How Dry I Am, or, Who’ll Bring the Rain? Maine in Drought, Bad for Trout

The Sunday of Labor Day Weekend brought brilliant sunshine, cloudless skies, comfortable temperatures. It was awful.

Oh, it was great weather for the annual meeting and picnic of the Upper Dam Camp Owners’ Association. But for the trout and salmon in the famous Upper Dam Pool and elsewhere it was a continuing disaster. The lack of cooling clouds and rain, and the relentless sunshine and high temperatures have warmed the waters of Maine’s lakes, rivers and streams well above the comfort zone of the fish. Francis Brautigam, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife’s go-to guy for expertise on the state’s trout and landlocked salmon populations, issued a warning about possible fish kills in shallower ponds (the warmer the water, the less oxygen it holds), and a plea to anglers to release fish quickly lest the stress kill them. In an IFW news release, Brautigam noted that a fish hooked in cold, deep water and brought up to the 80-degree surface water “may experience a temperature difference of close to 35 degrees,” which can be stressful.

On my way to Upper Dam I drove along Route 2 beside the Androscoggin River between Bethel and Rumford. Landowners who had waterfront property now have beachfront property.

Sand bars in the Androscoggin, between Bethel and Rumford

Sand bars in the Androscoggin, between Bethel and Rumford

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Water-free waterfall at Rumford.

Water-free waterfall at Rumford.

At Rumford Falls, nothing fell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Swift River, which enters the Andro at Rumford, was neither swift nor a river.

The Not-So-Swift River.

The Not-So-Swift River.

The flow, measured in cfs (cubic feet per second), was around 20 — a mere trickle. Up above Coos Canyon, a favorite swimming hole, people were wading in the Swift’s ankle-deep water panning for gold in places usually out of reach. If you’d like to track the flow of a river or stream near you, there’s (of course) a website for that, which you’ll find here.

An article in the BDN a month ago spoke of farmers’ crops burning up. Bears are coming out of the dry, berry-poor woods, looking at camps and backyard grills as fast-food joints.

And what we’re looking at in this year’s drought nay be the Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come. The University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute lays it out for us in graphs and stats.

The Upper Dam Pool looked too good not to fish, so I fished, fishlessly, for a couple of hours. I knew where the fish were: out in Richardson Lake, down deep, beyond the reach of drought and dry flies. Bring on the rain.

Nick Mills

About Nick Mills

Full disclosure: I was not born in Maine, alas! I was born in Massachusetts, but the family moved to Maine when I was eleven, and I grew up in Thomaston. My dad was skipper of one of the draggers that sailed out of Rockland, in the days when it was a rough-tough working fishing port. When he came in from the sea his favorite activity was freshwater fishing with me and my brother, Peter. We learned together to flyfish for trout in the Alder Stream in Eustis. Once hooked on the sport, pun intended, I fished at every opportunity in every place I could -- in the rivers, streams and ponds of Maine; in the mountain ponds of Utah, where I was stationed for a year in the Army; in high Andean lakes in Colombia, where I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer; even in a lagoon that surrounded one of Saddam Hussein's palaces in Baghdad. I tried once to go trout fishing in northern Afghanistan, when the U.S.S.R. occupied that country; a landslide blocked my path, but that led to a more interesting adventure, which I will tell you about in a future post.