Fishing Reports by Regional Fishery Biologists
September 2, 2008
This Fishing Report is written by biologists at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and is produced bi-weekly during summer months.
Region A - Southwestern Maine - Photos from the field!
As the fall fishing season approaches, anglers are reminded of the new fall fishing regulations in effect this year on Sebago Lake. In the past the open water fishing season on most of the lake closed on Sept. 30. The single exception was a small area near Sebago Station that permitted fishing from Oct. 1 through Nov. 30.
The new regulations allow anglers to fish the entire lake from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31. From Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 togue (lake trout) may be harvested under the same size and bag limits in place for the rest of the year, but all salmon and trout must be released. These new changes are not printed in the current open water fishing law book because the changes were made after the current law book was printed. Also, since the changes represented a liberalization of the existing regulation, providing expanded opportunity, anglers could not be penalized (fined) if they weren’t aware of the change.
The regulation change was proposed by Sebago Lake Anglers Association and as adopted is consistent with the new salmon management plan recently adopted for Sebago. The change also is consistent with the Classic Salmon Initiative, which Sebago is being managed under.
The purpose of the regulation change is to increase lake trout harvest opportunity and further reduce lake trout abundance. Lake trout are a strong competitor with landlocked salmon.
The intent of the regulation change is not to allow additional salmon fishing opportunity!
Unfortunately there is no enforceable language that could be adopted making it illegal to fish for salmon. Although the current regulation prevents salmon from being taken from October through December, even catch and release fishing for salmon is expected to increase handling stress and associated salmon mortality, particularly for ripe adult fish. We request that anglers not target salmon after Sept. 30, but take advantage of the opportunity to catch and harvest lake trout during a time of the year when most of the pleasure boat crowd have put their toys to rest, little fishing pressure exists, and the spectacular early fall foliage provides a great back drop to any open water fishing experience.
On another note, in the last several weeks we’ve had some great fishing reports from anglers who have fished some of our quality brook trout ponds. Most but not all are ponds that were previously reclaimed with an organic chemical called rotenone. Some of these stocked ponds are producing 15- to 18-inch brook trout.
Francis Brautigam, Regional Fisheries Biologist, Gray
Region B - Central Maine - Photos from the field!
A few years ago I reported on a project that had great potential for fulfilling an important goal of our Department, namely “to provide anglers with the most opportunities for the types of fishing they want while ensuring that these same fish resources are going to be there for those who come after us.” I’d like to take this opportunity to bring you up to date on the status of that project.
A tributary to Pitcher Pond crosses Route 52 in the town of Lincolnville. In the fall of 2003, the Maine Department of Transportation replaced a failing “perched culvert” at that stream crossing. A perched culvert, you may recall, has a drop in elevation at its outlet. If the drop is sufficiently high, fish are unable to pass through the culvert to upstream habitat. The new culvert was installed with an embedded outlet; that is, alleviating the drop. Nevertheless, the elevation difference from the upstream to downstream ends required a slope in the culvert so that streambed movement could be avoided. I was skeptical of the ability of brook trout to negotiate the slope, but told the DOT environmental reviewer the site would be a good place to evaluate fish passage with a stocking of brook trout fry.
Townline Brook, the name I gave the stream at the time in order to satisfy stocking records, is really Rollins Brook, according to Peg Miller, a long time resident that owns land abutting the stream. She indicated that the stream dries up in some years. The brook is designated as an intermittent stream on the area’s topographical map. According to the map, the total length of the stream is about 4000 feet.
Mrs. Miller told me that in a 1954 hurricane, a flood washed out the former stone-cribbed crossing. The culvert replaced by MDOT in 2003, was the result. She couldn’t recall any angling in the brook in her lifetime. Since 1954, the stream was most likely waterless in many summers, eliminating any fish populations above the perched culvert. The vertical barrier formed by the perched culvert, prevented re-colonization of the brook from downstream. Prior to 1954, we do not know if a barrier was present at the crossing, but there is free access from Pitcher Pond to the present crossing. Pitcher Pond has a warm-water fishery, but Sucker Brook, a tributary to the pond, has a natural brook trout fishery that could allow some migration of trout into nearby Rollins Brook.
On June 7, 2004, the Department stocked 1,000 Maine Hatchery strain brook trout in Rollins Brook ranging from 3 to 3.5 inches long. On June 9, I went back to the stream to ascertain the presence of brook trout above the culvert. I observed that the fry made it up through the culvert. Although numbers were not high, it did indicate that the brookies could negotiate the incline in the culvert.
