Fishing Reports by Regional Fishery Biologists Region Map

August 4 , 2008

Region A - Southwestern Maine - Photos from the field!

It is mid-summer and by all reports there are a variety of excellent fishing opportunities to be had in southern Maine. If warm water fishing is your preference then bass and perch can be had in abundance on many regional waters. If you get weary of fishing the shallows for bucket mouths and humpbacks, a trip to deeper water may be warranted.

With a little knowledge of lake chemistry, mid-summer fishing for stocked and wild salmonids can be very rewarding. As the summer progresses and the surface water warms, trout and salmon are forced into deeper and cooler water. There is usually plenty of oxygen in surface waters but salmonids just can’t take the heat. At the same time as the surface water becomes inhospitable due to rising temperature, natural and beneficial microbial activity in the cooler bottom areas of the lake are consuming oxygen from the bottom up. The water is cool enough down there but the fish just can’t “breathe”.

As the summer progresses the available “band” of cool, well-oxygenated water constricts, reducing the amount of water column the summer angler must search for the coveted trout or salmon. Because the detection of oxygen concentration is not easily accomplished in the absence of expensive and/or technical equipment, most anglers must rely on temperature to locate summer trout habitat. Some temperature gauges are commercially available to locate that depth where the water temperature drops dramatically from predominantly warm to cold; that zone is called the thermocline. More knowledgeable anglers are aware that the summer thermocline generally sets up between 20 and 30 feet.

Mid-summer is also a period of increased field activity for your local fishery biologist. The pleasant weather and interesting work make this period pass all too quickly. One of my favorite summer field activities (although sometimes strenuous) is population size evaluation of juvenile wild land locked salmon in the Crooked River. Each summer three locations on the Crooked are electrofished for juvenile salmon. The technique utilized (“three run removal method”) produces a population size estimate for that reach sampled. Because electrofishing is not 100% efficient (meaning we miss some fish during the electrofishing “run” up the river) we capture and temporarily “remove” the captured fish to a safe location while we make another run to pick up the stragglers. The captured salmon are measured, weighed, and released unharmed back into the river. The ratio of fish captured during the three electrofishing runs up the river can be used to mathematically estimate population size that can be used to assess trends in wild salmon production and recruitment to the Sebago Lake fishery.

The strenuous part of this job is negotiating the “slime” covered, loose rocks with a 50 pound pack on your back, a collection bucket and or net in hand, and chasing the salmon down river as they attempt to “shoot” out of the electric field before they can be netted!

Brian Lewis, Fisheries Biology Specialist

Region B - Central Maine - Photos from the field!

With the removal of the one hundred year old Ft Halifax Dam on the Sebasticook River in Winslow, anglers may wonder what will happen to the fish community upstream when the impoundment is brought back to its original channel.

Fish populations will endure many changes. Some will flourish, while others may perish or leave the area. In time, the impoundment will stabilize. Anglers can take advantage of this event as the waters in the impoundment subside. Fish will gather in the deeper pools in the course of the Sebasticook River. Species such as Yellow perch, Black Crappie, White Perch, Pickerel and both Largemouth and Smallmouth bass will be very susceptible to anglers fishing from shore.

In an effort to determine the fate of the reservoir’s bass population, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) has jaw tagged a total of 69 Smallmouth Bass, ranging in size from 8 inches to 19 inches and 6 Largemouth Bass, that range in size from 13 inches to 19 inches. Please notify the Department of any jaw tagged fish that are recovered and give us a description of where and when (date) the fish was caught and an estimated length, if the fish is released. Each jaw tag is numbered, beginning with the code H63. The last two digits on the tag are the numbers to report.

Regional biologists have also radio tagged a few smallmouth bass and one largemouth bass to document movement once the Ft Halifax dam is breached. The radio tags are surgically implanted into the fish’s body cavity, and have a stainless steel antenna protruding through the lower end of the body cavity (belly). Our biologists can track the movements of these fish with a radio receiver, and will follow their movements until the battery inside the tag expires. We ask that the radio tagged bass please be released. These fish can be identified by the stainless steel antenna protruding from the lower end of the body cavity. We would like to thank FPL Energy Maine Hydro, LLC for supplying the radio tags used in this study.

