Old News Archive

June 13, 2006 - Fishing Report

June 13, 2006 - TRC

Region A- Southwestern Maine

As I sat to write this week’s regional fishing report I was confused by this strange and unfamiliar light reflecting on my computer screen. It turns out it was sunlight! The sky is blue and the sun is finally shining, time for me to go catch some fish. Other anglers more intrepid than myself have been out fishing despite the wet conditions of the past week. Seasonal assistant Greg Massey reports Sebago Lake is giving up an average of one fish per boat. While most of these fish are 3-4 pound togue, some 9-12 pound lakers and nice salmon have also been reported. All the fish Greg has seen have been in great condition.

Regional Fisheries Biologist Francis Brautigam reports catching one salmon and missing several others on Thompson Lake in Casco. He also reports that the togue are hanging on the bottom and no longer interfere with his pursuit of the mighty landlock salmon !

Each spring Region A staff sample 3-6 bass waters with the electrofishing boat to collect baseline bass population and size quality data. When all goes to plan, the electrofishing boat is a great way to collect tons of bass data in a short period of time while minimizing stress to the bass. The boat is a complicated machine and we were fortunate that this year almost everything went to plan. Aside from nearly getting stranded on Crescent Lake at 2 am on a foggy morning, this season was very successful. With the help of Joe Dembeck and Jason Seiders from the IF&W lakes research unit we were able to sample five regional lakes including Lake Auburn in Auburn. We were especially pleased with the size quality of the smallmouth bass we observed on Lake Auburn. There were an impressive proportion of 17-19 inch bass within our sample. Not only were the lengths notable but also the girth and overall appearance would make any bass angler happy. I would expect these fish to fight like a trophy.

As always while collecting bass we made several observations we found to be particularly interesting. One item was an inconsistency within the size quality of the bass on Crescent Lake in Raymond. As we expected, the lake supports a population of average size quality and density. One largemouth bass, however refused to fit the mold and grew to an impressive six pounds !

Another observation is that the bass appear to be going through a second attempt at nesting. Reports had indicated that with the early ice out and water warm up smallmouth bass had begun clearing nests early in the season. Cool weather and wet conditions then appeared to cause smallmouth in some ponds to abandon their nests. Our observations while electrofishing indicate that bass are now actively guarding nests once again. For those anglers who target smallmouth in the spring this promises to be a bit of an extended season.

-Brian Lewis, Fisheries Biology Specialist

Region B - Central Maine
Now that we have hopefully gotten past the ‘spring monsoons’ that have kept water levels high for the past month, we can perhaps fish in the sunshine for a while. Here’s hoping.

We in Region B have been busy so far this spring. With spring stocking complete, our tasks these days tend to the evaluation of bass waters and the beginnings of an intensive summer of stream surveys.

No doubt many of you have heard of the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture (EBTJV). The study sought to define the status of brook trout populations throughout the range of the fish. It is a cooperative effort led by Trout Unlimited and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Also providing input are all of the state Fish and Wildlife agencies where brook trout live. The recently published results of the study show that Maine has the most intact populations of brook trout in the east.

That statement bodes well for us here in Maine, but also presents a challenge. During our input sessions here at the Sidney office, we looked at hundreds of small watersheds about the size of a topographic map. We found that data on how the fish were doing was lacking on many of small streams and brooks. So, we have our work cut out for us !

To gain as much information as we could, we really needed an extra set or sets of eyes. Help came in the form of an offer from several Maine Chapters of Trout Unlimited to serve as volunteer stream surveyors. Additionally, the Department partnered with the Kennebec Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited to apply for an Embrace-a-stream grant from TU National to fund a seasonal stream surveyor. We were successful in our efforts for most of the funding and again several chapters came to our assistance and ponied up the additional funds.

Currently, our surveyor is on board, we have a list of interested volunteers, and we are chafing at the bit to get out there and get an improved handle on our brook trout. High water levels have forced us to other tasks lately, since we need to survey at normal water levels for safety and data quality reasons.

Our goals here are simple. We want to find where wild brook trout populations are present. Where we find good habitat, but no brook trout, we can potentially consider a ‘seed’ stocking program to re-initiate a fishery. Where we find marginal habitat, where summer conditions would limit survival, we may consider a put and take angling opportunity. We will also, no doubt, find waters that are primarily suited for warm-water fisheries.

We’ll also use the information we collect to monitor stream conditions such as noting disturbances to the stream, the presence of angling activity, if the road crossing structures we see act as barriers, and if there is suitable access.

