With winter settled in, ice fishing success increases

brook trout

by Frank R. Richards

Ice fishing on Webber Pond can be really good, particularly in January and March. I’ve learned a few things over the years and I’d like to pass them on.

Usually, fish are most active just after the ice forms and in March as the snow melts, bringing oxygenated water into the pond. February can be slow.

The yellow lines indicate prime ice fishing spots on Webber Pond right after ice in and in March. Illustration courtesy of Frank Richard

When a lake is frozen, the wind can’t oxygenate the water. By late January, in a relatively shallow, mostly clay bottomed lake like Webber, there is often very little oxygen left in water that is deeper than 15 feet. Without oxygen, fish are not moving around much or feeding aggressively.

They will seek relatively warmer water with higher levels of oxygen. Locations may vary according to differences in individual years. However, generally the optimum seems to be about 8 feet for bass and crappies; about 4 feet for stocked trout.

Either jigging or tip ups will produce fish. I prefer to jig when I am alone. I like tip ups better when I am fishing with friends. Waiting for flags is a great time to socialize.

With tip ups, I think it is easiest to set the bait about 18 inches under the ice. In water as shallow as eight feet, fish will come up to it from where ever they may be located in the water column.

To go with the article, I have prepared a map and drawn yellow lines to indicate good places. Over the years, I have had my best results off Birch Point. However, the area off the Green Valley Campground has also been productive recently.

Stocked trout may be caught in shallow areas all over the lake. However, by far, the best trout hole is the “Two Rocks” area on the northern shore. Also, I have been told that there is a spring near Church Island. If anyone ever gets an exact location, it will be extremely productive because of the highly oxygenated water.

chain pickerel

Please practice catch and release on bass weighing more than three pounds. Large fish play a very important role in promoting the overall health of the total fishery. If the hook is deep, simply cutting the line is far safer for the fish than trying to disgorge a hook that is embedded deep down.

I believe the size of bass taken through ice has increased significantly compared to 20 years ago. I suspect it is because of the additional forage provided by juvenile alewives during the summer.

Crappies have also evolved as a popular fish on Webber, both through the ice and open water. They came down Seaward Mills Stream from Three Mile Pond and then proliferated. They were evidently not illegally introduced by a self-appointed bucket biologist. They did not come up the fish ladder from Seven Mile Stream.

Crappie are an excellent eating fish and so prolific that there is no reason to practice catch and release. Also, there is no reason to practice catch and release on stocked trout. If the bass don’t eat them, they will die as the water warms up during the summer. White perch, yellow perch, and pickerel are also frequently caught on Webber; and are good to eat.

Good fishing. And enjoy the winter.

Frank Rich­ards is president of the Webber Pond Asso­ciation.

largemouth bass

brown trout

Save the Mill fundraiser reaches preliminary goal

The Olde Mill Place in North Vassalboro

More needs to be done to achieve $250,000 estimate for repairs to the roof damaged in October storm

Vassalboro’s “SAVE THE MILL” Campaign and Ray Breton thank all of who were involved in hard work and donations towards repair of the roof of the Olde Mill in downtown North Vassalboro! The $7,000 mark has been reached, and they still have a long way to go!

As many of you know, The Olde Mill, in downtown North Vassalboro, sustained significant roof damage as a result of the storm of October 28 – 29, 2017. The estimate for repairs is $250,000.

The mill is owned by Raymond J. Breton. Ray shares the mill with the town.

Vassalboro Days events are held there. Halloween at the Olde Mill is an annual event.

The Community Christmas Tree and lighting ceremony are held there.

The mill houses 2,000 rubber ducks and then hosts the Double Dam Ducky Derby.

The mill serves as storage for the 100 flags that fly along Maine Street each summer.

The Vassalboro Fishing Derby is held there, as are many of theVassalboro Business Association’s Scholarship Fundraisers.
Baseball and softball training occurs upstairs all winter long.

The Girl Scout’s Annual Cookies Storage and Distribution is all at the mill.

There is a clothing closet for the local food pantry to store clothing for those in need.

These and many other community events are hosted by Ray at the mill for no charge.

Ray has created a picnic park, a brookside gazebo, and a swimming hole with life vests, canoes, a float, and slide for the town to use for free. He has created a children’s playground on the property as well as several areas for playing basketball.

Ray’s properties are noted for their psychic richness. He leads many tours through his buildings and donates those proceeds to the Vassalboro Food Pantry.

Downtown North Vassalboro has undergone a huge and beautiful transformation in the last eight years because of Ray.

Now he needs our help. There is no insurance on the mill. Ray and his friends and crew work very diligently to maintain the building, but this storm was too much. In order to save the mill, the roof will need to be repaired or else ice and rain will ruin the mill structure. Right now, after many hours of patching, the roof is rigged with tarps and tar to hopefully keep as much of the weather out as possible. But by spring, real repairs need to happen.

