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www.northmainewoods.org 29 These herring-like fish with small mouths and large scales are actually part of the salmonid family distant relatives to other species of trout and salm- on. Lake whitefish can grow to large sizes weighing four pounds or more and their white flaky meat makes excellent table fare. Lake whitefish are fun to catch. Because they dwell in deep-water lake bot- toms feed on small baits and are a schooling fish the most effective way to target whitefish is by actively jigging. The advent of snowmobiles and power augers led to a popular whitefish following among ice fishermen since the 1970s. Unfortunately whitefish populations also began to decline around that time. Whitefish numbers have declined to such an extent that they only occur as remnant populations in most waters with healthy fishable populations in just a handful of lakes in the Allagash River drainage. The Maine Depart- ment of Inland Fisheries Wildlife has implemented restrictive fishing regulations in many lakes to prevent overharvest of these fish but recent research has revealed that the primary reason whitefish populations have declined has little to do with angler harvest. In almost every case we can document whitefish declines coinciding with the establishment of rainbow smelt populations. Smelts are not native to northern Maine but were widely introduced in the early days to provide forage for salmon also introduced and togue. Because lake whitefish and rainbow smelt utilize the same habitat and feeding strategies competition between the two species has likely caused whitefish declines and we sus- Whitefish Inhabit Waters pect that in many waters adult smelts also feed on juvenile whitefish. On a broad level these interactions have likely caused the extirpation of lake whitefish populations throughout the Fish River Chain of lakes. Since lake whitefish populations are still hanging on in many Allagash waters and theyve become a prized sportfish fisheries biologists have made it a priority to learn more about whitefishsmelt interactions. We began a research study last year on Cliff Spider and Second Musquacook Lakes. Preliminary results have provided a real eye opener to the huge changes we believe smelts have caused in these ecosystems. Both smelts and whitefish rely heavily on zooplankton to survive especially in the early days after the young hatch out. In lakes without smelts zooplankton populations are healthy and abundant but in lakes with high smelt densi- ties zooplankton numbers are too low to support feeding and survival of young whitefish. Developing a better understanding of lake whitefish population declines and strategies to protect and restore these populations has proven to be a monumental task and will take significant time and effort. Fortunately we still have some healthy fishable whitefish populations in the North Maine Woods. Several of the larger lakes in the Allagash drainage provide the best opportunity to catch whitefish. Try jigging with light tackle and small baits in the deepest depths of these lakes. For more information on whitefish populations specific locations and fishing strategies feel free to contact me at jeremiah.woodmaine.gov. of preventing fire spread to a structure from a woods fire and vice versa. You also need to think about how small embers may travel. In large fire events struc- tures are lost well after the main fire front passes because tiny embers blow into nooks and crannies where flammable materials like dry leaves and mouse nests are. Many of the things to be done to create Defensible Space are simple yearly chores clean debris out of any gutters rake away flammable leaf litter trim up tree branches within the space at least six feet high remove overhanging branches keep temporary flammable items such as lawn chairs stored when not in use keep any grass mowed remove dead vegetation maintain an adequate mineral strip around any outside fire pits. Other things to create defensible space may take a bit more work close in crawlspaces and screen vent openings so that embers cant infiltrate. Create a five foot wide vegetation free zone around structures. Pile firewood and keep your generator and fuel in a structure separate from your camp. While these suggestions arent guarantees that the worst wont happen heeding them increases the odds of your camp surviving a forest fire or from spreading fire from a burning camp into the woods we all love. If you have a fire emergency or would like a Forest Ranger to evaluate your camp and give suggestions on how to improve your defensible space please contact the Maine Forest Service through the local State Police Barracks or your nearest Ranger station. in the North Maine Woods With abundant sport fishing opportunity for species like brook trout and togue in the North Maine Woods anglers might be surprised to discover the unique chance to fish for another native sportfish the lake whitefish. Lake whitefish were historically found in most of northern Maines larger lakes but their populations have declined considerably over the past half century. By Jeremiah Wood Northern Region Fisheries Biologist Fire prevention