Obviously, we have our work cut out for us. With the help of our volunteer partners, we hope to make a ‘big dent’ in the survey work this summer. If any of you out there have an interest in working on a survey team, let us know at 547-5314 or Robert.vanriper@maine.gov

-Robert Van Riper, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Region C - Downeast

As the recent torrential rains have swollen local brooks, rivers and streams, making them almost un-fishable, angler’s best bets are to concentrate on area lakes and ponds for bass and brook trout.

The Smallmouth Bass males are still on nests and are guarding aggressively against any lures or flies coming close to their perimeters. Anglers need to be aware that because of the recent rains, lakes and ponds are tip-top full, and bass nests are in deeper water making them hard to spot. In many cases these nests are being located in 4 to 8 feet of water as the males are using the depth of the water as cover from over-head predators. This is especially true for larger bass, 15 inches and above, as these fish have few predators in the lakes and ponds that are able to harm them physically or that they cannot chase away from their young. So the threats to these larger fish are from avian predators such as the Ospreys and Eagles. This is why when larger cover is not available for them to set up their nests by, and break up their outlines, they will choose to nest out in the open in the deeper water. To overcome this, anglers use polarized sunglasses and search known nesting areas to look for the light areas on the bottom that could be a nest. This is best done on a bright sunny day with little wind. Once a deep water nest is spotted, anglers back their boats away, anchor, and cast plastic grubs, worms, flukes, and lizards to the nest, usually with success in catching the largest nesting bass in the lake. In using this method, anglers often will scare the bass off the nest when they first cruise over the nest. If this happens, just mark the spot visually by lining it up with an object on the shore and come back to it after approximately ten minutes. Most of the time the male returns quickly and will be ready to bite.

If you’re not a bass enthusiast and brook trout is your game. Take note these waters that were recently stocked with 8 to 11 inch surplus trout that will make for some fast fishing.

Fox Pond - T 10 SD - Hancock County - stocked 150 surplus trout to go along with 200 trout it received earlier.
Orland River - Orland - off Mast Hill Road - stocked with 200 trout on June 9th.
Union River - Ellsworth - off Infant Street below Route 1A - stocked with 300 trout on June 9th.
Middle River - Marshfield - Washington County - off Route 192 - stocked with 250 surplus trout along with 300 trout it received earlier - *note: most of this water is kids only.

Cobscook State Park Pond - Edmunds - stocked with 200 surplus brook trout - *note: kids only pond.
Foxhole Pond - Deblois - Washington County - Off Route 193 - stocked with 100 surplus trout along with 100 trout it received earlier - *note: kids only water.

Other regional points of interest to area anglers include:

There will be a fisheries public hearing held on July 12th at the Penobscot County Conservation Association’s meetinghouse at 6:30 PM. This hearing will be to solicit public input on proposed changes to fishing regulations on waters in Hancock, Penobscot and Washington Counties, that if instituted would begin January 1st, 2007. All anglers and interested members of the public are encouraged to attend. Regional biologists and Augusta officials will be on hand to explain the proposals and to answer any questions.

On another note, Department biologists will very soon review the city of Bucksport’s recent purchase of a public access and parking site on Long Pond off Route 46 in Bucksport, to possibly start a cold-water fisheries stocking program. The city of Bucksport understands the importance of such fisheries to the economics of the town and surrounding areas as well as the quality of life these opportunities bring to the people of Maine. Long Pond is 222 surface acres in size and will be considered to be stocked with either Brown Trout or Brook Trout or both, and will add substantially to the areas fishing opportunities.

Be safe and take a child fishing!

-Greg Burr, Fisheries Biologist

Region D - Western Mountains

Gene Arsenault and his crew from the Embden Rearing Station have been stocking salmon, brook trout, and brown trout since the end of April and have recently completed their stocking for the season. Recent brook trout stockings include Austin Pond, Bald Mountain Twp.; Black Brook Pond, Moxie Gore; the West Branch of the Ellis River, Andover; McIntire Pond, New Sharon; Dodge Pond, Rangeley; Richardson Lakes, Adamstown; and West Richardson Pond, Adamstown. Of course, these are only the most recent of more that 70 waters stocked in the Rangeley Region alone. With the recent expansion of the Embden Rearing Station, we're now stocking larger fish and more waters. Before we stock new waters, however, each is reviewed to assure that stocking will not genetically impact wild fish in those or adjacent waters.

Dave Boucher and Dave Howatt sampled Spring Lake last week and found that lake trout are growing well, thanks to a good smelt population. They're also preying on some of the spring yearling brook trout we've been stocking, so we plan to try stocking some fall yearling brook trout there in hopes that they can better evade the mouths of hungry togue.

