Volunteers needed to fish ponds and coastal streams in search of wild brook trout
STATEWIDE – Maine Audubon, Trout Unlimited and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) are seeking volunteer anglers to survey remote Maine ponds and coastal streams for brook trout this fishing season. Information gathered by volunteers will be used to identify populations of previously-undocumented wild brook trout across the state.
Wild brook trout have significantly declined throughout their range. Today, Maine is home to 97% of the intact wild brook trout lake and pond habitat in the eastern United States. Brook trout require clean, cold water and well-connected streams to survive. The population status of brook trout is a key indicator of a healthy ecosystem that also illustrates the health of other species, including moose, deer, otters, kingfishers, herons and osprey. A decline in brook trout populations serves as an early warning that an entire ecosystem is potentially at risk.
The quality and abundance of some of Maine’s brook trout have declined in recent years due to development, land use practices, the introduction of non-native competing species and climate change. Wild brook trout are a nationally significant resource and Maine has a special responsibility to protect the last stronghold population of these iconic fish and its valuable habitat.
Maine is home to hundreds of remote ponds that have never been surveyed by fisheries biologists nor have any record of past stocking. “Identifying the ponds and coastal streams with wild brook trout will greatly assist MDIFW in planning our conservation and management strategies over the next several decades,” noted Merry Gallagher, MDIFW Fisheries Research Biologist. The project’s focus on both remote ponds and coastal streams offers anglers a chance to explore new areas of the state. “Volunteers should be enthusiastic about fishing for brook trout, be comfortable in remote settings and have a sense of adventure,” noted Jeff Reardon of Trout Unlimited.
2015 marks the fifth year of the Brook Trout Survey Project. To date, 252 active volunteers have successfully surveyed 288 remote Maine ponds. Of those waters, 127 ponds were recommended to MDIFW for a formal survey after brook trout were caught or observed. Based on the fact that these ponds had never been formally surveyed by MDIFW and there are no records of any past stocking, these trout are likely previously unknown populations of native or wild brook trout.
Based on the success of the Pond Survey, the project expanded in 2014 to include coastal stream surveys. Project partners hope that this year will bring a significant increase in the number of streams surveyed and new volunteer anglers. Brook trout that live in coastal streams may spend part of their lives in saltwater and come back to freshwater to spawn.
There is little is known about the distribution and life history of sea-run brook trout in Maine, so volunteers are needed to help identify watersheds containing this special and elusive fish. “The success of this project is entirely dependent on volunteer participation,” noted Emily Bastian, Brook Trout Survey Project Coordinator at Maine Audubon. “This is an exciting opportunity for people who care about conservation and love to fish to make a meaningful contribution to the conservation of wild brook trout, a significant and unique ecological, economic and cultural resource for Maine.”
Volunteer anglers are needed to survey 300+ ponds in northern Maine and coastal streams ranging from Kennebunk to Lubec. Surveys can be completed any time before September 30, 2015. The prime time for coastal stream surveys is mid-April through June, while pond fishing can be productive in both the spring and fall. Project partners will provide maps, data sheets and instructions on how to survey ponds and streams.