To report any tag recovery please call Scott Davis at (207)-547-5317 or email him at scott.davis@maine.gov

Scott Davis, Fisheries Biology Specialist

Region C - Downeast - Photos from the field!

One of the questions biologist’s and warden’s frequently receive from vacationers who’ve traveled to our great state at this time of year is “where can I catch a brook trout?” The answer to that question is simpler than you’d think, even though hot summer air temperatures warm surface water temps into the 70’s and 80’s, pushing trout into hidden cold-water refugia areas. Biologists have found that most of the small brook’s and streams that flow under many of our roads contain catchable size brook trout. Because most of these small stream’s flows are influenced by springs, they run cool and have trout scattered all through them. These are streams that go virtually unnoticed by the average passer by and can provide hours of fishing fun for vacationing families and their guests.

This summer Biologists have been conducting many electro-fishing surveys on previously un-surveyed streams in Downeast Maine to gather baseline data on these small but important brook trout waters. Their findings are eye opening. Through these surveys biologists are confirming what they had speculated all along, that these small streams that either flow directly into the ocean or into a larger river or stream, hold good numbers of trout and important spawning and nursery habitats for the bigger waters systems they are a part of. As biologists collect this important information it will help the Department pin-point critical fish habitat that will need additional protection as we plan our communities around these tiny systems.

So our advice to the trout angler who has traveled to Maine at the height of summer is to look for brook trout in the streams instead of our lakes and ponds. As you travel the roads look for brooks in small ravines and gullies. These areas will usually be shaded by alders, pin cherry trees and grasses but will have undercut banks, woody debris pools and deep rocky crevice pools along with culvert pools and all of them will likely have trout waiting. In the Downeast Maine area, that includes Hancock & Washington Counties, the region has 3,800 miles of brooks and rivers and streams. Many of these waters are crossed repeatedly by the numerous networks of roads, so they’re almost endless possibilities for the angler who seeks brook trout in one of the species’ last strong holds on the east coast.

Greg Burr, Assistant Regional Biologist

Region D - Western Mountains - Photos from the field!

There certainly is no shortage of activities to do during summers in Maine. I spent the past weekend enjoying a couple of the local festivals, but still found time for some fishing. My wife and I went to the Lobster Festival in Rockland and the Blueberry Festival in Wilton on consecutive days. Both were fun and well attended. When we got back home we loaded up the boat and gear for a few hours of fly fishing for largemouth bass. I recently purchased a 3-weight, 5½-foot fly rod and have found that fly fishing for bass with such light tackle is tremendous fun. It’s as simple as casting a 3-toed, web-footed Water Walker to the edge of the pads, jerking it a couple of times, and waiting for the explosion. The Rufus Cox creation is quite effective, but any big floating fly will work. Also, the new statewide general law length limit on bass of 10 inches makes it easy to catch enough for a feed. For my wife and me, four small bass is the perfect number to make a meal.

If anglers are interested in brook trout this time of year, fishing is getting to be more challenging. Overall, the ponds are getting warm and the best insect hatches are over. Unless you know of a secret spring hole or a cool deep pool in a stream, trout can be difficult to locate. For the adventurous angler, higher elevation ponds are a good option. The nighttime temperatures are lower in the mountains, so water temperatures stay cooler and trout remain active throughout the summer. A few places to try this summer are Speck Pond in Grafton Twp., Tumbledown Pond in Township 6 North of Weld, The Horns Pond in Wyman Twp., and Mountain Dimmick Pond in Caratunk. All have well-established trails that lead to each pond and are annually stocked with brook trout to reward the hardy fisherman. For rivers, the Cupsuptic in western Maine remains cold year-round, and is therefore a good bet for August fishing.

