The Schoodic salmon snapshot

By V. Paul Reynolds

Not long after Shawna Stevens surprised herself and many others this winter by jigging a 6-pound Atlantic salmon (that’s right, Atlantic salmon) through the ice at Schoodic Lake near Milo, Jason Smith stepped forward with a photo of what could have been the same fish!

Smith, a 36-year old Milo resident and father of two, is a hobbyist who operates a deep-diving, underwater drone with a photographic capability. According to Smith, he and his drone have explored the depths of a number of Maine lakes and rivers, including Schoodic Lake, Moosehead Lake, Sebec Lake, Flagstaff Lake, Cold Stream Pond and many others. His footage of the so-called 249 foot deep “bowl” below Mt. Kineo at Moosehead Lake can be seen on his Youtube channel called  “Maine Freshwater Exploration Going Deep.” Smith also has a Facebook Page under the same name.

According to Maine regional fisheries biologist Kevin Dunham, Shawna Steven’s jigged salmon could be positively identified as an Atlantic salmon by virtue of a half moon punch on its adipose fin. So this fish, which ran up through tributaries flowing to the Penobscot River, was trapped in a fishway by fisheries personnel and marked for identification by a half moon “punch” out of its adipose fin.

Smith’s excellent underwater drone photograph of an Atlantic salmon in Schoodic Lake clearly shows a “punched” adipose fin. Could it be the same Atlantic salmon pulled through the ice by Shawna Stevens? Or is it a different fish? We may never be sure. If it is not, then this begets more questions: How many Atlantic salmon are making their way into other Maine lakes?

Understandably, Smith is fascinated with his drone’s capability and hopes to develop his skills and knowledge and perhaps work with fisheries researchers, or even parlay his undertaking into a cottage industry of some form.

Smith says that his drone is rated for 100 meters, or 328 feet. He plans soon to “fly” his drone to the bottom of Maine’s deepest lake, Sebago, which is 316 feet deep. Moosehead Lake is Maine’s second deepest lake at 249 feet.

Says Smith, “The spawning season was very interesting. Watching the fish interacting with each other and seeing landlocked salmon and lake trout congregating together in the same area at the same time was not something I expected to see. Getting some footage of salmon chasing each other and jousting was really neat to watch. Seeing how fish use and relate to different cover was interesting.  For fishermen, watching smelts swim through the water or basically seeing things from a fish point of view might help with your lure/fly selection as well as how you retrieve  it.”

Die-hard anglers may be wondering whether the day will come when these underwater drones replace the conventional fish finders, and whether there are other unanticipated possibilities when it comes to this technology? 

Stay tuned. Meanwhile, check out some of the remarkable underwater photos of Big Ole game fish taken by Jason Smith with his underwater drone.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide and host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books. Online purchase information is available at www.sportingjournal.com.

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