Fishing Reports by Regional Fishery Biologists Region Map

July 21, 2008

Region A - Southwestern Maine - Photos from the field!

Most of our previous fishing reports focus on fishing and what area anglers are catching.  However, this week I'd like to talk about the management of two Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife-owned boat launch sites.

This past week regional staff spent about six days addressing management issues on Little Sebago Lake (Windham) and Cold Rain Pond (Naples). What I learned from these “projects” is just how many good and helpful members of the public are out there working to keep our public waters and access sites clean. I would like to recognize just a few of these people and highlight some recent accomplishments.

The public launch at Little Sebago in Windham was built over 15 years ago and remains one of our most heavily used regional water access sites.  The size of this waterfront property limits parking and at times the demand for access exceeds available parking.  Fifteen years of tree growth had encroached upon the facility, interfering with access and parking.  This growth was removed over a two-day period to restore full use and function to the launch facility and address the need for improved visibility of the property to discourage unwelcome deviant activities.

Anyone who regularly launches at the Little Sebago Lake launch facility has likely met very personable Jim and Jacky Fitzgerald, who greet boaters and request that their boats be inspected for invasive aquatic plants.  Jim and Jacky, however, are more than milfoil inspectors; they have become stewards of the facility, voluntarily maintaining a trash receptacle and actively collecting trash to help keep the site clean at no cost to the state or the public.  They also try to help with traffic flow during heavy use times and do what they can to maximize available parking capacity in the lot by making sure all space is well used.

Jim also recently volunteered his time to repaint the parking area lines on the asphalt which had faded, in an effort to ensure limited parking space is being well used.  When I asked Jim where he got the paint striper and paint and who paid for it, I was informed that Ed Steward (Windham), a regular user of the launch, paid to rent the striper and paint.

At Cold Rain Pond in Naples, a very large ice fishing shack was abandoned (no name or address of its owner), creating quite an eyesore on this picturesque undeveloped pond.  While we don't ordinarily go around collecting abandoned ice shacks, our only neighbors on the pond (MDIF&W owns about two-thirds of the shoreline), the Buck Family, were concerned with the eyesore created by the structure.

In a cooperative effort, members of the Buck Family somehow managed to tow the barely floating ice shack using a canoe and lots of brawn to the IF&W launch site (hand carry site), where we were able to dismantle it and haul it to the dump. 

Without the assistance and concern from the Buck Family, this unsightly structure left by some inconsiderate sportsmen would still be marring the views on this pretty undeveloped pond.  Signs were also posted prohibiting camping and fires, as these activities are not supported and are inconsistent with the management of this property for water access.

I would like to extend my gratitude to the many caring folks like the Buck Family (Naples), Jim and Jacky Fitzgerald (Windham), and Ed  Steward (Windham), who are out there (you may be one of them), trying to make a positive difference by getting involved. Thank you!
  Anyone proposing to volunteer time on a maintenance project at one of our MDIF&W water access sites in Region A should contact one of the regional fisheries biologists in Gray (657-2345) to obtain permission prior to undertaking any work, unless of course you're assisting with trash removal, which is always a welcome activity.
Francis Brautigam, Regional Fisheries Biologist, Gray

Region B - Central Maine - Photos from the field!

Mid-summer finds the Region B staff completing a variety of field evaluations on the area’s lakes, ponds and streams. There is also the ever-present office management and on going data analysis and reporting too. In short, we’re always busy.

While fishing for brook trout and other salmonids has slowed somewhat due to rising water temperatures and lower than normal flows, fishing for bass has picked up considerably. Reports coming in from around the region indicate that anglers are having success in both large and small still waters and in our larger rivers, most notably the Kennebec and Sebasticook.

Concerning bass, we are in the midst of tournament season. Along with Region A to the south, the mid-coast area is witness to the largest number of tournaments held in the state. Within the region, there are both “Club” contests put on by a particular club or association, and “Open” tournaments, where entry is open to non-club members.

Bass tournament anglers take their competition very seriously. Many have significant investments in both vehicles and equipment. And, many have countless hours of experience chasing their quarry. The best time to visit a tournament is either at the start or at the end. The start is exciting in that everyone leaves from a specific location, either as a timed or a race-like start.

A better time for a novice angler wanting to learn more about bass fishing is to visit a tournament, especially an open tournament with a weigh-in. At the weigh–in, each fish caught is measured and, of course weighed and compared to the others caught. Prizes are awarded in a variety of ways: largest fish, most fish, total pounds of fish, etc. Also at the weigh-in, a novice will find the opportunity to speak with tournament anglers. Many, if not all, are more than happy to discuss techniques. They probably won’t let on where they fished, after all it is a contest, but most will talk at length about their sport.

In closing, I want to bid a “farewell” to a friend and consummate angler. Last week, Maine’s outdoor community lost Gail Hulsey in a tragic accident. Gail’s enthusiasm about anything to do with the outdoors was infectious. Not only was she an avid learner, but once she learned something, she would willingly pass her knowledge along to anyone who asked. She was very understated about her fishing, and never bragged about how big or how many fish she caught and almost always released. It really didn’t matter to her, as long as she could fish. And fish she did.

