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MDIF&W plans to eradicate Sumner's Abbott Pond of invasive fish/Trout will be restored by fall 2014
SUMNER — The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has filed a Notice of Intent with the Department of Environmental Protection to eradicate invasive fish from Abbott Pond in Sumner by an aquatic piscicide, called Rotenone.
One of the goals of reclamation projects of this type, according to Francis Brautigam, a Maine fisheries biologist in Gray, is to enhance native fisheries and improve fishing quality in Maine's lakes and ponds by killing off unwanted species.
The pond is expected to be closed to fishing this September until March 2014. A final report on the project is expected September 2014, according to the project time line.
The NOI is subject to a general permit, issued by the Maine DEP, for aquatic piscicide treatment of invasive fish and re-establishment of plankton communities in Abbott Pond. MDIF&W expects to have its permit by the end of June, said James Pellerin, an assistant regional fisheries biologist for MDIF&W.
According to Pellerin, MDIF&W has the authority to remove illegally-introduced fish when feasible. Chemical reclamation, using piscicides, is the most common and effective means of accomplishing this goal.
"It's one of the fisheries' management tools we use that tends to be highly beneficial in showing immediate results and improvements in the fishery," Pellerin said. "It's very noticeable to anglers."
Abbott Pond is a 24-acre cold water pond with a mean depth of 15 feet and a maximum depth of 50 feet.
It is currently used for swimming, fishing and boating, but because it is in such a remote area, public use is relatively light, according to a report from MDIF&W.
The reintroduction of Golden Shiner, Rainbow Smelt and Brown Bullhead fish in recent years has "severely compromised" trout fishing opportunities, in the pond, according to the NOI.
The goal of the project is to restore or enhance the native brook trout.
In Maine, Brautigam said, brook trout evolve best in the absence of competing species.
He said brook trout feed on plankton and insects, which are low on the food chain. When invasive species are introduced to the pond, he said, they compete with trout for those resources.
Past control efforts of the pond include treating the pond with Rotenone with success, but according to Brautigam, invasive fish species have been reintroduced to the pond.
"We are in a part of the state where we have experienced the most illegal introductions of fish," Brautigam said.
"In this part of the state [southwestern Maine] we don't have very many quality brook trout fisheries like they have in northern and eastern Maine."
The pond, one to two small inlets on the northwest end of the pond and a portion of a "dewatered" outlet down to a natural impassable barrier, will be treated, according to MDIF&W.
Rotenone is an organic, chemical substance that is derived from plant roots that inhibits oxygen intake and suffocates fish, according to MDIF&W officials.
Brautigam explained that Rotenone comes in both a powder form and a liquid form.
"We use different formulations," he said, "for the upper water and then another formulation for the deeper, colder water."
He explained that typically in ponds and lakes in the summer time, there is a warm band of water that circulates above a band of cold, deep water, and they do not intersect.
Brautigam said the upper level of the water is treated with a Rotenone toxicant powder and the lower level is treated with a toxicant liquid, both in a single application.
After 24 hours, biologists return to the pond to collect water samples at the different depths of the pond, Brautigam said, which are then placed in separate buckets with brook trout from a hatchery to determine how long it takes for the fish to die.
"We monitor those brook trout and ... if the toxicity levels are there, those trout are going to die," Brautigam explained. "We use it to determine what the concentration of Rotenone is.
"Brook trout are being used here because they are available in our hatchery system," he said, "and it's the fish that was used by the state of New York to develop this bio-assessment protocol."
He said the plan is to distribute the Rotenone throughout the entire water column by "strata." In other words, he said, biologists mark the different depth zones of pond with buoys and inject the Rotenone in layers.
Abbott Pond was last reclaimed by MDIF&W in 1956 and restocked with brook trout in 1957.
"It's not done every year," explained Pellerin. "It's done very periodically."
He said from preparing the DEP application to restoring the pond with trout takes about two years in total.
According to Brautigam, 10-15 years after the pond's initial reclamation, the brook trout fishery was decent, until several invasive species were introduced and the pond's quality began to gradually decline.
"The idea is to restore a lot of these lakes and ponds [in Maine] that have been impacted by illegal introductions," Brautigam said.
"In some of the ponds we are able to get self-sustaining populations of brook trout, and other ponds, we still need to stock because there is not adequate spawning or nursery habitat," Brautigam explained.
The Rotenone's toxicity level is 2.0 parts per million, Brautigam said, but it does not pose any long-term affects on the environment.
Rotenone, he said, is a "highly biodegradable" substance that is non-persistent in the environment and possesses limited or short-term impacts to non-target species, like tadpoles.
"Places that we've used Rotenone, we see those amphibian populations quickly recolonize," he explained. This is also the case with invertebrates, like dragonflies. "It doesn't harm them too much," Brautigum said.
In the past 10 years, Brautigam's staff in Gray has reclaimed five bodies of water in western Maine, including Overset Pond in Greenwood, Big Speck Pond in Norway and Broken Bridge, Crocker and Mosquito ponds in Albany, according to the Sebago Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
As a result, significant increases in brook trout growth and angler catch have been observed, according to TU.
Following treatment, ponds are restocked. Where spawning and nursery habitat is limited or non-existent, Brautigam said, ongoing stocking programs are able to sustain these thriving fisheries.
Costly, but needed
Reclamation projects are typically expensive, Brautigam said. A shrinking MDIF&W budget means several sources of funding are needed for reclamation projects, he explained.
The Rotenone treatment of Abbot Pond will cost approximately $12,000, after a landowner near the pond requested MDIF&W use a more environmentally-friendly product that emitted less toxins.
"If we had done a treatment that relied entirely on powder, and if we'd done it later in the season, the cost probably would've been halved," versus the liquid form, which has less petroleum by-product, he explained.
"It bumped up the cost of the project fairly significantly [30 percent]," he said.
MDIF&W has a partnership with Trout Unlimited, which provides financial support through donations. Money raised through local fishing derbies every year also fund restoration projects, Brautigam said.
Approximately 200 reclamations have been completed state-wide, 46 of which took place in the Sebago Lake Region, according to TU.
Other local bodies of water in Maine that could benefit from reclamation projects, according to TU, include Washburn and Cushman Pond in Sumner, Trout Pond in Stoneham and Cushman Pond in Lovell.