By now it is no secret — especially among sportsmen and anglers — that there is a monster loose upon the lands and waters of Maine: the Bucket Stocker.

Like Bigfoot, the Bucket Stocker is rarely seen but is out there nonetheless. We know this because more and more non-indigenous fish species (invasives) are being caught in our once-pure cold water sport fisheries. Someone is putting them there, and it is not the Creator.

Probably the Bucket Stocker comes in a variety of sizes and outlooks. What seizes him to do what he does? Why would any person willfully introduce crappies or bass into a classic Maine trout or salmon fishery? Is it a revenge crime, a payback to the Fish and Wildlife Department for some wrong, real or imagined? Does the Bucket Stocker, in a moment of deluded thinking, fancy himself as some kind of fishing activist hell bent on transforming Maine into his own fantasy concept of a diverse fishery?

In truth, these Bucket Stockers are a disaster for Maine’s nationally known and priceless cold water sport fishery. Because of Maine’s vast network of drainages and interconnected water courses, a fish that is an invasive, which may be illegally introduced, can wind up about anywhere.

This is happening now in spades. Bass are being found in once-pure trout waters more and more. According to fisheries experts, these bass will multiply and in time destroy a trout water.

Recently, in an exceptional article about this subject, Northern Woodlands magazine writer Jim Collins reported on the efforts to rid Maine’s fabled riverine brook trout water, the Rapid River, of unwanted small-mouth bass that had been illegally introduced. Most fascinating is the fact that a state fisheries biologist, the late Dave Boucher, along with other fisheries biologists, figured out a way to mitigate the bass reproduction cycle in the Rapid River by controlling the water flow. (The bass eggs get flushed downstream at the appropriate time).

The trout of the Rapid River are not home free, but for now the situation has improved. Unfortunately, this option is not available in non-moving trout and salmon fisheries that have been blighted by the dreadful Bucket Stockers.

This situation must be frustrating for game wardens who have not had much success in catching Bucket Stockers in the act.

This may explain why Operation Game Thief, which normally offers a $1,000 reward on anonymous tips leading to the arrest of a poacher, have upped the ante for any useful information on the activities of Bucket Stockers. According to Maine Warden Service spokesman Sgt. John MacDonald, only four Bucket Stockers have been prosecuted for planting illegal fish in public waters during the past 10 years.

As of this year, Operation Game Thief will provide a $2,000 reward for any anonymous tip about a Bucket Stocker who leads to the issuance of a citation. This reward money comes from private donations, not from the coffers of the Maine Department of Inland Fishers and Wildlife or the Maine Warden Service.

Bucket Stockers probably do their thing under the cover of darkness with the rest of the slugs and snakes. In the scheme of things, no other fish and wildlife scofflaw poses as much of a threat to our precious Maine trout resource as the Bucket Stocker.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors.” His e-mail address is [email protected] He has two books “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook” and his latest, “Backtrack.”


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