July 14 – 20, 2023Vol. 25, No. 5

Grandkids Can Catch Fish But Shouldn’t Eat Them!

Sol (8) and Mirah (ll) Caballero at the Szela Camp with their Aunt Lindsay.

by Pete Kallin

It’s hard to believe this is already the fifth column of the summer! The hot weather last week, combined with the 4th of July holiday, resulted in a lot of grandkids back out on the lake. There was a lot of swimming, tubing, and general cooling off in and near the water.

I was encouraged to see a lot of youngsters out fishing with their families. My neighbor, Eric Hasenfus’s son Adam was visiting from Scarborough with his family and was teaching his daughters, Emily and Aly, how to fish from the swim dock. The girls were catching red-breasted sunfish and smallmouth bass. Michael Szela was hosting Sol (8) and Mirah (11) Caballero from Washington, D.C., along with their Aunt Lindsay. The kids were fishing from the bow and stern of Mike’s boat, tied to his dock. As I noted last week, my grandson, Bayard was back this week to go after “the one that got away” last week. He and I went out and he caught two very nice yellow perch (~13″) that I turned into fish taco salad, shortly after his dad came and picked him up. My wife and I had a delicious dinner after they left.

I still remember the pride I felt when I first brought home fish the family would eat for dinner. I looked forward to sharing the bounty and learned to clean, cook, and eat fish. My Scandinavian family ate fish at least three or four times a week, especially during the summer. Fresh fish is still one of my favorite meals.

Emily (6) and Aly (4) Hasenfus.

Unfortunately, our grandchildren won’t have that option, at least not until they are over the age of 8. Maine Inland Fish and Wildlife and Maine Center for Disease Control have issued safe consumption guidelines for Maine’s freshwater fish, which are contaminated with mercury. Pregnant and nursing women, women who may get pregnant, and children under age 8 are advised to eat NO freshwater fish from Maine’s inland waters, except that they may safely consume one meal per month of brook trout or landlocked salmon. All others are advised to eat no more than two freshwater fish meals per month, except for brook trout and landlocked salmon, which can be safely consumed once a week.

The primary source of the mercury in Maine’s lakes and rivers is air pollution from coal-fired power plants in the Midwest. These plants are being phased out but WAY too slowly. Maine is particularly susceptible to mercury pollution because of our acidic precipitation and thin soils with little or no carbonates that can provide buffering. There are other site-specific restrictions for other contaminants, such as PFAS, PCBs, dioxins, and DDT. So far none of those are in our watershed, although there is a PFAS warning as close Messalonskee Stream in Waterville and Oakland. Please check the IFW website above before consuming your fish. And please contact your federal legislators and ask them to support stricter air pollution standards so we can eat the fish we catch!

Doug Bastow with Artur and Julia at The Mountain trailhead.

On a brighter note, I did get out hiking a bit and had good success foraging fresh yellow chanterelle mushrooms, as well as some wild red and black raspberries. At The Mountain, I met Doug Bastow from Gardiner, who was hiking with Artur and Julia, two Ukranian refugees who recently arrived in Maine. Unlike asylum seekers, refugees are allowed to seek work immediately. They were celebrating that Artur, a merchant seaman, had just been offered a job as a painter at Bath Iron Works. He will start as soon as he passes his security checks. A great way to celebrate 4th of July!

This area offers some great outdoor recreation, whether you like to hike, bike, birdwatch, fish, sail, or paddle a canoe or kayak. I encourage all parents and grandparents to take advantage of opportunities to get your kids and grandkids (or even parents and grandparents) out on the lake for fishing or swimming or up in the hills for some hiking.

Pick up a map of the local trails at Day’s Store or the 7LA building. You can also down maps for individual trails from the 7LA website. Also, please check the 7LA site for details on upcoming interesting events scheduled this summer and watch the sign in front of the 7LA building as events are added. And make sure to take a kid along on your next outdoor adventure!

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