River Valley Outdoors
Dr. William B. Krohn shown here with his collection of Hon. H. O. Stanley's fishing lures at the Dixfield Historical Society. (Photo by William Clunie)
A cast from the past
Some folks always refer to the past as “the good ol’ days,” but after listening to this month’s presentation at the Dixfield Historical Society (DHS) those same people might rethink that statement.
At the DHS June 14th meeting, Dr. William B. Krohn, Professor Emeritus at the University of Maine, Orono, gave an informative presentation on Maine’s longest standing Fish and Game Commissioner, the Honorable Henry O. Stanley. Commissioner Stanley maintained his position with the Fish and Game department for 33 years…an unbelievable stretch considering he had to work with members of both political factions. This fact alone speaks volumes about the honorable commissioner’s gentlemanly manner.
While the topic of Dr. Krohn’s presentation focused primarily on H. O. Stanley’s fishing tackle business, a brief discussion after the excellent slide show got me thinking about the River Valley in general.
Dr. Krohn mentioned that Stanley loved hunting fox, and presented a slide showing the mountains that surrounded the River Valley back in those days (late 1800’s). The artistic rendition showed our mountainous horizons bare of most trees, covered instead with huge farmlands – rolling fields separated by a skinny fence-line of trees. Although this might have been a perfect environment to support a huge fox population, clearing the forest also had a huge impact on the water systems within this region.
Dr. Krohn mentioned how the agricultural run-off from the farm fields must have poured into the Androscoggin River and its tributaries. The nutrient-rich, farmland run-off most probably damaged the rivers and ponds by intensively promoting aquatic plant life – this sucks the oxygen out of the water and kills fish on a huge scale. The silt from farmland run-off also covers precious gravel spawning beds, slowing or ending the fish reproduction process.
Trout and salmon populations in the Androscoggin River must have been really hurt by all this agricultural activity. Back in those days, farmers and Fish and Game Commissioners didn’t know about the problem because they didn’t have wildlife research scientists like Dr. Krohn to keep them informed.
Now back to the future…I had a chance to get out on the Androscoggin River the other day and landed a 14-inch landlocked salmon about a mile below the Peru Bridge. I’ve never caught salmon so far down river before! And the next fish I hooked happened to be a rainbow trout that snapped my 3-pound tippet.
I have been testing a new brand of tippet material. After the next fish, a good-sized smallmouth, broke the tippet, I decided to go back to my old favorite. I tie my own leaders from a Maximum brand called “Chameleon,” and use the same brand for the tippet. It has never failed me in the past, so I’ll continue with this excellent brand.
Landlocked salmon need clean, oxygenated water to survive. Having salmon inhabit the Androscoggin River means that good water quality has returned…for the time being. Hopefully, enough folks take note of it and keep a close eye on anything that might damage this wonderful natural resource.
Dr. Krohn, and others in his field, keep us informed about the intricacies of our environment. We can take this information, along with what we’ve learned from the past, and determine not to repeat similar errors in maintaining the health of wildlife in our region.
The “good ol’ days” happen to be here right now. This region just doesn’t support the farms that it used to in the past, so the mountains that surround the River Valley happen to be covered in a beautiful shade of green. Trees, grasses, and undergrowth happen to be a natural form of erosion control.
Instead of living in the past, I hope more folks can learn from the past – and really live in the present, fully enjoying the tremendous beauty of the River Valley right now.