Catch and kill bass derby stirs up a debate among fishermen

By Julie Harris, Bangor Daily News Staff

Briar Lyons Boetsch and her husband Aaron were fishing a cove in Moosehead Lake this spring when they found one that had smallmouth bass.

The couple bought Northeast Carry General Store last year from longtime owners Ed and Shirley Raymond, and spend as much time as they can on the lake fishing.

Alarmed at the seemingly large number of bass, they decided to hold their first Catch and Kill Bass Derby to help protect the native trout and salmon fisheries in Moosehead Lake. What they didn’t count on was the heated debate that would rain down on them.

Briar Boetsch posted the tournament Friday night on the Northeast Carry General Store’s Facebook page, and by Monday there was a full-fledged argument between bass fishermen and people who want that species out of Moosehead in the comments associated with the post. 

Salmon and trout purists argued that bass compete with the other species for food, and take over the lake. Other fishermen said the species can coexist — the bass in the warmer areas and the salmon and trout in the colder lake water. Still others were insulted, saying there was an insinuation that bass are trash fish and the people who seek them are no better. Another group was upset that the fish might be wasted.

Boetsch has answered people’s questions, but not jumped into the argument.

“Our goal is to help the health of the lake and the native species (in Moosehead),” she said.

The couple has a permit from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, which supports the idea, Boetsch said Monday. 

Bass are managed as an invasive fish with no size or bag limit in the northern zone because they have a negative impact on native fish, according to Mark Latti, communications director for MDIF&W.

The tournament will be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 15, on Moosehead. Aaron will be at the Northeast Carry boat launch, where people should bring their contest fish. There is no registration fee, but donations toward the prizes will be accepted. The fish must be dead to be counted as part of the derby.

People may take their fish home after registering them for the derby, or the Boetsches will use them somehow. The couple could offer a fish fry or bury and compost them for garden fertilizer, she said, but no final decision was made by Monday.

“We need to not attract bears with them,” she said.

The state introduced smallmouth bass into Cochnewagon Pond and Phillips and Cobbosseecontee lakes in 1869. They now are in 432 lakes, including Moosehead, in Maine. Largemouth bass are in 246 lakes and were first introduced in 1897 in Forbes Pond in Gouldsboro.

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