PENQUIS VALLEY - Spring is the season for stocking ponds with trout. Before rainbow or brook trout can be obtained, pond owners need a permit issued by the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department for the species most appropriate for their ponds. There are a few facts to consider before deciding which type of fish to order.
This year, it may be wiser to plan on rainbow trout. There will be a shortage of brook trout at Maine nurseries this year, and rainbows can't be stocked into a pond that holds an IFW permit for brookies only.
According to Evelyn Sawyer of Sea Run Holdings, Inc., nurseries aren't raising as many brook trout as they used to. Sawyer said that state regulations require costly tests of each species, so eliminating brook trout from the inventory saves nurseries a $2,500 testing fee. Also, she said, Maine "has developed a zero tolerance for one 'disease' that is present in nearly 100 percent of brook trout."
Sea Run did carry a small inventory of brook trout this year, but due to unfavorable weather conditions they suffered a freeze-up over the winter. To make matters worse, an otter knocked out the screen to the pond, causing the loss of any remaining brook trout.
The Piscataquis County Soil & Water Conservation District will be unable to fill brook trout orders this year. They are advising customers to attempt to become permitted for rainbows rather than brookies. For those who have already ordered brook trout, rainbow trout may be substituted as long as the pond is permitted for both species. Those who ordered brook trout and are not permitted for rainbows will receive a refund.
When ordering rainbow trout, it is important to take the life span of the fish into consideration. If eight to 10 inch trout are stocked, they will live only about two years. By stocking smaller fish, pond owners will have the trout for closer to four or five years. Feeding the fish accelerates their growth and shortens their life span. There is enough naturally occurring food in most ponds to sustain the trout. If feeding is part of the joy of having the fish, however, floating food should be given only in amounts that can be immediately consumed by the trout. Otherwise, food drifts to the bottom polluting the pond and cutting oxygen supplies to the fish. A low-oxygen pond and a hot summer day can take their toll, resulting in the deaths of stocked trout.
As rainbows grow larger, plan to invite friends and neighbors in to fish the pond out and restock. Otherwise, the fish will simply reach their maximum size and die.
The Piscataquis County Soil & Water District's Annual Trout Sale order deadline is May 10. Pick-up will be at the district office at noon on May 18. For information about obtaining trout, call Sheila Grant at 564-2321.
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