Submitted by Tim Obrey, Regional Fisheries Biologist, Moosehead Lake Region
You have to make hay while the sun shines the old saying goes, and if you’re a fisheries biologist for IFW, the time to evaluate your coldwater fisheries programs is September and October. As the water temperatures fall, brook trout and salmon begin to cruise the shoreline making them fair game for our trapnets. Trapnetting is a sampling technique to capture a considerable number of fish to monitor age and growth. The fish are then returned to the lake unharmed.
It has been another very busy fall for the Fisheries staff in the Moosehead Lake Region. In September, we started our fall trapnetting on a number of wild brook trout ponds in the Chamberlain Lake area. We were very impressed with the number of quality-sized brook trout we were able to sample. Clearly there is no shortage of big trout in the North Country.
In October we turned our focus to a number of salmon waters in the Greenville area including Maine’s largest water, Moosehead Lake. We are still netting as I write, but initial impressions are very good. The salmon at Moosehead Lake seem to have really turned the corner. In 2008, IFW liberalized the size and bag limits on lake trout on the big lake in an effort to reduce competition for food and improve growth for both salmon and lake trout. In the following 3 years, an estimated 80,000 lake trout were harvested by anglers. Since then, forage has improved in the lake and we have readjusted the regulations. We have documented good smelt runs in the spring for the past several years, and both salmon and lake trout growth rates have improved each year.
We have documented similar results on First Roach Pond where salmon growth crashed after a very restrictive regulation was put in place. We liberalized the fishing regulations and slashed the stocking rate. This fall the salmon have shown a remarkable improvement.
These evaluations are very important for the management of the fisheries resources. Our work will determine whether a management program is working or needs refinement. It can result in stocking changes, regulation changes, and hopefully, a better fishing experience for the anglers.