The American Fisheries Society recently presented the fisheries division of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIF&W) with a national award for cutting-edge work in the restoration of the native Arctic charr to Big Reed Pond in Piscataquis County.
Although the project was the work of many biologists and funded by a wide array of grant partners, northern Maine state fisheries biologist Frank Frost was singled out in the award for his dedication and diligent work on this fish restoration project.
According to the department, the Arctic charr, which are native to only 14 Maine ponds, came “perilously close to disappearing” from Big Reed Pond. The restoration program, which began in 2007, involved capturing live charr, breeding them under controlled conditions and then returning charr fingerlings to the pond after it was reclaimed. The illegal introduction of smelt into the pond had upset the delicate balance that allowed the charr to thrive.
The charr is a coldwater fish that is a member of the trout and salmon family. Also called blueback trout, silver trout, Sunapee trout and white trout, these fish are, interestingly enough, native only to Maine and Alaska.
Charr prefer cold, deep waters with lots of oxygen. They spawn in the lakes during late fall and early winter when water temperatures drop below 50 degrees. Eggs hatch in late winter. Charr can live up to 15 years and grow as large as 3 pounds. The state record is a 4-pound fish caught in Lower South Branch Pond in Baxter Park. On average, though, charr tend to be small and in many lakes they average about 6 inches.
The fish is native to 11 of the 14 ponds where it is found. In the other two waters, charr were introduced from Floods Pond in Otis. Here is a breakdown of the charr waters by county.
In Aroostook County charr can be found in Black Pond, Deboullie Pond, Gardner Pond and Pushineer Pond. Franklin County has one charr water: Long Pond. In Hancock County, charr are native to Floods Pond in Otis and Green Lake in Dedham. In Piscataquis County, charr are found in moderate populations in Rainbow Lake, Reed Pond, Wadleigh Pond and Wassataquoik Lake. In Somerset County, you’ll find charr in Bald Mountain Pond, Enchanted Pond and Penobscot Lake.
Among the aforementioned waters, those with the largest charr populations are Black Pond, Long Pond, Floods Pond, Wadleigh Pond and Bald Mountain Pond.
Interestingly, Reed Pond, unlike many other Maine charr waters, is shallow with a mean water depth of only 23 feet. With a surface area of 93 acres, it is the smallest of the 14 charr waters.
By the way, Maine is the only state in the continental United States where native charr are found.
Like our priceless and much-heralded native coldwater brook trout fishery, the charr is a distinct sub-species very much worthy of our preservation and protection.
Mainers, and anyone for that matter who recognizes the value of this accomplishment in fisheries science, can be proud of all these folks who contributed their time, money and hard work. And a special tip of the hat to biologist Frank Frost.