On Nov. 6, MDIF&W fisheries biologists and engineers headed to northern Maine to reclaim Wadleigh Pond. The reclamation was a necessary step to save a unique population of arctic char from becoming extirpated in Wadleigh by illegally introduced rainbow smelts.

Maine is the only state in the lower 48 that is home to native arctic char, a rare species of trout that is also referred to as blueback trout.  Arctic char only occur in 14 of Maine’s 6,000 lakes and ponds.

Char are feisty game fish, but they do not compete well with introduced fish species. Sudden shifts in the fragile balance of the char’s environment nearly always mean decimation of the char population, especially when the introduced species is the highly competitive rainbow smelt.

The smelts were first discovered in Wadleigh Pond in 2006, and the char population has been declining since. Based on previous experience with illegally introduced smelts devastating the char population in Big Reed Pond (T8 R10 WELS) just two years ago, MDIF&W fisheries biologists immediately began planning for the only effective method that could potentially save the char: reclamation of the pond using the plant-derived piscicide Rotenone.

For six months, fisheries biologists collected native adult char and brook trout from Wadleigh Pond and transported them to Mountain Springs Trout Farm in Frenchville, where they would be cared for and spawned to restock Wadleigh Pond after the reclamation.

MDIF&W spent another six months applying for and obtaining the proper environmental permits and holding informational meetings about the upcoming reclamation.

On Nov. 6, the chemical was applied in fewer than 48 hours despite frigid temperatures and related complications, such as the equipment, chemicals, and fingers all freezing up.

For the next few weeks, fisheries biologists will continue to visit Wadleigh Pond regularly, monitoring the chemical concentration in the pond and attempting to determine the success of the mission. The pond will be assessed again following ice out in the spring. If the reclamation is successful, MDIF&W intends to restock Wadleigh Pond with the native brook trout and char removed from that pond, and their progeny, in October 2013.

With winter imminent and anglers’ thoughts turning to ice fishing, MDIF&W would like to remind anglers that it is illegal to dump any bait into the water after fishing.

For more information, go to www.mefishwildlife.com.

Image courtesy Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

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