News stories and blogs on Maine’s major media websites not long ago reminded me just how every important fish and fishing are to me and Maine.
I’m not talking about commercial fishing. Commercial fishing in Maine is huge. In Maine, fishing is a way of life and enormous to the economy of the entire state. Fish is king in Maine.
What I’m talking about instead is the kind of fishing I learned as a kid – sports fishing and fishing for sustenance on inland waterways. The fishing I learned was a rite of passage and an outdoors activity to feed the body and soul.
And the mosquitoes and black flies, but that’s a different blog entry.
Stories on the websites of the Bangor Daily News, Portland Press Herald and Down East magazine were big in reminding me about the importance of fishing to socialization, culture, and heritage in Maine.
By rough estimates, I started fishing 40 years ago. And while I haven’t had the opportunity to wet a line in recent years, it remains central to the person I was, the person I am, and, I suspect, the person I will become.
No, this is not a story to match “A River Runs Through It,” the novel and subsequent movie that told of lives and deaths and the lessons learned by fishing a river.
Frighteningly, invasive species are crowding native species from Maine’s streams, ponds, and lakes.
The story of inland fishing is a bit murky. There is some hope and more than a bit of concern.
A Portland Press Herald story told of an effort to restore an ancient fish, the Arctic char, in Big Reed Pond. It is “ancient” because biologists believe the fish has been here since the last ice age. That’s not just your my-bones-hurt-and-feel-ancient sort of ancient. That is seriously ancient.
The problem for the orange-colored char started when a well-meaning sports fisherman introduced rainbow smelt in the water as way to provide more food for the char. But that backfired when the smelt ate small char and the char’s food.
But a state wildlife biologists, a private fishery, local lodge owners, and grants from Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund are slowly making the future brighter for the Arctic char.
George Smith’s DownEast.com blog some time ago focused on fishing. One titled “The battle between natives and those ‘from away’” especially caught my attention, of course, for its use of “from away.” After all, this blog is titled “Letters From Away.”
But I became far more interested in what he had to write about native fish and those that have been illegally or inadvertently introduced into Maine waters than I was with his use of the Mainer phrase for anything not of or from Maine.
Wildlife officials from Maine to California and many other areas in between are facing similar problems – non-native fish and other aquatic life being introduced into waterways and those species forcing out native fish and other aquatic life. Some are introduced by accident when carried on a boat or other gear that was not properly washed down or intentionally introduced by so-called sportsmen believing it would be good to have, say, bass or walleye in a trout habitat. I even found a story about a koi being pulled from a Maine pond. Koi?!
Either way, native species should be given a chance to survive and thrive in their natural habitat.
Here’s something from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s website on invasive species:
Invasive species are organisms that are introduced into a non-native ecosystem and which cause, or are likely to cause, harm to the economy, environment or human health. It is important to note that when we talk about a species being invasive, we are talking about environmental boundaries, not political ones. In addition to the many invasive species from outside the U.S., there are many species from within the U.S. that are invasive in other parts of the country.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the only agency of the U.S. Government whose primary responsibility is the conservation of the nation’s fish, wildlife, and plants. Because of our responsibilities, the Service is very concerned about the impacts that invasive species are having across the Nation. Invasive plants and animals have many impacts on fish and wildlife resources. Invasive species degrade, change or displace native habitats and compete with our native wildlife and are thus harmful to our fish, wildlife and plant resources.
The website also provides FAQs, resources, laws, and other information.
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife also has quite a bit of information. Follow this link and click on “Illegal Fish Stocking” for specific information. There is also information about invasive aquatic plants.
Here are links to some of those stories and blog entries.
The battle between natives and those ‘from away’ | DownEast.com
Sound science produces good Maine fisheries | DownEast.com
Restoration raises hope for future of native fish | Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram
Salmon return in record numbers: Experts ‘cautiously optimistic’ about high figures | Bangor Daily News
Invasive species threatening Maine waters: DIF&W says illegally introduced fish could disrupt ecosystems, local fisheries | Bangor Daily News