Maine’s Brook Trout Treasure

By Ben Hanstein • Jan 8th, 2009 • Category: Features, Outdoors

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FARMINGTON – Representatives from a state agency are meeting with Maine guides, sporting camp owners and other outdoor enthusiasts to discuss a plan to highlight one of the state’s finest recreational resources.

Brook trout, which are fond of small streams and ponds, are a favorite of anglers. Maine has the largest population of the fish, in more than 1,135 lakes and  22,250 miles of stream. Furthermore, the state has the largest number of “wild” brook trout, whose populations do not rely on stocking.

This, combined with the allure of the Maine wilderness, makes many local guides feel that the state could be drawing more people who are interested in a unique fishing experience.

That’s where the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife comes in. The  state agency is interested in helping develop a marketing tool for use by those interested in fishing in Maine. This plan, which could consist of a Web site among other possibilities, would provide would be tourists with information on where the fish are, where good places to stay the night could be, put them in contact with guides and so forth.

“I think a lot of people would enjoy the remoteness of the ponds here,” IFW biologist Forrest Bonney said. “The feeling is we’re not really advertising this well.”

Bonney and others in IFW are talking with guides about something called the Brook Trout Initiative. This would be designed to simultaneously elevate Maine’s brook trout fishing’s visibility nationally, and provide people interested in taking a trip to Maine with complete vacation packages.

Currently, Canada and Montana both use an interactive Web site similar to ones envisioned as part of the Brook Trout Initiative.

A major issue is, of course, funding. With the state already facing a budget shortfall, and a grim national economic picture, there isn’t a lot of money available.

“Marketing is dollars,” said Marc Edwards, of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

The exact nature of the initiative’s audience also is under debate. Guides at a meeting held in Farmington said that they were seeing changes within their customers’ demographics. More and more people are paying the guides to fish for the experience, rather than because they always have taken a week off in the summer to come up to Maine.

“These folks go to places you’ve never heard of,” Maine Master Guide Milt Baston said. “We need to find these people.”

This new generation of fishing enthusiasts tend to be younger, and more receptive to the Internet as a source of information. Edwards, who specializes in getting other organizations the tools they need to market themselves effectively, called this “e-word of mouth.”

For now, the IFW is continuing to gather information from guides across the state. At some point, a document will be drafted with the Brook Trout Initiative’s proposals. Then, supporters will look into ways of funding it.

Whatever happens, those at Thursday night’s meeting agreed, that brook trout could represent a great way to draw more people to the state.

“It’s arguably the most beautiful fish in the world,” as one guide put it.

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