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Archive for the ‘Moosehead Lake Weekly Fishing Report’ Category

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Another Project to Improve Access for Anglers

 You may recall last winter I wrote a fishing report outlining our collaborative efforts with Elliotsville Plantation Inc (EPI) to improve access to popular fishing holes like Big and Little Benson Ponds in Bowerbank.  We received a lot of positive feedback from anglers after they learned they could once again access Big Benson Pond in the winter on their snowsleds using some of the traditional trail routes.

EPI also owns land in the Town of Elliotsville that includes some premier wild and stocked brook trout waters.  EPI representatives have been working hard to develop a trail network to these ponds and recently teamed up with the IFW and Boy Scout Troop 61 from the Parkman-Guilford area to build some canoe storage racks along the shore of three of these trout ponds.  Some of the scouts hiked in the day before from Shirley and camped overnight.  On Sunday, the team went to work using materials purchased by EPI constructing nice new racks on the shores of Little Wilson Pond, Moose Pond, and Prescott Pond.  This effort will help keep the area clean and organized while giving anglers the opportunity to once again store their canoes at these remote ponds. While the no motorized vehicle rules are still in place on this parcel, anglers can carry their canoes in and leave them on these new storage racks.  EPI simply requests that you label your canoe with your name and phone number so they can keep track of derelict boats in the future.  Anglers and hikers can park at the campsites near Little Wilson Falls then hike a little more than a mile into these great trout ponds.  This is a terrific opportunity to fish some beautiful trout ponds in a remote setting.  We hope anglers will take advantage of it.

Submitted by: Tim Obrey – Regional Fisheries Biologist

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Spencer Knowles and Branden Olsen of Bath liked this big ole Moosehead Lake Salmon so much, they invited him home for dinner!

Spencer Knowles and Branden Olsen of Bath liked this big ole Moosehead Lake Salmon so much, they invited him home for dinner!

The fishing on Moosehead Lake continues to impress.  We had some of the best weather of the winter last weekend and anglers were able to get out and catch some rays and a few fish.  Traffic was heavy in the Rockwood area on Saturday which was the last day of the Rockwood derby.  We also saw good numbers of anglers around Lily Bay and Greenville.  It was good to see folks out and about after a very cold and windy January and February.  Some preliminary estimates show that catch rates for salmon and brook trout have been very good so far this winter.  The best news is that catch rates for the once over-abundant small togue have come down to acceptable levels and the growth rates for lake trout, salmon, and even brook trout have improved. The improvement in salmon catch is quite notable and is due to the improved growth.  In past years, salmon would be 4 years old on average before reaching 18 inches in the winter, and now we are seeing some at age 3.  This all means bigger fish and more of them for the anglers. It seems every weekend we are seeing or hearing about big brookies between 3-6 lbs on the lake. Last weekend we saw one over 4 lbs and just missed a party that had left with another 4+lb trout. The weekend before we checked another brook trout that was over 5 ½ lbs.  We hope it continues for the next few weeks and is a forecast for the summer of 2013!

Just a side note: While there is plenty of ice over most of the lake (2-3 feet), the usual bad spots are starting to show up.  Open water can be found in narrow areas, around the mouths of rivers and streams, and around big rocks as the sun warms them during the day. Stay safe.

Submitted by: Tim Obrey – Regional Fisheries Biologist

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Fat 20" Brookie from Moosehead Lake

Fat 20″ Brookie from Moosehead Lake

By Tim Obrey, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Last week Regional staff from the Greenville Office met with representatives of Elliotsville Plantation, Inc (EPI) to discuss the fisheries resources on their property in southern Piscataquis County. EPI owns approximately 29,000 acres in several townships just north of Sebec Lake and another 10,500 acres along the Appalachian Trail in Elliotsville.  There are some very significant fisheries resources on these parcels including wild and stocked brook trout, wild salmon, and wild lake trout fisheries.  I often think of this area as the southern tip of the North Woods.  In this area, anglers will find abundant populations of wild coldwater gamefish that are much more difficult to find to the south and east.  Here, the dirt roads are few and far between and they are lined with alders. The beaver bogs and streams are still full of small wild brookies.  Just a few miles to the south the old logging roads turn to pavement and are lined with street lights and mailboxes in the organized towns.

