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September 16, 2003

September 16, 2003 Freshwater Fishing Report

Region A- Southwestern Maine In the past two weeks, Region A staff (and volunteers) finished all of our scheduled stream electrofishing work, and we now hope to switch gears towards our fall work plans. Jeff Lavesque of Greene volunteered to help us out electrofishing on the Shepards River in Brownfield. Jeff is a strong supporter of the Department, and is also an active member of SAM's Fishery Initiative Committee. Jeff witnessed first hand the procedure we use to monitor brook trout populations in streams, and how the drought over the last few years has reduced brook trout abundance in the upper Shepards River. Jeff's netting skills were pretty good, and we really appreciated the help. More importantly, I believe he now has a greater appreciation and understanding of the work we perform, while we walked away with a better understanding on some of SAM's new initiatives.

On Friday, we electrofished the Crooked River below Edes Falls as part of our annual effort to monitor natural reproduction of Sebago's landlocked salmon population. For the past two years salmon production appeared to be approaching an all-time low and we were expecting the worse due to recent droughts and the adult population problems in Sebago. Yet, we actually found relatively good numbers of parr and young-of-the-year salmon. We would like to thank Emily Bastien and the Casco Hatchery for their assistance with the field work. Emily is a new volunteer for the Region, and she hopes to help us out with a variety projects until she goes to college in pursuit of a degree in the natural sciences next fall. She is currently working on updating our regional stocking database by reviewing and entering historical data, and we hope to have her help in updating our regional lake inventory. Welcome aboard, and we hope the experience will be helpful and rewarding.

This past week we were also able to wrap up our fieldwork relating to evaluating water quality in bass livewells. I attended a tournament at Norway Lake hosted by Western Maine Bassers. I collected data from about 10 boats and all of the club members were very accommodating and appreciative of our efforts. Regional Bioligist Francis Brautigam fished Upper Range Pond with bass tournament angler Steve Tremblay. Steve supervises operations at the Casco State Hatchery and in the last few years has become an ardent bass tournament angler. After several hours of unproductive fishing in shallow water they redirected their efforts to deeper water, where fish could be seen busting schools of landlocked alewives on the surface over about 30 feet of water. Some of these fish were smallmouths that were cruising midwater depths in pursuit of 1 - 2" long alewives suspended in small schools. However, most of the largemouths and smallmouths were taken in 12 to 20 feet of water along points and bars. Carolina rigs fished with lizards worked well in these deeper water areas. Steve has been more than willing to help us out on a variety of fisheries management projects over the years, has been a great asset to the Department, and is always a lot of fun be around.

A good slug of anglers headed over to Sebago Lake this weekend to take part in the 2nd Openwater Lake Trout Derby. According to derby organizer Charlie Frechette, there were 271 entrants compared to 450 last year. Next year, he hopes to get over 400 entrants by promoting the derby event a little harder. In any case, he reported most of the anglers had a great time and landed around 200 lakers that appeared to be in better health than last year. The top fish was taken by Scott Valenti of Standish, and it weighed 11.53 pounds, while the tenth place fish was 5.18 pounds. There was also a category for the largest daily creel weight (6 togue), the winner managed to bring in about 23 pounds of lake trout! We would like to thank Charlie and Ted for their efforts with the derby, which goes hand and hand with our current efforts to reduce the abundance of lake trout in Sebago.

- Jim Pellerin, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist

Region B - Central Maine Anglers have found that trying to catch fish can be quite frustrating at times, especially when the cooperation of the finned creatures is absent. The first regional biologist I worked with, the late Keith Havey, suggested the technique of trial-and-error in many attempts to try and see if something would work. If we had to capture fish that were expected in a certain type of habitat, but failed to get a required number of fish, we would adjust and make changes, and we would relay the pertinent information to those who wanted to know where to fish. Adjustments are commonplace in a world of uncertainties, or even in a biological community that changes fish behavior from the "way it use to be".

Having started my career in Washington County, then on to Franklin County, and now being in Kennebec County, I have learned to adjust for capturing fish when the fish are not cooperating. Instances of anglers reporting that there are no fish in a certain water body have lead to some pretty surprised faces when they witness biologists capturing fish that they did not expect even existed there. Our studies have been helpful in allaying certain concerns where fish have been thought to be missing. If an angler is steadily having success at a 25-foot depth and the very next week can't get a nudge, then an adjustment may be necessary to a different depth that will produce results. My niece who lives and works in the urban Boston area, tried angling at camp last week on Bear Pond, and caught some white perch which she kept for she and her husband. She was able to make adjustments to her technique so that she had no trouble catching a mess for supper. Fishing in the lily pads was the ticket, where open water was barren.

An example of an adjustment that occurred in our surveys recently was at Salmon Lake in the Belgrades. We had been trap netting to ascertain the status of the brown trout population and for two weeks were capturing very few fish in what we considered prime sites for getting some fish. I was frustrated, so I moved to an unconventional site that was adjacent to our previous year's stocking site. This action made all the difference in the world, and we captured enough numbers to confidently say that the brown trout population was thriving and doing quite well.

