Wild weather swings make for interesting fishing conditions
A weekly fishing report from all Maine’s regions, prepared by the fisheries biologists at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
The weather factor
Has this summer’s wild weather
helped or hurt your fishing?
Region A: Southwestern Maine
Recent reports indicate that good fishing for trout and land-locked salmon can still be had on many of the region’s lakes and ponds. An early start while the fish are still feeding on suspended baitfish and fishing 2-4 colors down seems to be the key to success. The early bird angler knows that salmon in particular will shut off between 8 and 10 in the morning depending on sky brightness. Good bets are Thompson Lake in Otisfield, Pleasant Pond in Casco, Lake Auburn in Auburn, and Peabody Pond in Sebago.
Ever tried to find an unmarked public access point to a pond you have never been to with only a map and a general description to go on? This kind of activity can be quite an adventure but can also lead you to places you would not have ordinarily wanted to go. For myself, this task was undertaken as part of an effort to place public access signs at some of our previously unmarked, state owned access sites. Such activity is complicated by the possible risk of placing the signs at the wrong spot and inciting an angry phone call from a resident whose land is being crossed for access based on my uneducated say-so! Being relatively new to the region, you can bet this kind of risk is foremost on my mind.
Other recent activity regarding public access includes repairs and clean up at state owned sites and at public access sites provided by supportive private landowners. Trash detail at any public access site should be unnecessary but is particularly damaging at launch sites on private lands. Littering and the chaining of boats to trees without permission can result in the loss of traditional access sites. Please carry out what you carry in!
Summer field season is just about to get under way and boy do we have a lot to do! You may see a biologist crew out electrofishing streams to catalogue the regions cold water fisheries resources or out on the lakes netting brown trout to keep a pulse on the size quality of the region’s stocked brown trout. We also plan to return to two of our recently reclaimed brook trout ponds to evaluate success of reclamation and the post-reclamation size quality of stocked trout. We’ll keep you posted.
Brian Lewis, Fishery Biology Specialist
Region B: Central Maine
This is the time of year when the larger bass derbies really heat up. We attend a number of these bass derbies to gather information on not only bass sizes but also gather information on the number of bass that are caught and released. The first large bass derby we gather information from is the annual Father’s Day derby at Androscoggin Lake. We’ve been monitoring bass derbies at 4 lakes and a few others lakes intermittingly for more than 12 years. We collect information regarding the number of bass the participants catch (both kept and released) by size to classify the population.
Two standard indicators of bass populations are Proportional Stock Density (PSD) and Relative Stock Density (RSD). PSD is the proportion of bass of quality size, in Maine we determine quality size of largemouth bass to be over 12 inches. RSD is the proportion of largemouth bass over 16 inches. By collecting data at bass derbies we maintain a long-term data base to observe possible changes that may occur in the bass population. These data have shown slight annual fluctuations although the long-term population dynamics does not appear to have changed dramatically.
Bass derbies generally begin in the morning when anglers start fishing and return to a single location later in the day to have their bass weighed to determine the winner. The weigh-in offers the opportunity for those interested in seeing how many big bass there really are in a particular lake. Visit our web site, http://www.state.me.us/ifw/fishing/derbies.htm, if you’re interested in finding a bass derby in your area.
For those interested in participating in bass derbies I would suggest you contact any of the many local bass clubs throughout the State.
Heard through the grapevine: good fish last week has been reported at Long Pond, Belgrade and Shawmut area of the Kennebec River.
Jim Lucas, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist
Region C: Downeast
Two public informational meetings were held last week on our proposal to manage Cathance Lake as one of Maine’s Classic Salmon waters. Lance Wheaton, the Washington County representative on the Advisory Council, took time from his busy schedule to attend both meetings. On Wednesday night, the Cathance Lake Association hosted the meeting which was moderated by Neil Hallee, and attended by about 50 folks. The format was structured so that I had 20 minutes to speak in favor of the proposal, local veteran Cathance salmon fisherman Jim Robinson had 20 minutes to explain his opposition, and then the moderator took questions from the audience. In the end, Lance Wheaton called for a vote which was overwhelmingly against our proposal. Management Supervisor Denny McNeish attended the meeting, and has concluded that we should meet to discuss possible options/courses of action which will address the Associations’ concerns.
The following night, SAM’s program coordinator for the Classic Salmon initiative, John Hunt, joined me at the Calais Rod and Gun Club. About 35 citizens were present. John gave a Powerpoint presentation on the program from the statewide perspective, explaining how and why it got off the ground. He answered a number of questions about the statewide program as well as some specific ones about Cathance. It was apparent that most folks were there to listen, and only one voiced an opinion, in support of the proposal. Lance didn’t ask for a vote.
Last week, regional staff sampled brook trout at Salmon Pond in T30MD. The survey sampled 20 age I+ Maine Hatchery strain brookies growing at an average rate. We were disappointed to not find any older-age trout. It appears as if an abundant population of golden shiners, some of which are 5-7 inches long, is adversely influencing growth/survival of the stocked fall fingerlings.