The largest pond on these EPI parcels is Big Benson Pond.  Big Benson Pond has an abundant lake trout population with a few wild salmon and brook trout.  Most anglers fish Big Benson Pond in the winter because of its remoteness.  The pond would actually benefit from more anglers keeping lake trout because they are so abundant.  Anglers will be happy to learn they can once again use snowmobiles to access and fish on Big Benson Pond as a result of our meeting.  Anglers can access the pond over snowmobile trails north of the Town Office in Bowerbank or over the Ship Pond Stream trail from Sebec Lake. Anglers can once again travel on the lake with snowmobiles, effective immediately.

The cluster of remote trout ponds just west of the Appalachian Trail in Elliotsville offer a wide range of fishing opportunities that one can only find in the North Woods, but it is very difficult to effectively fish from shore on these ponds.   The shorelines are primarily shallow, boggy, and often surrounded with alders. This spring/summer, we will be cooperating with EPI to develop trails, signage, and canoe storage areas on their property near the ponds in Elliotsville.  Anglers will be able to hike in and leave a canoe at their favorite trout pond, which is a tradition in the North Woods.

We want to thank EPI representatives for taking the initiative to discuss and work with us to provide access to waters on their property. We encourage anglers to hit the trails and take advantage of this terrific fishing close to home, and remind everyone to treat the woods and waters with respect so they will remain accessible for years to come.

 

 

 

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Lani LaCasce with an 8lb. togue from the Moosehead Lake Togue Derby

Lani LaCasce with an 8lb. togue from the Moosehead Lake Togue Derby

As we approach the traditional start of the ice fishing season, conditions vary across the Moosehead Lake Region.  Anglers have been fishing the smaller ponds for a week or two. Many of these ponds are stocked with fall yearling brook trout that average 12-14 inches as well as some retired brood stock that could exceed 18 inches.  Water like Fitzgerald Pond, Prong Pond, and Harlow Pond have all seen some early season success.  Of course Moosehead Lake is mostly open water at this time with a little ice in the smaller coves. Reports from up north indicate that the ponds and lakes have frozen over but with only a few inches of ice. A fresh coat of snow can be very deceiving so anglers should be extremely careful. No fish is worth the risk of a dip in the lake this time of year.

 

This winter marks the 6th year of the Moosehead Lake Togue Derby.  The derby was created in an effort to assist the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife manage the coldwater fisheries in Maine’s largest lake.  In 2008, the wild lake trout population was in the midst of a boom and while normally more fish is desirable, in this case, there were too many mouths to feed in Moosehead Lake.  The main forage fish, rainbow smelt, was very scarce and the growth of togue and salmon was suffering.  Togue regulations were liberalized and the derby was created to help bring more anglers to the lake and harvest the plentiful togue.  In just 3 years, anglers had removed more than 85,000 togue.  This allowed the smelt population to rebound resulting in fat, healthy salmon and togue.  Money raised from the derby is donated to several non-profits including the Natural Resource Education Center at Moosehead, which has a Fisheries Internship/Enhancement program. This program funds college interns and other research projects that directly benefit the fisheries in the Moosehead Lake Region.  Over the past 5 years the derby has raised thousands of dollars for charity, increased the number of winter anglers for local businesses, and is helping IFW reach its management goals for the lake.  So, mark your calendar and please come join us this winter on January 25-27th!

 

Submitted by: Tim Obrey  – Regional Fisheries Biologist

 

 

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Mike Moon (NextEra Energy) records information as Tim Obrey, Jeff Bagley, and summer assistant Kody Favreau (IFW) collect date on salmon at the East Outlet Fishway.

