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August 26, 2011
Arctic Char Returned to Big Reed Pond
With the help of Gary Picard of Mountain Springs Trout Farm, Igor and Karen Sikorsky of Bradford Camps and Bill Patterson from The Nature Conservancy, MDIF&W fisheries biologist Frank Frost oversaw the stocking of the char. Arctic char are native to just 12 ponds in Maine – the only native char populations in the continental United States.
Though the char -- offspring of fish collected from the 100-acre Big Reed Pond -- were stocked, the multi-year project is not complete.
“Full success of the project won’t be realized until Arctic char successfully spawn in Big Reed Pond and we can document survival of any charr resulting from this natural spawning,” Frost said.
The process began more than four years ago, as Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife staff began the laborious process of collecting native fish from Big Reed Pond, a small body of water roughly 45 miles from Ashland. The pond was treated in October of 2010 with the chemical rotenone to eliminate an illegally-introduced population of rainbow smelt, whose competition for food and habitat had resulted in a negative effect on the population of Arctic char there.
Recovered Arctic char and brook trout were taken to Mountain Springs Trout Farm in Frenchville, where they were carefully monitored. Their offspring was taken back to Big Reed in early June of 2011, flown in from Bradford Camps on Munsungan Lake to Big Reed Pond.
BIG REED POND
1. WHERE IS BIG REED POND?
Big Reed Pond is a 90-acre pond located approximately 45 miles southwest of Ashland, Maine. It is located off of the Pinkham Road, a notable timber road, and sits on a parcel of land owned by The Nature Conservancy.
2. WHY ARE ARCTIC CHAR IMPORTANT TO MAINE?
Arctic char, also known as “blueback trout” in some circles, are important to Maine for the very same reason they are important to the United States. There are only 12 waters in the entire continental U.S. serving as hosts to the species – and all 12 of those waters are located in northern Maine.
If numbers dwindle in our state to the point that the species is eradicated – either through too liberal fishing regulations, competition with illegally-introduced species or loss of habitat – it would be lost forever.
3. WHY WAS RECLAMATION NEEDED AT BIG REED POND?
Decades ago, a population of rainbow smelt was illegally introduced into Big Reed Pond. The smelt quickly established themselves in large numbers, large enough that they began to compete with native Arctic char and brook trout for both food and habitat. Char population numbers have dropped dramatically, leaving Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife fisheries biologists with little choice but to take drastic measure.
4. HOW DID THE RECLAMATION PROCESS AT BIG REED POND TAKE PLACE?
The process began more than four years ago, as Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife staff began the laborious process of collecting native fish from Big Reed Pond. They netted native Arctic char and brook trout and took them to a private hatchery for safe-keeping.
In October of 2010, dozens of fisheries biologists descended upon Big Reed. With the help of Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopters, thousands of pounds of the chemical rotenone were shipped into the pond. For several days, rotenone was applied to the pond itself and its tributaries, killing off all gill-breathing life in the pond.
The primary goal was to eradicate rainbow smelt and several other invasive fish species from Big Reed.
5. WHERE WERE THE RECOVERED FISH KEPT?
The Arctic char and brook trout that were collected at Big Reed Pond – both during the reclamation and in the years leading up to it – were taken to Mountain Springs Trout Farm in nearby Frenchville, Maine.
At Mountain Springs Trout Farm, the fish were cared for under the watchful eye of Gary Picard, who was also present during the reclamation at Big Reed Pond in October.
6. WHERE DID THE FISH BEING STOCKED AT BIG REED COME FROM?
The native Arctic char and brook trout that were kept at Mountain Springs Trout Farm spawned a new generation of fish that will be re-stocked into Big Reed Pond. The original trout and charr will be kept at the hatchery, and biologists will continue to culture them for additional offspring to stock in future years.
7. WILL BIG REED POND BE OPEN TO FISHING THIS YEAR?
Currently, Big Reed Pond is open to open water fishing from April 1st through September 30th, with anglers restricted to the use of artificial lures only. All trout or char caught must be immediately released alive.
The pond is closed to ice fishing.
8. WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF BIG REED’S ARCTIC CHAR POPULATION?
Full success of the project will be realized when Arctic char successfully spawn in Big Reed Pond and biologists can document survival of any charr resulting from this natural spawning. The associated ecosystem must also be considered, including Big Reed native brook trout and associated native species of dace in some of the tributaries.
Biologists will use a variety of methods to monitor the newly introduced charr for spawning activity including tracking with implanted ultra-sonic tags and November scuba-diving.
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