GREENVILLE, Maine — A two-year study of the wild brook trout population in Moosehead Lake will begin later this year when a fish weir is constructed on Socatean Stream.
The project is a collaborative effort among the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, NextEra Energy Resources (formerly Florida Power and Light Energy), Plum Creek and the Natural Resource Education Center at Moosehead.
Maine is considered the “jewel” of the eastern range because it has the most intact wild brook trout populations of any state in the Northeast, according to Tim Obrey, Maine DIF&W fisheries biologist. Maine is the only state with large lakes — more than 5,000 acres — of self-sustaining populations of brook trout, he said Thursday.
“Everybody would like to have more brook trout and this is our attempt to sort of better understand the wild brook trout in Moosehead, and what we learn here could probably be applied to a lot of other places as well,” Obrey said.
A similar venture was done in the 1950s when former fisheries biologist Roger Auclair constructed a fish weir in Socatean Stream and studied the fish population. Obrey said this study would be similar to that project. He hopes to have the weir constructed this summer and in operation through the fall.
Since Auclair conducted the earlier study, yellow perch, white perch and bass have been introduced into the lake illegally and that, along with a change in the demographics in the Moosehead region, prompted another study, according to Obrey.
“It’s 50 years later, it’s a good chance to kind of go back and reassess where we are with brook trout on Socatean Stream which used to be one of the major brook trout spawning tributaries for Moosehead,” Obrey said.
“We’re quite certain that because of the introduction of yellow perch that the numbers of trout are lower than what they were in the ’50s,” the fisheries biologist said. Yellow perch compete for the same type of habitat as trout. He said a brook trout might spawn about 500 eggs whereas a yellow perch might spawn hundreds of thousands of eggs. “They just outnumber the brook trout and push them out of the good habitat.”
Among the objectives of the study, Obrey said biologists will study the movements of wild brook trout in the stream, their interactions with other fish species, factors that influence their spawning survival, determine areas where they may winter, and the effectiveness of regulations for brook trout management.
NextEra Energy Resources donated $30,000 that, along with $2,600 from the Natural Resource Education Center at Moosehead, will fund the project. DIF&W will supply staff time and equipment. Plum Creek has donated $2,250 in in-kind services. The company will build a road to the stream so equipment can be moved to the location, Obrey said.
The DIF&W also is seeking grants of about $25,000 to purchase radio tags, passive integrated transponder tags and other equipment. The radio tags or transmitters will alert biologists to where the wild brook trout are in the lake.
“We are the last stronghold for wild brook trout and [this] represents a unique opportunity for research to improve the knowledge base and to promote better stewardship and restoration projects across the Northeast,” Obrey said.