Outdoor News

April 2019
Edited by V. Paul Reynolds

April is – depending upon whether you are an optimist or a pessimist – the month of the Seasonal Awakening or the month of the Big Mud. Even the pessimist can take heart that at least in April there is light at the end of the tunnel. For our hard-pressed deer population and other wild critters, April can be a make or break month. An early green up can make the difference for them between survival or death. Most outdoor folks take enjoyment in the slow but inexorable coming of spring – the budding, the smell of damp earth, and the formations of geese winging north. Fishing can be slow, especially when winter ice still hugs the stream banks and the biting north wind discourages all but the heartiest boat anglers. There are some good things in Maine in April, though: turkey season is near and camps can be opened without bugs to deal with. So bring on April, and then we can embrace May with all of the real blessings of spring in Maine.

CAPTION FOR PHOTO ABOVE: Maine Game Warden Tony Gray, was promoted this winter to the position of Corporal to lead the Maine Warden Service Dive Team.  

Club News

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Maine - Female Snowmobiler Killed In Wayne

The Maine Warden Service is investigating Maine’s ninth fatal snowmobile crash.

 Martha Carroll, age 56, of Brighton, Massachusetts was killed when the snowmobile she was operating crashed into the trees at a high rate of speed on the west shore of Wilson Pond in Wayne at approximately 5:45 p.m. March 2.

 Carroll was operating her boyfriend’s 2002 Polaris 700 snowmobile on Wilson Pond and wearing a ski-type helmet at the time of the crash. The initial investigation indicates that inexperience, speed and alcohol all appear to be factors in the crash.

Maine - Berwick Sledder Killed

A Berwick man has died following a Valentine’s Day snowmobiling incident in that town. James Reagan, 59, died Saturday, February 23rd at Portsmouth Regional Hospital where he was being treated after breaking through thin ice on February 14th. Reagan had been operating a snowmobile with a passenger, his 25-year-old nephew, Trevor Reagan. Both men broke through thin ice on Salmon Falls River just before 6:00 PM, the machine sank to the bottom.

 After breaking through the ice, both men made it back onto the ice and fell through a second time as they neared shore. Once on shore, James Reagan became unresponsive. It is believed Reagan suffered a medical event and was being treated at Portsmouth Regional Hospital when he died. Reagan’s snowmobile, a 1998 Polaris CX 700, was removed by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on February 15th as the river is a public water supply. Reagan’s death makes this Maine’s eighth snowmobile related fatality this season.

 The Maine Warden Service reminds all riders to be sure of ice conditions before travelling on any waterway.

Maine - Bay State Sledder Dies After Crash

A Massachusetts man has died following a February 22 snowmobile crash. In a previous MDIFW news release from February 23, it was stated that Duane Carter, 55, of Spencer Massachusetts remained in critical condition at a Bangor Hospital following a crash near Stacyville. Duane Carter has now died.

 Carter had been riding with a group on ITS 83, a portion of Swift Brook Road last Friday evening.  Carter and a friend, Keith Sanford, 47, from Benedicta, failed to negotiate a curve on the ITS trail. This caused Carter to collide with the rear of Sanford’s snowmobile. Carter was thrown from his 2016 Ski Doo. Both men were initially transported to Millinocket Hospital. Carter was then transferred to Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. This is Maine’s seventh fatal snowmobile related crash this season.

 The following data represents the last ten snowmobile seasons and includes fatality numbers and registration totals. Also included is Maine’s deadliest season on record which occurred in 2002/03 when Maine saw 16 fatal snowmobile crashes. The leading contributing factor in these crashes has been speed, this year is no exception. The Maine Warden Service continues to urge riders to slow down. Riders must leave appropriate time and distances while riding to negotiate other riders, trail intersections and turns as well as obstacles.  

10-Year Maine snowmobile fatality statistics

Season        ----     Fatalities     ---     Snowmobile registration totals by thousand

2009/10    ---       3        ---              86k
2010/11    ---       4        ---              91k
2011/12     ---      10        ---            62K
2012/13     ---      2        ---             78K
2013/14     ---      6        ---            81K
2014/15     ---      3        ---             84k
2015/16     ---      5        ---              59k
2016/17     ---      9        ---              85k
2017/18     ---      6        ---              79k
2018/19     ---      5        ---              70k+ (to date)

Maine’s highest fatality and registration season was 2002/03 with 16 Fatalities and 107k Registrations.  

Maine - Lee Sledder Perishes

A Lee man was killed this winter in Maine’s sixth snowmobile related fatality. John Dorsey, 52, from Lee, was killed when his machine struck a tree Saturday night. Lee left a friend’s house at approximately 9:00 Saturday evening on his 1999 Arctic Cat Panther 440. He had been riding on Buckshot Road, a private plowed road. Shortly after leaving, Dorsey failed to negotiate a corner. He and the machine struck a tree after leaving the road and he was killed. Dorsey was wearing a helmet.

 Just before 11:00 am. a man going to visit a residence on Buckshot Road happened onto the scene and notified authorities. The snowmobile was still running despite a significant amount of damage to the machine. Game wardens say speed and alcohol appear to be contributing factors in this crash. Notifications to family were delayed in this case as they were located out-of-state. The incident remains under investigation.

Maine - Roach River Weir

One of my favorite techniques for fish collection is using our fish weir. I’d like to say it was a new idea, but Roger AuClair, the first Regional Fisheries Biologists in the Moosehead Lake area, built a wooden weir on Socatean Stream in 1957 and 1958. It was our desire to duplicate his work some 50 years later that led to the design and fabrication of our new steel picket weir. My assistant, Jeff Bagley, designed the weir and coordinated the construction. In 2009, we used the weir on Socatean Stream. We moved over to the Roach River in 2010 and again in 2011.

