Fishing Reports by Regional Fishery Biologists
June 6, 2009
Reminder: Use your Open Water Fishing law book
As you prepare your equipment for open water fishing season, don’t forget to locate the Open Water Fishing Regulations booklet that you used last year. This law book is “good” through March 31, 2010. If you’ve misplaced it, you can pick up another one at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife in Augusta or at most licensing agents.
It would be a good idea to review the law book before you head out to your favorite water. General Law regulations are found on Page 8, but don’t forget many waters have regulations that depart from the general law. Check to see if the body of water you will be fishing is listed under the appropriate county heading. If it is listed, it will be followed by the special regulations that apply to that water. Remember, there were numerous changes specific to individual waters recently, so check the body of water you will be fishing.
A list of a few of the more significant general law rule changes can be found on Page 5 of the Open Water Fishing Regulations booklet. To summarize these changes:
- The terms “trout” and “brook trout” now include Arctic charr (see Page 11).
- The fall fishing season on the lakes and ponds in southern Maine now extends from October 1 through December 31 (see page 8).
- Statewide the minimum length limit on bass is now 10 inches (see Page 8 for the details).
- The old S-23 & S-24 fall fishing seasons have been combined into a new S-24 regulation. Waters having a S-24 designation are open from Oct. 1 - Dec. 31, artificial lures only, all trout, landlocked salmon and togue must be released alive at once.
Dennis McNeish, Fisheries Management Supervisor, Augusta
Region A - Southwestern Maine - Photos from the field!
By now much of the angling public is well aware that the MDIFW is working on a brand new consolidated fishing law book that will include both open water and ice fishing regulations in the same book. This initiative was undertaken as a cost saving task and should be be printed for use in the spring of 2010. In addition to consolidation efforts, there will also be a number of water-specific management regulation changes proposed in southern Maine, as well as other management regions. Many of the water specific regulation changes proposed in are relatively minor and are "house keeping" in nature, while others are more substantive. Below I have summarized many of the additional regulation changes proposed for Region A.
- Eliminating existing special regulations (noted in "( )"), where they no longer support stocking and management goals: Mine P, Porter (2 trap limit) / Lone P, Waterboro (ALO, closed to ice fishing) / Ingalls P, Bridgton (no taking smelts) / Stanley P, Porter (no taking smelts) / Little Clemmons P (no taking smelts).
- Removing "closed to fishing" from a number of private ponds (mostly private): Pipedream P (Cornish) / Legion P (Kittery) / Big Rock P (Waterboro) / Sunken P (Sanford) / Sand P (Limington).
- Standardize and apply restrictions on Region A wild brook trout ponds like, closed to taking bait, close to all fishing from Oct 1 - Mar 31, no ice fishing, closed to taking bait..... In addition adopt the following regulations (noted in "( )"): Cold Water P, Kennebunk (ALO, must release trout < 6" and greater than 12"), Kennebunk Plains P / Kennebunk (ALO, C&R), Spicer P, Newfield (open April 1).
- Establish 12 PM smelt dipping closure consistent with NH on NH-ME border waters: Kimball P, Fryeburg
- Remove restrictive brook trout length limits (2 trout, 1 over 12", only 1 over 14") where few brook trout survive from year to year: Chapman P, Hiram / Clays P, Fryeburg.
- Sebago Lake: establish two minor revisions to promote angling for pike and lake trout, while protecting salmon; open to ice fishing when the ice forms, and no removal of salmon from the water while ice fishing.
- Close lake area within 100 feet of the mouth of already closed Miller and Sucker brooks (Moose Pond, Bridgton) to enhance the smelt spawning success.
- Establish youth-only fishing: Pettingill P, Auburn (open May 16, youth only) / Lower Hinckley, S Portland (youth only during open water AND ice fishing seasons).
- Manage Chaffin P, Windham under restrictive regulations to realize size quality potential of stocked brook trout: no size or bag on bass, ALO, 2 trout daily bag (minimum 12", only 1 over 14").
