Fishing Reports by Regional Fishery Biologists
August 20, 2008
Region A - Southwestern Maine - Photos from the field!
There's a lot going on with brown trout in southern Maine!
From 2001-2005, rainbow trout performance was compared to that of brown trout. Rainbow trout performed similar to browns in most regards; however, as anticipated, there was a big difference in catch rates and angler returns. In general, anglers caught two rainbow trout to each brown trout on rivers, and five rainbows to every brown trout on lakes. Its common knowledge that brown trout are more difficult to catch than most other trout species, and some believe there may have been a general decline in brown trout performance over the past few decades. Brown trout fisheries are popular in southern and central Maine, and it is important for the fisheries staff to document any potential fishery changes and address deficiencies for the benefit of our anglers.
In 2006, the regional fisheries staff in southern Maine began systematically sampling all of our brown trout waters to assess survival and size quality as part of an ongoing effort to identify waters where brown trout are or are not meeting size performance standards identified in the statewide brown trout plan. The brown trout management plan states that lake fisheries should produce brown trout that average 15 inches or longer in length, as well as, a handful of quality sized fish 18-20 inches in length or larger.
A total of 12 brown trout waters were sampled in 2006 and 2007, all of the waters exceeded the average size quality objective of 15 inches, and most produced one or more browns equal to or larger than 18 inches in length. In fact, it is not uncommon for us to observe browns weighing in the 3-6 pound class. This summer we sampled an additional five brown trout waters including: Mousam Lake (Acton), Kennebunk Pond (Lyman), Stearns Pond (Sweden), Highland Lake (Windham), and Little Sebago Lake (Windham). We have not had the opportunity to analyze this season’s data, but most of these waters appear to be meeting our brown trout size quality objectives with one exception, Highland Lake. Anglers have reported poor fishing for browns on this water over the past few years, and our sampling efforts only yielded two brown trout. Our water quality analysis indicates Highland Lake has poor mid-late summer water quality (suitable temperature and dissolved oxygen) that severely limits its potential for trout management. While we only observed a single 4+ pound brown trout on Mousam Lake, water quality for salmonids was excellent and we also caught a few quality sized salmon and good numbers of lake trout. Interestingly, most of the lake trout were of wild origin? All of the data will be more thoroughly analyzed this winter, and the regional staff will discuss the need for future management changes as needed.
In general, our brown trout sampling has shown a lack of fish in the younger age classes, suggesting a potential survival issue that may occur shortly after stocking. In 2007, we initiated a split fall stocking on several regional waters to determine if time of stocking (October versus December) may be impacting survival. Each stocking received a different identifying fin clip to enable a future determination of when the fish were stocked. Study waters include Sabbathday Lake (New Gloucester), Crystal Lake (Gray), and Middle/Upper Range Ponds (Poland). A high percentage of fall stocked browns attempt to spawn shortly after stocking in October, which may contribute to their poor survival (i.e. post spawning mortality, vulnerability to predation while spawning in small streams). The idea is to stock them after the urge to spawn has occurred, which may increase survival during their first year at large. Preliminary results from 2008, suggest we may be onto something? We'll keep you posted.
In addition, the Department is currently working on trying one or more new strains of brown trout to replace our current strain, which has been documented as having poor genetic variability. The ultimate goal is to bring in a new strain that will perform better than our existing strain and produce better angling opportunities for brown trout.
In the meantime, our avid brown trout anglers continue to report fantastic fishing for browns on most waters, fish in the 3 to 6 pound class are not uncommon, and a few fish over 8 pounds are reported each year. Late summer fishing can be great if you target the correct band of water with down riggers or lead core line, typically around 20-30 feet in depth. Lures, flies, and sewed bait all seem to work, finding that band of cold, oxygenated water is really the key to success!
James Pellerin, Assistant Regional Fishery Biologist, Gray
Region B - Central Maine - Photos from the field!
The “dog days” of August find Region B biologists completing stream surveys as part of our scheduled tasks. With thousands of miles of streams and brooks in the mid-coast, the task is large, but important. Ultimately, we hope to survey at least a portion of every stream in the region. The ‘payback’ is that we will have information regarding, fish populations and habitat conditions for all of the moving water resources in the area. The survey work is done in August and early September. We do the work at this time of year since water levels are usually low, making it easier to observe bottom conditions. It is also much easier to “navigate” since low flow volumes translate into lower current speed. In addition, at lower water levels fish tend to congregate in the pool areas.
Given the size of the task, fisheries biologists survey streams at three different levels of intensity. Level I surveys are “snapshots.” These are most commonly completed at road crossing sites. Crossings are usually fairly easy to access, easy to relocate, will show evidence of fishing pressure if there is any angling going on, and allow us to evaluate the crossing structure.
Level II surveys are “reach” based, meaning that we evaluate a section or several sections of a particular stream. In these surveys, we measure cross sections of the stream at intervals, record features such as the presence of pools, substrate types, tree cover, bank stability, woody debris and location of tributaries among a myriad of other information.
Level III surveys are “microcosm” surveys, meaning that we evaluate a small bit of habitat. This type of survey is usually undertaken in habitats of interest, such as salmonid spawning gravels or conversely, in an area of degraded habitat that might be a candidate for rehabilitation.
Robert Van-Riper, Regional Fisheries Biologist, Sidney
Region C - Downeast - Photos from the field!
Fisheries biologists of the Downeast Regional Headquarters located in Jonesboro are responsible for fishery management in most of Hancock and Washington Counties, plus a small amount of Penobscot County. This region is 80 percent as large as the state of Connecticut. The Downeast Fisheries Region contains more than 400 lakes and ponds greater than 10 acres. More than 310 of these lakes have been intensively surveyed to include depth maps, water quality, fish species composition determination, determination of the amount of spawning and nursery habitat for the priority sportfish species, and desirability of stocking one or more species of trout or salmon.
More than one-third of the region’s surveyed lakes are stocked on an annual or regular basis. The numbers to be stocked are determined by the regional fisheries staff of Rick Jordan, Greg Burr and Joe Overlock. In stocked lakes, biologists must regularly obtain information on the growth of stocked fish in relation to their age to assess whether additional management changes are warranted to improve growth. This information is obtained by a variety of methods such as sport fishery surveys of anglers, electrofishing, or check netting. In addition, biologists investigate the desirability of providing state-owned boat launches for anglers, and we prepare lists of angler access priorities. Periodically, fishing regulations must be changed to create improved fisheries. Finally, we hold either public hearings or public informational meetings to describe our fisheries programs and to solicit angler input.
Aside from its numerous lakes, the Downeast Region is laced with more than 3,800 miles of brooks, rivers, and streams. Most of these flowing waters support naturally sustaining populations of brook trout. In the past two summers, our staff, along with the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture sampling team, have electrofished more than 300 brooks, rivers, and streams to greatly increase our knowledge of fish species, water quality and summer temperatures. At most sites where the stream crossed a road, culvert assessments were conducted. This new information will permit a higher level of protection for brook trout in many eastern Maine streams.
Fishing is both a highly popular sport and a highly important economic benefit to Maine. The fisheries staff of the Downeast Regional Office will work diligently to sustain a variety of fishing opportunities for Maine anglers.
Rick Jordan, Regional Fisheries Biologist, Jonesboro
Region D - Western Mountains - Photos from the field!
A quick count of the field forms indicates that we’ve sampled nearly 20 waters this summer, some of which hadn’t been resurveyed for 20 years or more. The truth is we’ve gotten behind on our regular lake sampling schedule the last few years while we’ve concentrated our efforts on dealing with illegally introduced fish species, primarily smallmouth bass. For the present, we’ve done what we can to mitigate the impact of these introductions, though the fact remains that once invasive species are introduced and become established, there's little we can do to totally eradicate them.
On a more positive note, the waters that are free of invasive species are thriving, thanks in part to lots of water. Dave Howatt and our summer student Liz Studdert have made raingear their fashion statement this summer, and have braved the rain to bring in the data we need to manage our waters. For stocked waters, we want to know if those fish are surviving and thriving; for waters with wild populations, we want to be sure that they're not being overharvested or, for that matter, under harvested, which can lead to stockpiling and stunting.
We've had mixed success with our stream work this summer. Ethan Tracy and Troy Thompson have had good luck sampling brooks as part of the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture, primarily by working on smaller ones where high flows are not an insurmountable problem. In fact, they frequently report finding brook trout where we never knew they existed; very encouraging indeed. My stream restoration monitoring is suffering though, because flows at South Bog Stream, the Sandy River, and the Cupsuptic are too high for wading, which we need to do to take measurements. Hopefully we will be able to make our observations in September.
Forrest Bonney, Regional Fisheries Biologist, Strong
Region E - Moosehead Region - Photos from the field!
As the fall of the year approaches, we are beginning to receive inquiries about the river flows in the region, with emphasis on the Roach River. The reason we receive these inquiries about the flow at the dam at First Roach Pond is because the dam is owned and managed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The fall is a busy time of year for fisheries biologists as we spend a considerable amount of time away from the office collecting data in the field, so it may be a few days before we are able to return your calls and/or emails. Since these river flows can influence your decision on your next fishing destination, here are some other ways you can obtain this information in a quick and easy manner. The flow at First Roach can be found on The Fly Fishing in Maine website, under Stream Flow Data and the link is http://www.flyfishinginmaine.com/streamflow/. FPL Energy and Kennebec Water Power Co. have a flow hotline for flow levels on the Kennebec and Androscoggin Rivers at 1-800-557-3569. If you are headed to the West Branch of the Penobscot River call the Brookfield Power river flow hotline at 1-888-323-4341. So if you are planning to fish moving water in the Moosehead Lake Region it is a good idea to check with these resources to obtain the most up to-date data on river flows before you head north.
Anglers are interested in these river flows regulated by dams because increased flows provide attraction to brook trout and landlocked salmon, drawing them into the river during the fall fishing season. These dams are an important asset to fishery managers and anglers. The dams generate reliable and consistent flows that allow managers to maximize fish production and fishing opportunities. These opportunities would not exist in all years under natural conditions.