Many have donated anonymously at the Vassalboro branch of Maine Savings Federal Credit Union to the “Save The Mill” account. They should know their gifts are truly appreciated.

Heartfelt thanks go out to Nate Gray, Bill and Deb Johnson, Harriet Stamler, William and Betty Branch, AgMatters LLC, Dawn Cates, Tim and Debbie Giroux, Luc Beaulieu, Evan Shorey, Rocky Gravel, Margaret Dowdy, James Ashton, Jacquelyn Murphy, Frank Reynolds, Peter and Jackie Reny, Kaitlin Hosea, Robert Nixon, Judith Davidson, Kelsey Houston, James Breslin, Laura, William Whitman, Vassalboro Retired Teachers and Friends, Leonard Poulin, Lucille Roy, Richard Desmond, Juliette Akins, Carol Axtell, Chris and Amy French, the Watson Family, Kimberly Kimball and friends, and In Memory of Thelma Rancourt, and The Town Line newspaper.

Extra-special thanks also go out to the movers and shakers behind the scenes, including Don, Lisa, and Jessica Breton, Linda Ellis, Mike Vashon, Darrell Gagnon, Tiffany Luczko, Meridith Cain, Therese Burns Barnett, Victor Esposito, Stacy Thorndike, the Titus family, April Stitham-Woodbury, Johnny and Becky Goodrich, and Mr. and Mrs. Dan Rodrigue.

Vassalboro is a small town of 4,320 and so many are involved with this campaign. If we have accidently omitted your name, we are sorry. Your help is so important and needed.

We cannot forget the thousands of dollars of items donated for the raffles going on to benefit the work!

The fundraising continues! Please mark your calendar for the following events, all of which will benefit the mill:

  • Saturday, Dec. 30, from 6 p.m. on, the Taylor Road Band Benefit. Tickets are $15/person. It is a concert and potluck at the mill! Call Darrell Gagnon at 649-3626 for more information.
  • Sunday, January 21, from 4 – 6:30 p.m.. spaghetti supper and huge raffle at Vassalboro Community School. Supper Tickets are $5. Contact Meridith Cain at 458-2075
  • Sunday, February 11, from 10 a.m., the American Woolen Mill Urban Mountain Bike Fundraiser at the Mill. https://www.bikereg.com/vassalboro-mill-fundracer for more information.
  • Sunday, February 11, from 1 – 5 p.m., Vassalboro’s Annual Fishing Derby and Huge Raffle at the mill! Tickets are on sale now! Contact Linda Titus at 631-3303.
  • Saturday, April 7, from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m., at the mill participate in Vassalboro’s First Indoor Yard Sale! Contact Stacy Thorndike at 446-2690 to reserve your space!
  • Saturday, April 21, from 6 to 11 p.m., a Public Paranormal Investigation by G.R.I.M. Tickets are $35 each and available from https://ghost-research-and-investigations-of-maine.ticketleap. com/save-the-mill-public-paranormal-investigation/

To keep up with all the fun-raising, please check out our “SAVE THE MILL” page on Facebook! Thank you. https://www.facebook.com/groups/787714818075573/.

Vassalboro Selectmen to hear CEO, act on ongoing town land use violations

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen are scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14, with an agenda that includes discussions with Codes Officer Richard Dolby.

Dolby has drafted revisions to the Building Permit Ordinance (last revised in 2012), which need selectmen’s review and ultimate approval by voters. He is also scheduled to talk about two ongoing violations of town land use ordinances.

Other items on the Dec. 14 agenda are final action to sell a foreclosed-upon subdivision on Ilona Drive, a report on the cost of mailing town meeting notices to voters, discussion of solid waste disposal and cemetery maintenance and a preliminary schedule for selectmen’s and budget committee deliberations in preparation for the June 2018 annual town meeting.

Vassalboro selectmen’s meetings are held in the town office meeting room and are open to the public.

Vassalboro: Planners approve new business, home

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro Planning Board members approved both applications on their Dec. 5 agenda, allowing a new business on Riverside Drive and a new house on Webber Pond Road.

Troy LaBreck is leasing the Getchell building at 2252 Riverside Drive, at the Alpine Street intersection, to run a business repairing motorcycles, snowmobiles, four-wheelers and similar sports machines. He might later include sales and car repairs and used car sales, he said; he is a Ford Focus fan.

