East Outlet Fish Ladder Study conducted by Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Department

July 22

You may recall I mentioned in an earlier “Fishing Report” that our local fisheries biologists would be conducting a study of the fish using the fish ladder at the East Outlet dam. The study has been going on for a long time and every few years our biologists monitor the passage of fish through the ladder during the same period of time starting in mid-June till the beginning of August. The ladder is tended every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during that period.
Once fish enter the fish ladder attempting to enter Moosehead Lake they are captured in the final chamber where they can be netted for a close-up examination.
Each fish is checked for scares left behind from fishermen’s hooks, examined for any missing fins that had been clipped prior to stocking or are wild born fish with all their fins. The highest percent of salmon in the system are of the wild variety.
Salmon are rarely stocked directly into the river but are put into Moosehead at Greenville and in Rockwood. Some are also stocked directly into Indian Pond. They clip a different fin each year so when a missing fin is observed they can determine what year and where that fish was stocked. It’s fascinating stuff especially when they handle a salmon that was put in Moosehead this spring, then somehow found it’s way to the East Outlet Dam and ended up in the river, hung out there, then entered the ladder in an attempt to get back into the lake and start feeding on smelt in the deeper, colder water of the lake. They have observed salmon originally stocked in Indian Pond then caught years later in Northeast Carry at the northern most end of Moosehead Lake. Who would have thought?
This year In particular the biologists are looking for young wild salmon that were born in the river last year. They stay in the river their first year feeding on insects till the second summer then move into Moosehead to start feeding on smelt. Something in nature tells these young fish insects aren’t enough any more so they head for Moosehead or drop back into Indian Pond in search of colder water and a high protein diet of smelt. If the number of young, wild fish add up to what they have seen in the past it will be a good indication natural reproduction in the river is holding up.
Migration of landlocked salmon and brookies into the lake appears to revolve around water temperature of the river. As the water warms throughout the season, fish start to migrate to the lake. The closer the temperature get to 70 degrees the higher the fish count. Every fish doesn’t leave the river but it becomes obvious there are fewer fish in the river now than were earlier in the season. As a matter of fact the biologists have looked at close to 1000 fish to date. Once the fish have been checked they are put into the lake above the dam where they were headed for anyway. When I asked how many fish end up back in the river then in the ladder again they said it was uncommon to see the same fish more than once. They clip a tiny piece of tail fin so they can tell if a fish is recaptured. It later grows back.
By comparing the results from this season with data collected during previous studies they can determine the overall health of the landlocked salmon and brook trout fishery in the East Outlet. I’ll post the results of their study once the final figures are in. It’s always interesting. The more you know the more you understand how an ecosystem operates.
I joined the guys yesterday while they tended the ladder and observed some very good looking, healthy fish. I took the video camera along and filmed the entire process. You can find our latest video about the study by clicking on this link.
We hope you enjoy it.
Our “Caddis Season on the East Outlet” video is also up at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0prAAHPzcOw