Old News Archive

May 15, 2006 Fishing Report

May 15, 2006 - TRC

Region A - Southwestern Maine

In the last few weeks there has been a resurgence of growing public interest and inquiry regarding the illegal introduction of northern pike in Sebago Lake. This topic was the recent subject of a public broadcasting radio talk show and an IFW news release, which spurred additional publicity.

We have received a number of inquiries from the public asking "where to" and "how to" fish Sebago Lake for pike, and a desire by the public to assist in removing pike from Sebago to reduce their threat to the salmon fishery. In response we've provided some basic "how to" information in this report. However, the following clarification is also offered regarding the value of harvest through recreational angling as a means of pike "control". Until there is strong evidence that pike have spawned successfully in Sebago, there remains the possibility that the few that have been stocked may be caught, preventing the establishment of this exotic predator.

Once pike have established a spawning population, removal through recreational angling will not likely limit population size, although it could alter size quality within the population. Until this spring we remained hopeful that initial efforts to illegally establish pike were unsuccessful. However, the capture of a single 17 inch juvenile pike several weeks ago indicates that pike have either spawned successfully in Sebago or that additional fish may have been introduced. However, until we have confirmed pike spawning in the lake we would encourage anglers to harvest any pike they catch as a strategy to prevent the potential establishment of this unwelcome invasive fish.

In addition to "how to" fishing information I have included some excerpts from the Department's Strategic Management Plan for Northern Pike Pike to provide anglers with a better understanding of this invasive fish.

Distribution

Northern pike are distributed throughout much of the northern hemisphere and within North America is the most widely distributed member of the pickerel family. Northern pike are the only member of the pickerel family native to both North America and Eurasia. The historical North American range included, Alaska, most of Canada below the Arctic Circle, the Missouri River drainage, which includes the upstream confluence of the Mississippi River, the Ohio River drainage in Pennsylvania and New York, and the Great Lakes drainage basin. Northern pike are not indigenous to Maine and the rest of New England, except for Vermont where historical populations were confined to Lake Champlain.

Northern pike have been widely distributed outside their historical range in North America. Northerns are now residents in all New England states, although habitat limitations have precluded the state of Rhode Island from establishing a self-sustaining population.

Northern pike were initially introduced into Maine in the 1970's, as the result of an illegal introduction into the Belgrade Chain of Lakes. Subsequent migration within the Belgrade lakes drainage and additional illegal introductions are responsible for an expanding distribution within central and southern Maine.

Habitat Requirements

Northern Pike are a cool water species, occurring primarily in more nutrient rich lakes and ponds, as well as larger, slow moving rivers. Although predominantly found in freshwater environments, northerns can survive in weak brackish water and are reported to spawn successfully at salinities reaching 7 parts per thousand. Northern pike generally become well established where water is relatively shallow, and an abundance of rooted aquatic vegetation provides important spawning, nursery, and adult foraging habitat.

Habitat preference varies seasonally. Northern pike are typically found in shallower water during the spring and fall, with larger individuals moving to deeper, cooler water during the heat of the summer. However, northern pike generally inhabit water shallower than 30 feet deep. Larger individuals are generally associated with structure that is located near areas of open water. Northern pike tend to be rather sedentary, establishing a territory where suitable food and cover exists.

Reproduction

Mature pike migrate to shallow, calm, weedy bays, flooded wetlands, and slow flowing tributary streams to spawn just prior to, or immediately following ice-out in late March or early April. Water temperatures during this period may range from the mid 30's to the mid 40's.

Females may be tended by more than one male during the act of spawning, as adhesive eggs are randomly broadcast over vegetation in shallow water often less than 18 inches deep. Eggs and milt may be simultaneously released periodically throughout the daytime hours over a period of 2 to 5 days. A number of environmental factors may delay or inhibit spawning, including the absence of vegetation, the presence of cold weather, water level drawdowns, strong wind, or rain.

Other members of the pickerel family also share similar spawning traits and as a result northern pike may hybridize with other species in the same family found in Maine, including chain pickerel, redfin pickerel and muskellunge. Pike-chain pickerel hybrids are well documented in Maine.

Northern pike egg production is high (approximately 9,000 per pound body weight). However, egg and fry mortality may be also very high, due to predation by perch, minnows, larger aquatic insects, waterfowl, and cannibalistic northern pike. Stranding associated with lowering water levels can also result in significant egg and fry mortality.

Developing eggs are extended no parental care and depending on water temperature hatch in about 12 to 14 days. Upon hatching pike may attach to vegetation by means of an adhesive pad located on the head and continue to feed on the yolk for about a week.

Food Habits

Once the yolk sac is absorbed, the young northern pike feed on larger zooplankton and small aquatic insects for up to several weeks until reaching a length of nearly 2 inches. Upon reaching this size fish become a prey item of primary importance.

