May 7, 2010

Record walleye caught on Long Pond

Unwelcome sight to state lake watchers

BELGRADE -- A Maryland man caught a record-breaking walleye on Long Pond this past weekend.

click image to enlarge

INTERLOPER: The walleye is considered a scourge in local lakes.

Staff file photo by Andy Molloy

Tom Conard of Eldersburg, Md. a guest at Castle Island Camps, reeled in his 7-pound, 2-ounce, 23.5-inch trophy Saturday evening while fishing upper Long Pond.

Conard, 54, who works for UPS, said he caught the fish around dusk near the village spillway with a minnow lure called the Yo-Zui.

"I probably would have thrown it back if I hadn't read the article in the paper that they want walleye out of the lake," Conard said Thursday. "I held on to that one and brought it back to Castle Island."

Castle Island Camps owner John Rice said Conard's catch is an unofficial state record; walleyes are not considered a gamefish in Maine.

"A biologist certified it," Rice said Thursday. "It's an unofficial recording. It has to be a recognized state fish, but they'll keep it on record. It's the same as when pike were introduced (illegally). Now they're recognized as a game fish."

Pike and walleye are non-native species illegally introduced into Maine waters. Until about a decade ago, Great and Long ponds were renowned for their landlocked salmon populations.

Rice said most of the guests at his camp fish for salmon and bass.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is in the process of reducing the walleye population in Great and Long ponds with trap nets set near known spawning grounds to protect native species.

Scott Davis, state biologist, said Conard's catch makes it 25 walleye taken out of Great Pond and Long Pond this year. He said about two weeks ago biologists caught 24 walleye in trap nets.

He said walleye need clear water and clean gravel to supply oxygen to their eggs for them to carry on reproduction successfully. Long Pond has a very small areas like that, so the changes of the fish population surviving in that lake are slim. As for pike, their spawning habitat consists of vegetation, weeds and grasses -- and Long Pond has enormous such areas, Davis said.

Even though the walleye population has less of a chance of surviving in Long Pond, he said that doesn't mean they won't succeed in another Maine lake.

"We can put a net over walleye bedding areas, but not the larger areas for pike," Davis said. "So we can control the (walleye) population more successfully. Pike spawn everywhere. That's why we have to jump on the wagon with walleyes."

From looking at the picture of Conard holding the walleye he caught, Davis said he believes the fish is a "not spawn out" female, meaning she is still carrying her eggs.

"When their bedding area is so small and they can't find it, they will not drop their eggs," he said. "Instead, they will reabsorb (the eggs) and utilize them for the following year."

Rice said the state is encouraging fishermen to remove and kill walleyes and contact a biologist. State biologists can be reached at 547-5317.

"It's still an invasive species and treated as such," Rice said. "They're trying to get them out of the lake at this point to manage this body of water."

Rice said Conard wanted to eat the fish, but he convinced him to donate it to the camp.

"They wanted to eat it -- it's a great eating fish -- and I said no, we want to mount it and keep it in the main lodge," he said.

Mechele Cooper -- 623-3811, ext. 408

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