Anglers planning a fishing trip to Aziscohos Lake in the northwestern Maine should be aware of new regulations designed to improve the health of the fishery and provide anglers with a chance to catch larger salmon.
Beginning this year, anglers can keep all landlocked salmon (no size or bag restrictions) smaller than 16 inches in length; along with one salmon over 16”.
You may wonder why we are encouraging anglers to keep smaller salmon at Aziscohos. About ten years ago, our angler surveys revealed that Aziscohos Lake landlocked salmon were growing slower than their historic rates. At the time, it was clear that anglers were embracing the catch and release ethic, so there were more salmon competing for the same amount of forage, resulting in these slower growth rates.
In 2010, in order to boost growth rates, improve salmon health and encourage anglers to harvest more salmon, we instituted a more liberal bag limit that allowed anglers to take three salmon over 12 inches a day, with only one exceeding 16 inches.
This regulation succeeded with higher harvest rates and improved growth rates in other Maine lakes, and a follow up angler survey in 2015 showed that while it was helping at Aziscohos with anglers keeping more legal salmon, the salmon population would benefit even more from an increased rate of harvest since salmon growth and condition remained poor.
With this new regulation, particularly the no size or bag limit on salmon under 16 inches, we are asking anglers to liberally harvest salmon from Aziscohos Lake. Signs promoting this new regulation will be displayed at access sites on Aziscohos as part of a partnership between MDIFW, the Rangeley Region Guide’s and Sportsman’s Association, and the Norway-Paris Fish and Game Association.
This past fall, we were busy trapnetting on Aziscohos in order to get determine current salmon and brook trout growth rates. We will follow up with another trapnetting effort in 2022 to measure how much quicker salmon are growing under the new regulation.
This spring and summer, we will also conduct angler surveys to determine fishing pressure and salmon harvest rates, as well as analyze stomach contents of harvested salmon to monitor the lake’s smelt forage base. We will follow that with another Aziscohos angler survey in 2021.
Even with winter refusing to let us go of her icy grip, the ice will be out soon, so get out your fishing gear and make plans to visit Aziscohos Lake this year. Be sure to bring home some salmon for your smoker or for a fine dinner as keeping those salmon will help improve the Aziscohos salmon fishery, providing larger salmon and better fishing in the years to come.