Northern pike are generally considered opportunistic carnivores, potentially feeding on any creature within an acceptable size range. Optimal food size has been estimated between 1/3 and 1/2 the length of the pike. Although known to feed on small mammals, amphibians, crayfish, and birds, fish appear to be the most common pike forage in Maine. Diet studies on the Belgrade Lakes indicate that pike eat white perch, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, smelt, landlocked salmon, minnow species, and insects. Although there is some evidence to suggest that non-spiny finned, cylindrical-shaped fish (e.g., suckers, smelt, trout, and salmon) are more easily swallowed by pike, existing studies suggest that white perch are the most commonly consumed forage fish in Maine waters.

Age, Growth and Maturity

Juvenile pike experience very rapid growth, and within 30 days of hatching are nearly 2 inches long. Within the first year they may reach 10 to 15 inches in length. Growth continues to be rapid within the first three to four years until sexual maturity is reached. In Maine, annual growth during this period may exceed 8 inches in length and 0.75 pounds in weight. Upon reaching sexual maturity growth in length slows, but weight gain increases in greater proportion. Annual growth for mature pike in Sabattus Lake generally ranges from 1 to 4 inches in length, and 1 to 5 pounds in weight.

Fishing

Pike are vulnerable to anglers of varying skill levels during both the open water and ice fishing seasons. Although some modifications to traditional fishing equipment are needed to fish successfully for northern pike. The use of highly abrasion resistant leaders (steel), large hook size (larger than 2.0), and larger terminal tackle, are recommended. Northern pike provide anglers action throughout the winter fishing season, however, many avid pike enthusiasts enjoy fishing in March, when trophy-size adult pike concentrate in shallow water areas with the approach of the spawning season. Larger golden shiners and smaller common suckers fished dead or alive are popular baits. At "ice-out" anglers are most successful catching large pike by fishing shallow weedy areas where pike are spawning. In addition to live baits, large spoons, spinner baits, and stick baits are popular terminal tackle. Trolling and casting along weed lines and other areas of structure are productive fishing strategies for the spring and early summer. Late summer fishing is generally most productive in deeper water. With the arrival of fall, shallower water areas again offer productive fishing.

In Sebago, I would encourage anglers to target pike where there is an abundance of spawning and juvenile habitat. This type of habitat may be found in Turtle Cove, the Muddy River (between Route 114 and Lake House Road), Sticky River (west of the railroad trestle), and the Songo River.

Francis Brautigam, Regional Fisheries Biologist


Region B - Central Maine

Anyone that's been out fishing lately knows the fishing has been great. We've received a number of reports that both stream and pond anglers are finding very good fishing this year. In Central Maine, most of the good trout fishing is the results of our early stockings of brook trout. Most of the waters are stocked at least twice in the spring; the early stockings are generally for a put and take fishery. We like to spread the fish out away from the shore during the second stocking to help avoid predation by pickerel and bass. This second stocking is geared more towards a put-grow-and take fishery, where it is hoped the fish survive longer, grow larger and 'carry-over' into another fishing season.

Last weekend I attended a bass weigh-in at a local lake. I was surprise to hear from the bass anglers that the largemouth bass were beginning to spawn; this is clearly very early. The cool weather of this last week may cause any bass that actually did spawned to abandon their nest with disastrous results.

With the bass spawning season upon us, this is the favorite time of year for many bass fishermen. Sight fishing for bass is Maine version of fishing the flats of Florida. Anglers cruise the shoreline looking for bass on their nest. Once located the trick is to make a good cast with your lure to entice that fish into biting. These bass are not biting to feed but to defend the nest. It can be lots of fun. Anglers need to be prepared to land the fish quickly and return it as near the nest as possible since many studies have shown that if the bass is released quickly no harm is caused.

I would like to remind anyone interested in the public meeting to discuss the results of the 3 year experimental ice fishing season at Long Pond and whether the ice fishing will remain open. The meeting is this Thursday, May 18 at 6:30 pm at the Belgrade Recreation Center, located on Route 27.

Robert Van-Riper, Regional Fisheries Biologist


Region C - Downeast

Spring is in full stride and the hot salmon fishing water Downeast is West Grand Lake. Ongoing biologist's surveys are finding the salmon are hitting hard and often. Last fall's trap netting on the lake showed record setting salmon condition and lengths and these have carried over into the spring, with smelts still plentiful and salmon and togue both gorging on them.

When the forage is abundant biologists find that fish energy levels are up and salmon and togue go into feeding frenzies frequently. This has been the case at West Grand so far as anglers report excellent catches of both salmon and togue. Two-year-old salmon are averaging between 13 and 16 inches, while the 3 years olds are between 17 and 20 inches and the fours are measuring 19 to 22 inches. Most lakers are being reported between 18 and 23 inches with large fish tipping the scales at close to ten pounds.

