This is the time of year when sportsmen begin to check their fishing gear and daydream about a June evening on their favorite trout pond. Some of us make promises to ourselves as well. We pledge to get the most out of June this year, to get onto the water more than last year. To try and get enough of what we never seem to get enough of: casting a dry fly to a surface feeding brookie.

Of course, the focal point to all our angling fantasies is always Salvelinus fontinalis, the eastern brook trout.

For me, the March daydreams about spring fishing always inspire me to paw through my pile of books and magazine clippings that clutter the office. Brook trout, I have noticed, get the lion’s share of attention when angling writers scribble for fun and profit. Here’s a new publication that caught my attention: “Eastern Brook Trout: Status and Threats.” Produced by Trout Unlimited for the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture (EBTJV), this modest booklet is jam-packed with eye-opening statistics about our favorite fish.

Boiled down, it explains how most of the eastern seaboard states, that have had native brook trout, have allowed this precious resource to all but disappear. The data in this book reflects a state-by-state study of once native brookie subwatersheds. In most of the southern states, that once had native brookies, all that remain are a few subwatersheds holding trout located in U.S Forest Service land.

Troutwise, things are not that much better in New Jersey, Maryland, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island. In Massachusetts, there is some native brook trout habitat left in the Western part of the state, but less than 11 percent of the subwatersheds in that state support brook trout populations.

That leaves Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Although Vermont still has some high quality water that should support brookies, and does have some wild, self-producing brook trout populations, non-native fish have displaced brook trout from many of that state’s streams and lakes. As for New Hampshire, there is not a lot of data. What we do know is that only northern New Hampshire maintains intact brook trout habitat. This represents only about seven percent of subwatersheds that could have held trout. The brook trout’s demise in New Hampshire is attributed to bad forestry practices and stocked rainbow trout!

How does Maine fare in this report? As you might have guessed, Maine is truly the last bastion of significant wild brook trout habitat. The report reads, “With 185 intact subwatersheds and many other healthy wild brook trout lakes and ponds, Maine represents the last stronghold for lake and pond brook trout populations. However, these fish populations are extremely vulnerable to introductions of non-native fish. Over 30 percent of Maine’s subwatersheds are greatly reduced, primarily from smallmouth bass and other non-native fish. In short, Maine is the jewel of native brook trout range in the U.S. And if you drew a line through the middle of Maine, it is apparent that most of our brook trout habitat is in Aroostook and Northern Piscataquis counties.

As Maine citizens and trout-loving anglers, this is something to treasure and take pride in — and protect. There have been legislative initiatives intended to focus public attention on what we have, and there will be more. But there is only so much that well-intentioned lawmakers can do. The challenge will be to learn from the mistakes of our other eastern seaboard states. Unless we begin to find and prosecute illegal bucket stockers and irresponsible foresters, Maine’s fabled brook trout habitat will be threatened.

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WCME-FM 96.7) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected]


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