What follows are some clippings from the pages of the October 22, 1896 edition of the RANGELEY LAKES newspaper.

(Editor’s note: Contemporary commentary in italics, otherwise copy is reprinted just as it was in 1896).

As most of our readers know, Rangeley Lake was first known as Oquossoc Lake and the watershed was not called ‘The Rangeley Lakes’, but the Androscoggin Lakes, as the headwaters of the river of the same name. What made the region popular and created a “rush” in this direction, were the reports of huge Brook Trout being caught. California had a Gold Rush and Colorado a Silver Rush…Rangeley had a Big Brook Trout Rush!

One of the growth factors contributing to the immense size of these fish (5-12 lbs.) was their consumption of another native fish, now only found in 14 waterbodies here in Maine, the Blueback Trout, which is a Landlocked Artic Char. They were once so abundant that early settlers and Native Americans would build weirs in brooks and fertilized their gardens with them. The Latin name for these little beauties, Salvinus Alpinus Oquossa…yes after the lake where they once flourished. The degradation of their nursery habitat, exploitation, the flooding of extensive riparian habitat by the building of Middle and Upper Dam, the effects of unregulated logging silting up the remaining spawning habitat and the introduction of Landlocked Salmon and rainbow Smelt all most likely contributed to its demise. As did “great advice” like this from

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Blueback Trout mount by Dave Footer from the collections of the Outdoor Heritage Museum

The Sport Not What It Used, to Be in Days of Long Ago

Bluebacks have begun to run up the frequented brooks, and many of the lovers of this old-time sport have made a gig, purchased a long-legged pair of rubber boots, filled up the old lantern and proceeded to the haunts of this specie of trout which come up the brooks in the fall of the year.

The bluebacks begin to run about Oct. 10, and, if the weather is cold fair sport can be had. The method of catching them is somewhat different from that used in ordinary fishing. Take one, two or three good-sized hooks, fasten them on to a piece of iron rod about two feet long. This is all that is necessary until you get to the brook. Cut a stiff alder about three or four feet in length, fasten the gig on to this stick and you are ready for the fray.

With the gig, lantern, and pail to put what you catch in, you start down the brook. You get a sight at one, you make a jab, and nine chances out of 10 you miss, that is, if you are an uneducated gigger. But if you are an old hand at the business an hour’s work will give you all you want for a meal.

For a year or two bluebacks have’ been larger than ever, some even weighing half a pound. The ordinary blueback is about the size of a brook trout.

The origin of the blueback in this region is unknown. Some claim that Squire Rangeley brought them from England, but in conversation with Mr. A. L. Oakes, recently, it was learned that they were found here fifteen years prior to the arrival of Mr. Rangeley. Mr. Oakes says they look like the Lochleven trout of Scotland.

Take a dozen brook trout and as many bluebacks of equal size and to the untrained eye one could not tell the difference. And the difference is slight, it being in the form of the tail, the former having- square tails and the latter more of a forked tail.

But they are not so plenty as in former days. An incident was related recently by a person who was present at the time it occurred. It was several years ago. A frequenter of this region used to set a net across the brook and take them from the net, putting them into a box that was made for the purpose and placed in the brook. This fisherman had an idea that he owned the brook and would not let the natives get a fish. Time went on and the lovers of bluebacks stood it, as long as they could. One night several congregated at the bridge and waited for Mr. Blank. While they were waiting someone smashed the box containing the much-cherished fish, letting them go down stream and on the arrival of the owner gave him they said, the worst thrashing he ever got before or since. There was no more trouble after that and everyone that wished could get all the fish they wanted. (“Game Hogs” to this day are not suffered lightly in these parts.)

On Page 2, a concerned citizen shares his dismay at how the Kennebago River is being mistreated, which brings to mind the heavy siltation and ‘chocolate’ colored water just two summers ago…

The lumbering operation on the Kennebago waters are going to work havoc with the natural spawning beds on that river, by covering them with bark, chips and dirt; the banks of the stream will be cleared of the overhanging alders and flood jams; the once deep and shady pools will be exposed to the open glare of the sun, The dam will at times check the natural flow of water until the stream is a mere drizzle, and an hour later a booming foaming flood, carrying everything before it and turning the bottom of the river upside down. Views from this point the necessity of much artificial stocking is more obvious than ever, and neither money nor pains should be spared by guides, sportsmen as citizens of Rangeley until a good hatchery is running to its full capacity.                            -Long Sam

Noted Cupsuptic angler, William Pierce Frye of Maine served in the U.S. Senate for 30 years and caused a bit of a local hubbub in 1896 when he suggested that the region’s fishing might be in decline.

What follows was found on page 4 and served as a rebuttal by several noted guides to a statement made previously by noted politician and Rangeley angler, Senator William Pierce Frye. A statement by Frye had been published that had caused quite a stir. He had been quoted as stating that he feared that the region’s fishing was in decline. My Gawd, what was he THINKING by saying something so controversial!!!

Are the Rangeleys Playing Out?

Natt Carr. — “Don’t think they will play out right away. More fish been taken this year than any previous year. More fish on the Cupsuptic stream than I ever saw.”

Elmer Snowman. — “Fishingbetter than it has been for years. More fish on the spawning beds than I have ever seen. The hatchery should be run, and fish protected.”

Freeman Tibbetts. — “Do not think Senator Frye made the statement attributed to him. Certainly not for publication. Have never seen the fishing better than this year.

Board McCard— “There are fish enough, but we cannot get them every day. A large number were taken on big lake. More fish this year than last. Such a remark does not sound like Senator Frye.”

Amos Ellis, Senator Frye’s guide— “Have never heard the Senator intimate that he thought the fishing in the lakes was doomed. He came late in the spring, and the water was high all through the season. Senator Frye understood this to be the cause of the poor fishing. I am very positive such a statement could not have been made for it is contrary to the Senator’s belief, though he thinks “plug” fishing is reducing the fish in the lake.”

Rufus Crosby— “Fish have gained in numbers in the last 20 years. More fish in the lake than there were 30 years ago when I first came here. On Kennebago spawning beds there are three times as many fish as I ever saw there before. If the streams are kept closed and all restrictions, as to amount of fish allowed to be taken, removed, I do not think the fishing would play out in 10 years, so but what it would be better than are the Adirondacks. I do not believe Senator Frye ever made the statement published.”

(Herein lies our modern dilemma 134 years later… are we to believe the politician or the fishing guides, as we know both would never lie?)

Page 3 was completely dedicated to regular column by the publisher’s wife, Mrs. Dill entitled, “A Cozy Corner for the Ladies” that shared all manner of helpful hints. Here’s a couple…

The Better for a Day’s Age

Pie crust is always better if it can be made the day before it is baked, folding the paste in a close roll after it is made and putting it in a cold place. When, again rolled out it will make, when baked a lighter and more flaky crust.

Rice Cheeses

Rice cheeses are a true luncheon dainty and will be appreciated where hot dishes are liked; appetizing and savory in preference to “sweets.”

Having your muffin irons in order, well heated and buttered, put a layer of cold rice—we will trust it is a light mass of snowy, well-cooked kernels of Carolina head rice—in the bottom of each ring. Over this sprinkle salt, white Tellicherry pepper and tiny bits of butter. Next put a layer of grated cheese, afterwards it second layer of rice, salt, pepper and butter and finally a second layer of the grated cheese.

Place the muffin iron in a hot oven’ with a hot tin cover over the rings until the cheese is thoroughly melted into the rice. Take off the tin cover and brown daintily on top. Serve hot.

These cheeses can be made in the family “gem pan.”                    -Marion Manville.

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