Cold Stream—A Trout Conservation Inventory

Today, ownership of 8,000 acres of Maine’s finest trout habitat transferred to the state’s Department of Conservation.

Staff there will start working with their colleagues at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to develop a management plan to protect and enhance brook trout and whitetail deer habitat on the Cold Stream property, while maintaining public access and keeping most of the property in timber management. After more than seven years of work – and annual predictions in my work plan since 2013 that “Closing will likely occur by the end of this year” – I’m some combination of overwhelmed with joy and exhausted.

Jeff Reardon shows off a pretty wild brook trout from one of the small ponds in the Cold Stream property that was just transferred to state ownership.

Other than an enormous and collective “Thank You”–to colleagues at the Trust for Public Land and the Maine Departments of Conservation and Inland Fisheries and Wildlife; the many funders and supporters of the project; the Maine Legislature, Maine’s Congressional delegation, and thousands of people who fought to restore Land for Maine’s Future funding – I’m not sure what else to say.

So here’s some habitat information that speaks for itself.

  • Total acreage: 8,159.
  • Miles of brook trout stream protected: 15
  • Cold Stream mainstem protected: 100 percent
  • Native brook trout ponds protected: 7
  • Last brook trout stocking in Cold Stream watershed: 1954Last brook trout stocking on the protected property: 1941
  • •Ponds on the property that have never been stocked: 5
  • Stocking in Cold Stream or its tributaries: None, ever.
  • Fish species present on the property: 3 – brook trout, blacknose dace, finescale dace.
  • Non-native fish species present: none.

Bottom line: This is one of the most intact watersheds in the Northeast. It is critically important habitat for at least three “life history strategies” of native brook trout – resident stream populations, lake and pond populations, and migratory populations that use Cold Stream for spawning, but spend their adult years in the mainstem Kennebec River.

It’s still a little early, but in about six weeks the best of Maine’s pond fishing will start. And Cold Stream lives up to its name, so even in the August heat there is good fishing to be found in moving water. I’ll be looking for an excuse to get out of the office for a bit of “field research,” so if you find yourself in western Maine and want a tour, look me up.

Jeff Reardon oversees Trout Unlimited’s efforts in Maine. He is an avid trout angler and waterfowler.

By Jeff Reardon.