Stop fishing! You are killing the fish.

Kennebec River Gorge trout twoWell, that’s the message this week from fisheries biologists at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.  Low water, high temperatures, and those fish you hook often die, no matter how careful you are in releasing them. The agency recommends that you limit your fishing to early and late in the day.

I’ve never seen the brook behind my house so low. It’s just a trickle now, a flow you can easily stop over.

Francis Brautigam, DIF&W’s new fisheries division director, told reporter Kevin Miller, “Many of our cold-water species, such as brook trout, they don’t tolerate elevated water temperatures very well, so the combination of elevated temperatures and reduced stream flow over a long period of time created concerns. So we wanted people to be aware that fish are stressed.”

Jeff Reardon of Trout Unlimited agrees with the department. He told Miller, “My view is this is a good time of year to go striper fishing or go bass fishing.” Reardon also reported that he’d like to see Maine close waters to fishing or restrict angling to specific time periods, during times of drought and intense heat, as they do in Montana and other states.

Here’s DIF&W’s entire press release on this issue.

AUGUSTA, Maine — With much of Maine suffering from below average rainfall and varying degrees of drought-like conditions, anglers are reminded to be prudent when fishing for coldwater fish species such as trout and landlocked salmon.

“Maine is known for our coldwater species like brook trout and landlocked salmon,” said IFW’s director of Fisheries Francis Brautigam, “Yet during a summer like this, our waters can get unusually warm and it can impact fish such as trout and salmon.”

In order to beat the heat in streams and rivers, brook trout seek deeper pools that are cooler and better oxygenated. Small, colder tributaries are also locations where these fish will seek thermal refuge. In ponds, they will seek spring holes. When fish are in these situations, they become more susceptible to predators.

Trout and salmon that reside in our deeper, colder lakes are also impacted by this summer’s weather. The lack of rain has surface water temperatures warmer than usual, with some lake surfaces topping the 80 degree mark. Trout and salmon will stay below the thermocline, where temperatures can be in the 45-55 degree range.

“A fish that is caught below 40 feet of water may experience a temperature difference of close to 35 degrees,” said Brautigam, “This type of temperature swing can put added stress on a fish.”

In extreme cases in some shallower and smaller ponds, dry summers such as this can result in fish kills, since water loses oxygen as it becomes warmer.

Anglers can help out Maine’s trout and landlocked salmon by following a few simple steps:

  • After hooking a fish, catch and release the fish quickly if you are not planning to keep it.
  • Fish early and later in the day when water temperatures are cooler.
  • Consider using barbless hooks as it allows you to release a fish quicker.
  • Avoid keeping the fish out of the water for pictures, or keeping them in warm surface water.

Anglers are also reminded that beginning August 16, fishing in rivers, streams and brooks is restricted the use of artificial lures and flies only, and the daily bag limit on trout and salmon species is 1 fish.

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.