This summer a total of 600 Arctic charr were returned to Big Reed Pond as the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife continued its work in a unique reclamation project. Arctic charr found in 12 ponds in Maine are the only known populations of native Arctic charr in the continental United States.
Though the charr were stocked, the multi-year project is not complete. Full success of the project will be realized when Arctic charr successfully spawn in Big Reed Pond and biologists can document survival of any charr resulting from this natural spawning. The associated ecosystem must also be considered, including Big Reed native brook trout and associated native species of dace in some of the tributaries.
The process began more than four years ago, as Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife staff began the laborious process of collecting native fish from Big Reed Pond. They netted native Arctic charr and brook trout and took them to a private hatchery for safe-keeping.
The pond was treated in October of 2010 with the chemical rotenone to eliminate an illegally-introduced population of rainbow smelt, whose competition for food and habitat had resulted in a negative effect on the population of Arctic charr there.
Recovered Arctic charr and brook trout were taken to Mountain Springs Trout Farm in Frenchville, where they were carefully monitored. Their offspring was taken back to Big Reed in early June of 2011, flown in from Bradford Camps on Munsungan Lake to Big Reed Pond.
Big Reed Pond is a 90-acre pond located approximately 45 miles southwest of Ashland, Maine. It is located off of the Pinkham Road, a notable timber road, and sits on a parcel of land owned by The Nature Conservancy.
Arctic charr, also known as “blueback trout” in some circles, are important to Maine for the very same reason they are important to the United States. There are only 12 waters in the entire continental U.S. serving as hosts to the specie and all 12 of those waters are located in northern Maine.
Decades ago, rainbow smelt were illegally introduced into Big Reed Pond. The smelt quickly established themselves in large numbers, large enough that they began to compete with native Arctic charr and brook trout for both food and habitat. Charr population numbers have dropped dramatically, leaving Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife fisheries biologists with little choice but to take drastic measure.
Currently, Big Reed Pond is open to open water fishing from April 1st through September 30th, with anglers restricted to the use of artificial lures only. All trout or charr caught must be immediately released alive.
source: Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife