention each year.
The Wilson Ponds, though located just to the east of Greenville and Moosehead Lake, flow south into Sebec Lake through Wilson Stream. The Wilson Ponds provide fisheries for salmon and lake trout. Wilson Stream provides brook trout fishing for those willing to get back away from the road.
Waters on the other major tributaries to Sebec Lake, Long Pond Stream and Ship Pond Stream, include Long Pond (salmon/trout/togue), Onawa Lake (salmon and trout), Big Benson Pond (togue), and the Greenwood Ponds (brook trout and togue). Sebec Lake, one of the original homes of landlocked salmon in Maine, continues to support a fishery for wild salmon. Lake trout are stocked there each year, and provide an attractive fishery. Sebec’s smallmouth bass and white perch fisheries should not be overlooked by warmwater enthusiasts.
To the East of Moosehead lies the headwaters of the Pleasant River. Both the West Branch, which flows through Gulf Hagas gorge, and the East Branch are excellent wild trout streams. All of the small ponds in both of these drainages are managed for wild brook trout.
Access into these areas is over gravel roads, and the areas are managed for recreation by the KI-Jo Mary unit of North Maine Woods, which charges day use and nightly camping fees. Most of the waters can be reached only by trail.
The West Branch of The Penobscot River drains the largely undeveloped, forested area immediately to the northwest, north, and northeast of Moosehead Lake. Most of this area is owned by Great Northern Paper, access is provided by gravel roads, and overnight camping fees are charged. The North and South Branches of the Penobscot, to the northwest of Moosehead, comprise the headwaters of the West Branch. These rivers and their tributaries all provide stream fisheries for wild brook trout; there are no salmon in the drainage above Seboomook dam. The large lakes - Penobscot, Canada Falls, Long and Dole Ponds, and Seboomook - are also managed for wild brook trout. Penobscot Lake offers a chance to fish for blueback trout, and Long Pond has a population of wild lake trout. Numerous small ponds throughout the North and South Branch drainages offer trout fishing, with the fisheries in all but a couple supported entirely by natural reproduction.
The West Branch downstream from Seboomook Lake to and including Chesuncook Lake, is best known for its landlocked salmon fishing. Salmon were introduced into the drainage in the early 1900’s, but since 1978 natural reproduction has maintained all of the salmon fisheries that presently occur throughout the upper West Branch drainage. The best river fishing opportunities are found in the 4 miles immediately downstream from Seboomook dam, and in the 6 miles or so immediately above Chesuncook Lake. A long stretch of relatively flat water separates these two popular fishing areas. The West Branch, including the side trip into Lobster Lake, is noted for canoe camping. On this waterway, now managed as the Penobscot Corridor by the Bureau of Parks and Recreation, outdoor enthusiasts can follow in the footsteps of Henry Thoreau and other nineteenth century visitors who explored the region with their Indian guides. In Lobster Lake anglers will find lake trout and white perch in addition to the salmon. Chesuncook Lake is best known for its wild salmon population, but it also provides fishing for white perch and cusk. Loon and Caucomgomoc Lakes flow into Chesuncook from the north through Caucomgomoc Stream. These waters also provide salmon fishing opportunities.
Ripogenus Dam impounds the waters of Chesuncook Lake. Flows through the dam generate power for Great Northern, but also assure adequate year-round flows for salmon habitat and salmon fishing downstream in the West Branch. The river below Ripogenus Dam provides one of the best high quality salmon fisheries in Maine. To the south of this section of the West Branch lies the Rainbow and Nahmakanta lakes country, which provides many opportunities to hike into remote ponds. Rainbow Lake, one of the few large lakes left in Maine not accessible by road, is home to the blueback trout as well as to wild population of brook trout.
A height of land separates the Penobscot River drainage from headwaters of the St. John River to the north. Access to all of the waters in this area is over gravel roads, and through gates managed by North Maine Woods. Day use fees, and overnight camping fees are charged here. The headwaters of the Allagash River lie in the Moosehead Region. The Allagash is one of very few Maine drainages left with its natural assemblage of native coldwater species unaltered by many introductions of other fish species. The smelt is the only species introduced into the upper reaches of the waterway. Natural reproduction supports the brook trout, lake trout, lake whitefish and burbot (cusk) fisheries in the lakes of the Allagash Waterway. Anglers can launch a boat with a motor to fish Chamberlain Lake, Telos Lake, and Round Pond. But to reach Allagash Lake requires a walk or canoe trip of at least a mile, and paddling a canoe while you are there. It is one of very few places in Maine that cannot be reached easily, and where no motorized equipment is allowed.
The headwaters of the main stem of the St. John River lie to the west of the Allagash Waterway. All of the St. John’s tributaries offer excellent, though seasonal trout fisheries. The St. John River has long been noted for its spring canoeing opportunities, with trips beginning at either Fifth St. John Pond or Baker Lake on the Baker Branch. Fishing for wild brook trout along the way has been an integral part of most St. John River trips.
Individual preferences determine the best time to fish in the region. Traditionally, surface fishing for salmon and trout in the lakes is best in the weeks following ice out, though some years the fishing for these species improves again as the waters cool in September. June and September are probably the best months to plan on stream fishing for salmon and trout. Brook trout in the small ponds respond well from ice out until early in July, and again in September. Surface fishing for lake trout is best for a short time after ice out. After that anglers must fish down where this deep water dweller finds temperatures that suit it throughout the warm summer months. Bass fishing action is usually fastest around the time they spawn, in early June, but bass do provide action all season long.
Access into the Moosehead Region over paved highways is through Dover-Foxcroft, Guilford, Greenville, Rockwood, and Jackman. Accommodations in the region vary from motels, to sporting camps, to campgrounds, to individual remote campsites. Fishing opportunities abound, whether from boat with motor, canoe, or from the shore; whether roadside or hike-in for a day of solitude on a remote pond.
Serious anglers should come prepared to explore and discover for themselves the diversity of fisheries and opportunities that the Moosehead Region offers. There’s a lot of fishing to look for, and to look forward to, in the Moosehead Region.
Anglers are encouraged to contact the regional fisheries biologists at (207) 695-3756 for additional information on the lakes in this region.