River Valley Outdoors
One day several years ago, I noticed a truck with a Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife emblem parked down by the Androscoggin River. I walked up to the back of the truck where there happened to be this official-looking fellow cutting up a smallmouth bass. I just had to ask the silly question that was on my mind at the time.
“Are you going to eat that fish,” I said with a grin.
The biologist laughed and said that he was studying the dioxin levels in the fish. He said he had been doing this for the past seven years and noticed how drastically the dioxin levels had dropped. He commended the paper mills for going above and beyond what was required, stating that the levels of dioxin have come down so much that he could hardly detect any dioxin anymore.
That being said, I don’t know of anyone that would eat a fish from the Androscoggin River. As a matter of fact, I’m on a mission this year to teach young anglers (and some adults) the proper way to catch and release fish.
Folks enjoy fishing the Androscoggin, and with good reason, but some of them are unknowingly killing healthy fish.
If an angler isn’t going to eat a fish, why would they use worms when fishing? Bait gets swallowed and lodged in the stomach of a fish. When an angler hauls a stomach-hooked fish in, causing internal bleeding, the fish dies later. Hooking a fish with a lure or fly catches the fish in the lips most of the time. I’ve never had a fly gut hook a fish. Lip-hooked fish seldom die after being released.
So why do we allow bait fishing on the Androscoggin River? That’s another question I’ll have to ask the biologists. Some would say they like to teach their children to catch fish with bobbers and bait. Catching fish with bait in the Androscoggin River sends the wrong message to children. Why teach kids to kill fish that won’t ever make it to the dinner table?
Special Kid’s Waters
Children in the River Valley have special fishing locations dedicated as, “Kid’s Waters.” Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (DIF&W) set these special sections of streams aside for use by youngsters under the age of 16.
Aunt Hannah Brook, just north of Dixfield on Route 142, provides young anglers with a special opportunity. Each spring the DIF&W stocks the little brook with hatchery brookies, creating the perfect environment for a prime fishing experience.
Young anglers have the brook all to themselves, from the pavement downstream to where it connects with the Webb River.
Another brook set aside for children only, Abbott Brook, runs right through the town of Mexico. I’ve never taken the grandkids to this brook, so I called DIF&W fishery biologist Dave Howatt at his Region D office in Strong for more information.
The helpful biologist said, “Abbott Brook runs from Mann Hill into the Ridlonville section of Mexico. It’s hard to find on the map, but it runs across Highland Terrace behind the school. It’s right out in the open and doesn’t look like a stream that would hold many fish, but it flows from the mountains and is filled with deep and cold water – enough to support a good population of wild trout. We don’t stock it, but there are enough wild trout there to keep the kids busy.”
Last year they stocked Aunt Hannah Brook in April and May with a total of 300 brook trout. Howatt reports that the department plans on doing the same this year. I’ll make an effort to hit both Aunt Hannah Brook and Abbott Brook with the grandkids this spring, for sure.