Sign of the season: Hatcheries stocking fish in local waters
Around this time of year, trucks from the state’s fish hatcheries begin to visit plenty of fishable waters, disgorging thousands of brook trout and landlocked salmon that will provide fishing opportunities to Mainers for months.
While fishing for stocked fish isn’t for everyone, plenty of folks have come to depend on those stocking efforts and keep a close eye on the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s list of waters that have already been stocked.
Frank Frost, the DIF&W regional fisheries biologist in Region G, based in Ashland, explained the rationale behind the state’s stocking efforts.
“Stocking remains a tool we use in areas where wild fisheries are not possible or have performed so poorly in the past they supported no fishing,” Frost said. “It’s important to remember that stocking creates fishing opportunity where there would be none otherwise.”
And Frost encourages anglers to take advantage of those stocked waters.
“Some of the reasons to fish stocked waters is that you can normally do so within a short distance from where you live; evenings after work or short weekend trips are possible with stocking programs,” he said. “Also, access must be available, so if we do stock a water the public does have an opportunity to get there. The obvious reason to fish stocked waters is that densities of trout can be quite high, depending on the objectives of the program, so anglers can have great success with little effort.”
Up around Greenville, in Region E, regional fisheries biologist Tim Obrey reported earlier this week that the weather was still chilly — about 35 degrees, and Moosehead Lake is still covered with ice. But spring is coming. Honest.
“The hatchery trucks will start rolling up here in the next week or two,” Obrey said. “The West Outlet on Route 15 just south of Rockwood will be a great place to fish. The flow is stable below the dam, and the brook trout will hang out there for a while. Anglers might also pick up a salmon below the dam.
And Obrey offered up Mill Brook and Bear Brook in the Sebec area, as well as the Sebec River, as other good early spots to target.
“The Piscataquis River along Route 15 in Dover-Foxcroft and Guilford will be stocked when water settles down a little,” he said. “Below the Brown’s Mill Dam and the covered bridge [in Guilford] will be very good fishing.”
Over in Enfield, Region F, regional fisheries biologist Kevin Dunham had a few suggestions for anglers looking for a spot to target stocked fish.
“Fall yearlings can be utilized to create a winter ice fishery. Stocked fish that don’t get harvested during the ice fishing season make for some great early ice-out fishing, and some survive into early summer, increasing angling opportunities,” he said. “One such water is Flatiron Pond in Cedar Lake Township, generally considered a productive summer white perch fishery, [where] we are hoping to establish a winter brook trout fishery to complement the summer use.”
Dunham said the DIF&W has been stocking fall yearling brook trout there since 2016 and have not heard feedback from many anglers. He would like that to change, and urged anyone fishing Flatiron Pond this spring and early summer to call the Region F office (207-732-4131) to let biologists know how the fishing has been.
There are other options available for children, too.
“If stream flows are too high, but you’d like to take a child fishing, a couple of area ‘kids only’ ponds are the place to go. Harris Pond [Milo Farm Pond] in Milo, and the Edwards Family Kids Fishing Pond in Lincoln have been freshly stocked with brook trout,” he said. “[These are] just two of the more than 800 waters statewide stocked by our hatchery program.”
David Howatt, the regional biologist in Region D, based in Strong, had a few suggestions for targeting stocked fish in a region that also holds plenty of native and wild trout waters.
“A few of stocked waters that should be great brook trout fishing this spring are Grindstone Pond in Kingfield, Harvey Pond in Madrid, Hills Pond in Perkins Plantation,” he said. “All three are in Franklin County and fairly easy to access (getting into Grindstone Pond might be a little “iffy” right now due to mud season).”
The waters haven’t been stocked yet, but will receive spring-yearling trout later this month at a heavy rate — about 20 fish per acre, he said. And the rules allow for the use of worms on all three waters.
“Also, Pinnacle Pond in Kingfield and Tibbitts Pond in Concord Township should be good,” he said. “They will also be stocked soon but have the S-9 special regulation, allowing only anglers under 16 years of age or anglers holding a complimentary fishing license to fish. These would be a couple of great waters to take a kid fishing. They are open to worm fishing but with a two-fish bag limit.”
Finally, a tip for downtown Bangor anglers: Hatchery trucks were due to visit several locations on Kenduskeag Stream downstream from Bullseye Bridge on Friday. That means that hundreds of brook trout are now available for those who want to fish for them.