Robert Van-Riper, Regional Fisheries Biologist, Sidney

Region C - Downeast - Photos from the field!

The hot and humid weather that comes with a Maine summer is upon us now. During the last few weeks we have been sampling brooks and streams in the area around the Stud Mill Road, north of Route 9. The sun was bright, the air was muggy, the alders were thick, and the deer flies were abundant but we gained valuable information about many little streams and the areas where they cross the Stud Mill Road.

After about a week of electrofishing our observations led us to make some conclusions about streams in the area. The things we were seeing are quite common throughout most of the region. First and foremost, we observed where we found brook trout and where we didn’t. The number one factor in determining where trout were found was water temperature. As long as the water temperature was less than about 70 degrees we found trout. (We did not electrofish any stream with a temperature greater than 73 degrees since if salmonids are in the stream they will be greatly stressed already and the stress caused by electrofishing could kill the fish.) Even in streams that didn’t look like the “classic” brook trout stream, as long as the water temperature was acceptable, we found trout.

One example is a small brook that is only about 4-5 feet wide and about a foot deep. This brook meanders through some tall grasses and alders, the flow is quite slow and almost appears stagnant. We recorded a water temperature of about 70 degrees, which indicated that this brook has spring influence contributing cold water from underground. The bottom of the brook was very soft and had at least one foot of soft organic sediment (muck!) on bottom. We electrofished a section of 150 feet and were pleasantly surprised with the result. In that section we netted 127 brook trout, ten times more than I would have guessed! The brook was not very well shaded, except for a few alder trees here and there, but it did have undercut banks that provided good shade and cover for brook trout. Only four of the 127 fish were over six inches, the majority of the fish were ones that hatched out this spring and at this time of year are between an inch and a half and three inches in length. This brook truly is a small wild trout hatchery.

Another observation we made is that a very high percentage of the brooks we sampled showed signs of road washouts at some time in the past. In most cases gravel and rocks from the road had filled in portions of the streams downstream of the road. Sometimes this sediment could be seen 75-100 feet downstream of the road. The washouts were likely caused by undersized culverts that could not pass high flows adequately or by beaver activity.

When water levels reach their summer lows, the affects of these washouts can cause isolated pools with water flow traveling underground through the rocks. This causes a barrier to fish movement and, if the flow is slow enough, the pools can become stagnant, devoid of dissolved oxygen, and can warm up rapidly. Unfortunately, many of those fish will not survive through the summer.

Lots of people drive over brooks just like the ones we sampled last week and would never think that they could hold so many wild brook trout. They truly are an amazing little fish and an important part of this state.

Joe Overlock, Fisheries Biologist Specialist, Jonesboro

Region D - Western Mountains - Photos from the field!

Stream flows in the Rangeley region are finally beginning to look normal. Late-afternoon thunderstorms seemed like a daily occurrence through much of June, and this kept flows in our major rivers unusually high. On the positive side, the high flows were generally coupled with cooler than average temperatures, so the fishing held up well in places like the Rapid River, the Magalloway River, and the Androscoggin River. As flows and temperatures return to normal, salmonid fishes will seek thermal relief provided by cool tributaries, spring seeps, and in the case of larger lakes, the deeper water.

This is the time of year our work schedules really heat up. Over the six weeks or so, we'll be conducting a variety of fishery surveys throughout the region to assess our management programs. These surveys will be conducted on small trout ponds with both wild and hatchery stocks, larger lakes for salmon, togue, and brookies, small streams for trout and salmon, and larger streams for brown trout, rainbow trout, and bass.

We’ll also complete our assessments of bass populations in Wesserunsett and Wilson Lakes. Sprinkled in among all that work, we'll monitor several stream restoration projects, complete a few initial surveys of remote ponds, and assist other Regions with their survey work.

Aldro French, a fixture on the Rapid River for nearly 50 years, hosted several disabled military veterans for several days of fishing and relaxation. Aldro and several Trout Unlimited volunteers have made this event a great success in recent years, and I expect this year’s affair was the same.

David Boucher, Regional Fisheries Biologist, Strong

Region E - Moosehead Region - Photos from the field!

The summer is certainly passing by at a rapid rate and the fisheries crew here in Greenville has been taking advantage of the nice weather we’ve been experiencing. One of the many tasks we’ve been working on is collecting a lake-wide sample of lake trout from Moosehead Lake.

Many readers may remember that this past winter new regulations went into effect on Moosehead Lake allowing anglers to keep two lake trout over 18 inches with a no size or bag limit on lake trout under 18 inches.

As usual during the winter season our staff put forth a substantial effort to collect creel census data from the Moosehead. A variety of data is collected from the coldwater species we encounter during the winter. We collect lengths, weights, and stomachs from all salmonids, as well as scales from brook trout and salmon for aging.

In order to accurately age a lake trout, however, we have to obtain otoliths from the fish. Otoliths, which are sometimes called ear bones, are located in the head of the fish. The process to extract these from a fish is not a simple task, especially when temperatures are hovering around or below freezing. Otoliths, lay down a layer of calcium carbonate each year. The layers appear much as the rings on a tree. The otoliths are examined under a viewing scope and the rings counted to determine the age of a lake trout.

