Are Splake Good For Maine's Sport Fishery?
By Steve Day

Editor's note: Because of space limitations, the following is a condensed version of a comprehensive report compiled by the author. A complete version will be e-mailed upon request. Our regrets extended to the author for not being able to publish his well-documented report in its entirety.

The splake hybrid (S. namaycush x S. fontinalis) has been in production since the early 1870's. Although they are the only salmonid cross capable of reproducing for an indefinite number of generations, successful reproduction has only occurred and been documented in hatcheries. Splake have been introduced into a variety of waters in the U.S. and Canada over the past 100 years. Even with this large spatial and temporal distribution, there is no credible documentation of splake reproduction in the wild.

Splake will greatly enhance the diversity of opportunity available to anglers in the State of Maine. Data collected from study waters comparing spring yearling splake to spring yearling brook trout are conclusive. Splake have out-performed hatchery brook trout in all study waters where water quality meets the criteria outlined in the splake stocking policy and where competition has not severely limited growth. Quality fisheries, in terms of both size and catch rate, may be achieved in many waters where currently there are no active stocking programs or where hatchery fish are providing poor or marginal results

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Splake have demonstrated several attributes that suggest they can out-perform stocked brook trout in many Maine waters. Splake have displayed a higher percentage of survival to age III, greater returns to angler's at large sizes, and the ability to utilize rough fish as forage in waters where competition limits brook trout growth.

CAPTION FOR PHOTO ABOVE: This 12 lb Splake is close to a state record. Jake Knox (with fish) of Belgrade boated this beauty in early April while trolling a Rapala at Messalonskee Lake.

Representatives from the angling public (including SAM and TU) developed management plans for each species. The Coldwater Working Group developed a plan that essentially maintains the existing program and places some emphasis on creating high-quality fisheries with splake.

Goals and Objectives 2001-2016

Maintain fishing opportunities for splake in approximately 53 waters

26% General Management water

19% Trophy Management waters

Initiate new splake stocking programs only if there is no significant negative impact on Existing wild or stocked fisheries

Although not well documented, there are several potential impacts of introducing splake into a water-body. These include but are not limited to predation. Splake are highly piscivorous and are known to predate several species of fish and their eggs (Berst et al. 1981, Kerr and Grant 2000).

The splake's unique ability to feed on rough fish, such as perch and bass, is also well documented. Using splake for management in this way can also be a valuable tool for fish managers. Managers must use the best possible science when stocking the F1Splake or a Triploid Splake in fragile watersheds to help control or eliminate unwanted species. They must use the best possible science when stocking for sport fisheries. Maine's DIFW fisheries managers I feel have done their jobs well in our state.

The splake has met its objectives to create fishing opportunity where none existed, while protecting the genetic integrity of Wild and Native Fish. Splake furthermore have been shown to provide a safer alternative which other commonly stocked species cannot, or where Brown Trout and Rainbows cannot be stocked because of Atlantic salmon concerns.

Steve Day is a devoted angler and sport fishing activist. He lives in Madison.

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