The fish may soon be getting bigger in Green Lake.
The Hancock County lake is among the waters up for fishing rule changes under the latest proposals rolled out by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
If enacted, the proposed changes could provide anglers with the opportunity to catch larger landlocked salmon in the future, something avid fishermen in the area say is long overdue.
The 2,989-acre Green Lake — located in Dedham and Ellsworth — experiences the highest levels of angler use per acre in the region during both the open water and ice fishing seasons, according to a DIF&W report. That’s impressive considering the nearby proximity of popular waters such as Phillips Lake, Beech Hill Pond and Branch Lake.
The Green Lake initiative, which is listed in DIF&W’s “Special Need” category, would require that all landlocked salmon between 17 and 20 inches must immediately be released alive. It also proposes a daily bag limit on salmon to two fish, only one of which may be greater than 20 inches.
The current law allows anglers to harvest salmon measuring at least 14 inches, with a daily limit of two fish.
Justin Gott is among the anglers who think the proposed new rule is long overdue.
“Size of salmon has been an issue for a while in there,” Gott said. “Anything that will help protect and increase the overall size and health of the salmon in there wouldn’t hurt.”
Gott said it is extremely rare to catch a salmon of more than 20 inches in Green Lake and that even 18-inchers are not common.
Chris Kane of Bass Harbor proposed another tweak to the salmon size limit.
“Green’s always had abundant salmon but not a lot of size to them. I think they should just go to a straight 20-inch minimum,” he said.
The purpose of its proposal is to increase size, quality and proportion of older landlocked salmon in the fishery by applying a protective slot limit, DIF&W said.
“Historically, Green Lake has been managed for average-sized salmon with an above-average catch rate,” DIF&W said. “However, stakeholders of the Green Lake Focus Group and local anglers have expressed an interest in having the lake managed for increased numbers of larger salmon.”
The state’s goal is to increase the number of 4-year-old salmon caught from the approximately 10 percent that exists to the desired proportion of 20 percent of the catch.
The salmon limit is only one aspect of the Green Lake fishery. Biologists also want to maintain the existing native Arctic charr population and manage quality-sized stocked lake trout and smallmouth bass.
Green Lake is stocked with 1,350 lake trout annually, and during the past 12 years DIF&W has reduced salmon stocking from 1,000 spring yearlings each year to 500 fall yearlings in an attempt to increase growth and health.
Those Green Lake anglers who are more interested in catching salmon than other species say the health of the population is tied directly to the availability of smelts as forage.
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“The white perch population has gotten out of hand in Green. Smelts don’t stand a chance,” Gott said.
Smallmouth bass also incurred the wrath of anglers who believe they, too, are taking a bite out of the bait supply.
Despite the challenges, some anglers still occasionally land a nice salmon at Green Lake.
“I did manage an 18 1/2-inch salmon there about a week ago,” said Chester Kimble of Otis, “but right before that, trolling a DB Smelt in 101 feet of water, seven colors down, I caught a 22-inch pickerel. So weird things can happen.”
If the rule is passed, that trend could change for the better in the coming years.
The complete listing of proposed fishing rule changes for 2023 can be found on the DIF&W website. The agency is now accepting comments on that plan.