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June 28. 2014 10:03PM

Maine muskies may be worth the drive

AT Maine's far northern border with Canada, there's a fishable population of big muskellunge, mostly known as muskies, that has started to bloom and really catch the eye of adventurous anglers.

Several years ago, Canadian fisheries biologists decided that muskies would suit some of their large northern bodies of water that seemed ideal for this fish's needs, apparently giving little thought to what may happen if these huge predators drop downstream into other waters where these fish would definitely not be welcome.

At that time in history, the Saint Johns River that marks the border of the United States and Canada for many miles was an incredible resource for Atlantic Salmon and other coldwater fish, and for many years the muskies stayed put in the waters where they were stocked. Not because of the muskies but because of other factors, especially the building of a dam on the main stream of the Saint Johns River, the run of salmon quickly diminished, both from the river itself and the smaller feeder streams that provided great spawning and rearing water for the salmon. And then they were gone.

So it wasn't with great angst that a few muskies finally dropped down into the Saint Johns River, but Maine biologists were very skeptical about having to deal with this issue as a huge watershed that featured both native brook trout and wild landlocked salmon was at risk if a musky invasion was to happen. They were hoping that a natural waterfall in the Fish River, a tributary of the Saint Johns River, would curtail the muskies' spread into the precious Fish River Chain of Lakes. To this date, only a couple of muskies have been found above that barrier, but the biologists are holding their breath that this was a rare event that allowed that to happen.

Lots of the fishing population in the Fort Kent area seem to now know that the muskies are there to stay in the Saint Johns River and quite a few anglers have dedicated their fishing time to learning the ropes on how to catch them. That should be no problem and hasn't been, as volumes of articles, books and films or CDs have been written and filmed about musky fishing and have helped turn fishing into catching - to the point that northern stretches of the Saint Johns River now feature annual musky fishing tournaments and some huge fish are regularly caught, both during the tournaments and by every-day kinds of people who are targeting them.

A trend has started that has made Fort Kent a fishing tourist destination for musky-seeking anglers and this is bound to be a great financial lift for this area of Maine that has struggled financially with the ups and downs of both the agriculture and forestry businesses there.

If you're really looking for a multi-species experience, it's hard to beat the musky and trout and salmon angling that is available within a stone's throw from each other as the famous Fish River Chain that includes many big lakes and the rivers (called thoroughfares) that connect these lakes have world-class fishing for rare native brook trout as well as stocked and wild landlocked salmon.

A drive to this area involves a long day's or more investment, so plan accordingly. Service by air or car rental services are scarce.

Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshie Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.


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