Region A- Southwestern Maine
Stream and pond fishing for trout appears to be holding up quite well in the region, and the beautiful weather really brought out the anglers over the weekend. While out running errands, I noticed almost every fishing spot and pullout along side the local streams in Windham and Gorham was being actively fished. Greg, our seasonal clerk, reports seeing some nice rainbows on the Range Ponds in Poland again this week, and he believes the fishing for rainbows may be slowing up on the Little Androscoggin River. I spoke with a voluntary record keeper that reported one of his best years ever fishing a small trout pond in Hiram, while another indicated he had a great time last year on a recently reclaimed trout pond in Albany (Broken Bridge Pond) and couldn't wait to get back up there this season. Anglers should also give Mosquito Pond in Albany a try, which was also recently reclaimed and stocked with brook trout. If you do try Mosquito, we would certainly be interested in some feedback on this water. Another voluntary keeper, Thomas Ramsey, reported catching some nice bows up to 18 inches out of Crystal Lake (Gray) earlier in the season, but the action has begun to wane. Although Crystal typically produces some quality browns, he reported catching mostly smaller sized brown trout in the 12-14 inch class. The illegal stocking of yellow perch into Crystal a few years back may be taking a toll on our brown trout program...we observed many juvenile perch last year while sampling the largemouth bass population.
Speaking of voluntary record keepers, I would urge all of our computer/internet literate anglers to check out http://www.triptracks.com/ and consider keeping an electronic fishing diary of your trips. The site allows you to electronically track and record your personal fishing records, upload photos of all your trophies, and to review statewide fishing summaries. This type of information allows you track and recognize successes and trends from past angling experiences that could improve your future angling success. The general public does not have access to your data and the statewide summaries are general enough to protect your secret fishing holes, lures, flies, and techniques. In addition, your information benefits the the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife by providing fishery managers with catch rate, angler use, and other fisherey statistics on waters all over the State.
We spent several nights last week sampling bass waters with the electrofishing boat including Upper Range P (Poland), North P (Norway), and Parker P (Casco). All three ponds yielded some nice looking bass including a few lunkers breaking the 5 pound class. We hope to wrap our June bass sampling this week with one additional water. Largemouths were largely observed actively on nests and cruising the shallows, but it appears smallmouths are off there nests in most waters except for the larger lakes and some ponds in the northern part of the region. Sebago is certainly an exception, and Brian our new Bio Specialist had an interesting story this morning. While launching the boat at Raymond Beach in Raymond to conduct his creel census, a couple launching a Jet Ski being getting attacked and bitten by a fish. Brian walked over to the general area and was promptly rammed 2 or 3 times by an agressive smallmouth on a nest. I often hear of nuisance wildlife, but not fish attacks! Fear not, the spawning season is almost over for smallmouths and most bass are not nearly as aggressive as the one reported here. Its a great time to bass fish, the action can be fantastic and anglers are able to target good numbers of quality-sized, adult fish!
Region B - Central Maine
Fast action waters are those where an angler can expect to catch a lot of fish, most in the small to medium range up to 12". We have just one classed in the region so far for small mouths, Bowler Pond in Palermo.
General management waters are those where the action is relatively fast, but larger fish, some up to 16", are more common. We have just over 30 bodies of water currently in the general class including Crystal Pond, Hermon Pond and Dyer Long Pond for smallmouths and Jamie's, Pleasant (Stetson) and Sennebec for largemouths.
Quality size lakes and ponds are numerous with 47 attaining that classification to this point. In a quality size water, even larger fish, up to 18" are waiting to be caught. Fishing may be a bit slower, but the rewards are great for the patient and skilled angler. Waters in this category for smallmouths include Spectacle Pond, Wassokeag Lake, Three mile and Big Indian Ponds. For largemouths there are Big Indian and Great Ponds, Nequasset, Salmon and Megunticook Lakes.
Trophy lakes and ponds require a well-directed fishing effort, but the results can be memorable. In these waters, smallmouths can exceed 18", largemouths over 20". Only 6 waters are rated for trophy size largemouths, including Cobbossee, Pleasant and North. For small mouths, there are Great Moose and Lovejoy.
Then there is the 'unclassified' category. Right now, 62 potential smallmouth waters and 49 largemouth waters remain unassigned to one of the categories, along with miles of potential riverine habitat. Many of the waters in this have great habitat potential, but that, along with the dynamics of the fishery have not yet been completely inventoried or understood. These are waters where regional biologists are now working to collect sufficient information, such as age class structure and angling effort. This time of year we work on acquiring this information, and you may see our staff experimentally angling or electrofishing to collect the necessary data. We also continue evaluation on waters that have already attained a classification to ensure that they remain there.
