The findings of a new survey may ratchet up what state biologists know about native wild brook trout. And the state is going to the real experts — the anglers — for help.

The Brook Trout Pond Survey Project that started this summer and concludes at the end of the month will check as many as 187 wild brook trout waters in western Maine. If those small ponds have no wild trout, they can be crossed off the state’s list of questions. Where wild brookies are found, previously unknown waters will be added to the state’s brook trout list.

In just three months the project has been a success, said Maine Audubon project coordinator Amanda Moeser.

“Over 60 ponds have been surveyed so far. And we have plans to do another 75. And anglers are finding brook trout in about one out of every three ponds surveyed,” Moeser said.

With so many tiny remote ponds in the north Maine woods, biologists can’t keep up with surveying and rechecking to see if they have wild populations. This pilot project should open a door to a faster, even fun way to find out, because the anglers signing up want to help.

“The volunteers are the rugged type,” Moeser said. “It’s a lot of work running into bogs, and running into leeches, but they really love it. We tell them what kind of data we need, and then they just go out and do it.”

Kelly Kellenberger of Rockwood is one. He enjoys the bushwhacking up around Moosehead Lake. And where he is searching for wild brook trout waters is all new ground that he’s happy to travel.

“We’ve lived up here 31 years. I’ve fished the area and hunted it. I know it really well,” Kellenberger said. “Most of these ponds aren’t accessible. I have to go in the first day to find the pond and find the easiest access to it. Then I carry a kayak in, sometimes a quarter of a mile carry-in.”

Bruce Davis got involved because he’s seen wild brook trout disappear during his half century as a fisherman in Maine.

A Master Maine Guide for 40 years who prefers fishing in the forestland to the east of Moosehead Lake, Davis said many of his clients prefer the wild brookies.

“People throw bass in them and one species or another soon devours the native fish,” Davis said. “I thought if we could go back and look into the wild ponds, we could try to protect them for our children and grandchildren.

“Some of those isolated ponds are spring fed, there is no inlet. There is absolutely no chance of that fish being altered in any way. They are a truly natural resource.”

Davis recalls fishing at the trout ponds on the way to Holeb Pond up near Jackman. As an 8-year-old, he’d cast and hook into native brook trout without trouble. Not today.

“In the ’90s I tried to repeat that and couldn’t get a rise,” Davis said.

The brook trout survey has hooked more than 200 avid anglers already.

A collaboration among Maine Audubon, the Maine Council of Trout Unlimited and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the project is being conducted first in the Rangeley and Greenville region, with the hope to expand it.

Kellenberger said one of the three remote ponds he has surveyed has wild brook trout.

In three months, Davis found wild brook trout in two of the seven ponds he’s surveyed.

And they can’t wait to check more this fall.

“If I had found out about it earlier, I’d have done more. If they continue it next year, I’ll definitely do it again,” Kellenberger said.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

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