Removing Coldwater Brook Pond from the State Heritage Fish List: A Bad Idea and a Bad Precedent

 Volunteer Tim Spahr posting a State Heritage Fish sign at Coldwater Brook Pond.

Volunteer Tim Spahr posting a State Heritage Fish sign at Coldwater Brook Pond.

 

Coldwater Pond is a rare wild native brook trout pond in southern Maine.  It is a “Principal Fishery” for brook trout with a unique set of regulations that includes being closed to ice fishing and the collection of baitfish, a short season that mimics northern wild trout waters (April 1 - September 30), an artificial lures only restriction, and an “Experimental” length limit of 6-12” with none over.  Clearly someone thought this was a resource worth protecting.  

Coldwater Pond was last stocked in 1967, or over 50 years ago.  The brook trout fishery has persevered without the aid of stocking for a half a century, and in an area where life for wild brook trout is not easy.  It is one of only roughly thirty Principal Fisheries for brook trout in Region A, and one of only four SHF waters.  It deserves formal and binding protection from the use of live bait and stocking. 

Unfortunately, Maine Department of Inland Fish and Wildlife has proposed removing Coldwater Brook Pond from the State Heritage Fish list.  Their reason is that the water level has dropped and it is no longer a pond, a position that NFC and others do not agree with -- click here to read the Maine chapter of NFC testimony.   

At the public hearing to discuss the proposal, several people spoke up against it and no one other than MDIFW supported it.  

Here is what Maine Audubon had to say:

Maine Audubon opposes removing Coldwater Brook Pond because, based on reports we have seen, the Pond appears to meet all three criteria needed for listing as a Heritage Pond, including (1) it’s still a pond by definition, (2) it has not been stocked within the past 25 years, and (3) it has a self-sustaining population of brook trout that are readily captured by angling and scientific collection methods.  Even though the Pond is smaller and there were fewer fish caught in the Pond in the latest survey compared with the previous survey, there were still plenty of fish in multiple age classes
caught to qualify as a self-sustaining population, so we don’t understand why this Pond is proposed for removal.

Here is what Maine TU had to say:

We oppose two of the Department’s proposals to remove SHFWs: Coldwater Brook Pond:  The Department’s proposes to remove Coldwater Brook Pond because the dam at its outlet has breached, reducing the size of the pond.  (The proposal package refers to breaching of a beaver dam, but discussion with local anglers and Region A staff suggest there is also a man-made dam at the outlet that has deteriorated.) The proposal also notes that brook trout abundance and size quality have diminished. We have considered this proposal in the framework developed by the Department and the Heritage Fish Working Group for Heritage Water Considerations, with background information and pond surveys of Coldwater Brook Pond in 1999, 2001, 2002, and 2012 provided by Regional Staff through Matt Lubejko.  The Heritage Waters Consideration Data Sheet (attached) sets three criteria for SHFWs: (1) That the water is a lake or pond; (2) That it supports a self-sustaining population of brook trout or charr; and (3) That the water has not been stocked in at least 25 years.  According to reports provided by the Department, Coldwater Brook Pond has never been stocked, and its tributary was last stocked in 1967.

Here is what Sportsman's Alliance of Maine had to say:

While we are neither for nor against removing Coldwater Brook Pond from the Heritage waters list, because this water is no longer a “pond”, we are confused by the Department’s continuing to manage this water as a pond in other regulations.  If this water is no longer considered a pond, it needs to be managed consistently as flowing water in your other regulations and its WAT code needs to be retired.  We have members who fish this water and have been told that it is still well known as a good wild trout fishery and as such it deserves some form of protection and ask you to consider other appropriate regulation if it is removed from the Heritage Fish waters list.

And this comes from an individual:

Please do not take cold water brook pond in Kennebunk off of the heritage list. If anything there should be more regulations on it. This pond is a gem for York county and I have personally seen some great trout growth over the past several years. More regulations like fly fish only and better signage around the pond would tremendously help this fishery. Please don’t ruin one of the only native trout ponds in York county.

While we do not know what the final decision will be, it is clear that the tide is against MDIFW on this one.  Coldwater Brook Pond was pond when it was so named, it was a pond when the state issued it a MIDAS code, it was a pond when it was granted State Heritage Fish designation, and it is a pond today.

Rather than removing waters from the State Heritage Fish List, MDIFW should focus on adding waters.  Wild native brook trout lakes and ponds are found primarily in Maine.  To provide them with legal protection from stocking and live fish as bait is good management.  To refuse to do so is not.  

A few years ago the WIld Trout Working Group which none of us were part of, agreed to a compromise with MDIFW to change removing waters from the State Heritage Fish list from a Major Substantive Rule to a Routine Technical Rule.  This allows for the removal of Coldwater Brook Pond without legislative approval which was required under the original law.  NFC believes this was a mistake and if we lose Coldwater Brook Pond it will prove it was.