Loons are stealing anglers’ brook trout

A friend who likes to fish a western Maine lake recently told me that the lake has more than two dozen loons and the loons are chasing anglers around the lake, grabbing their brook trout after they are hooked.

The lake is only about a mile long so it seems very unusual to have that many loons there.

My friend asked if there is anything they could do about this and I checked with the Fish and Wildlife Department and learned that there really is nothing we can do. They have never captured and moved loons.

Why would so many be there? I asked DIFW’s Danielle D’Auria, and this is her response:

I had heard reports of quite a few flooded, failed nests early in the season, which could result in more adults being free to roam rather than stay on territory.  The best advice I can give to anglers is to reel in and wait for the loons to give up, and/or move to a new spot where the loons are not a problem.  We definitely don’t want the loons to be successful at grabbing hooked fish, for this may reinforce in their minds it is a good way to forage (plus the hook and attached tackle/line won’t be good for them either).  – Danielle

The call from my friend reminded me of an evening when my dad and I were fishing Nesowadahunk Lake on the edge of Baxter Park where I have a camp. Dad hooked a brook trout and a loon swam up and grabbed the trout.

Dad yanked the trout of the loon’s mouth and got it into the boat. The loon went into a rage, swimming around our boat, flapping his wings and screeching.   Dad unhooked the trout and released it back into the lake.

The loon dashed over and grabbed the trout. He did not say thank you.

The anglers on my friend’s lake are worried about all those loons eating most of the lake’s trout and salmon. I think that is a legitimate concern. Loons do eat a lot of fish. So you can imagine a lake with two dozen loons causing a quick diminishment of the fisheries.

Apparently it is something we just have to put up with.


George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.