Dave Howatt, Fishery Biology Specialist

Region E - Moosehead Region - Photos from the field!

We had a great spring and early summer as the cool wet weather prolonged the salmon and trout fishing. However, surface temperatures have warmed now and the coldwater gamefish have headed for the depths. Our recent netting indicates that lake trout and salmon are at depths below 40 feet. So, it’s time to get out the lead line or downrigger.

Instead of discussing where the fish are, this week I will discuss where the fish aren’t: fishless ponds or more specifically, fishless habitat. This topic actually has some connection to those anglers that like to catch big brook trout.

Maine is blessed with many ponds. There are nearly 6,000 lakes and ponds greater than 1 acre in this State. One of the duties of the Fisheries Division is to inventory lakes and ponds. This includes sampling fish, testing water quality, documenting spawning habitat, and creating depth maps. In 2002, when I wrote a fishery report on fishless ponds in Maine, an estimated 3,800 of these waters were still unsurveyed. When surveyed, most ponds contain at least one fish species, but occasionally a pond will be totally fishless. In 2002, thirty of the 2076 waters in the Department’s statewide lake inventory database were classified as fishless. A number of fishless ponds have been stocked in the past 40 years with brook trout in Maine.

Why should this be important for anglers? It’s important because the small number of fishless ponds that are suitable for stocking often make some of the best brook trout ponds. Brook trout survive and grow best in waters with little or no competition from other fish species. In short, the demand for trophy brook trout fishing is high while supply of these opportunities (existing and potential) is low. It is also our responsibility to protect and conserve unique aquatic habitats.

In 1998, staff from the Moosehead Lake Region proposed stocking two recently surveyed ponds that were fishless. At that time some concerns were expressed about the ecological consequences of stocking fishless ponds, primarily based on events in the western U.S. where the stocking of high-altitude fishless ponds was impacting long-toed salamanders and yellow legged frogs. These species were especially vulnerable to predators because they are not very abundant and they live in habitat that was not conducive to immigration from other sources. Although we do not have either of these species in Maine, nor do we have waters that meet the western criteria of high altitude, some people felt that certain species found in Maine might also prove vulnerable to the impacts of stocking. There are a number of macroinvertebrate species that prefer fishless habitat such as backswimmers, diving beetles, and certain midge species.

Regional staff conducted a brief study in the Moosehead Lake Region to generate a list of potential fishless ponds in the region. Ponds can be fishless for a number of reasons. They can be so shallow that they freeze solid in the winter months or they could be totally isolated from other sources of fish by steep outlets or have no outlets at all. We can determine slope of the outlet by examining topographic maps, but there is no way to predict depth without actually surveying each pond. Therefore, our work focused on the slope or lack of an outlet. We then tested our predictions by surveying a number of these ponds. We also compared samples of macroinvertebrates that we collected from a number of fishless ponds and ponds with fish.

Based on this approach, we estimated that there were 51 potential fishless ponds in the Moosehead Lake Region. Our fieldwork verified that 69% of these ponds were actually fishless. Of these recently surveyed fishless ponds, 55% were not suitable for stocking. That is, 16 of the 35 waters verified as fishless had the potential to provide sport fisheries through a stocking program.

With DIFW as one of several sponsors, a University of Maine graduate student has just completed a more intensive project designed to refine a model to predict the location and estimate the number of existing and historically fishless ponds in Maine and to explore the impact of stocking on fishless ponds. The study focused on permanent ponds between 1.5 and 25.0 acres in surface area. While this project did not find any threatened or endangered invertebrates in fishless ponds it did reveal, among other findings, some differences in community structure in fishless and fish-containing lakes. The DIFW will use this information in combination with that generated by our own study to help us develop policies that will balance the interests of the anglers we serve with the our responsibility to protect these habitats and their associated communities.

