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For Immediate Release / September 3, 2003

September 3, 2003 Freshwater Fishing Report

Region A- Southwestern Maine

Androscoggin Bassmasters member, Derek Davidson took me out for an enjoyable day bass fishing last week on Norway Lake in support of our ongoing study of livewell water quality (reported in last weeks fishing report). Whitecaps dominated the fishing scene, but in spite of these tough fishing conditions, we caught our "mock tournament" limit of 7 fish before noon. I landed the largest bass of the day; a 4 pound smallmouth, but Derek did catch more bass overall.

Those who fish for bass know this can be a difficult time of the year to catch bass, and windy conditions added to the challenge. In our quest, we fished a variety of habitats for both smallmouths and largemouths, but our greatest success was fishing over 12 to 18 feet of water on elevated, expansive shallow bars located next to deeper water habitats. Small crank baits, slip-sinker tube jigs, and carolina rigs all produced bass. My thanks to Androscoggin Bassmasters, and particularly Derek for taking time out of his busy schedule to help us out with this project. Jim and I would like to collect additional bass live well information and would welcome an invitation to fish with other tournament bass anglers within the next few weeks. Please give us a call at 657-2345 if you would like to spend a day bass fishing with one of us.

Last week I prepared agency fisheries comments for the Bar Mills Hydroelectric Project, in response to a request from Florida, Power, and Light (FPL) to reissue State Water Quality Certification, as part of the relicensing process. Bar Mills project is located on the Saco River in the Towns of Hollis and Buxton. There is currently no minimum flow releases to the bypass and angler access provisions are not very safe nor readily identifiable. Although we stock brown trout below this project, available information indicates rather poor survival and angler returns.

A lack of suitable minimum flows, particularly during the traditional open water fishing season is the single-most factor limiting the development of a good brown trout fishery. Although late summer water temperatures periodically exceed preferred levels, the presence of suitable minimum flows greatly enhance summer habitat by providing needed fast flowing, well oxygenated water, where there is a lack coldwater springs. Requested minimum flows will also greatly increase habitat for aquatic insects and crayfish, which provide important food for brown trout. In their application, FPL has proposed a minimum flow of 25 cfs. I have recommended a minimum flow of no less than 100 cfs, with a preferred release of 200 cfs. I have also requested improved angler access to the bypass reach, including a maintained trail, signage and designated parking.

Additionally I have requested modifications to "firm" up the existing clay-bottomed launch that provides boat access to the head pond. Designated parking and signage was requested to support fishing and other recreational activities in the head pond. In addition to filing with the State of Maine for State Water Quality Certification, hydropower projects periodically must also be relicensed by the Federal Government, through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). As such, we will be filing additional comments with FERC in the near future. With requested suitable minimum flows and access improvements, the Bar Mills bypass will be providing additional trout fishing opportunity for southern Maine anglers, who are reminded that the Saco River is one of a few Maine rivers that is open to fishing year-round. If suitable flows and access provisions are developed a more intensive stocking program is planned at this project.

Angler use on Sebago really picked up over the long weekend and our census clerk, Greg reported some good catches of lake trout up to 3 pounds. Overall, the lake trout fishing has been very good over the last couple of weeks, particularly where schools of smelt are located. Salmon up to 18 inches are also being regularly caught.

The brown trout fishing on Middle Range Pond has slowed during the month of August, but Greg reports good catches of wild togue and stocked rainbows. Last week Greg landed a 6 1/2 and 5 1/2 pound togue and another angler caught a 7 and 10 pounder. Most of the rainbows are running 18 to 19 inches long and just under 3 pounds.

-Francis Brautigam, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Region B - Central Maine

At this time of the year, we all experience the change the season puts on us with the fall colors that rim the maple groves in the swamp land. The green trees are given a brilliant red that only comes when the call of winter not too far off. Fish also experience a change that triggers them to either fatten up for the lean winter months (as the warm water species do) or go through reproduction that propagates the species (such as most coldwater species).

The brook trout is one of our earlier spawners in some of the streams in this region and many streams in the northern part of the state. I recall hunting woodcock in the Camden area back in the 70's when I came across a stream with a pair of brookies flashing their colors as they prepared to spawn. I am sure a number of people have come upon a stream that reveals the wonders of the natural world where fish are going through the motions to carry on the species in the environment. Thankfully, we have some reproduction from a small to even excessive way all across the state. This natural reproduction helps but does not provide enough for what the anglers expect from the typical fishery in Region B waters. So at this time of year we supplement our waters with help from our hatchery system.