The East Outlet of the Kennebec River is a large river with excellent habitat for adult salmon. It is also very good habitat for salmon parr. However, adult salmon need gravel areas for spawning and very young salmon also utilze this type of habitat during their first year in the stream environment.  Early habitat surveys in the East Outlet noted the lack of suitable spawning habitat.  The river is primarily rock and boulder runs and riffles for the entire 2.8 mile section with gravel areas representing less than 1% of the habitat. Flows in the main stem of the river are often too high for young salmon as well. These limiting conditions are reflected in the catch of young wild salmon in the East Outlet fishway trapping during the 1970’s through the mid 1990’s. In that period, the average number of wild salmon less than 12 inches moving upstream from the river into the lake each summer was 325 fish. A river this size could produce thousands of young salmon each year.

In 1998, IFW staff and Kennebec Water Power Inc (operators of the dam on the East Outlet) constructed two side channels in the East Outlet for the purpose of increasing salmon natural reproduction. These channels are off the main stem of the river so flows are lower and more suitable for small young fish. The first channel, which is located immediately downstream of the Beach Pool, provides some excellent spawning habitat.  Another side channel, located about 2 miles downstream of the Rte 15 Bridge, provides very good habitat for salmon fry.

We have continued to trap the fishway periodically since the habitat improvement project in the East Outlet.  Wild salmon production has jumped to an average of nearly 900 young salmon each year.  This year we also had a very good catch of salmon over 12 inches, with approximately 200 wild fish over 17 inches and these adult fish were in remarkable shape. It should be a very good fall fishing season on the river.

This spring we noted that the lower side channel had a considerable amount of rocky material built up at the entrance which was limiting flows during dry periods.  This past week we electrofished the lower side channel with help from NextEra Energy biologists and we found good numbers of young salmon in the section.  NextEra Energy has agreed to conduct some maintenance work on the side channel this summer to make sure it remains functional. We want to thank Mike Moon, NextEra Energy’s operator at the East Outlet Dam, and our summer assistant Kody Favreau for all their help with the fishway this summer.

Submitted by: Tim Obrey – Regional Fisheries Biologist

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Time is of the essence. Play and release the fish as quickly and carefully as possible. An exhausted fish may be too weak to recover.

Important: Keep the fish in the water if it is not going to be part of your daily bag limit. A fish out of water is not only suffocating, but may be subject to a “quick freeze”.

Be gentle. Keep your fingers away from the gills. Don’t squeeze the fish.

Remove the hook with small pliers or a similar type tool. If the hook is deeply embedded or in a sensitive area such as the gills or stomach, cut the leader close to the snout. Make an effort to use regular steel (bronzed) hooks to promote early disintegration. Do not use stainless or gold-plated hooks.

To revive a fish once it is back in the water, hold it in a swimming position in the water until it is able to swim away.

Togue (lake trout) often have expanded air bladders after being pulled up rapidly from deep water. If the belly appears expanded, release the fish from the hook first, then gently press your thumb along the stomach near the paired belly fins and move it forward a few times to remove air from the bladder. Finally, proceed to revive and free the fish.

~Courtesy Maine Open Water & Ice Fishing Magazine

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IF&W Fisheries Biologists Jeff Bagley and Steve Seeback testing the solar panels and PIT Tag antenna

This past spring the Greenville office of the IFW teamed up with the Natural Resource Education Center at Moosehead (NREC) and was awarded a Maine Outdoor Heritage Grant to purchase solar panels to power our remote fish tracking equipment.  If you are frequent readers of these weekly fishing reports, you may recall that we have tagged hundreds of salmon and trout over the past several years on Moosehead Lake, many of which passed through our weir on the Roach River and on Socatean Stream. The antennas and dataloggers used to track these fish are powered with 12 volt batteries and are located in very remote areas, but the batteries must be re-charged twice a week. This is tough to do when there are just 3 staff members to cover the entire Moosehead Lake Region which includes nearly a quarter of a million acres of lakes and ponds and another 4,100 miles of rivers and stream.  The new solar panels will power two antennas this fall around Moosehead Lake and we will have them in the future if we are involved with other tracking studies in the remote areas of the region.