Speaking of regulations, last fall was the first fall anglers could fish Sebago Lake (lake only) from Oct 1 through December. This regulation change was specifically enacted to increase the opportunity for anglers to harvest more lake trout, which could be legally harvested during the special fall fishing season. This regulation change was initiated by the Sebago Lake Anglers Association in cooperation with the MDIFW.
A angler clerk census indicated that approximately 474 lake trout were harvested last fall, which equates to about 9% of all the lake trout harvested during the entire open water fishing season (April 1 - Dec 31). Interestingly, a total of 14,678 legal lake trout were caught by anglers during the entire open water fishing season, but only 5,146 (35%) were actually harvested!. Management objectives to increase the harvest of younger aged lake trout will only be realized if anglers actually harvest what they are legally allowed to harvest. Additional consideration of more liberal lake trout fishing regulations is currently not warranted given the current low level of angler harvest (35%) under existing liberal regulations.
If you have any questions or comments on any of these proposals, please feel free to contact us at our headquarters in Gray. Your input is welcome!
Francis Brautigam, Regional Fisheries Biologist, Gray
Region B - Central Maine-Photos from the field
With the advent of spring, Region B biologists have taken to the field, undertaking open water evaluations of a wide variety of lakes, ponds and streams throughout the Midcoast.
While it is often referred to as “the Midcoastal Region,” Region B encompasses about 4,000 square miles, extending quite far inland from the coast. At the coast proper, the Region extends generally from the Androscoggin River on the west to the Penobscot on the east. Going north along the Androscoggin, the region reaches Livermore Falls before turning northeast in a somewhat ragged line roughly following the Kennebec\Franklin and Kennebec\Somerset county lines to Canaan. From there, it heads north to Cambridge, again east to Garland, then southeast to the Bangor area and the Penobscot River.
Throughout the region, there is a great variety of aquatic habitat types. Indeed, there are more than 300 named lakes and ponds and about 3,000 miles of permanent and intermittent streams. Region B is somewhat unique in that most of its waters are relatively easy to get to. A pond considered “remote” in this neck of the woods might be all of a half-mile walk. But, that quick hike might provide a pond or stream that one angler has all to themselves. In short, there as many types of fishing to be found here as there are anglers.
This year, working with State Sen. Dave Trahan, Advisory Council member Mike Witte, Lincoln County Fish and Game, Medomak Valley Land Trust, and the selectmen from the town of Waldoboro, regional biologists were able to create a fishing water for kids on a quarry on a town-owned lot. The quarry is small, not much over an acre. It was also on a town lot, meaning that the property was owned by all the citizens of Waldoboro.
While it may appear an easy task to get something beneficial like a “kids fishing water” in place, there is a process involved. In this case, Sen. Trahan, acting on a suggestion from Lincoln County F&G, approached IF&W to see if a kids’ water there was a possibility. Our first step was to notify the town of the suggestion. The selectmen agreed that it was an idea worth investigating, and scheduled a public meeting to discuss the idea with interested citizens. The results of this meeting were to proceed with an evaluation and report back on the results in a second public meeting. After the initial evaluation showed that the quarry was suitable for brook trout, we were able to secure some unscheduled hatchery fish as a startup stocking.
We soon discovered two things. First, both big and little kids took advantage of the fish. Second, not all of the 100 fish we put in that year were caught. Reports received in April of this year indicated that anglers had taken several trout from 12 to 14 inches. This meant that not only were the fish able to survive the warm summer months there, but that conditions also were suitable for over-winter survival and growth. All in all, not bad for a little mined-out quarry.
At the follow-up public meeting this spring, Lincoln County Fish and Game pledged their assistance in monitoring the site and proposed to hold a kids derby there. Some concern over liability was expressed by the selectmen and some concerned citizens. It was brought up that state liability laws adequately protected the town in that regard. Ultimately, with the cooperation of everyone concerned, it was agreed that the pond would be included of the department’s list of kids only fishing waters in the next fishing laws revision. To let the big kids, that is, those over 16 know, the Department is providing provide signs to identify it as such. On May 30, Lincoln County Fish and Game held their second fishing derby.