Guide Paul Laney brought in a 10 pound, 2 ouncer in mid April and immediately following another angler boated a 9 pound, 6 ounce togue. And then just last week, guide Dave Irving caught a 26- inch beauty that weighed 10 pounds. Pictures of this fish showed that it was indeed a butterball as it takes a truly fat fish at 26 inches to make 10 pounds. On further inspection by Mr. Irving, the stomach revealed the reason for the un-proportional poundage. The togue had just recently devoured two sizable smallmouth bass, one measuring 11 inches and other 10. Dave plans to have the togue and both the bass mounted in a very original display for his home. Congratulations Dave!

On other fronts, biologists and hatchery culturists have been working steady stocking Downeast's waters with brook trout, landlocked salmon, brown trout and splake. A recent surplus of fat and sassy spring yearling brook trout, measuring 8 to 12 inches from the Grand Lake Stream Hatchery, provided regional biologists with a chance to boost numbers in many Hancock and Washington County waters.

Here are the waters where they are being stocked:

Keenes Lake - Calais, Craig Pond - Orland, Six Mile Lake - Marshfield, Shattuck Lake - Calais, Upper Hadlock Pond - Northeast Harbor, Fox Pond - T 10 SD, Indian Lake - Whiting, Middle River - Marshfield, Simmons Pond - Hancock, Lily Pond - Deer Isle, Simpson Pond - Roque Bluffs, Goulding Lake - Robbinston, Salmon Pond - T 30 MD, Lily Lake - Trescott, Foxhole Pond - Deblois, East Pike Brook Pond - T 18 MD, Lower Hadlock Pond - Northeast Harbor, Montegail Pond - T 19 MD, West Pike Brook Pond - T 18 MD, East Monroe Pond - T 43 MD, Penobscot County Conservation Assoc. Pond - Brewer, Jacob Buck Pond - Bucksport.

These trout will make for immediate fishing opportunities and will be stocked at these waters either this week or next. Don't miss out on a great chance to experience some fast fishing for yourself and your youngsters.

Have fun, be safe and wear your life jacket!

Greg Burr, Fisheries Biologist Specialist


Region D - Western Mountains

A creel survey is being conducted at Rangeley Lake this summer. The census began on April 28 and will continue into July, when the fishing activity begins to slow down. To date our clerk, Ethan Tracy, has interviewed 274 anglers that have logged 1324 hours of fishing time. In that time they reported catching 14 legal brook trout and 92 legal salmon. So far, this is a little slow for salmon compared to other seasons. The salmon kept are averaging 19.6 inches, with the largest being 24 inches and over 4 pounds. The brook trout kept are running about 14.7 inches. These average lengths are similar to lengths taken in past surveys.

Aziscohos Lake will also be surveyed this summer, but this study is just getting underway, so no results are available yet. Fern Bosse, of Magalloway Plt., and other area sportsmen have placed creel survey boxes at launch sites around the lake. If you are coming off the lake after fishing, please fill out a card. The data collected will be very useful for the future management of Aziscohos Lake.

With the summer heat returning, the waters are warming and aquatic insect life is beginning to emerge. Anglers should target small brook trout ponds in the evening to take advantage of eager feeding fish. A few to try are B Pond in Upton, Quimby Pond in Rangeley, Otter and North Otter Ponds in Bowtown Twp., and Bill Morris Pond in Lower Enchanted Twp.

Bass fishing is also starting to pick up with the warmer water temperatures. For smallmouths anglers should try Umbagog Lake in Upton, Wilson Pond in Wilton, Webb Lake in Weld, or the Sandy River in the Norridgewock area. If largemouths are what you're looking for try Crowell Pond in New Sharon, Sand Pond in Chesterville, or Wesserunsett Lake in Madison. These waters should all provide action for respectable sized bass.

Dave Howatt, Fisheries Biologist Specialist


Region E - Moosehead Region

Reports from the field have been very encouraging to say the least. Trout ponds throughout the region are producing some good fishing. Reports from Moosehead Lake are that some nice salmon and brook trout have been showing up throughout the lake.

The hatchery trucks from Enfield and Embden continued to stock fish throughout the region. Many of our salmon waters received spring yearling salmon this past week. These salmon ranged in size from 7 to 10 inches and depending on the forage base, a small percentage of these fish may grow to 14 inches or legal size by the middle of next summer.

Spring yearling brook trout were stocked into some of our put and take waters this past week which include: Alder Stream- Atkinson, Sebec River below the Sebec Lake Dam and Bear Brook - Sebec, Mill Brook- Bowerbank, Snow's Pond and Dunham Brook- Dover-Foxcroft, and Crocker Pond- Dennistown.

