VIENNA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The brook trout population in one of central Maine's most popular fisheries is in danger after biologists discovered an illegal fish introduction.
Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologists recently discovered the presence of smallmouth bass in Vienna's Kimball Pond. The bass was discovered while biologists were conducting a routine survey of the pond's trout population.
Biologists said the introduction of bass is a problem because they compete with brook trout for food, and they can even prey on them.
Fisheries biologist Jason Seiders said there have been increasing complaints from anglers in recent years about reduced brook trout catches, and biologists have been trying to figure out why.
While it's not the only reason for the reduced trout population in recent years, Seiders said the recent introduction of bass in Kimball Pond could become a much larger problem if it isn't controlled.
"Generally, if there's one, there's more," Seiders said. "Eventually, if we do have a population in here, they'll explode, and soon you will just have smallmouth bass, and the brook trout will be kind of an afterthought."
It's the first time biologists have discovered bass in Kimball Pond, but it's a problem they take seriously.
In Maine, introducing fish into a body of water is illegal, and it's punishable by a fine of up to $10,000.
"It's kind of tough to rationalize," Seiders said. "It may just be that somebody nearby wanted to catch smallmouth bass closer to home, or they just didn't like what the department was doing here, or they didn't like the stocking program."
Seiders said his team of biologists will be doing more in the coming weeks in an attempt to curb the problem, and they've already posted signs around the pond alerting anglers to the problem.
Seiders said the department has instituted a no size or bag limit on bass in Kimball Pond. He said any anglers who encounter bass in the pond should call the department's Sidney headquarters at 547-5314.
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is also offering a minimum reward of $2,000 for information leading to the apprehension of the people responsible for the illegal fish introduction.
Anyone with information is asked to call Operation Game Thief at 1-800-253-7887.