The weir is very portable. We can set it up anywhere that has a solid stream bottom and where we can get an ATV to the shore. It’s like a giant erector set. We essentially build a steel fence across the stream/river that fish cannot pass through. The fish bump along the fence until they find the collection box. This box has a fyke or funnel at the mouth that looks very much like the entrance to a minnow trap. Once the fish swim in, they usually can’t find their way back out.

We’ve had a few complaints from anglers over the years that we are stopping the fish from going up the Roach River. Not true! Some felt there would be no fish in the river until we pulled the weir out. Not true again! Here’s what really happens. We know from radio telemetry and other tagging studies that nearly all of the fish move upstream after sunset and before dawn. They move at night. We tend the weir each morning when there are a lot of fishing moving. When we tend the weir, we put the fish upstream and they are free to go on their way. So, we are holding them for a few hours, at night, then they continue with their migration. There have been times when only a few fish are moving or over a weekend when we tend every other day. But for the most part, these fish have a brief encounter at our aquatic toll booth.

We set the weir in the Roach River in 2018 primarily to get a comparison with data collected in 2010 and 2011. We also wanted to see if some of those monster brook trout that we saw on the lake in 2018 were using the Roach River for spawning. We did not see any fish this big the first two times we set the weir in the river.

We set up the weir in late August but left it open until after Labor Day. The weather turned off hot that week and we only put up six fish. Early the next week, the weather turned cooler with some rain, and we bumped up the flow at the dam. The catch improved but that weekend the temperatures were pushing 80 F, so we opened up the weir and let the fish pass through. Holding brook trout or salmon in a confined space in hot weather would probably be lethal. We don’t know how many fish passed upstream during this period, but any effort to get a total count of the run of fish was over for the year. We would just have to compare catch rates during the periods when the weir was operational. So, we focused on getting a good sample of both salmon and brook trout. By Sept 28th, we had our sample and we removed large sections of the weir to allow free passage for the fish again.

What did we learn? Even though 2018 was a record year for big brook trout in Moosehead Lake, we did not see any of those fish in the weir. Those 4-7 pound brookies are spawning somewhere else or coming in much later than normal. We did see a lot of nice trout, however. In 2010 and 2011, around 20% of the trout in the weir exceeded 16 inches. This year that figure was 56%. We saw a similar trend for salmon. We documented 20-25% of the salmon over 18 inches the first two years of operation and this year it was over 50%. The fish were also much fatter in 2018 than the earlier studies. So, there was a substantial improvement in overall size quality for both species.

Even though we didn’t get ‘em all, we did find the average catch of brook trout per hour was higher than the previous studies and the catch rate for salmon was unchanged.

To wrap it all up, our wild brook trout and salmon have improved in growth since 2010/2011. We are also seeing a resurgence in brook trout abundance in the lake and river. We handled a lot of trout between 16-18 inches in the weir this year. These improvements are the result of the removal of the over-abundant lake trout from the lake starting in 2008. After the lake trout were thinned down, the smelt population rebounded nicely providing more food for the gamefish. This created bigger, fatter fish and actually improved survival, so there are more fish as well. The fish in the Roach River were impressive this fall and all signs point toward a good year for anglers in 2019.

Submitted by Tim Obrey, Regional Fisheries Biologist, Moosehead Lake Region

Maine - Warden Gray Promoted (Pictured Above)

Maine Game Warden Tony Gray, was promoted this winter to the position of Corporal to lead the Maine Warden Service Dive Team. Hired by the Warden Service in August of 2006, Corporal Gray recently completed his 13th year. Corporal Gray has been a member of the Maine Warden Service Dive Team for nine years, has served as a Field Training Officer and held the position of cadre at the Advanced Game Warden Training School in 2018. Corporal Gray has been the district game warden in South Paris since coming to work for us. Corporal Gray served as a police officer with Auburn Police Department for nearly two years before becoming a Maine Game Warden.

The Maine Warden Service Dive Team averages ten recovery dive operations annually and the team currently has seven members. Corporal Gray’s new position involves the management, deployment and training for the team’s members as well as managing dive efforts at MDIFW fish hatcheries. These duties are critically important regarding Maine’s water-related emergencies and fishery resources. Congratulations, Corporal Gray!

Vermont - Wildlife Photographer to Give
‘The Art in Birding’ Presentation

Vermont wildlife photographer Brian Machanic will present ‘The Art in Birding’ at the Kehoe Education Center in Castleton, Vermont on Sunday, April 28 at 10:00 a.m. The presentation will be followed by a one-hour bird walk at the new Bonsawino Wildlife Management Area adjacent to the education center.

 Machanic is a native Vermonter who has had a passion for wildlife since childhood and has been an avid naturalist and photographer his whole life.  He began selling scenic and wildlife images 30 years ago at his Nature’s Eye Studio in Charlotte and has published photos and stories in regional and national magazines. Machanic recently published his first book, entitled This Book Is for The Birds.  

“During my presentation, viewers will get an up-close look at the beauty and unique attributes of various species through an exploration of a large portfolio of avian images – no binoculars or spotting scopes required!” said Machanic.   

Following Machanic’s presentation, participants will have an opportunity to take a one-hour field walk on the wildlife management area. Ali Thomas of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department will lead the field walk and help participants identify some of the amazing birds that can be found there. 

 The event is limited to the first 25 participants. To register, contact Ali Thomas at alison.thomas@vermont.gov or 802-971-9975. 

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