Friday, January 6, 2012

Maine's Kennebec River Striped Bass May See Changes In The Future

Below is a proposal by "Maine Recreational Anglers" which was delivered to the Maine Department of Marine Resources for future consideration. There will certainly be much talk about the proposal.


2011 marked the fourth year in a row of poor striped bass fishing in Maine. Maine is currently dependent on migratory fish for its fishery - most of the fish seen in our waters for some time have been from Chesapeake Bay stocks.
The historical striped bass fishery is well documented. Native fish wintered over in the Kennebec River until their wintering areas were discovered in the 1860s and these fish were reduced to a small, remnant population. The river was stocked during the last fishery crash in the 1980s with good results, but this was discontinued with the return of migratory fish in the early 90s. Permissive fishing regulations allowed most of these fish to be fished out. Although MDMR has recently reported that the Kennebec has striped bass breeding in the Augusta area, resumption of stocking is seen as the way to better establish breeding stocks and provide a more consistent fishery.
The additional habitat now available upstream of the site of Edwards Dam makes reestablishment of a native fishery more possible than it has been in over 150 years. Restoring alewives is seen as key to this: an increased forage base will be needed once striped bass become more abundant so that the fish will be in a condition to winter over. This fishery would not be as subject to the feast or famine cycle that our dependence on migratory fish has dictated, and would restore the river to a condition more representative of the natural ecosystem: one that contained river herring (esp. alewives) and striped bass. Here’s how we propose to accomplish this:
 Enhancement of the Kennebec River forage base by a program to increase river herring esp. alewives by providing fish passage on Cobbosseecontee, Togus and China Lake Streams
 Moratorium on the killing of striped bass in the Kennebec until an abundant self-sustaining population is reestablished or until studies show that this cannot be done
 Studies on the basics of striped bass population dynamics in the Kennebec inc. expanded studies: YOY, tagging and DNA
 Trial stocking of tagged striped bass to help reestablish the breeding population.
There are 250,000 people in Maine who are striped bass fishermen - joining the efforts to restore alewives and striped bass will make both more likely to succeed. When abundance is achieved, the range of native striped bass would likely increase and help to restore the greater fishery, especially in waters north of the Kennebec.
This proposal comes from Maine Recreational Anglers (MRA), the fisheries advocacy group who first proposed to MDMR the tightening of saltwater fishing regulations to reduce inadvertent kill that began going into effect this year. With your help, this initiative will succeed as well. This is the best opportunity we will get to do what should have been done 30 years ago.