Summertime in the Belgrades
July 1 – 7
Another Great Week in Paradise
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by Pete Kallin
It was another great week in paradise! I got to spend time fishing, hiking, and canoeing. Dick Greenan and I put his canoe into the Kennebec River in Waterville and fished for shad and stripers, which are both in the river right now. The shad are trying to spawn and the stripers are trying to catch the shad, American eels, and alewives, all of which are also headed up the river right now.
Fish were jumping everywhere and there were plenty of human and avian anglers trying to get in on the action, including lots of Bald eagles, Ospreys, and cormorants. We caught lots of big shad, a couple of small stripers, and an alewife. These anadromous fish (i.e., fish that live in saltwater, but spawn in freshwater) spend their lives swimming, usually upstream, and tend to be stronger and have more stamina than freshwater fish of the same size. They put up a real battle on light spinning gear or flyrods. The big smile on Dick's face in the pictures below not only reflects how much fun the fish were to catch but also the fact that he was able to get out into his canoe for the first time in two years after getting two new hips earlier this year and two new knees last year. It was fun to share his joy.
Shad are a large member of the herring family (Alosa sapidissima) that are extremely tasty (sapidissima is Latin for "most savory"), but contain many fine bones. A few years ago, John McPhee wrote a book about shad called, The Founding Fish, in which he made a strong case that there would be no United States of America without shad. In 1776, when George Washington's army was encamped at Valley Forge, the British occupied Philadelphia and tried to starve the Colonial Army by shutting off the food imports from the city. The most significant source of food that got through to Valley Forge were barrels of Delaware River and Susquehanna River shad that provided sustenance for the army to build up their strength in order to row across the Delaware and attack Trenton on Christmas Eve. That was the turning point of the Revolutionary War.
I also hiked a couple of BRCA properties this week, including The Mountain and Mount Phillip. At Mount Phillip, I hiked with Mark Paddock of Farmington, whose family has a camp on the northern shore of Great Pond, and his cousin, Ellen Baker of Minneapolis, MN. Ellen stopped by to hike for a bit after spending a week at Maine Audubon's Hog Island Camp in Bremen, Maine. She was very excited about all the new species she added to her "life list" while visiting the Maine coast and equally excited by the Scarlet tanagers, Hermit thrushes, Bald Eagles, Turkey vultures, Pileated woodpeckers, Pine siskins, Veerys, and vireos that she saw and heard on Mount Phillip while we were hiking. This area has a wide diversity of bird species and is prominently featured in The Maine Birding Trail by Bob Duchesne.
This is a perfect time to enjoy the outdoors before it gets too warm. Now that school's out, it's easy to take a kid fishing or on a hike, or paddling in a canoe. You won't be sorry.
Pete Kallin is a past director of the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance.