Restoration raises hope for future of Maine native – and ancient – fish | Maine Sunday Telegram

[For some reason, I do not recall ever hearing about this fish when I was growing up in Aroostook County. It is wonderful that this restoration project is taking place. – KM]

TOWNSHIP 8, RANGE 10, WELS — To get from Big Reed Pond to Frenchville at the far northern tip of Maine requires a float plane trip to Munsungan Lake and from there a two-hour drive, most of that on logging roads.

It is a journey that state fisheries biologist Frank Frost has made on a regular basis for three years in an effort to restore one of Maine’s most uncommon species, the Arctic char. Until recently, Frost made the disjointed trek seemingly in vain.

Now the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologist and several locals in the St. John Valley are celebrating the restoration of the char, northern Maine’s unique, threatened and much-loved game fish.

To say the Arctic char is native to Maine is an understatement.

The population in Big Reed Pond is one of the few that remain in North America since the last glacier retreated more than 10,000 years ago. It is one of 14 Arctic char populations in Maine and the only population in the lower 48 states.

Several years ago, however, rainbow smelt were illegally introduced into Big Reed Pond and decimated char numbers there.

Where fly fishermen once camped at the remote pond full of the brilliant orange char, the famous fishery now attracts none.

Then, three years ago, Frost began an ambitious project in hopes of restoring the wild Arctic char at Big Reed.

Click on the link for the rest of the story, photos and video by Deirdre Fleming in today’s Maine Sunday Telegram.

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