Region C - Downeast - Photos from the field!
Grand Lake Stream represents one of Maine’s most scenic and productive landlocked salmon streams. Averaging 98 feet wide, it flows from West Grand Lake’s outlet dam for 2.75 miles before entering Big Lake. Its crystal-clear waters bounce and aerate over several long boulder rapids, interspersed with pools, glides, and pockets that hold the silver leapers that have thrilled many an angler over the years.
Although many anglers have favorite larger pools to fish, adventuresome wading anglers can reach many smaller pockets that are interspersed behind boulders throughout the stream. Salmon holding in these pockets must decide very quickly whether to strike since food and flies are moving quickly out of their field of view in the swift current.
Prime time fishing starts in mid-May with the Hendrickson hatch and lasts through the brown caddis hatches until the stream temperature warms to near 70º F, usually by the end of June. Nymphs, dry flies, and streamers are effective enticements to salmon.
Grand Lake Stream’s salmon population is transient, with most fish arriving either in the spring after ice-out or in the fall. By July and August the greatest portion of these salmon have moved into either West Grand Lake or Big Lake in search of cool water and better forage in the form of rainbow smelts. West Grand’s salmon are currently growing well on an abundant population of smelts, producing fat silvery fish.
Fishing the stream is restricted to fly fishing only with a daily bag limit of one salmon that is longer than 14”. By late September another movement of pre-spawn salmon in the peak of condition enters the stream. The extended fall season ends on October 20, and all October fishing is catch and release. Anglers are reminded that the area within 150’ of the West Grand Dam is closed to all fishing.
The village of Grand Lake Stream has a long fishing history in Maine, with its guides, sporting camps, store, and 20’ Grand Laker square-stern canoes that have been used on the lakes for decades. Memories of the scenery and fish from a trip to Grand Lake Stream will last for a lifetime, tugging at you to return.
Rick Jordan, Regional Fisheries Biologist, Jonesboro
Region D - Western Mountains - Photos from the field!
Providing public access to Maine’s lakes and ponds is one of the Department’s highest priorities. Securing access is a difficult and time consuming task, however, so when we succeed it’s always worth mentioning.
Here in western Maine, we’ve just completed the development of one site and have several others in various stages of development. A new carry-on launch was recently opened on Middle Sandy River Pond in Sandy River Plantation. Middle Sandy River Pond supports an excellent brook trout fishery and connects to Upper and Lower Sandy River Ponds, which also provide trout fishing. So in essence, boat access is guaranteed for three trout ponds for the price of one! This hand-carry launch is located about 8 miles south of Rangeley along Route 4.
Access to the Sandy River also will improve when newly acquired sites in Farmington Falls and New Sharon are developed. This 5.5-mile section will be an outstanding paddle through some fabulous farm country with good fisheries for smallmouth bass and brown trout. The upper site will be located just east of the village of Farmington Falls and extend downstream to New Sharon in the vicinity of Muddy Brook.
The Departments of Conservation and Transportation are cooperating on improving boat access to Chain of Ponds in northern Franklin County. Two new sites are being developed – one near the Natanis Pond Campground on the north end and one at Lower Pond, which is the southern-most lake in the chain. This is a highly scenic area with great fisheries for both brook trout and landlocked salmon.
We’re pleased with this progress, but recognize that there’s much more work to do. Our highest priorities for access acquisition and development now focus on Oaks Pond in Skowhegan and Hancock Pond in Embden. Popular and heavily utilized fisheries dependent on stocking programs were recently suspended on both waters for lack of suitable access for summer anglers. If you become aware of properties on either water that might be suitable for boat access, please give us a call (778-3322) and we’ll investigate.
The Rangeley Lake salmon fishery is showing some clear signs of recovery following several sub-par years. As reported here earlier, several robust year-classes of wild salmon placed a great burden on the lake’s delicate forage population (smelts), and the growth and size quality of salmon suffered accordingly. In order to reduce the number of smelt predators and facilitate a recovery, we curtailed the salmon stocking program and encouraged anglers to harvest a few more fish. Salmon captured during last fall’s trapnet survey showed improved growth, and there was a great spawning run of smelts in late April. Game wardens and anglers reported improved numbers of larger salmon in this spring’s fishery, so it seems the lake is finally coming around.