Anglers can be of real assistance to the department by keeping a fishing diary. It's a really easy and enjoyable way to record not only enjoyable fishing experiences, but to collect valuable data at the same time. Contact the regional headquarters at 547-5314 and we'll send one out to you. For the computer literate, try www.triptracks.com. Either way, both can form the start of a personal fishing history that you can refer back to in future years.
Lastly, over the past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Governor's Cup Charity Bass Tournament. The derby is sponsored by the Maine Bass Federation at the Lakeside Motel and Marina on Cobbossee Lake in East Winthrop. The Federation donated boats and guide services for about 20 legislators and officials, including governor Baldacci, to try to outdo each other angling. The tournament resulted in over one thousand dollars raised for charity. The governor's boat was the last in, presumably because of the fight in trying to land what would have been the largest fish caught for the day. Somehow though, it got away, and several present raised the issue of a possible fish story...
Region C - Downeast
In a previous column, I commented on how the prolonged stretch of bitter cold, windy, weather during the winter resulted in reduced use and harvest of salmonids on numerous Downeast lakes. Strong winds on many days over the past 3 weeks have resulted in a similar scenario.
The upside is that there are lots of salmon and togue still available for summer anglers partial to using down-riggers and lead-line. Clearly, these sports have a great chance to enjoy a memorable summer.
A potential downside, in some lakes, is that sharply lower levels of angler harvest may foster "stockpiling" of salmon/togue which creates undesirable growth and condition problems.
One word best describes the salmon fishing at Grand Lake Stream over the past 3 weeks....TERRIFIC! Some skilled anglers who have fished this water extensively over the years have caught 15-20 salmon in a day on several occasions. More typical catches have been 2-4 salmon for a 1/2 day of fishing. In late May, during afternoon mayfly hatches, anglers enjoyed some first-rate dry fly fishing using a #14 Dark Hendrickson, Adams, or similar pattern. Currently, the annual caddis hatch is underway, offering anglers another chance to catch rising salmon on dry flies. Try a size 12 or 14 brown caddis or elk hair caddis. While late afternoon or evening is generally the best time to try, early morning can also be productive, especially after a prolific hatch the previous night.
Barring a two or three day stretch of hot weather, the stream should continue to fish well for the next two weeks. I caught a 20 inch salmon at Big Falls several weeks ago on one of my favorite small streamers.....a Governor Aiken....and made (for the first time) a salmon bisque using Edye Cronk's recipe I came across in a recent Maine Sportsman. It was delicious...a tip of the hat to Edye for sharing her recipe. I highly recommend it as an alternative to the usual broiled or baked salmon. Give it a try with your next salmon...you won't be sorry.
The cool weather has extended the season on our streams supporting wild brook trout. Although the severe drought of 3-4 years ago, coupled with on-going beaver depradations causing reduced productivity, have resulted in declines in fishing quality on numerous Downeast streams, there are still good chances to catch a limit of 7-9 inch trout. The next week or so is a particularly good time for fly fishermen to give it a try because the black flies aren't bad...thanks in part to the voracious appetites of the newly emerging dragonflies...and caddisflies are hatching. I suggest any of the standard caddis patterns, a Muddler Minnow, a white Maribou Muddler, a Wood's Special, or a Hornberg. Give the quick water a good try as trout often prefer this type of habitat at this time of year.
Biologist Rick Jordan has informed me that Domtar Corp. has completed the re-design of the fishway in the West Grand dam. At our request, they have installed a new gate at the upper end of the fishway which incorporates a "hydraulic jump". Boards are placed on the top of the gate to create about an 18-20 inch drop to the water level in the downstream pool. Salmon, which are well known for their jumping abilities, can easily jump over the gate. Rick observed, and took photos, of a bunch of salmon successfully jumping over the gate within a 1/2 hour. Conversely, because landlocked alewives are not jumpers, they can not negotiate this obstacle. Salmon, which drop down each fall from West Grand to spawn in Grand Lake Stream, have been unable to migrate back up to the lake the following spring because of a blocking screen we installed in the fishway to prevent landlocked alewives from getting into the lake. Had this species been able to get into West Grand, they likely would have out-competed the native smelts with the same disastrous results as occurred at East Grand Lake. Now, salmon are able to move back up into the lake whenever they are so inclined....a desirable return to more natural conditions....while any landlocked alewives which may be in the Dam Pool will remain there. A heartfelt "well done" to Domtar's Donna Adams and her engineering crew for completing this high priority project. We are grateful, and the salmon of West Grand Lake-Grand Lake Stream will benefit from the restoration of their abilty to move freely up or down.
