Moosehead Lake region fishing report
The fall offers fisheries biologists a unique opportunity to assess the status of coldwater gamefish populations. Brook trout, salmon and lake trout are preparing to spawn as the water temperatures cool and the days grow shorter.
Biologists can set nets to intercept them on their journey to known spawning congregations, thus allowing us to gather important information about growth and survival.
For example, the best method we have to monitor the salmon population in Moosehead Lake is our late October trapnetting at the Junction Wharf. Each spring, year old hatchery landlocked salmon are stocked at the Junction. From here they spread out over the vast lake, but as they become sexually mature, they home back to this stocking site in the fall. We typically set a net in the Junction in mid-October and tend it for up to two weeks. Fish are measured, weighed, examined for fin clips and evidence of hooking wounds and then released alive back into the lake.
We have been able to monitor the ups and downs in salmon growth by routinely netting this stocking site since the late 1960s. Long-time anglers on the lake will remember some of the best years on the big lake, in terms of salmon, were back in the late 1970s through the mid-1980s. These “good ole days” were the result of the elimination of the lake trout stocking program and a reduction in the salmon stocking that allowed the smelt population to expand and provide more food and better growth for our gamefish. Unfortunately, a burgeoning wild lake trout population in the early 1990s caused the smelt population to come crashing down and salmon growth suffered.
We’ve worked hard to reduce the lake trout population over the past eight years in an effort to improve the smelt population and growing conditions for our gamefish. The no size or bag limit on smaller lake trout for several years, the creation of the winter togue derby and the slight reduction in the salmon stocking have all contributed to some very good news from this year’s fall work!
The salmon growth and “fatness” we recorded over the past few weeks at the Junction are among the best ever recorded on the lake. The fish are longer and heavier. There have only been a handful of years since the inception of the trapnetting operation at the Junction where the salmon were in better shape.
We are very pleased with the progress to date, but we know there will be hills and valleys in the future. We are committed to keeping a close eye on this fishery so we can make adjustments to maintain these good conditions. Managing fish is not like a Ron Popeil oven where you can simply “Set it and forget it!,” since Mother Nature can quickly send us a curveball at any time.