Our clerk has been seeing a lot of salmon and brook trout in the 16-inch class at Aziscohos Lake and at Rangeley Lake. Fishing at Rangeley has slowed, and anglers have to fish deeper to find the fish. We've had reports of a couple of lunkers taken at Quimby Pond in Rangeley, brook trout weighing in at 6-pounds and 4 1/2 pounds. We've also heard reports that hatches have been unbelievable this spring, from the Androscoggin River to our mountain ponds. With the spring rains hopefully at an end, we predict good fishing for the next couple of weeks.

Finally, a salute to Dave Boucher and Ken Warner who have done a great job updating the salmon bulletin; this book is availabe from our Department, and will tell you pretty much anything you want to know about Maine landlocked salmon biology and management.

-Forrest Bonney, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Region E - Moosehead Region

Illegal introductions are occurring at an alarming rate in Maine. These careless acts by uninformed individuals can destroy our prized coldwater fisheries. Recently we have been deluged by introductions of pike, crappie, and bass. These prolific warmwater species quickly out-compete fragile coldwater species like salmon and brook trout. But another less-obvious species, such as smelts, can also have a detrimental effect on wild trout, in particular. It is a common baitfish and many anglers probably don’t realize the devastating effects smelts can have in the wrong water.

One pond in particular lies on the northern fringe of the Moosehead Lake Region. It was actually reclaimed in 1962 and then stocked with trout. It was determined that there was enough natural reproduction to maintain a wild population and stocking ceased in the 1980’s. The fishery was considered high quality with only brook trout and a few minnow species occupying the pond. Then smelts were illegally introduced sometime in the late 1980’s. The wild trout utilize several natural springs for spawning in the fall. The young trout fry emerge from the gravel in early May just after ice-out. The newly introduced smelts also utilized these springs for spawning in the spring; just at the time the vulnerable trout fry are emerging. Anyone who has examined the mouth of an adult smelt knows those teeth mean business. Smelts can feed heavily on other smaller fish species. So, when thousands of adult smelts converge for their “spring fling” they also hit the brook trout fry buffet line along the way.

The campowners on this pond noticed a sharp decline in their trout catch after smelts became established. The Fisheries Staff from the Moosehead Lake Region attempted to kill two birds with one stone by removing live smelts from this pond and transferring them to Moosehead Lake, in an effort to bolster waning runs on the big lake. In 1995, we set one trapnet for 4 days and transferred an estimated 12,000 adult smelts to Moosehead Lake. In 1996, a single net was set for 6 days and we transferred nearly 39,500 smelts. Finally, in 1997, we transferred 59,000 smelts after just 6 days of netting. We estimated removing nearly 111,000 adult smelts in three years from this 200-acre pond. We also estimated these mature fish would spawn nearly 28 million eggs brought to tributaries on Moosehead Lake. Unfortunately, the more smelts we removed, the more we caught the following year. In effect, by removing adults we were actually improving survival of young smelts and the population was expanding not decreasing. Clearly, this labor-intensive technique was not going to solve the problem of smelt predation on wild trout fry.

Enter the splake. In 1998, we stocked 2,000 splake fingerlings into this pond. We knew from past experiences here in Maine that splake can exert pressure on forage fish like any other salmonid that feeds on fish. Splake were stocked for six years (1998-2004) at a moderate to high rate. Initial trapnetting showed that the splake were surviving and growing well, obviously taking advantage of the abundant smelt population. Anglers were also very happy with the bonus catch of fish up to 22 inches.

In 2005, we returned to evaluate the status of the fishery at the pond. We captured 227 splake and no smelts in three days of netting. The splake looked extremely emaciated; clearly they were having difficulty finding food. This was in stark contrast to the initial years of the study. We examined the stomachs of 30 splake and found no evidence of smelts. We examined the areas where smelts had spawned in the past and found no eggs. No trout were observed in splake stomachs despite being caught and held in the same nets for a day or two at a time.

We returned just after ice-out in 2006 to continue our evaluation of the program. In six days of netting we captured 119 splake. This is a significant decline in catch from 2005 and is likely the result of large numbers of splake dying due to their poor condition (i.e. starving) noted last year. We did not capture any smelts in our nets but did note the remains of a single smelt in one of the 30 stomachs we examined. Nearly all of the splake stomachs contained crayfish and few creek chubs. Fifteen brook trout were also captured. These fish were in very good shape. No trout were observed in any splake stomachs despite being caught and held in the same nets for a day or two at a time.

We are very satisfied with the results to date. Splake fed heavily on the illegally introduced smelts and have severely reduced their numbers to the point that wild trout should begin to rebound. Last year we also built a spawning box to increase the amount of spawning area available for wild trout. For now, we have discontinued stocking splake and will let the few remaining splake fade from the pond. They have served their purpose well in this pond. We will continue to monitor this pond to evaluate the status of the wild brook trout fishery.

