Bald Mountain Pond Infested With Lake Trout
by Ted Williams
Critically imperiled Arctic charr native to Maine’s 1,152-acre Bald Mountain Pond are crashing hard and fast due to nonnative and highly invasive smelt. Only one Arctic charr population in Maine, Rainbow Lake, has survived a smelt infestation, and what effect it has had on the charr is not fully understood.
With nine potential spawning tribs, the smelt infestation in Bald Mountain Pond is probably exploding at a rate that far exceeds proliferation of past smelt infestations in Big Reed and Wadleigh Ponds which had limited tributaries.
Now word comes from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife that Bald Mountain Pond is also infested with illegally, or legally, introduced lake trout. While the department has known about this for four years, Native Fish Coalition only learned about it today (April 18, 2018) via a document we received. Quoting from that document:
"In addition to smelt, lake trout have been confirmed in Bald Mountain Pond. In 2014 a 15-inch lake trout was captured in a gillnet, in 2015 and 2016 anglers reported catching two additional lake trout, and most recently in 2017 two lake trout were captured in gillnets with lengths of 23.6 inches and 29.5 inches."
So, as in New Hampshire’s Lake Sunapee, where charr were hybridized out of existence by lake trout, the same fate may threaten Bald Mountain Pond charr -- if it hasn't already affected it.
Or perhaps smelt, most likely illegally introduced by bucket biologists or by anglers via their illegal use as bait (or both), will finish the job of extirpation before the lake trout have a chance.
There are at best 12 Arctic charr populations left in the contiguous US, all of which are in Maine. Two, in Big Reed and Wadleigh Ponds, are apparently recovering from recent chemical reclamations.
Green Lake is being stocked with lake trout. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife reports that Green Lake has very few remaining charr. Pushineer Pond has a low-abundance of fish also. .
Nonnative and highly invasive landlocked salmon have been confirmed in Rainbow Lake as well. And while originally believed to be a single year-class, pictures recently seen by NFC board members from a local angler who frequents the pond prove otherwise.
Loss of Bald Mountain Pond Arctic charr would be the first extirpation of a native charr population since loss of the Rangeley Lakes’ fish in the early 1900s. It would also be one of the worst native-fish disasters in Maine’s recent history, amounting to an 8-percent loss of charr water and a 13-percent loss of charr acreage.