On Sept. 22, I returned to Rollins Brook to further document fish movements. The first brook trout was found immediately above the culvert and I encountered other brook trout at likely pools for approximately 2,000 feet above the culvert. Were they the unmarked brookies stocked on June 7 or migrants from the pond? By all indications, such as deformed pectorals and shortened opercula’s (a commonly observed phenomena in hatchery fish), they were the survivors of the spring stocking of brook trout fry. The fish ranged from 4.5 inches to 6.5 inches and exhibited robustness. No other fish species were found.
On April 22, 2005 I returned to Rollins Brook to evaluate over winter survival of the brook trout. We captured six 5- to 7-inch brook trout from just above the culvert to about 400 feet upstream.
Although 2004 was unusual with respect to cool temperatures and higher than normal water flows, there are some things we can gain from our observations. For instance, Maine Hatchery strain brook trout (which can survive to five years of age, as noted in Little Pond, Damariscotta) can survive in small brooks and are capable of migrating in some unusual conditions. In 2005, 2006, and 2007 our investigations, and angler reports, indicated that brook trout are now using this small watershed. In other work around the region, our brook trout stream monitoring efforts have indicated that these types of small watersheds experience a rebound in brook trout populations when water flows naturally improve.
The most important finding from our observations is that in small streams that are otherwise suitable for brook trout but have barriers to upstream fish passage, the removal of any man-made barrier can greatly facilitate restoration of brook trout populations.
In many towns throughout Maine culverts have been installed that prevent fish passage. Some of these were placed many years ago, and the natural condition of the stream has passed out of local memory. Ultimately, this often results in locals accepting that the stream is devoid of brook trout. Since Maine has many miles of small streams, all of us need to be vigilant in pointing out to town and state officials that if a culvert is perched and preventing fish passage, this is an unacceptable installation, and should be remedied.
Bill Woodward, Assistant Regional Fishery Biologist, Sidney
Region C - Downeast - Photos from the field!
As we put the unofficial end of summer behind us, we approach my favorite time of year. September in Downeast Maine gives us cool nights and comfortable days. These conditions cause water temperatures to fall and fish to become more active. This is the time of year that makes me start thinking about all the opportunities fall has to offer. Hiking and canoeing to see the changing leaves, camping with no bugs and comfortable sleeping conditions, and of course fall brook trout fishing.
In the Downeast region the month of September can provide some great stream and brook fishing for trout. In the fall brook trout exhibit beautiful spawning colors that are more striking than anything else in nature. When that beauty is coupled with the changing foliage, you can’t ask for a more memorable experience.
Every time I think about fall fishing, I am immediately reminded of a day trip I took with a college friend a few years back. We were out fishing a small stream around the Route 9 corridor on the last day of the open water season. The day was sunny with a cool breeze and could not be more picturesque. We took turns fishing for about a mile and a half of stream. We didn’t catch any great number of fish, but every fish we landed made the trip worth it. I took two photographs that day which stick out most in my mind. I have included both pictures with this weekly report and they can be viewed by clicking the link for “Photos from the field.” The first was of a beautiful male brook trout that my friend caught in one of the first pools we fished. The picture hardly does justice to the intensity of colors that fish exhibited. The second picture from that day was of my friend casting his fly surrounded by the changing foliage. Both of these images stand out in my mind and they are what drive me to get out in the fall and wet a line.
Remember, from Aug. 16 to Sept. 30 the regulations on brooks, rivers, and streams are as follows: artificial lures only and a total daily bag limit for landlocked salmon, trout, and togue of one fish. The primary reason behind these regulations is to protect fish that are beginning to exhibit spawning behavior. Depending on where you are in the state, fish may begin to move into spawning habitat as early as mid August and as late as the third or fourth week in September. These concentrations of fish can be quite vulnerable. The reduced bag limit helps prevent overharvest and the artificial lures only regulation improves the survival potential of a released fish. It is very important to protect these trout and salmon since they will be spawning in a short while.
I enjoy fly-fishing in the fall of the year. I have had great luck with various streamer flies, but the one fly I seem to always go back to is a white muddler minnow. In my experience anything that is bright and showy has a good chance of producing strikes, and if one doesn’t work, tie on something else.
