Though Peter Borque of DIF&W expressed skepticism in an August 3, 1995 letter regarding the zone management initially proposed by Clem, existing regulations now designate four distinct fishing zones for Penobscot River bass fishing tournaments.
While Clem’s scientific research and biological recommendations provide the foundation for smallmouth bass management on the Penobscot River, his greatest professional contribution may involve his work on behalf of the Penobscot River Restoration Project (PRRP). The PRRP involves the removal of the Great Works and Veazie Dams and the reconfiguration of the Howland Dam to restore approximately 500 miles of spawning habitat for 11 sea-run species of fish. Before the official announcement of the PRRP on June 25, 2004, extensive work was required to document the ecological basis for dam removal and modification. Clem’s work proved instrumental to this effort.
Clem caught more than 40,000 smallmouth bass from the Penobscot River during the last two decades. Almost every fish he ever caught was documented. He participated in the DIF&W cooperative angler program for years. Many years Clem would submit catch entries for more than 2,000 bass in a single season.
His longtime friend and fishing partner, John Lee of Argyle, finally convinced Clem to forego measuring, weighing and recording each fish he caught. They devised a simple system of a mark for every five bass caught. John attributes Clem’s many years of fastidious record keeping partly to his professional background as a scientist and partly to allow him to claim bragging rights.
Clem loved to fish between the Passadumkeag and Greenbush Landings. He especially favored the stretch of river that flows by Marquis Farm. At the time of Clem’s death, he had reached an agreement to buy property with 1,000 feet of river frontage on his most beloved stretch of the Penobscot River in Edinburg.
Clem never tired of fishing. He began fishing with his father at an early age. As a grown man, Clem treasured the occasions he took his father Bill fishing, enabling him to reciprocate the wonderful experiences his father had given him.
John Lee believes Clem typically fished every weekend from May to October along with several more fishing trips during the week. Once on the water, Clem hated to leave if the fish were still biting. Even after catching 40,000 bass, each one presented a genuine angling thrill to him.
One of my regrets is never having had an opportunity to fish with Clem. I mentioned the possibility to him several times over the years as we were acquainted due to our mutual advocacy work on behalf of the Penobscot River. The proposed trip never happened because neither one of us sufficiently committed to it, an all too frequent human experience.
Clem leaves a profound legacy of professional accomplishments, fishing prowess and inspired advocacy for an ecologically healthy Penobscot River. However, his most memorable traits people recall include his gentle nature, zest for Penobscot Nation staff parties, interest in Tribal perspectives and commitment to teaching Penobscot youth. Penobscot Nation member Dee Love describes how “people knew who he was and what he did, says something about Clem. People can work on the Island for years, and the community doesn’t know them, yet for some reason and I don’t know what Clem made his presence known.”
John Banks, Clem’s supervisor during his entire career with the Penobscot Nation, best remembers Clem for his ability to find Western scientific concepts to support the Tribe’s holistic ecosystem approach that views everything in nature as interconnected. Whereas many professionals might view their scientific training as superior to indigenous knowledge, Clem never assumed such a view. Clem enjoyed friendships with many Tribal members.
He relished his work with Penobscot youth. In 1994-1995, he started the Salmon Incubation Tank Program at the Indian Island School. Clem served as the local coordinator for the program co-sponsored by the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the Atlantic Salmon Federation.
The program involves the fifth grade class caring for 200-300 Penobscot Atlantic salmon eggs in a 30-gallon aquarium. Clem took great pleasure visiting the fifth graders during the incubation process. His ultimate satisfaction came when the class traveled to a local stream to release the salmon fry they had raised.
Clem died in the company of his dog outdoors where he loved to spend his time. So many people who knew him express great sorrow at his passing but also happiness that he now inhabits a better place free of pollution and full of healthy fish populations. John Frachella, an avid whitewater enthusiast and frequent collaborator with Clem fighting to free the Penobscot River from dams, offered this final wish for Clem. “May his spirit soar with the eagles and may his soul reside with the fish and the eels that he loved so very much. He will not be forgotten.”