Anglers sought for trout survey

Maine Audubon, Trout Unlimited and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) are seeking volunteer anglers to survey remote Maine ponds and coastal streams for brook trout this fishing season. Survey information collected by anglers will be used by the nonprofit organizations and IFW to help identify populations of brook trout to be eligible for conservation management practices.

2014 is the fourth year of the Brook Trout Survey Project. Maine is home to 97 percent of the intact wild brook trout pond habitat in the eastern United States. Brook trout require clean, cold water and pristine habitat to survive – the population health of brook trout is a key indicator of a healthy ecosystem that also indicates the health of other species, including moose, deer, otters, kingfishers, herons and osprey. The quality and abundance of Maine brook trout has declined in recent years because of the introduction of competing species. Brook trout are important to Maine and the nation’s ecological and sporting heritage and are also a valuable recreational and economic state resource.

Hundreds of remote ponds and coastal streams have never been surveyed by fisheries biologists nor have any record of being stocked with fish. “Identifying the ponds with native brook trout will greatly assist IFW in planning our conservation management strategies over the next several decades,” noted Merry Gallagher of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “The success of this project is entirely dependent on the data collected by volunteer anglers.” The project’s focus on remote ponds and coastal streams offers anglers a chance to explore new areas of the state. “Volunteers should be enthusiastic about fishing for brook trout, be comfortable in remote settings and have a sense of adventure!” noted Jeff Reardon of Trout Unlimited.

To date, 197 volunteer anglers have successfully surveyed 258 remote Maine ponds for which no data was previously available. IFW biologists have also conducted official surveys on 45 ponds that volunteers identified as brook trout ponds, and confirmed brook trout presence in 34 of these ponds. This number is expected to increase after IFW survey crews complete follow-up surveys on additional ponds this summer.

In 2014, the project is expanding to include coastal stream surveys along the Maine coast. Little is known about the distribution and life history of sea-run brook trout in Maine, so volunteers are needed to help identify watersheds containing this special and elusive fish. “Enthusiasm is already running high this year,” noted Amanda Moeser, the project’s coordinator at Maine Audubon. “The project’s success will depend on renewed participation from past volunteers and new participants. This is an exciting opportunity for people who enjoy fishing and exploring Maine’s outdoors to contribute to the conservation of native brook trout, a significant and unique resource for Maine.”

Volunteer anglers are needed to survey coastal streams ranging from Kennebunk to Lubec, along with 300-plus ponds in western and northern Maine. Surveys can be completed any time before Sept. 30, 2014. Project partners will provide maps, data sheets and instructions on how to survey ponds and streams. To sign up to volunteer, please contact Amanda Moeser at (207) 781-6180 ext. 207 or amoeser@maineaudubon.org. For more information about the Brook Trout Survey project, visit maineaudubon.org/brooktrout.