Explore the various conservation areas in the Big Reed area HERE.
Big Lake is in the very heart of the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s ancestral homeland. Located in and around the town of Grand Lake Stream, near the border with New Brunswick, the lake is part of a sprawling and much larger - roughly 17,000 acre - system known for its remote, wilderness beauty and extraordinary fishing.
In October of last year, an urgent message from Joe Musante (a biologist with the Passamaquoddy Environmental Department) arrived at LSM headquarters. The invasive aquatic plant, Variable-leaf milfoil, had recently been observed for the first time in Big Lake.
The average depth of Big Lake is only 12 feet. This means that the littoral zone extends far out from shore along much of the lake’s 70-plus miles of shoreline. In addition to the vast shallows, the lake is rich in tributaries, coves and islands (28 islands to be exact!), all of which further increases the potential for invasive plants to move about unseen, while steadily gaining ground.
Given the pristine nature of this aquatic wilderness, intensive planning soon started to conduct a major invasive plant survey of the lake this summer. This would involve the Passamaquoddy Tribe, the Downeast Lakes Land Trust, IPP volunteers and, of course, LSM... However, Covid-19 has thrown a wrench into these plans and the planned mobilization of LSM-led volunteers to conduct a complete level-3 survey of Big Lake was postponed. Warning buoys have been placed in Clifford Bay to help boaters steer clear of known infested areas.
This summer for the first time, Downeast Lakes Land Trust staff have been conducting Courtesy Boat Inspections at Big Lake's primary public boat landing. In addition to inspecting boats launching into and leaving the lake, the CBIs are helping to educate boaters to the threat of aquatic invaders and what boaters can do to help prevent their spread.
This August, experienced solo adventurer and certified LSM Invasive Plant Patroller, Lucy Leaf, took it upon herself to travel alone to the Downeast Lakes Region to conduct screening surveys of some of Big Lake's surrounding waterbodies. (To be clear, working alone on the water is not EVER recommended by LSM, but Lucy was determined and we are very grateful for her efforts.) As a result of Lucy's work, small patches of variable-leaf milfoil have now been confirmed in downstream Lewey Lake and Long Lake. The spread of the infestation to downstream waters is very bad news indeed, but by finding these (possible) pioneer colonies early, Lucy has provided the Big Lake community with a window of opportunity to remove these new colonies before they become well established, so that the larger infestation may be contained.
DEP staff, working with local stakeholders will be conducting a major survey of Long Lake this September to get a better handle on the full extent of the infestation in Long Lake itself, in preparation for directing some targeted control operations later this fall. A group of property owners on Big Lake is also now organizing to help address the threat at the local level. LSM will contribute to this goal by providing a special online training in September, focused on the identification of variable watermilfoil and its common native lookalikes, to help broaden the local engagement in this effort to the widest extent possible.
The year is 1937. Across the Atlantic, the Spanish civil war is raging. Somewhere over the Pacific, Amelia Earhart is last heard from. In the US, FDR opens the Golden Gate Bridge; the Hindenburg airship is destroyed at Lakehurst NJ; Spam is first sold in food stores. And, in Maine, Gerald Cooper, a faculty member at UMaine, begins the first systematic survey of the water quality and biology of Maine lakes (and some streams). During this first year, Cooper focuses on streams and a few lakes in York and Cumberland counties. Over the next 7 years (with a break during the war year of 1943), Cooper and colleagues survey over 200 lakes, ending up with Moosehead and Haymock Lakes in 1944.
A key reason for the Cooper surveys was to evaluate lakes for fish-stocking. They collected data on: lake depth, water temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, phosphorus, benthic invertebrates, and plankton & fish communities. Cooper did not measure water transparency. Therefore (and unfortunately, given the ever-expanding base of Secchi data collected by LSM volunteers and others) it is not possible to explore how transparency in these lakes has changed over the 8 decades since these historical surveys were carried out.
Cooper et al. used gill and seine nets to collect fish. Supplemented by information from fish & game wardens, they thus documented the structure of the fish community in each surveyed lake (species composition, diets, age/growth). By comparing these data with more contemporary data from IF&W, it is possible to examine changes in lake fish communities over the past ~ 60 years. Especially interesting is the ‘spread’ of such species as largemouth and smallmouth bass as a result of both intentional and illegal stocking (and ‘natural’ range expansion).
Explore these changes in Maine’s lake fish communities HERE.
The Maine DEP Lakes Assessment Section works in a strong partnership with Lake Stewards of Maine/Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program (LSM) in the collection and management of water quality data collected from Lakes throughout Maine. LSM coordinates the initial gathering and quality assurance process for more than 1,300 individuals and many lake associations that monitor individual lakes across the state.
Also included in this undertaking are a number of regional entities, including Lakes Environmental Association, Cobbossee Watershed District, Mid-Coast Conservancy, 30-Mile River Watershed, 7 Lakes Alliance, Belgrade Lakes Association, Acton Wakefield Watershed Alliance, Allagash Wilderness Waterway, Portland Water District, Auburn Water District, Acadia National Park, and Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust. Included are the sovereign nations of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township, and the Penobscot Indian Houlton Band of Maliseets.
Data have also been acquired from private consultants, such as FBE and Lake & Watershed RMA, as well as others collecting lake data as part of regulatory requirements. Additional data are acquired through the DIF&W and through cooperative projects with the University of Maine System, Bates, Colby and Unity Colleges, and County Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Field data are also collected by the Maine DEP Lakes Assessment Section under probability-based studies conducted within EPA Region I, and as part of the National Lakes Assessment Study being conducted by EPA Headquarters.
We apologize if your lake data-gathering organization has been accidentally omitted. Please let us know if that is the case. Additional types of data are also submitted to the Lakes of Maine website, including Annual Loon Count data gathered by volunteers through Maine Audubon Society, and a variety of lake and watershed information provided by The Nature Conservancy.
Click here to view current water quality conditions on a representative sample of Maine lakes during summer, or view which lakes have experienced ice-cover in the fall and ice-out in the spring.
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