Sunday, March 1, 2009

Cycles of Life at the Smelt Brook by Dale Lincoln

Kind friend Dale Lincoln steps in with another great story of his life that we can relate to and hope for our lives:

Spring will be arriving soon. In hundreds of places along the coast of Maine smelts will make their annual run from the ocean to the rivers and brooks. Many fortunate people will be enjoying fresh smelts, fried in butter, right out of the skillet for supper. (Cook at least a dozen for me!) Several people in Maine have their favorite spots and know the time and place to catch smelts. For more than 65 years I have witnessed the smelt cycle plus several other cycles that happen very near my home at Perry, Maine.

The frogs were singing “knee deep” in the swamp. The air was filled with the aroma of apple blossoms. Less than a hundred feet from the swamp, a stream ran toward the ocean. My Dad was beside me in the darkness while we listened to the fish splashing as they laid their eggs. The brook was filled with smelts and we caught them with our hands.. Before going home, Dad had several smelts in his bucket. There were only three smelts in mine, but I was happy. The next morning, stories of my great fishing adventure went to school with me. After school Mom served fried smelts for supper. A love affair with the Smelt Brook was beginning, but smelt fishing for the year and Grade 3 quickly ended.

A few days later, as Allied Troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, I fought my battle with Measles. While those events were happening, fertilized eggs on the rocks at the Smelt Brook became little smelts. In the ocean they grew, became adult smelts, and in their spawning season returned to their “home” brook. Continuing cycles of life allowed my son Dale to be with me thirty years later and catch his first smelt.

Each year, trout from the ocean swim upstream and make their home in a shady fresh water pool. Before the summer of 1944 ended, Dad took me trout fishing. Two years later, while deer hunting, we hiked around the headwaters of the Smelt Brook: A large swamp at the base of Porcupine Mountain.

At high tide, the ocean is near the highway bridge at the Smelt Brook. Six hours later it is a mile from the bridge. I often dug clams in East Bay and washed them in the Smelt Brook stream in the middle of the clam flats. At high tide, the fresh water from the Smelt Brook remains on top of the heavier salt water. During very cold weather the fresh water freezes. The outgoing tide leaves a canopy of ice that protects the clams from the harsh elements.

Another wonderful thing happens when East Bay and the Smelt Brook is covered with heavy ice. Frost Fish, (a specie of Cod,) arrive, lay their eggs, then return to the ocean. In a few days little Frost Fish find their way to the ocean. They mature and in their season, return to spawn under the ice.

Water vapor is always rising from the oceans. When the water temperature is thirty degrees higher than the air temperature, “Sea Smoke” can be seen rising higher than the hilltops. Warm clouds form. Cold air meets the clouds above Porcupine Mountain. Precipitation falls to earth, trickles down the hills, and keeps water running in the Smelt Brook.

Another spring arrives. Apple blossoms send their fragrance. Frogs sing “knee deep,” and smelts return. In the darkness a young person catches his first fish and falls in love with the Smelt Brook, Several years later he takes his son to the Smelt Brook. The next evening he eats a dozen smelts for supper! May those cycles continue forever.

Dale Lincoln of
Perry, Maine
for Skillin's Greenhouses
in Zephyrhills FL
March 1, 2009

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