Recent Fisheries Group Activities - 2012
August 9, 2012
Sebago Lake Region – Lake & Pond Brown Trout Evaluations (submitted by Jim Pellerin, Region A, Fisheries Biologist)
Brown trout are an important coldwater species for Maine anglers, particularly in southern and central Maine where many waters are incapable of providing quality fisheries for native salmonids like brook trout and landlocked salmon. Browns are often utilized in lakes and ponds with more marginal conditions including: late summer water quality limitations, moderate to heavy competition from other fish species, and/or where smelt populations are inadequate for salmon. They may be stocked alone or in combination with other salmonids, but brown trout are expected to provide some holdover and the opportunity to catch a salmonid of good size quality.
Over the past decade, MDIFW has stocked 38 lakes and ponds in region A with approximately 2,844 fall yearling brown trout (12-14 inches) each year. Beginning in 2005, MDIFW’s Region A fisheries staff began a systematic evaluation of our brown trout lakes and ponds, particularly those where we lacked recent data and/or knowledge of the fishery. These evaluations were primarily focused on assessing the size quality objective specified in the statewide brown trout management plan, which states: experienced brown trout anglers should expect to catch brown trout averaging 15 inches and 1.5 pounds, and can expect to catch an 18-20 inch fish on a good fishing day.
Between 2005 and 2011, MDIFW regional staff sampled 30 of our 38 brown trout waters and handled a total of 433 browns. Across all sampled waters the mean length and weight were 16.5 inches and 1.9 pounds, respectively (Table 1). Twenty seven percent of the 433 browns sampled were 18 inches or larger in length! The remaining unsampled brown trout waters (8) had recent and adequate data for evaluation. Overall, 34 of the 38 waters (90%) evaluated met the average length criteria of 15 inches, and 32 waters (83%) met the trophy length criteria of 18 inches or larger. While our browns are performing well in terms of size quality, the abundance of brown trout in many waters appears to be relatively low. Specific causes for the low abundance of browns are unknown. One theory; poor genetics and fish health are resulting in high post-stocking mortality. The field performance of the “old” strain and two new strains of browns are currently being evaluated to investigate this issue.
Bottom-line, southern Maine is still producing some fantastic browns including a 13+ pounder recently caught from Hobbs Pond in Norway.
Go fishing, take a child, make some memories, and perhaps catch your own trophy!
August 1, 2012
First Impressions (submitted by Dana DeGraaf, Coldwater Fisheries Biologist)
As a new member of the Fisheries Division for a little over a month, I have been able to quickly interact with most of the regional biologists, research staff in Bangor, the administration in Augusta, and various members of the public. I have been impressed with the workload all our staff undertake, their commitment to responsibly collecting and analyzing scientific data, and how and why fishing regulations are developed and implemented. Fisheries biologists may work on fish passage and habitat enhancement projects, fish stocking programs, evaluating impacts of exotic species, reclaiming waters for native species, conducting scientific SCUBA diving surveys, and constantly reviewing and developing new techniques to better study and manage Maine’s aquatic resources. On any given day our biologists can be found responding to data requests from the public, giving presentations to school groups, collecting angler information, and working with other state and federal agencies and non-profit organizations on a myriad of important fisheries issues throughout the New England region. To put things into perspective, approximately 20 fisheries staff are responsible for Maine’s 6,000+ ponds and lakes and 32,000 miles of rivers and streams. They systematically collect data via truck, boat, plane, snowmobile, ATV, and on foot. They work in all weather conditions, on weekends, and through holidays. And they do this all for Maine’s citizens and anglers that visit our state from around the world.
I have equally been impressed with the level of interest and involvement the public has in the management of Maine’s fisheries resources. Many anglers are keenly aware of the department’s work; they review and analyze our extensive data sets, ask many questions and generally want to be involved in how the resources are managed. Anglers are actively involved in public meetings that are held throughout the state, hold discussions informally via blogs, and are quick to interact one-on-one with department biologists in the field. Many fishermen in Maine know who the regional fisheries biologists are, what work is being done on what water body, and may often volunteer their time submitting angler log books or conducting remote pond surveys. Many anglers in Maine do this because they care about the resource and want to preserve fishing opportunities for years to come.
A fishery may be defined as a social system that includes fish, harvesters, and the entire support industry; the long-term success of the fishery relies upon the sustainability of the fishery resources. It is important for managers to identify stakeholders who will be affected by possible management changes intended to modify the fishery. Fisheries biologists and managers must be prepared to weigh conflicting viewpoints in their decision making processes because the number and diversity of economic factors in a fisheries resource often receives the most consideration. Our department is very aware of public desires when it comes to managing fisheries resources, and our doors are always open to the public. In addition to many of our public outreach approaches, our department is currently managing several working groups for brook trout and landlocked salmon, among other species. The public members on these groups represent anglers, commercial baitfish dealers, guides, lodge owners, non-governmental organizations, and the general public. The working group meetings are held regularly (usually monthly) and are open to the general public for observation. After the meetings, non-working group members are welcome to ask questions of the working groups and our fisheries staff. Dates for upcoming working group meetings are found on our website: www.maine.gov/ifw. It’s another way our department can connect with you!
July 25, 2012
Fishway on Lower Aroostook River Tributary due for Reconstruction this Summer
It is no secret the Aroostook River has become one of the premier wild brook trout rivers in Maine. When conservative fishery regulations were placed on the lowermost section in the early 1990s, the angling public in the County was hesitant to support the changes. After nearly 20 years though, brook trout fishing on the stretch of river in Caribou and Fort Fairfield is terrific, supporting a popular fishery throughout the summer.
Derrick Cote (left) and Dave Basley sample brook trout on the lower Aroostook River in 2005.
At the heart of this special regulation section is the Little Madawaska River, a large tributary joining the Aroostook in Caribou and extending to the north, originating in the towns of Perham and Westmanland. Approximately 10 miles upstream from the Aroostook is a 50 year-old dam that creates a small reservoir providing a water supply to the Loring Development Authority (LDA), site of the former Loring Air Force base. The base closed in 1994 but the need for water remained to support the various redevelopment efforts there.
The LDA dam has a fishway to allow fish to pass upstream. As river temperatures warm in mid summer, trout seek thermal refuge habitat throughout the entire Little Madawaska watershed; significant habitat for all stages of brook trout exist here, in particular spawning and juvenile habitat in many cold tributaries. Since the late 1990s, however, the fishway has had serious maintenance issues that have worsened over time. In recent years brook trout have been observed nosing against the base of the dam, searching for access upstream. Late in 2011 the LDA secured a grant to upgrade their water treatment facility and reconstruct the fishway with state-of-the-art engineering. The upgrade will provide more efficient fish passage at all river flows, and has provisions to allow MDIF&W to trap and sample fishes. When the improvements are completed this September, the entire Little Madawaska River watershed will once again be providing great habitat in support of the lower Aroostook River sport fishery.
Regional Fishery Biologist
Fish River Lakes Region