The problem of illegal fish introductions in Maine’s fisheries costs the state the thousands of dollars spent on reclamation projects as well as the cost of state biologists’ time chasing down reported introductions.
One day, it could cost the state eco-tourism dollars if the problem results in the loss of the state’s prized wild brook trout fisheries.
According to a 2006 study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Maine’s freshwater game fisheries bring in upwards of $300 million annually. And a separate 2006 study by the service showed that 59 percent of Maine’s 303,000 licensed anglers preferred fishing for trout.
A 1991 University of Maine study, the school’s most recent survey of fishermen, showed an overwhelming 89 percent of resident fishermen preferred to fish for brook trout in rivers and streams, while another 65 percent gave brookies the nod in lakes and ponds.
Meanwhile, the problem of non-native fish being moved around costs the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife every time biologists try to stop the spread of a new introduction into a water body.
For example, biologists on occasion spend money trying to reclaim ponds where wild fish populations are compromised by illegal introductions of non-native fish.
Big Reed Pond — in Township 8, Range 10, just north of Baxter State Park — cost IFW an estimated $230,000 in 2010 to remove rainbow smelts that threatened the native wild Arctic char, which are unique in Maine.
The project has been a success so far. But reclamation projects do not always end well.
After the reclamation of Durepo Lake in Limestone cost the state $10,000 to remove largemouth bass in 2001, smallmouth bass were discovered in 2002, where they remain today, said regional biologist Frank Frost in Ashland.
At the very least, biologists spend staff time trying to hold at bay the more problematic non-native populations they can’t eradicate.
Each spring at Pushaw Lake in Old Town, regional biologist Gordon Kramer and his staff net spawning northern pike to remove as many as possible so they don’t run up the Penobscot River to wild brook trout waters, including those in Baxter State Park.
But there is little hope of success in this effort.
“We’re not winning the battle there,” said state fisheries research biologist Merry Gallagher.
Yet Kramer said the effort to fight non-native introductions by state biologists is ongoing.
“If you add up all the time in the electrofishing boat, all the time following leads, and phone calls, it’s significant. It’s more than 10 percent of our time,” Kramer said.
Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: