About a month ago, my son and I took a trip to one of our favorite trout streams. You probably know one just like it. It sits on the side of a mountain. There are no banks to speak of, just rock. A large glacier not only scoured the top of the mountain, it also scraped off large pieces of rock, ground them smooth, then deposited them along the side of the mountain and into the valley.

Over thousands of years the stream has cut a path through the mostly granite ledge that comprises the mountain. Where there are cracks or fissures, the stream has found a path. It has carved out waterfalls in the form or steps in some areas and carved deep pools in others.

The area we like to fish drops approximately 450 feet over the course of a mile. The stream is well protected, its banks lined by stands of hardwoods and softwood, the forest changing as the mountain and the stream flattens out.

There is no shortage of spots to fish. You can fish the deep pools, the undercut banks, or even some of the pocket riffles. Some years, there is a beaver dam with a productive backwater. And, generally, there is no shortage of fish.

To me this is brook trout fishing at its best. We fish for small native brook trout that inhabit the stream. Over the course of nearly 40 years, I don’t think I have caught a trout over 9 inches in the stream. Most of the fish are in the 4- to 7-inch range, and sparkle in colors unlike any other trout I have ever seen.

The fish take the color of their environment. While trout do migrate in a stream, it’s clear that these either do not or cannot due to the waterfalls and steep drops. Catch one in an area where the spruce and fir are thick and moss covers most of the rocks, and the fish have a deep, dark color, which make their blues, oranges and yellows even more striking. Catch one in a more open, sandy section of the stream and they are much lighter in color, more of a golden hue.

We had a great day a month ago. We each caught and released over 20 fish. Gone are the days of everyone coming home with their limit, but it is still every bit of fun to catch those small, feisty fish.

I went back there last week to take a look and see how the stream was faring with the drought we are having. After the 2002 drought, it took several years before the fishing came back.

With the low water, the fish weren’t dispersed through the stream. Undercut trunks of trees stood dry and bare. Runs between pools were shallow.

When I did find the trout, there were a lot of them. They were in the deeper pools, and for now there were a lot of them.

“When water levels get low and the water gets warmer, trout seek out the cooler, deeper areas in a stream,” says Jim Pellerin, a fisheries biologist for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “And when they are all concentrated in a small area, they are more susceptible to predation.”

Birds, and other animals such as raccoons, mink and otter will feast on congregated trout.

“We have even seen a few streams dry up between the pools,” says Pellerin.

Low water levels and warm temperatures can be trouble for brook trout and other coldwater gamefish. In ponds and lakes with marginal water quality for trout, these fish can get squeezed into a very narrow area of cold, oxygenated water where they can survive. Some years, that area disappears, and the fish do as well.

“In stocked ponds, we can restock fish the next year, and it is like it never happened. In wild trout ponds, that can happen, and it will wipe out two or three age classes of fish and it can take a while for the pond to recover,” says Pellerin.

In an effort to protect trout, Pellerin says that some states will actually close rivers to fishing if the temperature gets above a certain level in order to protect trout. While trout may be able to survive warmer water temperatures, many times they can not even survive the stress associated with catch and release.

Cooler days are ahead. The fall brings more rain that will raise stream levels giving trout more areas to spawn.

Maine is blessed with an invaluable wild brook trout resource, and it is summers like these that show what a precarious existence this truly is.

Mark Latti is the former public information officer for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, a Registered Maine Guide and a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association. He can be reached at:

[email protected]


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