Starting about October 1st until sometime in November, our hatcheries will be busy stocking primarily brown and brook trout and smaller numbers of splake and landlocked salmon. By stocking, we are able to utilize the habitat that lakes and ponds have for growing coldwater fish. In the change of the season, we experience a change in the residence of many fish whether it is to seeking spawning grounds in small Region B feeder streams or if it comes in the way of a hatchery truck providing a supplement for the fishery.

Anglers should be prepared at a moments notice to change their venue or tactics by traveling to the spots where weather plays a role, when rain or cooler temperatures gives a boost to the flows or reduction in stream temperatures. Surface water temperatures are falling, so many lakes and ponds will be providing action to the persistent angler. Don't overlook the deeper water though, as smelt, the primary forage for many game species, are prone to fluctuate in depth and gives the angler pleasant rewards. 68 waters are stocked with brown trout in this region and the action from now until the end of the open water season can lead to unbelievable stories for the happy angler. Eight waters in this region are stocked with landlocked salmon and they all have good fishable populations that may provide a silverside to those who know their haunts. Brook trout are in about 20 waters that may be setting up for some fast action. Seek out the species you want at any number of the waters in Region B and you will be happy with the results.

--Bill Woodward, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Region C - Downeast

I've previously reported on favorable netting results obtained from a number of regional brook trout ponds this summer. The encouraging trend continued with results from a recent survey of Jellison Hill Pond in Amherst. This small water receives annual airplane stockings of 500 fall fingerling brook trout. In 2001, Sourdnahunk wild-strain brook trout were stocked, and last fall, Kennebago wild-strain brook trout were stocked. Our sample included about 5 age I's and 12 age II's. The older fish exhibited good growth as they averaged 13.8 inches long and 1 lb, 3 oz in weight. Stomach analysis revealed that about half the fish had been preying on juvenile sunfish...another one contained 2 smelt. The age I+ trout averaged 10.8 inches long and 9 ounces in weight. For those anglers looking for a chance to catch some brookies from shore in late September and who don't mind a short hike, this pond just might fill the bill.

About a month ago, I put out a request to those Downeast anglers with digital cameras to e-mail me one of their fish photos from the summer. Since this effort produced only one, I'm repeating the request...I can be reached at ronald.brokaw@maine.gov <mailto:ronald.brokaw@maine.gov>.

A week ago, we held a public informational meeting in Whiting to discuss our proposal to open Indian Lake to ice fishing. About 10 citizens attended and offered their comments/concerns. While there was some opposition, most favored the idea as a way to improve the returns on our stocked brook trout. One thing I've repeatedly noted during my career is that when such a proposal fails to draw a sizeable crowd, it means most folks are OK with it. If there was substantial opposition to the idea, many more anglers/campowners would have been there.

Cooler weather along with some rain over the next few weeks will help attract salmon into Grand Lake Stream. Although this premier fishery hasn't produced too well in September over the past several years, this year might be different. I've received reports of anglers observing some nicely shaped 19-20 inch salmon in the fishway in the past week. Mid-late September is the time to give it a try as the salmon are in peak condition and feisty. Streamer flies such as the Barnes Special, Joe's Smelt, Black Ghost, Grey Ghost, and Wooly Bugger are tried and true favorites. On bright days, you'll have better luck fishing real early, and then again in the evening. You're more apt to catch some fish during the day on overcast days. The daily bag limit is one salmon per day until September 30th....then it's catch and release until October 20th.

A Sportsman's Forum is scheduled for Friday night, Sept. 5th at the Calais Rod and Gun Club beginning at 6:30pm. This is a great chance for anglers to meet Commissioner Danny Martin and/or Deputy Commissioner Paul Jacques and to ask them questions. Advisory Council member Lance Wheaton will be present along with Department staff including fishery biologists, wildlife biologists, and wardens. Circle the date on your calendar, and if you have a gripe or complaint...or perhaps even a compliment...about a particular issue/matter, this is the perfect time to speak up in an informal, relaxed setting. Even if you plan to attend to "just listen", you won't be disappointed as these gatherings are always informative.

