The Downeast Lakes Land Trust was pleased to welcome Regional Fisheries Biologist Greg Burr for an insightful conversation on the colonization of the upper St. Croix River watershed by largemouth bass over the past two years. “Someone is playing Johnny Appleseed,” said Mr. Burr when asked if the invasion of the non-native fish was accidental.
“The shallow weedy habitat of the Grand Falls Flowage favors largemouth over small mouth bass. We were already concerned about smallmouth recruitment there, which is why it is currently catch and release,” explained Mr. Burr.
The many Maine Guides who attended the evening peppered Mr. Burr with adroit questions regarding the potential spread of largemouth bass into West Grand Lake and on through the upper lakes. Mr. Burr indicated that while largemouth movement may be challenged by Little and Big Falls and held back for a while at the dam pool, he expects they will eventually become established throughout the watershed. Mr. Burr pointed out that West Grand Lake with its rocks and gravelly bottom tends to favor smallmouth bass breeding over largemouth. However, he added that largemouth are active year round, and don’t mind cold water lakes like West Grand.
Of course, in some local lakes, such as Pocomoonshine near Princeton, largemouth bass have long been established and become naturalized. Mr. Burr agreed with Maine Guide Dale Tobey who observed, “At some point, we will have to stop seeing these fish as a pest and shift over to seeing them as a resource.” Smallmouth bass were also introduced to the watershed, though long ago, and are now well established and important to the local economy. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife website says “Maine’s lakes and rivers have been plagued with an epidemic of illegal fish introductions that pose real and immediate threats to our native fish fauna.”
Mr. Burr did not shy away from discussing other emerging conservation and management issues, including stocking over wild populations and the proposed ban on soft plastic baits. “I don’t mind the late nights, or coming out to talk to groups like this,” said Mr. Burr in conclusion. “The more the public understands what we are doing, the better we can work together to protect our fisheries.”
The Downeast Lakes Land Trust regularly hosts speakers, sponsors workshops, and leads outdoor adventures that highlight the natural and cultural history of the Maine woods. These programs support the DLLT’s commitment to protecting both the environmental and economic health of the Downeast Lakes region. Visit their website to discover what is happening next.