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If you’re looking for something to do this summer consider that Maine Audubon, Trout Unlimited and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife are seeking volunteer anglers to participate in a brook trout survey.
Anglers are needed to survey remote ponds and coastal streams in Maine, which are said to represent 97 percent of the wild brook trout habitat in the eastern U.S. Volunteer anglers find and fish ponds located within the survey area. They document access to the pond, general pond conditions (depth, number of inlets and outlets); fish species caught or observed and signs of angling activity (trails to the water, canoes moored on shore). Audubon staff will provide maps, aerial photos, survey forms and instructions on how to survey each pond.
Beginning anglers or folks who are unfamiliar with backcountry navigation can be paired up with a more experienced backwoods angler.
Pond surveys may be completed anytime between April and September 2012.
To date, 197 volunteer anglers have successfully surveyed 258 remote Maine ponds for which no data was previously available. State biologists have conducted official surveys on 45 ponds that volunteers identified as brook trout ponds.
Initiated in 2011, the Brook Trout Pond Survey was developed as a way to identify and document populations of native brook trout in remote Maine ponds. There are many hundreds of ponds around the state that have never been officially surveyed by fisheries biologists. There are no records of stocking in these ponds, so any brook trout found in them are native, wild fish. This project offers anglers a chance to explore new places while advancing trout conservation efforts.
Maine brook trout are a special resource, and we need to protect and manage them appropriately.This year, the project is expanding to include stream surveys along the Maine coast. MDIFW officials say little is known about the distribution and life history of sea-run brook trout in Maine.
To sign up or request additional information, contact Amanda Moeser at (207) 781-6180 Ext. 207 or amoeser@maineaudubon.org.
It’s not often that volunteer projects involve going to the nearest brook trout pond to fish all day – for science, no less! Most of the volunteer “projects” I’ve participated in involve trash bags, hip boots and heavy gloves. Turning my attention to serious trout research sounds so much more enjoyable!
It is true that Maine holds some of the finest native brook trout waters in the East. I have caught breakfast brookies in lakes, ponds and streams from Big Twenty Township on the Quebec border to the wilds of Sanford. It is also true that the majority of these small waters are officially undocumented. I have spent more time looking at maps where streams cross the road but none are noted or mentioned. Not every brook trout stream is a raging river, of course, in fact some of them are little more than boggy seeps dotted with occasional deep holes, but they all contain good numbers of trout.
Nearly every brook trout fancier I know follows the same short list of basic rules: Fish a section of brook once or twice per year, keep a couple of the biggest trout (an 8-incher is a monster in some of these waters) and move on to the next hotspot. These are good rules if you want to continue to catch a few nice fish every year. If, on the other hand, fishermen kept plying the same waters without let-up there would soon be very few brook trout left. For example, when was the last time anyone caught a 5-pound brook trout at Moosehead? I saw coolers full of them in the 1970s back when the daily limit was 15 fish. No trout fishery can handle that kind of mortality for very long, and though it took 100 years to do it, Moosehead’s legendary monster brook trout are now history. A big one turns up now and then, just often enough to get the old-timers reminiscing, but it’s a rare event. By the same token, if we keep every fish we catch out of a small pond or stream we won’t be catching them for long!
I still visit many of the old, familiar small streams in Atkinson, Dover-Foxcroft, Orneville, Milo, Brownville and Bradford and still catch my personal limit of two or three fat bookies, but I rarely visit the same stream twice in a season. Most are one-time events where I drift a fat garden worm under a bridge or culvert or make a few casts to a certain deep hole I’ve come to know.
It really doesn’t take much water to satisfy a native brook trout. In fact, there is a power line right-of-way in Piscataquis County that is crossed and re-crossed by dozens of streams and rivulets that hardly seem deep enough to keep a salamander wet during the summer, but there’s more to these tiny flows than meets the eye. I discovered the secret to these little brooks during deer season decades ago when I stopped for a break and noticed trout sneaking out from beneath the bank to nibble on the tiny crustaceans that littered the stream bottom. In fact, one of those trout was surging through the exposed riffles like a killer whale on the beach (all 9 inches of him!). The following spring I was back with my trout rod in hand and, over the season, managed to catch enough breakfast trout to keep me going without once venturing out of the right-of-way. I discovered that the biggest fish were lurking in small pockets of deep water where the brook disappeared under the bank. In some places the stream literally disappeared under the moss for a few feet, which told me that there was a deep hole right under my feet. If Audubon thinks there are “hundreds upon hundreds” of undocumented brook trout ponds and streams in Maine I’d be willing to bet that there are millions of nondescript seeps and rivulets where brook trout live and die without ever seeing a fisherman.
If you like brook trout, enjoy fishing and want to help preserve the species, sign up to participate in Audubon’s cooperative brook trout survey. If nothing else it sure beats doing yard work!
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