Welcome to our website dedicated solely to Maine's Wild Brook Trout.
For more than 150 years, anglers have been traveling to Maine seeking the native brook trout. In the mid 1800’s, out-of-state anglers first encountered the giant brook trout — some of them over 10 pounds — in the Rangeley Lakes, Moosehead Lake, the Belgrade Lakes, the headwater lakes of the Allagash and St. John rivers, and other areas. Recreational fishing was a boom business in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as “sports” from New York, Philadelphia, Boston and beyond rode trains to railheads near the best trout waters, then boarded wagons or ferries to be carried to one of Maine’s renowned sporting camps.
Although the golden days of the grand Victorian fishing hotels and camps are gone, a surprising amount of Maine’s brook trout heritage remains. More than 1,500 lakes and ponds, and over 22,000 miles of rivers and streams, still support brook trout. 657 lakes and ponds have brook trout populations derived entirely from natural reproduction, and 311 have NEVER been stocked, representing genetically pure strains, unaltered by man since the glaciers retreated. Maine is virtually alone in the Northeast in having maintained a substantial part of its native brook trout heritage.
Although not as fun as fishing for brookies in the wilds of Maine, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) hopes you enjoy the site and find it informative.
Why have a website for Maine's Wild Brook Trout?
Maine is blessed with large tracts of remote, forested land where wild brook trout populations are still abundant, and have not suffered the staggering declines and extirpations noted in other areas of their original distribution within the eastern United States. It's no surprise that angler questionnaires of both in- and out-of-state anglers continually rank brook trout as the number one sought after fish in the State. Maine offers a diversity of fishing opportunities, but for most, Maine fishing is all about brook trout!
Maine has more than 5,000 rivers and streams totaling over 37,000 miles in length. Although many of Maine's rivers and streams have not been surveyed, existing and ongoing stream surveys suggest approximately 70% of Maine's stream watersheds support wild populations of brook trout. In addition, Maine has 1,148 lakes and ponds with substantial brook trout populations, far more than any other state. Of these waters, 657 have wild trout populations and 117 are zoned by the Maine Land Use Regulatory Commission (LURC) as remote trout ponds. The Maine Legislature has designated 311 of these lakes and ponds that have never been stocked as Heritage Brook Trout Waters (A Waters). Although these wild trout waters (lakes and ponds) are distributed throughout the state, most are concentrated in the unorganized forest lands of northwestern Maine. Many of these waters are quite remote, and typically offer solitude, in a wilderness type setting. The unique nature of Maine’s Brook Trout resource was recently highlighted by the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture, which proclaimed Maine as the “last true stronghold for [wild] brook trout in the eastern United States,” with “more than twice the number of intact [stream] watersheds… as the other 16 states in the eastern range combined.” Furthermore, “Maine is the only state with extensive intact populations of wild, self-reproducing brook trout in lakes and ponds, including some lakes over 5,000 acres in size. Maine’s lake and pond brook trout resources are the jewel of the eastern range…”.
Brook trout are sensitive to environmental and habitat degradation; the MDIFW considers that anglers and the interested public who are knowledgeable of, and interactive with, this resource will be prone to work for its continued protection.
A small number of Maine’s more popular brook trout waters are moderately to heavily fished, particularly larger rivers with quality sized brook trout. However, due to their size and/or remote location, many of our wild brook trout streams, ponds, and lakes are infrequently visited and underutilized. Given the quantity and quality of waters supporting unique, renewable brook trout populations – some of which grow to trophy size - MDIFW recognizes the potential to promote these fisheries to instate and out of state anglers to provide additional angling opportunities and economic benefit to the State without jeopardizing the resource. Restrictive regulations already in place are intended to maintain brook trout numbers and size quality in these waters.
In summary, Maine’s wild brook trout resources are unique and unparalleled in the entire United States. This website was established by MDIFW to:
- Serve as a portal to inform Maine’s citizenry of their rich brook trout resource to insure its continued protection.
- Provide anglers and the general public some basic information on Maine’s wild brook trout resources, as well as, research and initiatives relating to these resources that have and/or are being conducted in regards to these resources.
- Promote and attract anglers inclined toward a catch-and-release ethic and to become familiar with and utilize these resources, particularly those that are currently underutilized.