In response to a report of yet another illegal fish introduction…smallmouth bass into Fox Pond in T10SD…we check-netted this water during the day. Fortunately, we sampled 7 brook trout, 3 brown trout, and no bass. While this doesn’t mean bass are not present, at least it was an encouraging preliminary finding. Yesterday, Greg Burr officiated at a bass derby in Eastbrook put together by Mike Klingerman to raise money for the local volunteer Fire Department. All bass lakes in Hancock County were eligible to fish. The event was successful, well attended, and a good number of bass, 35 smallmouths and 2 largemouths, were entered. The three largest (all smallmouths) were: a 4 lb., 10 oz fish from Molasses Pond, a 4 lb, 8 oz fish from Graham Lake, and a 4 pounder from Molasses. While Abrams Pond yielded three fine smallmouths between 18 1/4- 19 inches, most entries were from either Molasses or Graham.
Ron Brokaw, Regional Fisheries Biologist
Region D: Western Mountains
We had heavy thundershowers in the mountains this past weekend with more than two inches of rain reported in the Rangeley area. The resulting increase in flow will boost the morale of brook trout that have been holed up in cold-water refuges, but it also wrecks havoc with our plans for stream surveys. So we’ll postpone by a day a work trip to the Cupsuptic River to measure transects. I monitor the real-time hydrographs on the USGS Water Resources page to see what’s happening throughout the area with stream flows and plan the work schedule accordingly. The flow charts are a wonderful resource for fishermen as well.
As Dave Boucher mentioned in previous reports, brook trout radio tagging and monitoring on the Magalloway and Rapid Rivers is taking up much of our time, but efforts to save wild brook trout in the face of an illegal bass introduction is top priority. Nonetheless, Dave Howatt has found a few free days to resurvey ponds to update our inventory and assess current trout and salmon abundance and growth rates. Once again, the staff of the Embden Rearing Station has been a big help conducting fieldwork this summer. Their availability will come to a screeching halt, though, when the improvements to their station are completed this fall and they go back to work rearing even more fish than previously.
We have been preparing for that day by developing a list of additional waters we’ll stock when the new, improved hatchery is on line. Most of the new waters will provide seasonal fisheries for brook trout. For example, we’ll “bring fishing to the anglers” by stocking more waters near population centers. Because many of these waters have competing fish species, we’ll stock bigger trout to avoid predation. We can do the same in the fall to provide better ice fishing, and we’ll be experimenting with increased stocking in our larger rivers. As always, we’ll want to assure that these expensive fish survive well and are caught by anglers.
Forrest Bonney, Regional Fisheries Biologist
Region E: Moosehead Region
Earlier this year, the Greenville Fisheries staff teamed up with the Lakes Research crew to evaluate an experimental splake stocking in northern Maine. Most splake stocking programs are designed to provide additional fishing opportunities to anglers. However, this water was stocked with splake for an entirely different reason: to control or eliminate illegally introduced smelts.
This pond was chemically reclaimed in 1962. Domestic strain brook trout were stocked annually until 1980 when it was determined there was sufficient natural reproduction to sustain the fish population and the fishery. In the early 1990’s, campowners reported smelts were present in the pond. Voluntary angler records indicated that catch rates for brook trout started to decline soon after the smelts became established. During the spring smelt run, the smelts were observed congregating in the same spawning areas that the brook trout used in the fall. We believe these large adult smelts were feeding on trout fry as the emerged from the spawning areas in the spring. Initially, the Fisheries staff tried to reduce the smelt population by trapnetting and transferring the smelts to Moosehead Lake. However, after several years, we realized the futility of this effort. We were able to reduce the number of older smelts in the pond; however, overall the population actually appeared to increase.
Splake were stocked in 1998 in an effort to control the smelt population and hopefully restore the brook trout population. We trapnetted the pond in 1999 and 2000 and found the stocked splake were feeding on the smelts and growing well. The brook trout catch was considered low. We had not been able to get back to the pond to evaluate the progress of the splake program until this spring due to shortages in staff and a burgeoning fall workload.
Early in May, we set two trapnets for just three nights and caught 227 splake and 13 brook trout. One net was set precisely in the area where smelts spawned in the mid 1990’s. We did not catch any smelts. We examined the substrate in the area and did not find any smelt eggs. Even more telling was the condition of the splake. Most were very skinny, almost emaciated. In contrast, the adult brook trout captured during the spring netting were in excellent condition. We examined the stomach contents of 30 splake and found only insects, leeches, crayfish, and a salamander. No smelts or brook trout were found in the stomachs. Clearly, the splake stocking program has successfully reduced (or possibly eliminated) the smelt population.
Splake will no longer be stocked in this pond and they should slowly disappear over the next several years. It is unclear how long it will take for the trout population to rebound. Stocking or transferring a wild strain trout may be an option to supplement this population that originated from many years of stocking domestic strain hatchery brook trout.
