Grand Lake Stream Tragedy
By Bob Leeman

The recent announcement of the proposal to close the State fish hatchery at Grand Lake Stream by Gov. Baldacci, in order to cut Maine's overall budget by 10%, came as a shock to this small community.

There has been talk that the facility is in need of an upgrade to standard as other Maine fish hatcheries have done. The Maine Fish & Wildlife Department and the State are not in a financial position at this time to meet those obligations.

For over l30 years, this fish hatchery---one of Maine's first---has been operating to supply landlocked salmon to the West Grand Lake drainage and far beyond. To close it now would be a tragedy, to say the least.

Some 70,000 to 80,000 salmon are propagated here annually. That is over 90% of the species total estimated population raised and stocked. Studies have indicated that only a very small percentage of salmon are now "native" to the area. To close this hatchery-raised supply of fish annually, would be complete devastation to here and far beyond.

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What, in heaven's name, were the people who recommended this proposal thinking of. Surely, they didn't give this move much thought and investigation. Without any doubt, this was done at the spur of the moment,. probably without consulting our fishery biologists, who, by the way, I'm positive, would not be for such a crushing blow to not only the town, but to the fish species.

The little community of Grand Lake Stream, upon receiving the news of the proposal to close the place that the town is built around, didn't sit around and take it lying down. They immediately went into high gear. After gathering forces, they got up a petition, they formed a phone bank, they contacted radio, television, and newspapers with information on the looming tragedy, and they wrote letters to annual visitors , as well as to congressmen and senators. And they prayed. This little village has determination and will fight this proposal all the way to the top if necessary.

Folks have been vacationing and visiting Grand Lake Stream and the picturesque area since the time of trains and horse and buggy. Actually, during the time of log drives, fishermen came to this pristine area from as far away as New York and beyond by taking trains to Calais and Princeton, then traveled by horse and buggy for the last few miles to Roses' Lodge, one of the first, located near the outlet stream.

Anglers in those days, fly cast the flowing waters and trolled the nearby lakes with local guides and their homemade---now famous---"Grand Lake Canoes", a 20-foot, seaworthy model of cedar and canvas that has stood the test of time even today. Now, the use of fibreglas has pretty much replaced the use of the weighty canvas.

True. The smallmouth bass will still be there. And many yearly visitors will continue to come to partake of the pleasures of catching this scrappy fish species. But, with the burgeoning fly fishing industry and the lure of salmon gone from the area, the losses will be many.

The landlocked salmon season runs from April lst to October 20th in the stream. The smallmouth bass season really begins---although legal to catch earlier---in June and runs through the fall season. However, smallmouth bass are very difficult to catch during the cooler periods of the open season.

WHAT COULD HAPPEN?

One can almost foresee what the future of the area will be without the fish hatchery's production of landlocked salmon.

First, three hatchery workers ---two who live in town---will be gone---transferred to other fish hatcheries.

Second, the several local lodges---at least five---will be devastated. Some may well be forced out of business.

Third, and the worst thing that could happen, is the gigantic loss of fish in "the river"---and in the entire drainage.

Who can imagine what is ahead for the visiting anglers to Grand Lake Stream with only a pittance of landlocked salmon in the stream?

True, other fish hatcheries will have to be called upon to make up some of the losses. But certainly, not all. Those hatcheries are already stressed to the breaking point.

If the hatchery does close, will the property revert back to the town? The land for the site was donated to the Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Department originally by the owner, Paul Hoar, who built and operated the store in town, and whose daughter, Barbara Wheaton, still lives in a home on the stream and overlooking the hatchery property.

Should the property revert back to the town, then one wonders, could the town people and managers take on a project to run the hatchery themselves, possibly? An interesting thought, especially considering the folks at Grand Lake Stream are currently involved in a land acquisition program that is becoming extremely successful in the area.

There is a host of questions from townspeople, sportsmen, visitors, and others about this proposal. Word is out, however, that State employees have been silenced on this subject as well as other proposed budget cuts. Come on folks---we pay their salaries. It would seem only fair that the proposal, and any alternative suggestions, should be open to questions and discussion.

And lastly, one wonders: "Have we witnessed the best days of fishing at Grand Lake Stream?"

The locals in the little town of Grand Lake Stream besiege you to contact your local representatives and inform them of the consequences of closing this extremely important landlocked salmon fish hatchery. WE CANNOT AFFORD TO LOSE IT!

Bob Leeman is a Master Maine Guide, outdoor writer, book author, and co-host of the "MAINE OUTDOORS" radio program on Sundays, 7-8 pm on 103.9 F.M.


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