April 20, 2019

The mild autumn weather was very, very good to the ducks

Last fall’s serving of soft weather didn’t do much for Maine’s duck hunters, but apparently it benefited the swift-winged fowl. In January, 92,587 ducks and 2,280 Canada geese were recorded by state wildlife biologist Pat Corr and federal pilot-biologist Jim Goldsberry, who spent four days soaring above Maine’s coastal waters.

The biologists were participating in the annual winter waterfowl inventory that includes all Atlantic Flyway states.

Not surprisingly, eider ducks were the most plentiful with a total of 49,003, about 2,000 more than last year. But it was both surprising and encouraging – regardless of the mild-weather, open-water factor – that a marked increase was observed in the numbers of duck species, particularly black ducks.

The aerial census recorded 20,379 blacks, a double-barreled increase over last year’s tally of about 10,000. This winter’s count of the wild and wary ducks was also the highest since 1975, when 30,000 were “bagged.”

The total number of mallards, 1,248, tripled last year’s tally and most other duck species showed similar increases. Scoters, however, dropped to about half the numbers recorded in 1994. As for geese, the head count of 2,280 Canadas was a substantial increase over last year’s winter inventory.

Without question, mild weather was a factor in producing those magnum waterfowl numbers. Nevertheless, reading them produced a limit of satisfaction.

The weather couldn’t have been better for last weekend’s Schoodic Lake Ice Fishing Derby, the attendance of which was rivaled only by Children’s Day at the Bangor Fair.

Following are the anglers who landed respective first, second, and third prizes in the fish divisions of the popular derby that, this year, included Sebois and Endless lakes:

Landlocked salmon: Mike Cilles, Orland, 3 pounds-10 1/2 ounces, 22 inches; Henry Roy, Brownville, 3-0, 22 1/4 inches; Madeline Dyer, Elliot, 2-8, 20 1/2 inches.

Brook trout: Tom Washburn, Milo, 1 pound-5 ounces, 15 inches; Fred Pete Sr., Lincoln, 1-4, 14 inches; Steve Sudsbury, Dexter, 1-3, 15 1/2 inches.

Togue: Martin Peters, Bangor, 12 pounds-15 ounces, 32 1/2 inches; Eugene Kelly, Monroe, 2-13 ounces, 18 inches; Dave Worcester, Brownville, 2-12 ounces, 20 1/2 inches.

Cusk: first and second prizes only, Keith Strout, Milo, 6 pounds-9 ounces, 28 3/4 inches; David Leeman, Milo, 4-5, 26 1/4 inches.

White perch: Bert Farrar, Brownville, 1 pound-6 ounces, 13 1/4 inches; Mike Heath, Brownville, 1-2, 12 1/2 inches.

Pickerel: Jacques Toussaint, Fort Kent, 3 pounds-14 ounces, 25 1/2 inches; Allan Cole, Brewer, 3-10 ounces, 24 1/2 inches.

The odd fish prize – the winner’s name was drawn from a hat – was snagged by Brian Kimball of East Millinocket who entered a chub. The largest fish prizes, for boys and girls 16 or younger, were won by Mike Heath, 16, of Brownville and Laura Hanson, 13, of Brunswick.

Charles Larson of Brownville caught the derby’s grand prize, a 1995 Polaris Indy 440 snowmobile. Considering that 489 fish were registered in the derby, you could say flags were flying from start to finish.

On March 2, the Legislature’s Fisheries and Wildlife Committee will hear public comments on LD 384, a bill “to Install Fish Screens in the West Grand Lake Dam.” The hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m., Room 107, State Office Building, Augusta.

You probably know that controversy has been constant regarding the placement of screens in the dam. Grand Lake Stream, flowing below the dam, is regarded as one of Maine’s top landlocked salmon streams. More than a few lake fishermen, however, as well as some members of the West Grand Lake Guide’s Association, feel removal of the screens in the dam is the reason West Grand’s salmon fishing ain’t what it used to be. They contend that the absence of the screens allows salmon to leave the lake but the fish don’t return, although the dam has a fishway.

Ron Brokaw, regional biologist at Fisheries Region C headquarters in Machias, attributes the decline in the lake’s fishing and the decrease in the size of the fish, particularly during the past two years, to an expanding togue population and overstocking of salmon. The two factors increased pressure on the lake’s smelt population, which was integral to the salmon fishery.

LD 384 requires the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to install the screens. Whether you prefer to fish for salmon by wading or trolling, the place to run your reel regarding screens in the West Grand Lake dam is in Augusta on March 2.

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