Giving Landlocked Salmon a Head Start in Crescent Lake

March 1, 2019 at 12:42 pm

By Fisheries Biologist Nick Kalejs Here in Maine, we are lucky to have an abundance of coldwater fisheries. Still, perhaps no fish is more closely linked to the Sebago Lake Region than the landlocked salmon. In fact, landlocked salmon are often referred to as Sebago salmon. Over twenty lakes and ponds in the area, many within the Sebago Lake basin, are stocked annually with landlocked salmon, providing exciting recreational fisheries in many unique bodies of water. As fisheries managers, one of our tasks is to ensure that landlocked salmon perform well across all of these waters, despite sometimes huge variations in physical, chemical, and biological properties. [caption id="attachment_3398" align="alignleft" width="399"] One of two landlocked salmon captured in 2010.[/caption] In recent years, Crescent Lake in Raymond has provided a special challenge for biologists and hatchery staff. Routine fall netting in 2010 yielded only two salmon. Despite having water with sufficiently cool temperatures and oxygen, Crescent Lake simply was not producing many adult salmon. Anglers agreed—their hooks and lines were faring no better than our nets. Eventually, we decided that the existing stocking arrangement might be the culprit. Landlocked salmon were being stocked in as spring yearlings (fish just over one year old), in a fairly shallow location. This meant that salmon were small, usually in the 6-8” range, and in prime hunting grounds for predatory fish like pickerel and bass. To combat these challenges, we first changed the stocking location to a deeper area, to hopefully provide a little more space for young landlocked salmon to hide.  However, follow-up sampling events in fall 2011 and summer 2012 yielded zero salmon.  Next, we decided to stock older fall yearling fish, rather than the smaller spring yearlings. These fish are given an additional summer to grow beyond spring yearlings, and will likely be stocked in at an average size of around 11-13”. For a young landlocked salmon, a few inches can make a big difference in their ability to avoid predators and reduces their reliance on smelt for forage. These older fish will begin being stocked next year, in fall 2020. After all, we need time to raise the fish in the hatcheries to that point! [caption id="attachment_3397" align="aligncenter" width="399"] Closeup of an over four-year-old landlocked salmon from nearby Panther Pond in 2011. We are hoping to see older fish there again soon![/caption] Time will tell whether these changes will revive a landlocked salmon fishery that was once successful. We have reason to believe that things could turn around quickly, based on successful fall yearling landlocked salmon programs in other waters like Mousam Lake in Acton. With a little planning and luck, Crescent Lake may show similar rebounds. Nearby Panther Pond is also being moved to a fall yearling stocking program, and we would hope to see comparable benefits there. Overall, we are optimistic that these changes will help the Sebago Lake Region maintain its tight connection with landlocked salmon for generations to come.