Wildlife biologists in Maine say it could take up to four years or more for the state’s wild brook trout population to fully recover from last year’s drought. Although more than 7 feet of snow this winter officially ended Maine’s dry spell, anglers and businesses worry that climate change and drought recurrence could jeopardize one of the state’s most valuable fish.
Speaking with the Portland Press, Steve Heinz, a director with the conservation group Trout Unlimited commented on future drought impacts to the state’s fishery. “My larger concern is that climate change is making our climate less stable with more frequent droughts, making conditions harder for trout more often.”
Although biologists cannot quantify the exact losses sustained by the population, evidence is everywhere. According to Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), the drought caused local waterways to run dry, preventing fish from moving to colder habitat crucial for survival. Additionally, when brook trout are stranded and congested together in shallow pools, they become easy prey for local predators such as mink, otters, and eagles.
Given the toll on the population, the impact that recreational fishing has to the state’s tourism economy cannot be overstated. Revenue derived from freshwater fishing in Maine brings in approximately $320 million annually. A recent study showed more than half of Maine residents and nearly half of out-of-state anglers favor wild and native brook trout as the prized game fish.
According to MDIFW, Maine is home to 97 percent of wild brook trout waters in the Eastern United States. Brook trout waters that are considered wild are those that have not been stocked for 25 years and hold naturally reproducing populations. “Waters that have never been stocked with brook trout are considered native, and can hold populations that can be dated back to when the glaciers receded North America during the last Ice Age.
“I would say that 90 percent of our fishing business is out-of-state people looking to fish for wild or native brook trout,” said co-owner Matt Libby of Libby Camps in an interview with the Portland Press.
As celebrated as Maine’s wild brookie is, there are legitimate concerns regarding the potential impact climate change and drought can have to the state’s future population. The need to protect such a rare and heralded sub-species, so important to the state’s economy and persona is paramount to the future recreational fishing industry of Maine.
 Fleming, Deirdre. Drought has taken a toll on Maine’s wild brook trout. Portland Press Herald, April 1, 2017. Web. http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/01/drought-takes-toll-on-maines-wild-brook-trout/
 Fleming. Drought has taken a toll on Maine’s wild brook-trout. http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/01/drought-takes-toll-on-maines-wild-brook-trout/
 Fleming. Brook trout make Maine world-class fishing destination. Portland Press Herald, April 18, 2017. Web. http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/18/brook-trout-mystique-a-boost-for-maine/
 Fleming. Brook trout make Maine world-class fishing destination. http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/18/brook-trout-mystique-a-boost-for-maine/
Picture Reference: USFWSmidwest Flickr Page