Now, I know that fall is a busy time for most of us here in Maine. I certainly have enough to keep me busy with wood to be stacked and of course the list of projects I didn’t complete around the house this summer, but I recommend you take the time to do a little brookie fishing this month. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
Region D - Western Mountains - Photos from the field!
One of this agency's primary missions is to secure public access to Maine's lakes, rivers, and streams. As regional biologists, we're responsible for maintaining a list of access priorities, assuring that the list is continually updated, and assisting with locating and designing appropriate sites. We work closely with the Department’s access coordinator and chief engineer, the Department of Conservation, and a variety of local groups to acquire and develop the sites.
Completing a water access project is often a frustratingly difficult and time-consuming endeavor. Nevertheless, we do have some successes each year. In Region D, for example, a full service boat launch is now available on Riley Impoundment of the Androscoggin River near Jay, and a small carry-on site is nearing completion for the Sandy River Ponds, located just south of Rangeley. We recently purchased parcels on the Sandy River in Farmington Falls and New Sharon; when developed, these launches will give anglers and recreational boaters an opportunity to float and fish a 7-mile section of this attractive stream with good smallmouth bass and brown trout populations.
Despite these successes, there is much more to do. Our most pressing needs are at Oaks Pond in Skowhegan and Hancock Pond in Embden. We recently suspended popular stocking programs for splake and brook trout at Oaks, and for salmon and brook trout at Hancock for lack of legal access during the open water months.
(MDIFW can not stock waters where public access is denied or is deemed inequitable with shorefront property owners). Also, the traditional access site for Gull Pond in Dallas Plantation was recently put on the market -- the current landowner permitted public use of a small launch site, so its future availability to anglers is now very much in question.
In some cases, the Department’s ability to purchase suitable access sites is compromised because we’re not aware of available properties. We do our best to keep abreast with local real estate markets, but it's often an impossible task for our small staff. Any help our readers can provide is very much appreciated, so please call us if you have good information on potential access sites.
David Boucher, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist, Strong
Region E - Moosehead Region - Photos from the field!
A typical summer field season in the Moosehead Lake Region includes many different tasks. This summer we have surveyed a number of ponds that have never been inventoried by this Department. We generally find a few new nice trout ponds, while most newly surveyed ponds offer little or no potential for the development of a coldwater fishery. This summer was no different.
What was different this summer was the amount of time we spent investigating introductions of exotic species. Early in the summer we had a reliable report of smallmouth bass in Big Wood Pond in Jackman. Regional staff, along with assistance from Research staff and volunteers, spent several days electrofishing, trapnetting, and angling on this lake that sits in the middle of the Moose River drainage. In addition to the initial angler report of a 17-inch smallmouth, we captured one other smaller bass. It is unclear whether these fish will become established. The drainage is very large and it is possible that a small illegal introduction could disperse and never see each other again. But, like nearly all cases of illegal introductions, there is very little we can do to eliminate the threat. If bass do become established they will be able to move downstream to Brassua Lake, which has a very good wild brook trout population, all the way to Holeb Pond.
We have also spent three days investigating an area north of Ebeemee Lake as part of an evaluation for the Penobscot River Restoration Project. Northern pike are established in Pushaw Lake and have access to the lower Piscataquis River. A fish by-pass is in the plans for the Howland Dam which will provide passage for all fish species, including pike. There is some concern that a large wet area north of Ebeemee Lake may provide a watercourse connection to Jo-Mary Lake and the West Branch of the Penobscot River drainage. The area was certainly wet in August, but more field work will be needed during spring run-off to determine for certain if the two systems are connected.
Late last week we had a report of a largemouth bass in Hebron Lake in Monson. We were able to inspect the fish and verify it was indeed a largemouth, and a young one at that. Based on the small length of this fish, it is likely the result of natural reproduction in Hebron Lake. This lake sits high in the Sebec Lake drainage. We have not completed our assessment of this introduction, but largemouth bass could easily move downstream to Monson Pond and Sebec Lake.
Bass will also drop downstream into Wilson Stream which is the major spawning tributary for wild landlocked salmon in Sebec Lake. We estimate that 90-95 percent of the salmon production for one of Maine’s original salmon lakes occurs in this stream and its tributaries. There are large deadwaters on the lower end of the stream that will provide adequate bass habitat. Young, wild landlocked salmon must travel through these deadwaters to reach Sebec Lake.
Tim Obrey, Regional Fisheries Biologist, Greenville
Region F - Penobscot Valley Region - Photos from the field!