-Tim Obrey, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Region F, Penobscot Region

By now the wet weather and high water is a very sore subject in most parts of Maine. While here in the Penobscot Region it doesn't seem to have stopped raining for a while, it is nothing compared to what has been happening to the south. Fishing seems somewhat unimportant at times.

That said, the cool water temperatures and high flows have interrupted bass spawning activities in the Penobscot River, and many bass will most probably be re-nesting well into late June. Low water temperatures and high flows are certainly extending some of our salmonid fisheries throughout the region as well. Brooks and stream will hopefully by dropping the next week and should provide some additional opportunities for brookies. All of our lakes are full and somewhat cool, again extending some opportunities through June.

Wildlife Biologist Vasco "Buster" Carter is leaving the Penobscot Region at the end of the week to take a job at the main office in Augusta as the new Staff Wildlife Biologist II. Buster will have a lot on his plate in his new job. He will be handling special wildlife issues, administering, coordinating, and chairing the Bureau’s Land Acquisition Committee, coordinating policy development, the Department’s submission of proposals for the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, serving as the Department’s contact on interagency committees regarding wildlife disease issues and coordinating all aspects of data collection to monitor for wildlife diseases in Maine, and much more.

Buster has been my counterpart in the Wildlife Division here in Enfield since 1995. Among his many accomplishments, Buster was instrumental in the establishment of wild turkey populations in the Penobscot Region. He should be thanked by each and every turkey hunter from Bangor north for his efforts. He is one of the more dedicated employees in the Department, always working harder and longer than what is required. Buster always put the resource first and never lost sight of who he worked for (sportsmen). He has been an outstanding source of inspiration and I will very much miss working with Buster. Good luck Buster, and I know you will have a very positive impact on the wildlife resources statewide !

-Nels Kramer, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist

Region G - Aroostook County

Fisheries staff spent the early part of last week canoeing the St. Francis River from Estcourt to the St. John River. Little information on the river is available in regional files and it was the first trip down the river by regional staff. The upper stretch between Estcourt and Beau Lake included long stretches of deadwater 12-16 feet with some deeper holes

30+ feet deep. Although the area is remate on the Maine side, numerous camps were evident on the Quebec shore with forked sticks stuck in the river bank to support fishing rods. We encountered one group of three Quebec anglers fishing on the bank near the community of Blue River. We also observed a couple of shooting shacks perched on the Quebec side, one overlooking a nice Maine flowage. The town of Blue River, with its prominent Catholic church, appeared in sharp contrast after paddling through miles of forestland. The river slowly meandered down to Beau Lake from this point. Trout were caught in deeper water at the end of shallow riffle areas and also in long glides of river 2-4 feet deep with gravel and rocky substrate. Trout sizes were 5-12 inches. In spite of several casts with red & white spoons and surface plugs in the deadwater areas, no muskellunge were observed.

The second day commenced at Beau Lake. Sections of the river between Beau and Glazier Lakes contained water depths of 20-40+ feet. Several salmon were hooked and caught in this section, the largest being 2.8 lb. Although muskellunge have been taken in Cross Lake, a small pond in Maine that hangs off the St. Francis River, none were observed in the river itself until we got to the McPherson Ponds just above Glazier Lake. From Glazier Lake to the St. John River, several camps and one gazebo on cement pillars, are prominent on the New Brunswick river bank whereas the Maine side remains undeveloped. A very impressive 50 foot falls on Fall Brook will block the natural movement of smallmouth bass and muskellunge. A campsite developed by a Boy Scout for his Eagle Project is available for overnight camping with a fire permit near the falls. The St. Francis below this point contains a few more sets of riffles that make it more challenging for canoeing than that section from Estcourt to Beau Lake. A traditional access on private land is available for take out on the St. John River. It is important to bear to the right and go upstream to reach this access when entering the St. John from the St. Francis River.

We now have a better appreciation for this resource having canoed the length of this watercourse. For those seeking a less traveled waterway, the St. Francis River should be considered. Other than the Cross Lake rapids, a short section of ledge rips, there is little else that would be intimidating to the casual canoeist. The trip can be done in two days (with a motor for lake and deadwater travel). Although no campsites were observed in the upper section, I have abserved a fire permit campsite on the American shore of Beau Lake and there is one on an island in Cross Lake. There is a fire permit site at Connors Cove on Glazier Lake and the Boy Scout campsite as previously mentioned at Fall Brook.

-Dave Basley, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Submitted by Mark Latti, IFW

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