June 15, 2012

Diamonds in the rough

Volunteers are journeying into the backwoods to help the state discover uncharted brook trout ponds.

By Deirdre Fleming dfleming@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

EMBDEN - Jerry Derosier spent four hours Tuesday driving to one of the state's undocumented brook trout ponds; a full hour getting his fishing gear sorted and hiking into Mud Pond; and then two hours fishing the unstocked water body. All for naught, at least as far as the fishing goes.

click image to enlarge

Jerry Derosier of Wells fishes Mud Pond in Embden in the late afternoon Tuesday. He fished for two hours in a float tube and caught nothing, which is what the biologists running the Maine Brook Trout Pond Survey program expected. But Derosier’s trip saved state biologists from having to travel to the pond.

Deirdre Fleming/Staff Writer

click image to enlarge

Jerry Derosier hikes in a quarter-mile from the road to Mud Pond in Embden to survey it for the state. Derosier is one of the volunteers who are helping the state on its brook trout pond survey.

Deirdre Fleming/Staff Writer

Additional Photos Below

But in the mind of a lifelong Maine fisherman, it's all good, because the day will come when Derosier hits paydirt.

"Last year I caught fish in six of the 19 waters I went to. But one was what I would call a hidden gem. We caught 11- to 14-inch (wild) brook trout. And they were really aggressive. When the hatches started and they started feeding, a few were jumping out of the water," Derosier said.

For the second year, Derosier and other volunteers are helping state biologists locate undocumented wild brook trout ponds. Last year 81 participated in the inaugural volunteer effort, and the prospects for that many anglers scouring the state is just as high, said the survey's coordinator, Amanda Moeser at Maine Audubon.

The program, run by Maine Audubon, Trout Unlimited and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, was deemed a success last year when volunteer anglers helped uncover as many as 43 potential wild brook trout waters that are not on the state's list.

Anglers caught brook trout in 24 ponds, observed brook trout in seven ponds, and reported wild brookies present in 14 other ponds in which they either saw fish rise or heard of fish caught there. Of those 45 ponds, 43 have public access and will be investigated by state biologists.

The survey work saved the state countless man hours or simply did a job that wouldn't get done; and it had the desired effect among the fishermen.

"In 15 years, it is the most impressive volunteer effort I have witnessed," said Jeff Reardon, the New England Conservation Director with Trout Unlimited.

For the fishermen's part, the chance to discover an undocumented wild brook trout trophy water is the incentive for these backwoods, bushwhacking missions that can take up to an entire day and end without a single fish caught.

But the work is not easy, as proven last week by Derosier's journey from Wells to Mud Pond, an hour northwest of Waterville.

He printed up an aerial view of the pond on Google Maps and plotted his course from the nearest road. But he had no idea what he'd find or how easy it would be to get to the pond.

As it was, the quarter-mile hike in proved a snap, with an old logging trail providing easy footing and plenty of room to carry a float tube.

It's not always so simple.

"When I surveyed the pond on Coburn Mountain in Jackman, it meant climbing 3,800 feet to get to two ponds. That's near Jackman," Derosier said. "In those mountain ponds, we didn't catch fish. But I know there are fish in there. There's a canoe on the shore. And I talked to a local who told me there are fish there."

That was the case Tuesday as well. Derosier fished for two hours with both a sinking line and a floating line. He tied on two flies -- an olive wooly bugger and an Adams parachute dry fly -- and even cast his spinning rod for good measure. He didn't see a single fish rise.

Still, he fished in silence at the undeveloped pond on a day when the rain held off and sun rays fell across the water. He left inspired.

"I have a bad habit of doing too many ponds in a day," said Derosier as he prepared for the two-hour drive home. "The most I did last year was four ponds. I remember when we totaled up the 15 ponds I was able to get to, me and my brother put in 300 hours. But it works out to be roughly 30 percent of the ponds on our list had trout."

Then, somewhere on the road to Skowhegan, Derosier stopped, turned around his pickup truck and decided the reconnaissance mission wasn't yet over.

"I think the guy in the fly shop back there might be in. So I'm going to go back and ask him about the pond," he said.

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

dfleming@pressherald.com

Twitter: Flemingpph

 

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Additional Photos

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Part of the Maine Brook Trout Pond Survey requires hiking into remote ponds, something the volunteer fishermen participating in the survey enjoy doing. Last year, Jerry Derosier of Wells managed to survey 19 ponds for the state.

Deirdre Fleming/Staff Writer

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For the last two years, volunteers have been helping state biologists locate undocumented brook trout ponds.

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