Baxter Park protected fish long before the state did

As a longtime advocate for protection of our native brook trout, a fight that is ongoing, I was interested to come across a copy of an article in a 1975 edition of DIFW’s magazine.

Longtime DIFW fisheries biologist Paul Johnson wrote the article about Baxter Park’s fisheries management. He noted that “all of the fish species found in Baxter State Park waters are native to Maine.” And Paul told us about those fish, including what waters they were in. And he wrote that “the area in and around Baxter State Park has long been famous for its trout fishing.”

Still is Paul. Still is. Probably because the Park authority and managers understood the importance of protecting those fish.

In fact, even before Baxter’s first gift of land, fly-fishing only regulations were established on Nesowadnehunk Lake and Stream, along with the many small ponds around Kidney and Daicey Ponds.
I own a camp at Camp Phoenix on Nesowadnehunk Lake which is still one of the best places to fish for native brookies in Maine.

Unfortunately, as Paul reports, “stockings were made without regard to waters’ natural abilities to produce trout” in some ponds in that area, including Kidney Pond, and in Nesowadnehunk Stream.

Finally, in 1965, the use or possession of live fish as bait was prohibited for all park waters. “This regulation was established to prevent the spread of existing fish species beyond their present distribution in the park and to prevent the introduction of new species.”

And please note this important statement from Paul about that decision: “It is essential to prevent the spread of the non-game fish species within the park if natural conditions are to be maintained.”

Exactly! Yet DIFW has fought our recent attempt to protect the tributaries to our Heritage waters. I proposed this in legislation sponsored at my request by Rep. Russell Black. After a really ugly battle (reported in this outdoor news in earlier columns), DIFW recently promised the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee that the agency would protect those tributaries and report back to the committee in October.

We’re a little behind Baxter Park, but better late than never.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.