Upper Dam Pool Fishery Management

FISHERY INTERIM SUMMARY REPORT SERIES NO. 03-3

By David P. Boucher

Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
Division of Fisheries and Hatcheries
Augusta, Maine

February 2003

Job F-104

Interim Summary Report No. 5

SUMMARY

Upper Dam Pool is located between Upper Dam, which controls water levels in Mooselookmeguntic Lake, and the Richardson Lakes. The outlet stream, which is the major inlet to the Richardson Lakes, 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 the Richardson Lakes. Brook trout are of wild origin from both lakes and from stockings occasionally made in the Richardson Lakes. Lake trout are hatchery fish stocked in the Richardson Lakes. The Upper Dam tailrace is an important spawning tributary for rainbow smelt, the principal prey species of predator fish in Mooselookmeguntic Lake and the Richardson Lakes.

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 dipping in 1996. October fishing (catch and release only) has been permitted since 1998. Season-long clerk creel surveys were conducted in 1998, 1999, and 2002 to evaluate and monitor the fishery.

Fishing pressure in 2002 declined somewhat from previous levels, including during the special October season. Poor weather during June and unseasonably cold, blustery weather after mid- October probably contributed to the observed decline in use. Catch rates for salmon and brook trout of all sizes were within the range during the previous surveys. Release rates for legal salmon and trout have exceeded 95 percent since surveys began in 1998. Information provided by volunteers showed seven percent of the catch of salmon exceeded the legal size limit of 18 inches, and 22 percent of the brook trout catch exceeded the legal length of 12 inches.

In 2002, about 14 percent of the total annual angler use, 39 percent of the season’s catch of legal salmon, and 13 percent of the total catch of legal trout occurred in October. While we do not anticipate that handling of these mature fish at Upper Dam will compromise efforts to manage wild salmonids in this part of the Rangeley Lakes, the data clearly indicate the high catchabilty of these fish (particularly salmon) prior to and during the spawning season.

Upper Dam Pool continues to support high quality fisheries for salmon and brook trout 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 the Richardson Lakes. A season-long creel survey and angler counts are scheduled for the 2005 fishing season and for every third year thereafter.

Job F-104

Upper Dam Pool Fishery Management

Interim Summary Report No. 5

INTRODUCTION AND STUDY AREA

Upper Dam Pool is located between Upper Dam, which controls water levels in Mooselookmeguntic Lake, and the Richardson Lakes (Figure 1). The outlet stream, which is the major inlet to the Richardson Lakes, is approximately 0.46 miles long, but the fishery is concentrated in the large tailwater pool below the dam. During typical July flows, the pool where salmonids congregate and most of the angling occurs has a surface area of about 3 acres and mean and maximum depths of 12 feet and 20 feet, respectively. Salmonids that congregate in the pool include landlocked salmon (Salmo salar), brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), and lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush). The fishery is comprised of wild salmon that drop down from Mooselookmeguntic Lake and hatchery salmon stocked in the Richardson Lakes. Brook trout are of wild origin from both lakes and from stockings occasionally made in the Richardson Lakes. Lake trout are hatchery fish formerly stocked in the Richardson Lakes. The Upper Dam tailrace is an important spawning tributary for rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax), the principal prey species of predator fish in Mooselookmeguntic Lake and the Richardson Lakes.

Fishing regulations for Upper Dam Pool are highly restrictive. They 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, which supported a popular fishery for many years, was closed to dipping in 1996. In 1998, Upper Dam Pool was opened to catch-and-release fishing during October after electrofishing, trapnet, and Scuba surveys showed that natural reproduction of salmonids in the stream was insignificant, and that biological problems associated with handling stress were not likely to impact fisheries in either Upper Dam Pool or the adjoining lakes (Bonney 1997).

There is vehicular access to within one mile of Upper Dam Pool. The Pool can also be accessed by boat from both Mooselookmeguntic Lake and the Richardson Lakes.

A season-long clerk creel survey was conducted in 2002. This survey, funded and staffed by Florida Power and Light Co., was designed to evaluate the fishery following changes in water level and flow management regimes from Upper Dam. Identical surveys were conducted in 1998 and 1999, prior to water level changes. The 2002 survey is the subject of this report. Results of the previous surveys were reported by Boucher (1999a and 1999b) and are included here for comparison.

Written by Dave Boucher

For more information, please contact:

Dave Boucher, Assistant Regional Fishery Biologist
689 Farmington Road
Strong, Maine 04983-9419
Telephone: (207) 778-3322 Ext. 23
Email: dave.boucher@maine.gov