This summer we will obtain a sample of lake trout from Moosehead to further evaluate this population. We have divided the lake into 3 areas. Generally, these areas can be described as the upper, middle, and lower portions of the lake. The “upper” section ranges from the top of Farm Island north to Seboomook, the “middle” portion of the lake from Farm Island south to the top of Deer and Sugar Islands, and the “lower” from Deer and Sugar Islands south to Greenville. Our goal is to collect a minimum of 30 lake trout from each of these 3 areas to obtain length, weight, condition, sex, maturity, stomach content and otoliths for aging.

This past week we spent 3 days netting Moosehead Lake and were successful in collecting 30 lake trout from the lower and middle areas. A total of 65 lake trout were collected. Sixteen (25 percent) of the lake trout were greater than 18 inches, 33 (50 percent) were between 14 and 18 inches, and 16 (25 percent) were less than 14 inches. The average condition factor or the overall fatness of the fish, for each size category is still fairly low. The condition factor of the two smaller-size groups [under 18 inches] were very similar to what we observed last winter. Condition factors on fish over 18 inches show some slight improvement compared to those observed last winter but are still below our management objectives.

We are finding a variety of food items in the stomachs of the lake trout, such as insects, smelts, suckers, and a few other minnow species. A couple of the bigger lake trout in the sample contained some interesting food items. One, a 24-inch, 4¼ pounds lake trout had a 14-inch lake trout in its stomach, and a second 26-inch lake trout weighing 6 pounds had a 13-inch white sucker in its stomach.

One notable fish we collected and were able to successfully release was a lake trout that measured approximately 32 inches long and weighed between 10 and 12 lbs.

Lake trout sampling will be completed by the end of the month and aging of the fish will be conducted over the course of this winter. At that point we will have a better understanding of the age structure and condition of the lake trout in Moosehead Lake.

Jeff Bagley, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist, Greenville

Region F - Penobscot Valley Region - Photos from the field!

As the summer progresses we are getting more and more inquires from parents and grandparents looking for angling opportunities for young anglers. There are a number of obvious places throughout the region to go, including those waters open to “Special Opportunities for Kids” listed on page 6 in the Open Water Fishing Regulations Book.

Pickerel Pond, in T32, has as recently as last week given up brook trout from 10 to 18 inches in length. Other regional hot spots for kids include Rock Crusher Pond in Island Falls, Cold Stream between the hatchery and the lake in Enfield, Jerry Pond in Millinocket and Harris Pond in Milo. As always, the Penobscot River remains one of the premier locations to take kids for an enjoyable evening of bass fishing.

Regional staff will be heading to Baxter State Park this week to do some stream and pond surveys in the southern portion of the Park. Center Pond, Abol Pond, Lower Togue Pond and Draper Pond will al be checked for any changes in species composition and water quality. We will be conducting brook trout population assessments on all waters. Windy Pitch Pond will be surveyed for the first time, collecting physical, chemical and biological information. Based upon what we find, we will be exploring additional management opportunities at Windy Pitch.

We will also be performing a stream habitat survey and an electrofishing survey on Sourdnahunk Stream from the outlet of Sourdnahunk Lake to Sourdnahunk Field Campground. Surveyors will be measuring stream widths, depths, substrate composition, cover, etc. to evaluate brook trout habitat in the project area.

Nels Kramer, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist, Enfield

Region G - Aroostook County - Photos from the field!

Summer weather has warmed the surface water of northern Maine waterways so that trout and salmon have retreated to deeper, cooler water. A recent check of a small pond in southern Aroostook County showed trout to be active during evening hours in 15-20 feet of water. Larger trout were observed eating small minnows and occasionally smelt and various aquatic insects. From our survey it was clear that evening and early morning would be productive times to use small fish imitations to have success in stocked trout ponds.

Frequent rain storms in the County are maintaining excellent flows in rivers and brooks, and springs, those important refuge areas for trout, are running well for this time of year. Trout seek out these cooler inlets when temperatures in the main stem increases much beyond 65 degrees F. The week of July 21 is forecast to be wet and much cooler than recent weather; this could bode well for trout and salmon activity late in July.

By many accounts trout fishing is very good so far this summer and with light traffic in the North Maine Woods (NMW), anglers can have a solitary experience on their favorite trout brook.

Our northern most region of the State has nearly 7,000 miles of flowing water, most of which support wild brook trout during the summer. Anglers searching for good waterways this time of year can refer to the Maine Gazetteer; look for spots on streams that are higher in the drainage, where the blue lines are lighter in color, but far enough downstream to still have a few inlets that have a cooling influence.

For example, on map page 63, Greenlaw Stream in the area of Ten Mile Brook to Greenlaw Crossing would be a good bet for lots of wild brook trout up to about eight inches in size. This location is just beyond the NMW’s Six Mile Checkpoint so anglers don’t have to travel far to find good trout fishing.

Frank O. Frost, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist, Ashland