Region E - Moosehead Region - Photos from the field!
Last year, IF&W teamed up with the Natural Resource Education Center (NREC) in Greenville to create a college internship/summer work program to benefit fisheries in the area. One of the first projects includes a competition removal study on several local trout ponds. The project continued this spring at Crocker Pond in Dennistown and Center Pond in Soldiertown. The goal of this project is to remove species that compete with brook trout for food and habitat. Based on work conducted by this region on Little Moxie Pond in Shirley, the removal of these species can greatly improve growth rates and survival rates for young wild trout.
In 2008, we removed over 2,000 pounds (5,350 individuals) of white suckers from Crocker Pond. Based on our population estimates derived from the catch rates, we removed around 47-100 percent of the total sucker biomass. Of course, we didn’t get them all but the actual figure was probably close to 85 percent. That was a pretty good start.
In 2009, we again hired 2 Unity College students to return to Crocker Pond and continue the project. We tended four nets from May 7 to May 22. In this time, we removed approximately 1,200 lbs of suckers. The amount of effort was nearly identical to the previous year.
Again, based on population estimates, we removed between 58-100 percent of the total population, with a point estimate of 97 percent.
Clearly, trapnetting can be an effective tool to reduce sucker populations in small headwater ponds. We did see an improvement in the condition or fatness of the hatchery brook trout that were also in our nets. This improvement was likely the result of last year’s removal and a reduction in the stocking rate. Crocker Pond, which has no tackle restrictions and just a two-fish limit, continues to produce some fine fish. Thirty-four percent of the trout in this pond were greater than 12 inches. The Jackman Region has some of Maine’s finest brook trout fishing in the state, and this pond has very good access and worth a stop if you’re in the area.
We captured fewer suckers and trout at Center Pond in Soldiertown. We removed about 200 pounds of suckers over two weeks of netting from this 51-acre wild brook trout pond, which lies just north of Rockwood. We estimated the trout population to be 234 fish with just 6 percent greater than 12 inches, although there were a few nice individuals. This pond is relatively shallow and cool water habitat is probably hard to find in the heat of the summer, making it tough on the wild trout. We believe the removal of suckers could improve conditions for trout on this water in the future.
This cooperative project is supported by donations to NREC from groups and individuals interested in improving the fishing in the region, as well as funds from the winter togue fishing derby on Moosehead Lake sponsored by the Moosehead Lake Region Chamber of Commerce. We plan to continue the competition removal project next spring and add new projects in the near future. Thanks to everyone for their support!
Region F - Penobscot Valley Region - Photos from the field!
As Yogi Berra would say, it was déjà vu all over again!
About 10 years ago, while trout fishing on a pond in the North Country, I had the opportunity to witness a spectacle that I had hoped at the time I would never, ever see again.
While paddling back to the landing at the end of a successful days fishing, a loon appeared next to the canoe with what appeared to be a fat 15-inch trout in its beak. The trout was still very much alive at the first surfacing. Down went the loon with trout in tow, but quickly they were both back on the surface to continue the fight. Back down they’d go, and so on. After about 2 or 3 minutes, the trout had succumbed and the loon summarily threw back his head and swallowed the trout whole! Never would have thought a loon could have handled a trout any bigger than that.
Until this past weekend, that is. While fishing another un-named trout pond in the North Country with IF&W Wildlife Biologist Vasco “Buster” Carter, we were tailed for hours by a very pesky loon. Everywhere we’d paddle, that loon would follow. All afternoon! We became convinced that the reason we were not catching any fish was because of our new found feathered friend. Until around 5 p.m. That’s when everything changed.
Suddenly the loon started swimming back and forth under the canoe at a high rate of speed, almost franticly. Then a fish hit. A nice trout had taken my offering. Because of the circumstances, I wasted no time getting him in the canoe.
