“Thinking big,” the article on Page A1 Monday about fishermen catching large lake trout on Sebago Lake, was impressive. But the article only told part of the lake trout story.

After lake trout were intentionally stocked in the mid-1970s, the population began to spawn and grow. The regional biologist at that time had made an incorrect assumption: that lake trout occupied a separate trophic zone in the lake and would not compete with the native landlocked salmon.

But the voracious predators soon began to impact native fish, including cusk and brook trout, and by the 1990s had overpopulated. They decimated the smelt population to a point where the salmon population crashed. And they ate the young salmon, causing further decline in salmon numbers. Since then, the salmon have struggled to maintain the wild population that evolved in these waters.

As noted in the article, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife has changed regulations, encouraging fishermen to remove the smaller lake trout; there’s no daily limit on fish under 23 inches. In 2019, they raised the slot to 26 inches because there were still too many lake trout in that size range.

They really want fishermen to kill fish less than 26 inches. That is the best thing for the lake ecology, the salmon and the lake trout, too. If all fishermen would do that, lake trout numbers would be lowered to a more sustainable level and the smelt populations would rebound. The salmon will grow larger and there would be more of them. Although it may not seem logical at first thought, the number of large lake trout will actually increase, too.

Creel surveys indicate many fishermen release smaller lake trout. That needs to change. The biologists were on Sebago this past winter asking fishermen to remove all fish under 26 inches.

Chris Ricardi

New Gloucester

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