For now he plans to start slowly, with no regular employees – though other mechanics might occasionally use some of his space – and no major exterior or interior changes. Planning board members reviewed plans for lighting, waste disposal and related issues that might affect the environment or neighboring landowners. They approved the permit with two conditions, both acceptable to LaBreck:

  • LaBreck is to notify abutters, and if any have questions or objections, they will have a chance to speak to the board before the permit is final; and
  • Labreck is to put a screen around the dumpster he plans to put on the property. Marilyn Hudxina needed planning board approval for her new house on Webber Pond Road abutting Kennebec Land Trust’s Vassalboro Wildlife Habitat area because the building site is within the 250-foot shoreland district. Board members found the house will be outside the 100-foot shoreland zone on a conforming lot and quickly granted the permit.

The next regular Vassalboro Planning Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening, Jan. 2, 2018.

Vassalboro: Residents hear update on ARI from speakers

Left, Ladd Dam, and right, Box Mill. Contributed photos

by Mary Grow

About 30 people gathered in the East Vassalboro Grange Hall for a Nov. 29 update on the Alewife Restoration Project (ARI), aimed at restoring alewife runs from the ocean into China Lake. Speakers focused on two obstacles, the Ladd and Box Mill dams.

Presenters were Landis Hudson and Matt Streeter of Maine Rivers, Nate Gray of the Maine Department of Marine Resources and Peter Abello and Ben Naumann of the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Other groups involved in or assisting with ARI include the China Lake Association, China Region Lakes Alliance, the towns of China and Vassalboro, the Sebasticook Regional Land Trust, Maine Rivers, the Nature Conservancy and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Outlet Stream, which runs from China Lake into the Sebasticook River, had six dams that obstructed fish passage. The Masse dam in East Vassalboro has been removed; the Lombard dam between East and North Vassalboro is also to be taken out. The Outlet dam in East Vassalboro will have a fishway. Plans for the Morneau dam between East Vassalboro and Lombard dam are incomplete.

Plans discussed Nov. 29 include a fishway at the Ladd dam, along the west bank, with the existing impoundment to be maintained and Ray Breton’s recreational area on the east bank to be undisturbed.

Naumann said an archaeological survey is pending. Engineering plans are due this winter. If funds are available, construction of the fishway could be a 2018 project. An informational sheet distributed at the meeting said a Denil fish ladder is planned; it would allow an annual alewife harvest to benefit the town, like the harvest at Webber Pond.

The partly-collapsed Box Mill dam is a “complex site, highly modified over the years,” Gray said. Naumann agreed, saying the dam is nicknamed “Swiss cheese” because it has so many holes.

Numerous engineers have come up with more than a dozen conceptual designs over the last three years, Naumann said. The experts are moving toward consensus on a plan; if they agree, construction is possible in 2018 or 2019.

Gray said removing the dam is not an option. Outlet Stream was diverted when it was installed, and without the dam significant upstream erosion would threaten the Oak Grove Road bridge.

Once a plan has been made, Naumann said residents will be invited to another meeting for an updated progress report.

Abello, NRCS district consultant based in Augusta, explained that the agency’s main role in the project is to assist with funding. The landowner – Ray Breton for both the Ladd and Box Mill dams – applies; Abello helps develop plans that meet the landowner’s goals and preserve natural resources.

The funding process is highly competitive, Abello warned.

Before the Kennebec and Sebasticook rivers were dammed in the 1800s, Gray said, alewives and other fish used to travel well inland to spawn in lakes and ponds. The Edwards dam on the Kennebec was removed in 1999 and the Fort Halifax dam on the Sebasticook in 2008; by the spring of 2009, alewives were sighted below Box Mill dam.

The small fish are valuable for lobster bait. They might also play a role in removing the algae that are over-abundant in China Lake and other area lakes; scientific studies are not unanimous, but Webber Pond Association President Frank Richards gives alewives some of the credit for improved water quality.

China Lake has been stocked by trucking in alewives since 2012, Gray said.

In addition to alewives, a Denil fish ladder can accommodate other small fish, including Atlantic salmon and perhaps small striped bass, Gray told an audience member. Unwelcome fish like pike, white catfish and carp, which are present in the lower Kennebec, will probably be deterred by shallow water in Outlet Stream between North Vassalboro and the Sebasticook, he said.

Maine Children’s Home seeks clothing donations; get a free haircut

The Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers is seeking donations of winter clothing for needy children. Items include hat and mittens sets, warm pajamas (sizes 6-16), snow pants and jackets, and boots for ages 18 months – 12 years. A more complete list is available on the home’s website. www.mainechildrenshome.org.

Bring your donations to the Cutt-it-Out salon at 909 Main St., in Vassalboro, and receive a complimentary haircut from the staff. The salon may be reached at 509-0004.

Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting canceled; rescheduled to December 14

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen will not meet Thursday, Nov. 30. They had already moved their meeting from evening to afternoon so board members can attend a training session for elected officials, and have now canceled the meeting due to lack of pressing business. Their next regular meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening, Dec. 14.