A quick measure at 17 inches meant that he was going back, as this pond is managed for trophy-sized fish with a bag limit of one trout daily and a minimum length limit of 18 inches. As I was holding him momentarily next to the canoe to revive him a bit before release, Buster yelled out for me to watch my hand as the loon was now making threatening advances towards my appendages. I swiftly lifted the fish out and decided to wait until the loon made another run to the other side of the canoe. I then slid the trout back into the water with a push towards the deeper part of the pond. Seconds went by before I saw the loon go back under the canoe in pursuit, but I was fairly confident that the trout would get away.
As Buster and I were celebrating our “successful” attempt to outsmart a mere bird, up came the loon about 50 yards out with that 17-inch trout in its beak! This time it was only about a 30-second fight before that loon threw its head back and swallowed him whole! Sounds hard to believe, I know, but I’ve talked to a number of anglers since that have observed the same scenario played out on this pond and other ponds with hauntingly similar results.
Remember, I measured that fish before release, and it was between 17 and 18 inches, and in very good condition. Realistically, that fish weighed close to two pounds!
Many fish in the 16- to 18-inch category apparently have been consumed by the pair of loons making their home at this pond shortly after release all spring, making me wonder what’s the point?
When I start to do the math, it becomes even more depressing. We don’t stock a lot of fish in this pond, and the only other species of fish in the pond is dace and shiners. We expect anglers to release any fish less than 18 inches, with the hope that these fish will continue to grow and next year they will be available for harvest. With two loons eating a trout or two a piece (or more) a day all season long, it starts to add up quickly. What’s left for the angler that buys a license, follows the rules and expects some return on their time, effort and investment?
If this scenario sounds familiar, IF&W Regional Fisheries Biologist Dave Basley in our Ashland office wrote a very similar story that appeared in the fishing report from June 23, 2008. In Dave’s report, he posed the question “So I think you now can understand our dilemma, as one charged to improve the sport fishery for larger brook trout, how do we manage around this conundrum?”
Region G - Aroostook County - Photos from the field!
By all accounts the fishing in this area has been meeting all expectations this spring. From the first ice out at Long Lake, anglers have been successful catching 3-5 pound salmon with regularity. The smelt ran very well in the tributaries which should insure an adequate forage supply to maintain size quality. Togue fishing at Eagle Lake has picked up where the winter fishing left off. Anglers can continue to harvest a daily bag limit of 6 togue having a minimum length of 14 inches; only 1 may exceed 23 inches. Brook trout have been cooperative at Fish Lake, Square Lake and Cross Lake.
In the backcountry, Big Eagle has been exceptional for togue 3-5 pounds with 7-8 pound fish not uncommon. Please remember than the general law bag limit of 2 togue remains in effect in 2009. Twelve to 17 inch brookies have been the norm in Big Eagle and Churchill Lakes. Anglers continue to be encouraged to visit First, Second and Third Musquacook Lakes to harvest togue. Although indications are that smelt abundance has improved since implementing liberal bag and length limits in 2008, the 6 togue daily bag limit and 14 inch minimum length limit, only 1 may exceed 23 inches is slated to remain on the books for the foreseeable future. We continue to encourage anglers fishing these waters to please harvest the togue.
The flow in our rivers has been “bumped up” by the recent rains and the weather continues to be cool. Anglers were reporting excellent trout fishing in brooks and rivers over Memorial Day weekend. Water conditions remain similar to extend this fishing into the coming weekend. The Aroostook River, any spot from its headwaters to the New Brunswick border, should be on the list of waters to fish if visiting the area. Other notable tributaries to the Aroostook include the Big Machias and Little Madawaska River for trout fishing. The upper and lower reaches of the Aroostook are under special regulation while the middle section is under general law. Please check the lawbook to identify those sections under special regulation.
We would note that the Ashland headquarters (see photo) has been under new construction over the winter. Visitors to the office are advised that the public entrance is now on the west end of the building as depicted in the accompanying photo. The lowermost driveway will access vehicles to the public parking and entrance. All IF&W staff is now located in the new office building.David J. Basley, Regional Fisheries Biologist, Ashland