Ice Fishing Opportunities Abound Thanks to New Regulation
January 09, 2008 -
ELLSWORTH -- It might be a good time to stock up on tip-ups. Ice fishing enthusiasts statewide now have the opportunity to fish 24 hours a day thanks to a new regulation of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IF&W). In addition to the benefits offered by the state regulation, Downeast anglers will reap the reward of a whopping 40 percent increase on average of stocked brook trout this year.
"Our goal is to provide the very best fishing opportunities for Maine residents that we can," said Assistant Regional Biologist Burr of the Jonesboro office of IF&W.
Increases to Downeast fishing stocks are a part of a new strategy now being implemented by the IF&W department.
"The biologists have been doing a really great job responding to the interests of fishermen," said Registered Maine Guide Dick Pennelly Jr. of Lamoine.
Changes to area fisheries began in 2006 when Rick Jordan was appointed to the post of regional biologist at the Jonesboro office of IF&W. Burr has been working with Jordan to increase the Downeast region's presence in the state fishery. The easy component of the strategy is to provide increased fishing opportunities to area sportsmen. This has been achieved by the implementation of drastic increases to the number of medium-sized fish available. The previous strategy was designed to cultivate larger fish, at the expense of abundance.
"What happened was there were too few fish being produced and our waters were fishing really slow," said Burr.
The increase in Downeast fisheries' stocks can only help the region hook a larger piece of the state's $250 million fishing industry revenues. When combined, the round-the-clock fishing hours and increase in available fish promise to provide one of the best fishing seasons Hancock and Washington counties have seen in 20 years, said Burr. The extension of ice-fishing hours is one of the biggest boons the industry is likely to see. The regulation requires only that all lines that are set be under the immediate supervision of the fisherman who set them.
Last year, fishermen were required to pull up their tip-ups 30 minutes after sunset and were allowed to begin fishing 30 minutes before sunrise.
Exponential increases to brook trout populations are taking place at over 100 of the 500 lakes that the Jonesboro IF&W office regulates. Echo Lake brook trout populations have leapt 500 percent, by far the greatest increase this year.
"Echo Lake is going to be one of the best ice-fishinjg spots in Hancock County this season," said Burr.
Instead of its usual 500 brook trout, the lake has been stocked with 2,500 for the fast approaching ice-fishing season.
"There is going to be a lot more fish in the region now," said Burr.
Changes to length limits have also provided new opportunities to ice fishermen this year. On Green Lake in Ellsworth, fishermen have only been allowed to take bass that were less than 13 inches. Due to new regulations, fisherman can now keep bass over 18 inches.
"That's great news for those of us who like to catch trophy bass in the winter," said Fennelly.
The Jonesboro IF&W department has also decided to put several hundred of its larger brook trout and salmon brood fish out to pasture this season. The brook trout run from 16 to 20 inches and the salmon are between 20 and 22 inches long. Lower Springy Pond in Otis has received 35 of the retired brook trout while Jacob Buck Pond in Bucksport and Craig Pond in Orland has received 50. Craig Pond has received 30 brood salmon. Pleasant River Lake in Beddington and Brewer Lake in Orrington have been stocked with 30 salmon as well. Round Pond in Mount Desert received 25 of the brook trout and Bonny Eagle Pond in Tbwnship 19 has been stocked with 20 of the trout retirees. Blunt's Pond in Lamoine has been added to the stocking hit list for the first time ever this year, gaining 150 brook trout. The pond had not been previously surveyed, but the quality and the conditions of it look gooid for brook trout, said Burr. The pond will be stockfed on an experimental basis for the next two years, at which time it will be re-evaluated. The dwindling natural populations of brown trout in Lower Patten Pond have been supplemented by the choice to stock 200 fish there this year.
The bolstered stocks in the Downeast region promise a prolific open-water fishing season as well. Early this spring, Donnell Pond in Franklin will be stocked with togue, more commonly known as lake trout, for the first time since 1998. Many other lakes and ponds in the region will see spring increases as well.
A longtime sport fisher himself, Burr is excited to provide the kind of fishing opportunities he remembers from his youth. One of his favorite fisheries is West Grand Lake in the town of Grand Lake Stream.
"The lake is remote and beautiful and there is just such a diversity of fish there - whitefish, cusk, trout, landlocked salmon - you always have a good chance of catching a big fish on the lake," he said.
Although Burr is optimistic about the future of Downeast fisheries, he is concerned by the increasing number of privatized lakes and ponds in the region. The recent controversy over public access to Branch Lake in Ellsworth that resulted in the cessation of all stocking of the fishery has raised serious concem with the Jonesboro IF&W office.
"The number one priority water in Hancock County is Branch Lake," said Burr of the fishery.
Because the state has been prohibited by the city of Ellsworth from building a replacement boat launch to allow public access to the lake, it cannot continue to stock it because there is no longer equitable public access to the body of water.
"It was really a great fishing opportunity. Wild salmon were being produced, but now its fish population is crashing - for people like myself and other Mainers here it's just a huge loss," said Burr.
The ice-fishing season opens, conditions permitting, on Jan. 1, 2008.
SOURCE: ELLSWORTH AMERICAN
Lakes: Echo Lake
Regions: Calais, Downeast
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