Garage expansion OK’d by Vassalboro planners

by Mary Grow

Presented with the previously-missing site plan, Vassalboro Planning Board members quickly and unanimously approved Michael Chick’s application to enlarge his garage on Burns Road, off Church Hill Road.

At their regular meeting Nov. 9, board members ruled Chick’s application incomplete because it lacked an overall plan. They scheduled a special meeting for Nov. 21 with Chick’s application the only agenda item.

Chick’s plan showed the 16-by-60-foot addition on the back of the garage. At the earlier meeting, Chick and his wife said the addition is to provide more work and storage space; they plan no changes in activity level, traffic, landscaping, lighting or anything else likely to impact neighbors or the environment.

A couple whose land adjoins Chick’s five-acre lot told board members they have no objection to his project.

Vassalboro: Bad idea becomes good idea to school board members

by Mary Grow

The regional service centers that were a bad idea two months ago are now a good idea, Vassalboro School Board members learned at their Nov. 14 meeting.

In September, past and future AOS (Alternative Organizational Structure) #92 Superintendent Eric Haley told board members superintendents had been advised not to rush into the new state-sponsored organizations, then called School Management and Leadership Centers, because state plans were so indefinite.

In November, AOS #92 Finance Director Paula Pooler said the centers appear desirable.

She told Vassalboro board members the regional centers would be potential revenue centers. A school employee is allowed to head a service center, she said.

By April 15, potential service center personnel are supposed to have drafted interlocal agreements, documents similar to the agreement that created AOS #92. The agreements would specify a minimum of two services a center would offer; AOS #92 provides more than two services to the current member towns (Vassalboro, Waterville and Winslow), creating the potential for more income as a service center.

If Waterville were to become a service center, Pooler said, the AOS would have to dissolve. In Vassalboro, dissolution would require a town vote, which Pooler said could be scheduled in February or March 2018. Under a service center arrangement, participating school units would have their own school boards and superintendents. The AOS board would become a regional board with representatives from member towns. Pooler said a facilitator has been hired with a state grant to advise and assist.

Vassalboro board Chairman Kevin Levasseur said after hearing the revised service center plan, “Paula and I looked at each other and said, ‘Where’s the downside?’ ”

In other business, board members agreed by consensus that Vassalboro Community School will be in session Friday, Dec. 22. The calendar change could not be formally approved because it was not noticed in advance on the November agenda, but Principal Dianna Gram said she needed to notify parents before the next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday evening, Dec. 19.

Haley, who retired at the end of October with the understanding the AOS board will rehire him after the state-required 30 days of unemployment, attended the Nov. 14 meeting and the executive-session discussion of salaries that followed.

VASSALBORO: Selectmen OK talks with potential subdivision buyer

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen are close to getting rid of a tax-acquired subdivision they tried unsuccessfully to sell earlier, after the town foreclosed on the property early in 2014. Joe Presti attended the Nov. 16 selectmen’s meeting to talk about buying 12 subdivision lots on Ilona Drive, off Crowell Hill Road. Presti already owns a house on another of the subdivision lots.

Presti offered $15,000 for the approximately nine-acre property, the figure selectmen set as the minimum when they offered it for sale by bid. Town Manager Mary Sabins said the sum would cover back taxes and town costs.

Selectmen unanimously authorized Sabins and Presti to work out details and report back.

Resident David Jenney gave selectmen a progress report on the Cross Hill Cemetery. Selectmen approved spending to repair broken stones.

Jenney also proposed additional publicity for the annual town meeting, specifically a postcard notification to each voter, and asked whether board members are satisfied with the town website that he maintains under Sabins’ direction.

Selectmen are content with the website; no one had suggestions for improving it. Newly re-elected board Chairman Lauchlin Titus doubted postcards would increase town meeting attendance, but asked Sabins to get a cost estimate for a mailing.

Sabins reported work has already started on implementing the Window Dressers program in Vassalboro. More than 30 residents have signed up, two volunteer measuring teams are at work and the community build, when the draft-stopping window inserts are constructed, is scheduled for Dec. 16 and 17, and if necessary Dec. 18 and 19, at the former mill in North Vassalboro.

Titus reported the recent windstorm damaged sections of the mill roof. Local fund-raisers will be held to help with repair costs, he said.

Selectmen authorized Sabins to talk with Vassalboro’s two waste haulers in preparation for the April 1, 2018, change from the Penobscot Energy Recovery Company facility to the new Fiberight plant (or a temporary substitute if the plant does not open on schedule). The manager said one of Vassalboro’s current hauling contracts expires in mid-January, the other two in mid-June.

The next regular selectmen’s meeting would be Thursday evening, Nov. 30, but the time conflicts with a workshop for elected officials all three board members plan to attend. They decided they will meet if necessary early in the afternoon of Nov. 30. Selectmen’s meetings are announced on the Vassalboro website.