Region D - Western Mountains
Fly-Fishing in Maine, an internet-based angler group, held their annual Conclave last weekend in Oquossoc. One of the group's major events was a "bass derby" on Pond in the River, a large body of water linked to the Rapid River. The derby's purpose was to call attention to the epidemic of illegal fish introductions plaguing Maine's waterways. About 40 anglers from across Maine and New England harvested about 80 bass. Most importantly, though, they had an opportunity to experience the wonders of this large, biologically diverse river system, and they contributed significantly to our Department's continuing efforts to educate anglers and the general public of the perils posed by illegal fish stockings. As a bonus, the group raised $7,000.00 to fund a variety of projects designed to minimize the effects bass are having on the Rapid's fabled brook trout fishery. The following individuals deserve special recognition for organizing this very successful endeavor: Dan Tarkinson from Fly-Fishing in Maine, Jeff Levesque and Jeff Reardon from Trout Unlimited, Don Palmer from the Rangeley Guides and Sportsman's Association, and Bill Pierce, the Department's Public Relations Specialist.
Region E - Moosehead Region
During the past three weeks Al Starr and I have been to several brook trout ponds throughout the Moosehead Region assessing the performance of different brook trout strains, which have been stocked annually over the past three years. We have been looking at comparing growth, condition, and holdover success of fish from one year to the next. Some ponds we've surveyed have been stocked with a single strain of trout, which will allow us to assess how that strain has done in a particular pond from one year to the next. Ponds that have received two or more strains are assessed to compare growth, condition, and holdover success of one strain versus the other. This information will later help determine which strain of trout should be stocked in a particular lake or pond.
The East and West Outlets of Moosehead Lake, the Piscataquis River between Guilford and Dover-Foxcroft, and the Moose River below the Brassua Hydro Facility have been receiving a considerable amount of angler use. Information obtained from volunteer angler survey cards collected this past week from these areas indicates that fishing has been quite good as well. Brook trout have been showing up in good numbers on the Piscataquis River and the Moose River has been producing several nice landlocked salmon ranging from 14 to 23 inches. Information from the East Outlet indicate that salmon fishing has been very good and at the West Outlet, brook trout and a few salmon have been caught recently.
We appreciate the information that has been generated by anglers completing the cards from survey boxes placed at various locations around the region. Another means of providing the Department fishing information based on your fishing trips is through TripTracks Fishing Logbook, which is a free web-based service. Log on to www.triptracks.com to sign up, and you will then be able to record all of your fishing trip information, upload photos to your private logbook, and even review summary data from around the state.
Region F, Penobscot Region
Landlocked salmon anglers have also had some excellent fishing on a couple of regional waters. Pleasant Lake, Duck Lake, West Lake, East Grand Lake, Upper JoMary Lake and Matagamon Lake have all produced some fish of note this spring. Salmon in the 3 to 4 pound range have been observed, with landlocks up to 6 pounds reported.
The recent cool temperatures and rain have also interrupted the bass spawning throughout the region. A month ago bass were either on the beds or were about to be everywhere in the region, with water temperatures in the low's sixties. The advent of the cold and wet weather since had dropped water temps back down into the low to mid 50's most everywhere. Now finally the temps are rising again and bass activity should get hot soon. Smallmouth bass fishing on the Penobscot, the Piscataquis, Mattawamkeag Rivers is coming into its own right about now, with water temps moving into the high 50's and lower 60's. A very nice trip can be had by putting in in Mattawamkeag and floating down to Chester or Lincoln. Good opportunity to catch lots of bass and see lots of eagles, otters, ospreys, etc. Another popular trip is from Passadumkeag to Costigan.
Don't forget the free fishing days on June 19th and 20th, Fathers Day weekend. On both of these days, any person (except those whose license has been suspended or revoked) may fish without a license. All other laws and regulations apply on these days. This is a great opportunity to get out with the kids and have a chance to catch a few fish. There are bodies of water with special regulations and stocking schedules that are open to fishing for kids only. Of course dad, mom, grandparents or guardians can help with the baiting of hooks and the netting of any fish caught. On page 11 in the 2004 Open Water Fishing Regulations Book the "Special Opportunities For Kids" is listed by county. Some of the more popular Youth Only Ponds in our region are Pickerel Pond in T32MD, Hancock Co. and Rock Crusher Pond in Island Falls, Aroostook Co.
Region G - Aroostook County