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by Pete Kallin
When I was growing up and there was any kind of ruckus in the house, which was pretty common with six kids, my mother would tell us to, "Take it outside!" We would then head out to the woods behind the house to find something to do.
My mother was a wise woman. Fifty years before Richard Louv wrote Last Child in the Woods in 2008, she had an innate understanding of "nature deficit disorder" and knew that direct exposure to nature is essential for a child's healthy physical and emotional development. Louv later proved that kids who spend a lot of time outside are healthier, have longer attention spans, and are less likely to suffer from depression or childhood obesity. If you haven't read Louv's book, you should.
I hope this column will inspire you to take advantage of all the outdoor recreation opportunities in our area and especially about the importance of getting youngsters outside and interacting with Mother Nature. Mother Nature is an amazing teacher and we can all learn from her.
Like last year, this winter seemed to come and go, with snow followed by melting, rain, and then more snow and cold. The ice fishing was tough due to the cold and wind but the skiing was good in protected areas. The ice went out in the fourth week of April, more like the old days rather than recent times. The fishing has been good, especially for bass, pike, and trout. Once the surface water hit about 50°F, the fish began to get active and I caught a lot of very large (3- to 4.5-pound) bass on flies fished deep near the bottom in about 20 feet of water near dropoffs.
By the time this article is published, the water temperature will be in the mid to high 60s in most of our lakes and the bass will be in the shallows, either on their own beds or chasing sunfish on their beds. Fast action can be had with streamer flies, surface poppers, jerk baits, or Senko type jigs.
There have also been some nice trout taken in the spillway below the Belgrade Lakes dam, including a couple of nice salmon I caught just after ice-out. I released a 24″, 4-pounder and kept the smaller of the two (22″) because it had recently been wounded by an attack by a large pike and wasn't doing well.
Every spring I act as a "Fish Friends" mentor for the Atlantic Salmon Federation. I work with several schools (and the Maine Lakes Resource Center) to help students raise Atlantic Salmon fry in refrigerated tanks in the classroom from eggs we receive from the National Hatchery at Green Lake in Ellsworth. The students study salmon life cycles and migrations and the fish are eventually stocked into the Bond Brook in Augusta to help restore this Federally-listed endangered species. This year the MLRC and students from Readfield Elementary, Winthrop HS, and St Johns in Winslow released nearly 800 salmon fry. This is a great program and gets young people excited about this critical species.
The hiking trails in the Kennebec Highlands and nearby 7 Lakes Alliance (formerly the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance) properties like French Mountain, Mount Phillip, and The Mountain are beautiful, verdant, and awash in spring and early summer wildflowers like trillium and lady slippers and birds and other wildlife. Check the 7LA FaceBook site for upcoming events. In April, students from the Kent's Hill School worked a Community Service Day with the 7LA Stewardship Committee to help clean up the trails on The Mountain.
I encourage everyone to take advantage of the wealth of recreational opportunities this area offers. Take a kid fishing or on a hike, or paddling in a canoe. It's how memories are made. Or take a parent, so he or she can become a kid again.
Pete Kallin is a past director of the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance, which merged with the Maine Lakes Resource Center in December 2017 to form the 7-Lakes Alliance.