East Machias Fishery
The Maine Department of Marine Resources manages Gardiner Lake for a commercial escapement of less than 35 fish per acre but there is no specific target for this system established at this time. The spawning escapement need for this system is 176,225 river herring passed upstream through three closed days per week in the fishery. The management plan has not achieved returns to meet the 35 fish per acre target escapement developed for other systems.
The main stem East Machias River system has a large run of river herring that is unexploited. The main stem river remains closed as a conservation measure while allowing a larger harvest at the first tributary on the river at the outlet of Gardiner Lake (Figures 13 -14). An estimated run of 2.1 – 4.5 million river herring ascend the East Machias’ 9,000 acres of accessible habitat. An unknown number of blueback herring ascend the river to spawn in the main stem. These fish are not harvested and are allowed free access up and down the river. The DMR allows a higher exploitation rate for Gardiner Lake to keep the main stem of the East Machias open to free passage for all anadromous fish. The East Machias River has no dams on the main stem and provides spawning and juvenile habitat for native Atlantic salmon.
For several years the harvest data from the Gardiner fishery was severely under reported. Historical landings data that are the basis for calculating escapement indicate the escapement into the lake was far below expectations compared to runs in general. Under new management and with accurate landings data the run is still under performing expectations. Additional data collected from this system will indicate the direction this fishery is trending. If indications are that escapement from the commercial fishery is not increasing, DMR will impose additional closed days in 2011.