-- Ron Brokaw, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Region D - Western Mountains We have spent a good deal of our time the last couple of weeks determining priorities for bass control on two major river systems where they were illegally introduced. Evaluation of bass interaction with brook trout in the Rapid River has been ongoing since early this spring. Dave Boucher has been intensively electrofishing the Rapid with staff from Florida Power and Light and has discovered that bass occupy the same niche as young brook trout along the river's edge. The bass not only compete with the small brookies for food and space but prey on them directly. Such information will help us direct bass control efforts where they will do the most good.

Our staff also spent several days on the Richardson Lakes in an effort to document the presence of smallmouth bass which were reported to have been illegally introduced there. Netting and experimental angling efforts have yet to turn up any bass in these lakes. Nonetheless, we will proceed to evaluate the feasibility of installing barrier dams on the inlets to prevent existing or future bass from infiltrating the entire watershed.

We have yet to complete the survey on the South Branch of the Dead River. Most of the survey was completed with the help of many volunteers during the last week of July. Last week we electrofished several of the tributaries to determine fish species composition and found that most contained brook trout. We still have one section to survey; that work is planned for next week.

We will also be evaluating the effect of the Cupsuptic River restoration project with the help of Chris Aylesworth's ecology class from the Rangeley Region School and will be doing pre-restoration work on South Bog Stream in Rangeley. The summers are too short.

-Forrest Bonney, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Region E - Moosehead Region Shorter days and longer, cooler nights will trigger the start of fall fishing conditions. As fish slowly work back into cooling surface waters, the fishing for salmon and trout will improve. Both pond and river fisheries for coldwater game fish will get better over the next few weeks. Even though surface waters are cooling, the temperatures will still remain in a range that will continue to produce good catches of perch and bass. Cool temperatures, no bugs, and good fishing...it doesn't get any better.

Over the years many people have changed the ways in which they measure their fishing success. The surroundings, good companions, the weather, etc., have always been factors that influenced how people judged the quality of their outdoor experiences. There was a time when fishing success was measured by how many fish were taken home. Although that is still a factor for some fishermen, the number of folks who seem the value the "catching" rather than the "keeping" has increased dramatically. We now hear fishermen brag about the number of fish that they release rather than the number of limits that they put into the freezer. The change in attitudes is certainly welcomed, especially since it is voluntary in most cases.

Catch and Release as a personal fishing ethic is great. As a management tool, it has the potential to either improve the size quality of a fishery or reduce the size quality of a fishery. In our experience with Catch and Release regulations, we have measured both positive and negative results. When we are approached by fishermen to change regulations to Catch and Release, they often quote stories in popular sporting magazines where the regulation was a spectacular success. Unfortunately, those same publications rarely print stories about situations when a management option or regulation either has no effect or has a negative impact. We have to look at all of the available information, not just the stuff that supports our personal preferences.

In an effort to evaluate the effects of Catch and Release and high length limit regulations on typical small Maine brook trout waters, several years ago we placed Catch and Release regulations on some ponds in the region. We also placed 18" minimum length limits on a few small ponds. The fisheries were followed through voluntary angler surveys and population changes were measured with extensive trapnetting. Initial results were encouraging. With the additional protection, fish numbers immediately increased. A few larger fish began to appear in the fisheries. Within three or four years, with the abundance of fish steadily increasing, the growth rates started to decrease. In many of the waters with the more restrictive regulations, trout became so abundant that competition among the trout for food cause the "fatness" of the fish to decline...in effect, the regulation allowed the population to increase to a point were the fish became smaller and skinnier. The results were just the opposite of those that were intended!

Once satisfied that the Catch and Release and 18" minimum length limits were not suitable for most of these waters, the rules were changed. However, the strict regulations did work on a couple of the ponds and still remain on the books. It soon became readily apparent why the higher limits were effective on so few waters. The catch rate data from the voluntary surveys and the trapnet results showed that the fisheries that benefited from Catch and Release and 18" length limits were in ponds with very limited natural reproduction. With low reproduction, the chances of creating an over-population were greatly reduced. Low numbers of fish meant continued good growth. In these cases, the regulations helped assure that fish could live long enough to exhibit their full growth potential. These situations are not typical when dealing with wild populations but can sometimes be created with hatchery fish if stocking rates are kept relatively low. When used on a fishery where it is not appropriate, Catch and Release and extremely high length limits cause over-abundance and "stunting". That holds true for salmon and togue as well as brook trout.

