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The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Branch Brook Fishing Update

Posted by Wells Reserve Contributor | August 4, 2015

As the warmest part of the summer is upon us here in southern Maine, the movement of fish in Branch Brook has slowed down and researchers here at The Reserve have caught a break from their fishing efforts. We recently removed our fyke net from the river at the Route 9 intersection but are continuing to monitor the trap at the top of the fish ladder at the Kennebunk-Kennebunkport-Wells Water District and are finally having some time to look at our data of what was caught, tagged, and recaptured this year and compared to last. So far, some interesting results!


We began monitoring fish with our fyke net in Kennebunk the middle of April this year and around the same time we installed the fish trap at the top of the fish ladder.?Between then and late July we caught a total of 844 individuals ranging from sand shrimp to sticklebacks, herring, mummichogs, golden shiners, Atlantic tomcod, sunfish, American eels, white sucker, brown trout, brook trout, and sea lamprey. Although this year we began fishing about a month earlier than in 2014, we have caught over twice the number of individual fish.

A major portion of this project has been using Passive Integrated Transponders (PIT tags) to track the success of the newly restored fish ladder. Fish that will move upstream, utilizing the fish ladder at the Water District, were tagged with these small tags when caught in the fyke net and then scanned with a handheld device if they were caught again in the fish trap. In 2014 a total of 37 fish were tagged; in 2015, 57 fish were tagged.? Here is a breakdown of species tagged by year:

Fish tagged in 2014:

  • brook trout = 19
  • brown trout = 10
  • sea lamprey = 4
  • white sucker? =4

Fish tagged in 2015:

  • brook trout = 22
  • brown trout = 11
  • sea lamprey 14
  • white sucker 6

Recently, one of the most exciting parts of this project has been the recapture of fish after tagging them days, weeks, or months previously. This is especially exciting because last year there were no recaptures of fish caught and tagged. However this year there have been four fish -- two white suckers, one sea lamprey, and one brook trout -- which were caught and tagged in one location and then caught again at the other fishing location. There were also two sea lamprey that were tagged then recaptured at the Route 9 fyke net. This shows that although individuals may not be utilizing the entire river habitat, they are still moving around within the system.

The increase in the number of recaptured fish this year give the researcher here hope and excitement for the future. We hope to see additional juveniles utilizing the Branch Brook tributary as a nursery habitat, and adults utilizing it as a spawning habitat.

As the field season comes to a close, the research staff will continue to look at the data from the 2015 fishing season.

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