It is well known that splake are a valuable tool in the fisheries managers’ toolbox. For years, splake have been used to provide additional fishing opportunities in waters where brook trout cannot compete. This study shows how splake can be utilized, in the right situation, to assist in the restoration of wild brook trout fisheries when undesirable species have been introduced.
Tim Obrey, Regional Fisheries Biologist
Region F: Penobscot Region
The summer season continues to be a “roller coaster” ride. Days of hot, humid weather are followed by days of cool weather with intermittent heavy rainfall. Most of the brook trout stream fishery is over for the summer, despite the freshets caused by the heavy showers. Trout have moved into areas providing refuge from the summer heat. Trout fishing in Baxter Park has become spotty and relies on being at the pond when the right conditions occur, which usually is either early morning or late evening. Lake fishing for salmon and lake trout requires the angler to fish deep which is normal for the summer season.
Bass have been very active in regional waters and providing good action on both streams and lakes. Anglers report exceptional action on the Penobscot River and, despite earlier concerns, there appears to have been a very good spawning of smallmouth bass on that water. One fish species that is quite popular in the region but many anglers know very little about is the white perch. Despite its common name, the white perch is not a true perch but is a member of the striped bass family. Perch in Maine were originally found only in coastal waters up to the first barrier that prevented upstream movement.
The fish were highly prized by early settlers as a source of food and were quickly spread to other waters as settlers moved inland. Although white perch are capable of living in salt water they, like striped bass, must spawn in fresh water. Spawning takes place in the spring when water temperatures reach about 60 degrees F. The total number of eggs per female varies from 20,000 to 300,000 depending upon the size of the fish. A 6 inch long perch would have about 22,000 eggs. The eggs hatch in about 4 – 5 days at 60 degrees F. The average life span is 5 – 7 years.
Where conditions are favorable, white perch form very large populations that occasionally dominate the waters they inhabit and result in large numbers of smaller fish. Even small, slow growing perch can mature and spawn successfully thus perpetuating a large population of slow growing fish. Fishermen prefer larger perch for food and sport and are likely to be concerned when the perch are all small. This is one species that does not need to have a catch and release fishery.
Michael R. Smith, Regional Fisheries Biologist
Region G: Aroostook County
We have received numerous inquiries in recent weeks about “blackspot” present on the skin of brook trout. These blackspots are the intermediate stage of a parasitic worm known as a trematode. Adult worms are found in the intestine of fish eating birds such as the loon, kingfisher, duck, gull, cormorant, with the heron being the most common. After reproduction, eggs are subsequently released into the water with the droppings of the host bird. The eggs soon hatch into a larval form and seek out an intermediate host snail. Further development requires the larvae to burrow into the internal tissues of a specific species of snail within a short period of time or else the larvae soon perish.
Within the snail, the larvae undergo two more stages of development within a month or two. Under the influence of warming water and light, the cercariae, as they are now called, break out of the snail and begin to seek a suitable fish, the second intermediate host. As with the snail, if contact with an appropriate fish is not soon made, the cercariae will die. Upon contact with a fish, the parasite bores through the scales and skin and occasionally the muscle whereupon it is surrounded with a thin wall. The fish in turn lays down a black pigment around the encysted parasite thereby producing the “blackspot” visible to the angler.
The final stage of the life cycle occurs when a bird, the final host, eats a fish infested with blackspot. Digestive juices within the bird’s stomach frees the encysted parasite from the fish’s skin whereupon it migrates to the bird’s intestine and develops into a sexually mature worm, completing the life cycle.
For a picture of a trout that has visible “blackspot” markings, please click here: http://www.maine.gov/ifw/fishing/fishlab/vol2issue8.htm. For more information on other fish health issues, please visit here: http://www.maine.gov/ifw/fishing/fishlab/issues.htm.
We are not aware of a situation in the wild where blackspot has been lethal or harmful to adult fish. Nor is it necessary to refrain from eating a fish infested with blackspot. Cooking the fish will destroy the parasite and the parasite is not known to survive in humans. So, although the presence of blackspot may detract from a trout’s appearance, it is of no consequence to its edibility.
David J. Basley, Regional Fisheries Biologist
From the Maine Warden Service: The Colonel’s Outdoor Tip
Planning a boating trip on one of Maine’s lakes or ponds? Pay attention to Maine summer afternoon weather. Lightning and thunderstorms are not uncommon in Maine during summer afternoons. A lake or pond might change from a flat, hot breathless body of water to a turbulent, wave tossed waterbody in just minutes. Add lightning and hail, or other severe weather factors and it can spell trouble for the unprepared boater. If you do go boating and lightning occurs, go to shore and find cover. High winds can occur in minutes as the result of thunderstorms, and they can capsize and swamp even very stable boats. If bad afternoon weather is a possibility, it is prudent to make alternative plans and wait for better weather – or plan on boating early in the day when severe weather is less likely.
Colonel Tom Santaguida, Chief of the Maine Warden Service
The weather factor
Has this summer’s wild weather helped or hurt your fishing?