TOWNSHIP C — Bass continue to threaten wild trout in the Rapid River and Pond in the River, but control efforts are gaining ground, state fisheries biologist Dave Boucher said Friday by email.
Smallmouth bass were illegally introduced into the New Hampshire section of Umbagog Lake, likely during the 1980s. Prolific breeders, they quickly established themselves there.
By the late 1990s, the bass expanded their range to other waters in the drainage, including the Rapid River in Upton and Pond in the River in Township C.
The Rapid River is 3.2-miles long and forms the outlet of the Rangeley Lakes, long noted for their outstanding brook trout and landlocked salmon fisheries. Pond in the River covers 512 acres and provides important habitat for certain life stages of brookies.
Smallmouth bass compete severely with and prey on brook trout. For years, many methods were tried to reduce bass populations to save wild brookies, including a continuing open season on the Maine side for anglers on bass with no size or bag limits, and manipulating river flows.
Now, some of that work is paying off.
"We may be seeing some stabilization of bass numbers," Boucher said.
"Trout production has been favorable during the last few years, as has the fishing."
According to studies from 2005-07, manipulating river flows from Middle Dam during the bass spawning season can potentially limit bass populations and improve brook trout survival.
"The flow manipulation project, whereby Middle Dam flows are 'bursted' during the bass spawning season to disrupt them, may be benefiting trout, but more information is needed to confirm this," Boucher said.
To date, there haven't been any more illegal bass introductions into other water bodies in Western Maine, he said.
However, biologists recently confirmed largemouth bass in the Gilman Stream/Sandy Stream drainage in the Lexington and New Portland areas, Boucher said.
Additionally, an illegal introduction of black crappie recently was confirmed in Halfmoon Pond in Carthage, he said.
A similar unlimited angling approach to the Rapid River situation is being launched in certain Down East waters, but not to protect brookies or salmon.
Instead, largemouth bass were illegally introduced into the St. Croix River drainage, threatening its smallmouth bass fishery, Caroline Hailey, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Public Relations representative, said Thursday in a news report.
That's why the department has declared open season on largemouth bass of all sizes by licensed anglers starting Sunday, July 1, in the Grand Falls Flowage.
Department biologists have positively identified fish caught in Grand Falls Flowage as largemouth bass, Hailey said.
That's now prompting efforts to eliminate them before they can gain a foothold in the flowage and endanger the smallmouth bass population already there.
“It’s very unfortunate that illegal stocking continues, and it’s time that Maine’s angling community takes notice,” Chandler E. Woodcock, MDIF&W commissioner, said in the release.
“In this case, Washington County is one of the nation’s premier smallmouth bass fishing destinations, and this single introduction could jeopardize the fishery in more than 18,000 acres.”
Within the next few days, the department’s biological staff will work with the local anglers and the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s biologists to assess the extent of the introduction.
The waters in the St. Croix River drainage that are included in this effort are:
* Grand Falls Flowage, including Tomah Stream, Berry Brook and George Brook Flowage.
* Lewy Lake, including Huntley Brook.
* Long Lake.
* Big Lake, including Grand Lake Stream, Musquash Stream, Little Musquash Stream, Clifford Stream and Little River.
* St. Croix River from Vanceboro Dam down to tidewater in St. Stephen/Calais, and including Woodland Flowage.
To determine the difference between a largemouth bass and a smallmouth bass, look at the upper jaw of the bass, Boucher said.
The upper jaw bone of a largemouth bass extends behind the eye, while the upper jaw of a smallmouth bass extends to the middle of the eye.
Largemouth bass also have a black horizontal stripe running down their side that will not be found on smallmouth bass, he said.
Largemouth bass are generally found in shallow water areas and strongly associate with underwater structures such as logs, stumps or boulders, he said.
For more information on this effort or to report caught largemouth bass, contact Regional Fisheries Biologist Greg Burr at 434-5925 or the Passamaquoddy Warden Service at 796-2677.