The solar panels were purchased locally at Moosehead Solar and they have been very helpful with the project. We also want to thank NREC and all the individuals and groups that have contributed to NREC’s Fisheries Internship/Enhancement Fund.  Donations to this fund have been used to support a number of great projects that directly benefit the management of the fish resources in the region.  For example, in the past 5 years this NREC fund has paid for college interns that worked under our supervision to conduct competition removal projects to improve the brook trout populations on several ponds and we have more on tap. The fund helped purchase our new fish weir which allows us to catch large number of fish in stream/river habitats. We have used the weir on both Socatean Stream and the Roach River.  This weir will be a very valuable piece of equipment for us in the future as well. Last year, NREC purchased the materials for several picnic tables that were constructed by our local Boy Scouts to create a public picnic area on Rum Pond. The fund also donated money to help with the Big Wadleigh Pond charr restoration project to help save one of just 12 native charr waters in the lower 48 States. You can learn more about this local non-profit organization and its mission at: http://www.nrecmoosehead.org/NREC/Welcome.html

Submitted by: Tim Obrey, Regional Fisheries Biologist

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Lead Core Set Up at Indian Hill Trading Post

Salmon fishing in Moosehead is typically very good throughout the year. When fishing opens in the spring they are taken quite easily, usually by trolling with streamer flies on top. As the weather warms the water, the fish go deeper. Each lake is different and there are variables as to time of day the fishing takes place. Typically the fish can be found 20-40 feet down.

Indian Hill Trading Post carries a selection of lead core setups that will get you to that deeper water. The line is colored so you know what depth you are at. Stop by our Sporting Goods Department today and our staff will be happy to help you get the perfect “set-up” to catch that trophy Salmon.  Or call us at (207) 695-2104. Best of luck & Happy Fishing

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The Madison High School Junior Maine Guide Class watches IFW Biologists Jeff Bagley and Steve Seeback haul fish out of the Roach River weir. Photo by Suzanne AuClair

The Fisheries staff in the Moosehead Lake Region is operating the fish trap in the East Outlet Fishway this summer. The trap was set on June 13th and is scheduled for operation through the end of July.  The purpose of the work is to evaluate wild landlocked salmon reproduction in the outlet of Moosehead Lake.  Salmon will spawn in the outlet and the young typically live for one or two years in the stream environment before moving upstream sometime in mid–summer into Maine’s largest lake.  Peak movements for the younger fish occur as the water temperatures warm above 65oF.  The catch is dominated by larger salmon in mid-late June when temperatures are generally still below 65oF.  We also capture many brook trout, a few lake trout, round whitefish, and suckers in the trap.

In 1998, IFW and NextEra Energy constructed two specialized side-channels in the river to enhance salmon reproduction.  One was designed specifically to supplement spawning habitat and the other to supplement nursery habitat. Both of these very specific habitat needs were lacking in this big river.  The catch of wild salmon increased in the trap in the years following the construction, peaking in 2001 at just over 2,300 wild salmon moving upstream from this 2.8 mile section of the Kennebec River.  However, in 2009 we documented a decline with just under 700 fish in our catch. Fish populations do fluctuate naturally over time and that is why it is necessary to continually monitor them especially after a management change has been applied. Data collected this year will help us evaluate the habitat improvement project and other regulation changes recently made on the river.

The public is welcome to look over our shoulder this summer while we work the trap.  The trap is usually tended Mon-Wed-Fri around 10:00am. Bring your rod and spend a great summer day on one of Maine’s premier river fisheries.

Submitted by: Tim Obrey, Regional Fisheries Biologist

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