The trout stocked into Dunham Brook were stocked just prior to the Annual Piscataquis County Sheriff's Kids Fishing Day. This coming weekend May 20th the Greenville Recreation Committee will be holding a Kids Fishing Day at the Gravel Pit Pond in Greenville Jct. We are planning to stock the pond a day or two in advance and would ask that anglers not target this pond until after the fishing event. There are other ponds in the Greenville area that have or will be receiving fish this spring including: Shadow Pond, Mt. View/Fitzgerald Pond, Prong Pond, Sawyer Pond, and Power Trout Pond.

Just a reminder to anglers traveling during the early morning or late evening hours that many moose have been seen out and about along the roadways in the Moosehead Region, as they are certainly looking for refuge from those viscous black flies in open areas.

Jeff Bagley, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist


Region F, Penobscot Region

The great spring weather continues. Water levels remain good and the cool temperatures are maintaining some great brook trout angling. Several of our stocked trout ponds are producing some very nice fish. The winter hold over of these stocked fish was great. Round Pond in Lincoln is seeing a fair amount of anglers returning with some nice catches. We have had reports of very good fishing in many of the Baxter Park waters. Anglers may want to check out Abol, Round and Rocky Ponds in T3 R9 WELS as well as South Branch in T5 R9 WELS . Crystal, Loon, Trout and the Ox Heads in T40 MD are starting produce some nice catches also. At Duck Lake in T4 ND the anglers are boating brook trout up to 16".

East Grand, Deering, Upper Jo Mary, Quakish and Millinocket Lakes along with Pleasant and Cold Stream ponds are producing lots of action for the salmon angler. We have had reports of several nice salmon coming from Seboeis, Scraggley, Pemadumcook, and Schoodic lakes. Reports from Sysladobsis and Duck are that salmon fishing is good but the fish are small.

Lake trout fishing has been picking up on Schoodic, Millinocket, Cold Stream, Pemdumcook and East Grand Lakes. Reports are that all have produced at least 5 pound fish with some producing up to 10 lbs.

Seboeis, Endless and Cedar Lakes have produced some pretty good splake fishing. Last week, we had reports of several nice fish being caught in Seboeis.

Nicatous Lake is this region's only brown trout water, and it continues to produce a nice fish once in awhile.

Our bass lakes have been slow to get started. In the past week, reports have started coming in. The Penobscot River, Dolby Flowage, South Branch Lake in Seboeis, Pushaw and Boyd Lakes are all good bets for a day of fun bass fishing.

For those interested in some good pickerel and white perch fishing, might we suggest Passamagamet Lake or Saponac Pond in Grand Falls, Nicatous in T40 MD, Madagascal in Burlington, South Branch Lake in Seboeis or Shin Pond in Mount Chase.

Lets hope for a dry week. I'm sure the black flies are just waiting for the sun to shine. GET OUT THE BUG SPRAY!

Brian Campbell, Fisheries Biologist Specialist


Region G - Aroostook County

Trafton Lake in Limestone is a 103-acre impoundment created in 1969 behind a flood control structure on Webster Stream. The Town of Limestone developed a recreation facility, including a public boat ramp, as part of the flood control project. Webster Stream supported a wild brook trout fishery and a sport fishery for trout soon became established in Trafton Lake. By the year 2000, wild brook trout numbers dwindled to the point that little fishing activity was ocurring at the lake. The decrease in trout numbers was confirmed through our biological sampling. We determined that cultural development had degraded spawning habitat to the extent that wild populations were no longer able to support a fishery. There was also the question that water quality had deteriorated in the lake such that it was no longer capable of sustaining brook trout through the hot summer months.

Rather than see this locally important trout fishery disappear, regional fishery staff recommended the implementation of a brook trout stocking program. The proposal was given a favorable review by IF&W fishery biologists and was presented at a public meeting for comment. The Advisory Council member and two members of the public in attendance at this meeting also gave thumbs up approval to try to improve the fishery with hatchery trout. The existing regulation of No Live Fish As Bait and general law bag and length limits were considered appropriate to regulate the fishery.

In the fall of 2004, 5000 Kennebago strain brook trout were planted in the lake at an approximate size of 6 inches. A biological sample of these fish in May 2005 indicated good over winter survival with the trout averaging 9 inches in length. The question of whether these fish would survive summer water quality conditions was answered in May of 2006 when a biological sample contained 20% of trout stocked in 2004. These age 2 trout averaged 13 inches. Age 1 trout stocked in fall 2005 once again averaged 9 inches. It appears that the trout population is being impacted by degradation to spawning habitat rather than being limited by the water quality.

As they result of management recommendations made by regional fishery staff, anglers are once again visiting Trafton Lake and taking advantage of the recreational facility. A long grass beach area offers excellent opportunity for families with young children to enjoy the sport of fishing. Anglers are reporting the trout fishing as being "exceptional".

Dave Basley, Regional Fisheries Biologist


NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.