If you are pike fishing in the Belgrades, and do not seem to be able to get any to bite, try what my perpetual calendar suggests and what even worked for me when I was fishing for the toothy critter not long ago. After using live bait all day with little success, I killed my bait and laid them on the bottom. The calendar says for September 17, "It was once thought that pike only hunted for live food, but European studies indicated that large pike prefer scavenging dead fish off the bottom. Their next preference is to ambush fish. They only actively hunt as a last resort. Some of the largest pike on record were caught by anglers who were 'dead-baiting' on the bottom"

-- Bill Woodward, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist

Region C - Downeast Now that the hustle and bustle of the busy summer is over and the cool fall air is turning most sportsmen's attentions to hunting, its time for ardent anglers to steal away some quiet time for themselves, and experience some spectacular brook trout fishing on Downeast's remote ponds.

What a wonderful time of year, comfortable days, cool nights and very few mosquitoes. Hiking into these secluded waters will quickly put your mind at ease and have you sensing tensions melting away. September is a contemplative month as you reflect on the prosperous summer, the falls gone by, and of future hunting get-togethers with family and friends. This peaceful time has you taking pause to enjoy the beauty that surrounds you as mother nature give you a last blast of color before the back country settles in for winter.

Many of our Downeast waters can give you this experience whether hiking in and casting from shore, a canoe, or from a float tube, the following ponds should not disappoint:

Pork Barrel Lake - T6R1 NBPP - regulations S-6 and S-16 Upper Flood Lake - Talmadge - S-6 and S-8 Second Marks Lake - Marshfield - general law Salmon Pond - T30 MD - S-4 and S-23 West Monroe Pond - T43 MD - S-4 and S-18 Pineo Pond - Deblois - S-5, S-17, and S-23 West Pike Brook Pond - T18 MD Tilden Pond - T10 SD - S-18 and S-23 Rainbow Pond - T10 SD - S-23 Little Long Pond - T10 SD - S-16 Little Tunk Pond - Sullivan - S-4 and S-23 Partridge Pond - Amherst - S-6 and S-16 Jellison Hill Pond - Amherst - S-23 Simmons Pond - Hancock - S-6, S-17, and S-23 Halfmile Pond - Aurora - S-16 Halfmile Pond - Amherst - S-17 Billings Pond - Blue Hill - S-16 Bubble Pond - Bar Harbor - S-18 and S-23 Rift Pond - Great Pond Plantation - S-1, S-6, and S-8 Long Pond - Great Pond Plantation - S-1, S-6, and S-19 Witch Hole Pond - Bar Harbor - S-6 and S-18

Some of these waters can be accessed by four wheel drive but most are foot access only. Please consult your lawbook for the regulations that apply on these ponds.

And when you go, remember to take a child or someone new to the sport with you, as they will love the scenic hike through a myriad of colors leading to these back woods gems. There is no other experience like it and you will be passing on your appreciation for these wonderful areas.

-- Greg Burr, Fisheries Biologist Specialist

Region D - Western Mountains Last week I spent time on the South Branch of the Dead River, Bemis Stream, Spencer Stream, and Kibby Stream. Water temperatures were somewhat variable, but were generally in the 50's. Brook trout were present in many of the traditional 'staging' areas where they gather prior to spawning and await rain-induced flows that prompt them to run upstream to their spawning sites. These staging areas provide great late-season for anglers who can find them; we recommend catch and release at these sites because these fish will soon be spawning.

I was pleased to receive word from the Trout and Salmon Foundation that they have awarded the Department $7,500 for restoration work on South Bog Stream, a tributary to Rangeley Lake. The Rangeley Region Guides' and Sportsmen's Association had previously committed $10,000 to this cause. The project, which we hope to carry out next year, will involve restoring the channel where it is overwidened and recreating pools that have been filled in. This stream was once Rangeley Lake's primary brook trout spawning tributrary and we hope to bring back a wild brook trout fishery to the lake as well as the stream.

For several years now I have been working on a brook trout book that summarizes management and research done on this species in Maine as well as a history of the fishery. Thanks to several grants and generous donations, the book will benefit from the illustrations and graphic layout skills of Ethan Nedeau of Biodrawversity. Photographer Bill Curtsinger has also donated some stunning brook trout photographs and I've rifled through our own Department's photo archives for additional photos. The project for this winter is to pull everything together and publish the finished product.

-Forrest Bonney, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Region E - Moosehead Region Long cool nights have finally caused surface temperatures to drop from the low 70s into the mid to low 60s. Fish seem to be responding and reports from around the region tell of improving fishing.

Not too many years ago, fall fishing mainly involved fishing for brook trout as they began to concentrate near spawning areas or trolling lakes for salmon as they returned to cooling surface waters. Those early fall fishing activities remain popular. In response to the increased interest in fall fishing, we opened several of the area's stocked waters to fishing through the month of October under special regulations. Fishermen have taken advantage of the extended season on a few of the ponds but in general the "interest" has not generated much more use.