As we move into the early fall, the surface temperature of our lakes and ponds has begun to drop, and salmon and brook trout angling will pick-up substantially. Late season tactics of a shallow line and a quick retrieve will begin to produce again, as brook trout and salmon start their transformation from feeding to reproductive activity. Fall fishing can be the most rewarding of all seasons. Salmon and trout are in the best shape of any time of the year. Salmon are fat and bright, and nothing is as stunning as a brook trout all dressed up in its fall spawning colors! The scenery is hard to beat as the hardwood foliage starts to change from green to red, yellow and orange.
Next week we start our annual fall fin clipping operation here at Cobb Fish Hatchery. In years past we have marked up to 150,000 fish here at the Enfield, most of which are brook trout. This year we have made a concerted effort to reduce those numbers of fish to be marked to approximately 50,000. Demands on staff time and hatchery space as well as increasing fuel costs have forced us to reconsider marking as many fish as we have in years past.
The marking program has been a very helpful management tool evaluating our hatchery product. All salmonids, except lake trout, have a four-year rotation of fin clips. Lake trout have an 11-year fin clip rotation based upon their longevity. The presence of marked fish allows the fishery biologist to determine the age of any of our stocked salmonids as they encounter them in the field, without taking scales and reading them in the office at a later date. It also allows knowledgeable anglers the same ability to determine the age of any clipped hatchery fish that they catch.
Access to all of those stocked hatchery fish has always been a high priority for the Fisheries Division. We still have a number of lakes and ponds that do not have guaranteed public access. As more shore frontage of our lakes and ponds is sold and subdivided, access becomes ever more important.
Regionally we have eight projects that are in various stages of development. The other six Regions have similar numbers of access projects planned. Four of those eight sites in Region F have been purchased and are in development, and an additional four sites are awaiting transfer of ownership. Of those eight projects, four are located on streams and rivers and four on regional lakes and ponds. Of the four projects currently slated for lakes and ponds, all have active stocking programs; although two of those lakes have had hatchery programs interrupted or halted until access issues were resolved.
Region G - Aroostook County - Photos from the field!
During our routine fisheries management which often involves measuring hundreds of sport fish per year, we occasionally get reports of exceptionally large fish. While not the norm, large fish are worthy of recognition for the state of Maine and the angler. This summer we have had two notably large fish caught in Aroostook County, one of which will qualify as a new State record.
First, a new state record Arctic charr was caught by Carter McLaughlin, age 11, of Mapleton on Aug. 20, 2008. A locally common name for the species is “blueback trout.” This particular fish was caught at Pushineer Pond, T15R9. Carter was accompanied by his father Lionel (on right in attached picture). The charr was 25.4 inches total length and weighed 5.24 pounds.
The previous record was a 4 pound 4 ounce fish caught by Merton Wyman at Basin Pond in 1958. Arctic charr are a rare fish, occurring in only 14 lakes and ponds scattered throughout the interior highlands in northern and western Maine.
Normally, Arctic charr in Maine waters are small (6-10 inches) and inhabit deep, cold water of mountain lakes. Currently, the greatest threat to these rare fish are introductions of non-native species of fish that are competitors with or predators upon Arctic charr.
The second large fish was also a member of the charr family, a lake trout, commonly called togue in Maine. The fish was 36 inches long and weighed 20 pounds; it was caught by Wayne McGary at Nickerson Lake on Aug. 2.
Togue are oftentimes the largest sport fish caught in Maine in any given year. What is unique about Wayne’s catch is the size of the water it came from; Nickerson Lake is only 234 acres, a small togue water for Maine. Typically, the waters we manage for togue exceed 1,000 acres. Togue were first introduced to Nickerson Lake by the State of Maine in 1960 and has been managed for them ever since along with brown trout and brook trout. In 1994 togue stocking was discontinued due to natural reproduction within the lake that was resulting in a very large population of small togue; in 2002 we liberalized harvest regulations by reducing the minimum length to 14 inches (down from 18 inches). This change resulted in more togue being kept by anglers and eventually a dramatic increase in the smelt population, the togue’s primary forage fish. The increased smelt population now has a faithful following of anglers who target this sport fish for not only for their own consumption but also as live bait. In the next few years, we expect very good growth in the togue population and we also expect that brown trout will benefit greatly from the increase in the smelt population. The next large fish report from Aroostook County might be a brown trout from Nickerson Lake.