ELLSWORTH — Nearly 20 people were on hand at Ellworth’s Harbor Park last week to pick up brook trout from the Mic Mac Farms hatchery in Caribou that will stock home and farm ponds in 17 separate communities, nearly all in Hancock County.
The pickup on Monday, May 6, was arranged through the Hancock County Soil and Water Conservation District’s fish purchase program. The SWCD has had a similar program since at least 1979, according to Ellsworth office Administrative Associate Judy Tucker.
Under the supervision of Zack Steele, executive director of the Ellsworth office, customers formed a ragged but orderly line to wait while the crew from Mic Mac Farms transferred young 8- to 10-inch trout from a large aerated tank on the back of a flatbed truck into individual boxes to be carried home in the back of pickup trucks and station wagons.
Before taking their boxed brook trout home, each buyer had to present a valid stocking permit issued by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW).
Each box was lined with plastic before it was filled with water and as many as 20 young brook trout, sold for $3 each. Before each box was sealed, oxygen was pumped into the water from a tank on the Mic Mac Farms truck so the fish would be able to breathe on their way to their new homes.
Their destinations were widespread. While three customers came from Ellsworth, others came from Stonington and Deer Isle, Franklin, Prospect Harbor, Trenton and Hancock. A couple of buyers came from Washington County, one from Beddington and the other from Crawford, far out along the Airline — Route 9.
This is the first year that Mic Mac Farms supplied fish for the program. The previous supplier of many years standing retired after the 2017 delivery, Tucker said, and there was no trout sale last year.
This was a new venture for Mic Mac Farms, too.
Ten years ago the farm began as a community garden and a very small project in the Aroostook Band of Mic Mac tribal pond, raising brook trout in handmade, floating cages.
After a massive summer rain event contaminated the pond and virtually wiped out the operation, the tribe “made the decision to pursue raising fish that would be safe to eat,” according to the farm’s Facebook page.
Four years ago, the first brook trout were born in the tribe’s hatchery in Caribou. Currently, Mic Mac Farms grows about 12,000 pounds of Maine brook trout annually in a groundwater-fed indoor facility.