On many of these popular fall fisheries we have survey boxes at various access sites. We would encourage anglers to take the time to fill out a survey card. Providing information about your fishing experience is the most valuable contribution you can make to the Fishery Division! The information you provide by filling out one of these survey cards helps biologists get a grasp on the relative success of a fishery. Management and regulations are greatly influenced by the results of this valuable cooperative effort between the Department and the people fishing the many waters of the State of Maine.
So next time you use an access site that has a survey box take the time to fill out a survey card and help Maine’s fishery managers. You can also provide information about your fishing in Maine by signing up to be a voluntary fishing record bookkeeper. If you fish in the Moosehead Lake Region, please contact Stephen Seeback at Stephen.Seeback@maine.gov or at P.O. Box 551, Greenville, Maine 04441 or by phone at 695-3756. Anglers fishing other parts of the state should contact the regional office that manages the water you most frequently fish. Also, anglers with access to the internet can record their fishing efforts at http://www.triptracks.com.
Stephen Seeback, Fisheries Biology Specialist, Greenville
Region F - Penobscot Valley Region - Photos from the field!
Staff from the Enfield office, with assistance from fisheries biologists from the IFW Ashland office, recently conducted a three day work trip in the northern part of Baxter State Park. The objective of the work trip was to conduct lake and pond surveys on some of our more remote trout waters in and around the Park. Waters surveyed included Hudson, Messer, Wapiti (Davis), Upper and Lower South Branch Ponds, and 2nd Lake Matagamon, all of which have been surveyed in the past but were due for a periodic follow-up.
The highlight of the trip was the first time surveys of Pogy and Weed Ponds. Pogy and Weed are among some of the most remote ponds in the Park, requiring a hike of over seven miles just to get the shore of Pogy. Weed Pond, located to the east of Pogy, requires another half-mile jaunt “off-trail” through some of the thickest forested wetlands in the State. Luckily, we were able to coordinate our work with pilots from the Maine Forest Service, who were in the Park identifying helicopter landing areas for potential future medical evacuations. The Forest Service picked up our two survey crews at Trout Brook Farm, and 10 minutes later dropped them and their gear (about 50 pounds per person) off in close proximity to both ponds, a trip that if hiked would have taken 2 hours each way! Crews spent several hours at each pond mapping pond depths, spawning and nursery habitat, and forest types around the shoreline. Water quality data was collected including a temperature and dissolved oxygen profile from the surface to bottom, as well as pH, conductivity and alkalinity.
The maximum depth of Weed Pond was 10 feet deep and temperature ranged from 70°F at the surface to 65°F near bottom. Trout up to 12 inches long were sampled, however we suspect that Weed likely produces trout of at least several pounds. Pogy Pond was 14 feet deep, with a temperature of 72°F at the surface and 70°F near bottom. Again, brook trout up to 12 inches were sampled, however similar to Weed we suspect larger trout inhabit the pond. In addition to brook trout, both ponds were found to have white suckers, and surprisingly an American eel was observed at Pogy Pond! This eel traveled 100 plus miles up the Penobscot River, 20 miles up the cold waters of Wassataquoik Stream, and 3 miles up Pogy Brook to spend its’ juvenile and early adult life in Baxter State Park, and in the next few years will heading back out to the ocean to spawn.
In recent weeks we have received only a few fishing reports from around the region. Unlike most summers, instead of the heat keeping folks from fishing, this year it appears the constant unsettled weather along with high gas prices may be keeping folks at home. We did receive reports of nice catches of salmon from lakes in the Nicatous area, with one salmon weighing over six pounds! Also, togue at Schoodic Lake are being cooperative, albeit a bit smaller this year than in recent years. We continue to keep close tabs on the fishery at Schoodic as it continues to be a priority fishery for the Region.
Richard Dill, Regional Fishery Biologist, Enfield
Region G - Aroostook County - Photos from the field!
Pond and small-lake fishing for brook trout in northern Maine has been very good the past month and continues to be good as we approach September. Normally, trout are quite inactive this time of year when stressful conditions prevail. With the above normal rainfall, however, trout are actively feeding throughout the day and are growing well. In small, shallow ponds trout seek out spring holes, areas with groundwater influence, at this time of year. With the wet, cool conditions trout are leaving these areas more often to feed, resulting in much better angling.
Rivers, brooks, and stream regulations have changed as of Aug. 16: artificial lures only with a daily bag limit for landlocked salmon, trout, and togue (lake trout) is one fish. During the recent increase in precipitation, flowing waters have been abnormally high and not easily fished. However, as water flows and temperatures drop, angling should be excellent during late summer/early fall. Northern Maine has thousands of miles of flowing water available for angling; some waters are close to population centers and many others are in remote areas. There is no better watershed to exemplify these opportunities than the Fish River. From Fort Kent upstream to Long Lake and Fish Lake, including all of the Fish River Lakes and the interconnecting thoroughfares, trout and salmon fishing is second to none in Maine. No matter where one fishes in northern Maine there should be excellent opportunities in the next several weeks.
Frank O. Frost, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist, Ashland