There is a popular misconception that every water in the state supported huge fish at some time in the past. Where records exist, they tend to show that many waters supported a few large fish and that a very few waters supported a lot of big fish. The reputations that most waters have for producing large fish were earned when bag limits were much more liberal than they are today. It appears that some level of harvesting allowed the remaining fish to grow well as competition was reduced. Problems arose when the number of fishermen increased and fish were removed faster than the populations could adjust...numbers and sizes of fish suffered. We are constantly looking to achieve a balance between protecting and harvesting fish that approaches population levels and age structures that provide good growth and catch rates. Special regulations have a part in that process. Protecting the Maine tradition of taking a few fish home for a meal is just as important.

-Scott Roy, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist

Region F, Penobscot Region On Thursday, August 28, 2003, staff from Cobb Fish Hatchery in Enfield and the Regional Fisheries and Wildlife Headquarters hosted a cookout at the Old Town Georgia-Pacific Mill to show our appreciation for the ongoing support the mill has provided to our facility over the past 8 years. Over $200,000 in materials and labor have been donated by G-P Old Town to help maintain the Enfield facility. Pipe fitters, electrical workers, millwrights, machinists, welders, tin knockers, and other maintenance workers from the mill were served up burgers, dogs, sausages, and smoked fish by appreciative Fish and Wildlife employees. This year, Former Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Bucky Owen and former Deputy Commissioner Matt Scott were invited to give some perspective to the program. Although Matt was unable to make to event, Bucky was able to add a little history to the Adopt-A-Hatchery program, from the inception in 1994 when he and Matt were with the Department.

Cobb Hatchery Supervisor Tim Knedler presented Mill Manager Ralph Feck, Maintenance Supervisor Lee St. John, and Program Coordinator Steve Greenleaf with an IF&W Art Print of a Rainbow Trout titled "A Big Surprise" by Dave Footer in appreciation of their efforts in keeping the Adopt-A-Hatchery program functioning at Enfield. Many thanks for all the efforts of these folks over the years. Large corporations are often portrayed in a negative light, so I think it is important that sportsmen from all over Northern Maine understand the assistance that Georgia-Pacific has provided to this facility over the years. It cannot be over stated that without their support, we would not have been able to maintain the high quality of hatchery product that we presently have here in Enfield! Go to http://www.state.me.us/ifw/fishing/regionfphotos.htm for pictures from the picnic and the presentation.

Next week is fish marking time at the Cobb Fish Hatchery here in Enfield. An enthusiastic group of seasoned fin clippers will be removing a fin off of approximately 75,000 brook trout of various strains, as well as 34,000 splake, 14,000 lake trout, and 15,000 landlocked salmon, for a total of 138,000 fish to clip. Each year a different fin is removed to help identify the year various hatchery fish are stocked throughout the state. This program has been very valuable to the fishery division by allowing both fisheries biologists and participating voluntary anglers to identify the age of hatchery fish quickly and easily.

--Nels Kramer, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist

Region G - Aroostook County These hot, humid and calm days of August are opportune times to fish for togue. The lack of wind allows for slow trolling in deep water with a "Christmas Tree" set of spinners or one large bladed spoon ahead of a piece of sewed bait or artificial lure. Togue are typically found at depths of 45-60 feet in the deep, well-oxygenated water of the lake. To reach these depths it is necessary to use lead core line, wire or, what is becoming increasingly popular, a downrigger attached to a lighter spinning gear.

Togue lakes in the eastern part of the region include Nickerson Lake in Houlton and Eagle Lake and St. Froid Lakes in the Fish River Chain. The largest togue would probably be found in Eagle Lake. At St. Froid Lake, all 5 fish allowed in the daily possession may be togue and the minimum length limit on togue is 14 inches. We are trying to thin out the togue population in this lake to allow the smelt population to increase and improve the togue growth rate.

Popular togue lakes to the west of Ashland include Carr Pond, 2nd Musquacook Lake, Clear Lake, Munsungan Lake, Ross Lake, Haymock, Spider, Cliff and Togue Lakes. Togue are also found in Big Eagle Lake and Umsaskis Lake in the Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW). Special restrictions on canoe size, motor size, and access sites have been implemented by the AWW for these two lakes so please check with the AWW before making your trip. As a reminder, please check the 2003 open water fishing regulation booklet for special fishing regulations that may apply to these waters.

-Dave Basley, Regional Fisheries Biologist

 

 

 

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