Tim Obrey, Regional Fishery Biologist

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

This past week we received several reports of very good fishing from around the region. In the “good news and bad news” vein is a young angler’s catch of a 23 inch, 2.5 lb Northern pike while white perch fishing with her friends at Mud (Perch) Pond in Old Town. The bad news is that it is evident that pike have moved out of Pushaw Lake downstream to Mud Pond. Unfortunately this means that pike are indeed on their way to the Penobscot River where they will put numerous native fish populations in the drainage at risk. On the upside, that night the kids had their catch for dinner, finishing off all of the fish fillets and are out looking for more. Now they look forward to the weekend to go out and catch next week’s dinner. We encourage all anglers who catch Northern pike in a Maine water to kill their catch.

The rivers and lakes in Region F continue to produce lots of action for the bass angler. By far, the best bass fishing in our region this time of year is provided by the Penobscot River from Millinocket to Veazie. On average, most river smallmouth’s weigh 1 to 2 pounds, but fish in the 3 to 5 pound range have been reported. If you are looking for lunker-sized bass then Spednic Lake in Forest City might be a good opportunity. Spednic has been managed as a catch and release fishery for nearly twenty years and the bass population has shown a remarkable recovery. This past week I received a call from a vacationing angler reporting fast action and several fish over 5 pounds. This 55-year-old bass angler said it was the best fishing for lunker bass that he has ever had. The trip will be one that he and his grandson will never forget.

Reports from our coldwater lakes and ponds are equally as good. Anglers on Schoodic Lake in Brownville and Lakeville reported lots of action last week. Some nice catches of lake trout are coming up from the depths.

Last week the regional staff surveyed three ponds Upper Unknown Lake, Pemadumcook Lake and Hale Pond. In Upper Unknown we found lots of yellow perch, sunfish, pickerel and one washtub size snapping turtle (released fat and happy with a belly full of yellow perch). Pemadumcook provided us with a good sample of hatchery stocked lake trout and wild lake whitefish. The stocked brook trout fishery at Hale Pond looks very healthy, with several trout recorded over 2 pounds.

Get out and enjoy the rest of the summer. As with all Maine summers, this one will pass too fast.

Brian Campbell, Fisheries Biologist Specialist

Region G - Aroostook County - Photos from the field!

The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has been petitioned to consider the following fishing regulation:

Long Lake, Aroostook County – Open to fishing for smelt and cusk from sunset to sunrise from the time ice forms in the fall through March 15; open to fishing for all fish January 15 through March 15.

A public hearing will be held on August 14, 2008 at the Knights of Columbus Hall in St. Agatha commencing at 6:30 p.m. Anglers are encouraged to attend to offer input on the proposal. The Department will accept written comments through August 25.

During the years 1962-1980, excluding 1964-66, the lake was open to ice fishing for smelts from the time ice formed in the fall until March 31 with night fishing permitted, 3 hooks per line not less than 4 inches apart. The taking of salmon, trout and togue was restricted to February and March from 1962-1977 and to January, February and March from 1978-82.

At present the lake is open to ice fishing for smelts and cusk at night only (sunset to sunrise) from January 1 through January 14 then open to fishing for all fish from January 15 through March 15. These compromise regulations have been in effect since 1983, a period of 26 years. The existing regulations were designed to help reduce hooking injury, fish mortality and the illegal harvest of gamefish prior to the regular season while at the same time permitting some early season smelt fishing. Long Lake was and continues to be annually stocked with yearling salmon. Our angler surveys conducted during the ice fishing season have shown that 92-97% of the salmon harvested are hatchery fish. Since these fish represent a considerable financial investment given the costs to raise and transport these fish to the lake, we felt it was prudent to protect our investment.

In the years since the present regulations were promulgated the quality of salmon fishing in Long Lake has steadily improved as evidenced from the results of our ice fishing surveys. For instance, the average size of the salmon harvested has increased as has the proportion of salmon in the harvest exceeding 18 inches. The percent of anglers harvesting a legal salmon has improved as well. Furthermore, Long Lake continues to produce some 8-10 pound salmon each year.

David Basley, Regional Fisheries Biologist