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Coalition hopes to halt bass migration toward Rangeley

 

By Terry Karkos , Staff Writer

Thursday, April 19, 2007 PHOTO GALLERY

 

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BETHEL - A coalition of anglers and others will attempt to decrease the number of smallmouth bass migrating toward the Rangeley region's brook trout fishery.

 

About 40 fishing enthusiasts at Wednesday night's Mollyockett Chapter of Trout Unlimited meeting in Ordway Hall at Gould Academy in Bethel were briefed on the plan.

 

Years ago, bass were illegally introduced into Lake Umbagog, which straddles the Maine-New Hampshire line. About 25 years later, they outgrew the lake and began migrating via Rapid River to Pond in the River, upsetting brook trout anglers worried that the voracious bass would obliterate prime brookie fishing waters.

 

Working with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Florida Power and Light biologists Bill Hanson and Kyle Murphy said they hope the flushing action during bass spawning in June will weaken the fish to the point where they can't survive in the winter.

 

"The intent is to delay smallmouth bass spawning as late as possible so we can, potentially, take a year (of fish fry) out," Murphy said.

 

Hanson said the intent of the 12-hour flow bursts from Middle Dam at Lower Richardson Lake in Township C will force the fish to spawn later in the summer. That means they wouldn't have enough time to build up the fat reserves needed to get them through the winter, he said.

 

"We know we won't have any impact on the bass in Pond in the River. Bass are well established in Pond in the River, so that makes it difficult to get them out," Hanson said.

 

Removing bass through electro-fishing hasn't produced good results.

 

"If you take Pond in the River and catch (bass) there and throw them in a barrel and kill them, for the first few years, it looks like you're doing something good. But, you're only eliminating their natural competition and then, they rebound in even greater numbers," Hanson said.

 

Two attempts last year with highly experimental flow bursts produced inconclusive results due to heavy rains, Murphy said.

 

"It has to happen when bass fry are just emerging off the nests, which is in the first part of June. The timing of it is critical," he added.

 

 

The flow would cause Rapid River to gradually rise a foot, which is why FPL will do the bursts at night when anglers aren't on the river.

 

"It would be bad PR to wash fishermen downstream," Hanson said after the program.

 

Now that's funny.... Jim J

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