However, the popularity of river fishing has increased dramatically. Fall fishing on the region's major rivers was once a "secret" enjoyed mostly by local fishermen. The number of people from "away" who take advantage of these seasonal concentrations of salmon and trout has grown over the years. The degree of interest in fall fishing has grown more than many of us anticipated. Late season river fishing has grown from a relatively minor sport enjoyed by a few to a significant fishery in its own right. Many of these river fisheries are for wild fish entering areas where they will soon spawn. In situations where natural reproduction is a major consideration, special regulations have been imposed to assure adequate survival of the adult fish. Where fall river fisheries are comprised mainly of fish of hatchery origin and successful reproduction is limited by habitat, not adult survival, we have extended the fall season through October. The extended river seasons are proving to be much more popular and more heavily utilized than extended seasons on most least that is the situation in this area.

The next 6 to 8 weeks will see a flurry of field work intended to assess the status of many area fish populations...both wild and hatchery. We are already trapnetting near the mouth of the Roach River in Spencer Bay on Moosehead Lake to sample wild salmon and brook trout. That will be followed in mid-October with trapping at the Greenville Junction Wharf area to capture a sample of stocked salmon. The data collected will provide us with growth information to be compared with historical information. The status of the river fisheries associated with Moosehead Lake are being followed through the use of voluntary survey boxes on the Roach River, Moose River, and the East Outlet of the Kennebec River.

First Roach Pond and Lower Wilson Pond will be trapnetted in mid-October to evaluate the growth and survival of hatchery salmon. The work at First Roach Pond will also give us insights as to the performance of spring-yearling brook trout used in a small lake rather than in a typical small trout pond.

Some of the fall work will be coordinated and done with the help of the biologists in the Bangor office. At least two brook trout ponds will be trapnetted by them as part of a study to compare the results of stocking different strains of brook trout. This is an on-going project designed to assure that when hatchery brook trout are needed, they will be fish with a demonstrated history of good survival and good growth. Late September and early October is when most of the regions small trout ponds are stocked.

We just electrofished Wilson Stream (a tributary to Sebec Lake) to estimate the population of young-of-the-year and yearling wild salmon to verify the adequacy of current water level agreements with the dam operators at the outlet of Sebec Lake (to maintain access to the base of Early's Falls) and the dam operators at Lower Wilson Pond (to provide sufficient flow to pass salmon over Early's Falls). We also netted the deep basins of Lower Wilson Pond to assess the status of natural reproduction of wild togue.

Other regional waters are also scheduled for trapnetting to measure the success of stocking programs...splake and salmon will be checked at Kingsbury Pond and splake at Piper Pond. The success of extended fall fishing initiatives is being evaluated through the use of voluntary survey boxes...Indian Pond, Prong Pond, the Piscataquis River. If time permits, we will electrofish one or two area streams to estimate post-season brook trout populations. We hope to trap and assess the wild brook trout population in Big Pleasant Pond. The list of waters that need to be examined is longer than we can hope to accomplish with the available time and manpower.

-Scott Roy, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist

Region F, Penobscot Region Fall fishing for salmon and trout is well underway and bass fishing remains very good across the region. The continued warm weather has resulted in more numerous black flies and other biting insects for this time of year. Good flows in the West Branch have contributed to fast salmon fishing although the salmon are still mostly smaller than usual. Another not so well known river fishery for salmon and trout in the Penobscot occurs below Weldon Dam during this month. Salmon fishing has been very good in most regional lakes but especially in East Grand, Pleasant Pond, and West Lake.

Lake trout fishing success has also increased in regional lakes including Schoodic Lake, and Cold Stream Pond. Lake and Pond fishing for brook trout is at its autumn peak. Activity and success has been high on Baxter Park trout ponds and especially in Sourdnahunk Lake. Salmon and trout can be found in many rivers and streams but fishing for them in those waters is for catch and release only as most of these fish have begun their movements into traditional spawning areas. Bass fishing continues to be very good although angler activity is generally low.

--Mike Smith, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Region G - Aroostook County Two-plus weeks of dry weather have erased the water glut we had in August. At the beginning of September, conditions in northern Maine appeared excellent for fall fishing in late September. However, as quick as our waters rose in August they have returned to normal levels this month. Still, this time of year can be very productive for anglers who have not put away fishing gear for the season. Many opportunities exist around northern Maine for late September fishing. Many areas of the Allagash Waterway have excellent fall fishing opportunities including the well-known Chase Rapids immediately downstream of Churchill Dam. Many miles of the Fish River commencing at the outlet of Eagle Lake and including Soldier Pond, contain some large holding pools where trout and salmon begin to congregate this month. And, on the lower Aroostook River, below the hydropower dam in Caribou, any of the small tributaries can be productive areas as these locations provide spawning habitat for adult trout and salmon.

Beyond September, northern Maine has many opportunities for "extended fall fishing" through initiatives to provide more of this unique experience. Next week I will profile the waters in northern Maine open to fishing in October.

-Frank Frost, Regional Fisheries Biologist




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