Trolling for brook trout on ponds and lakes: 14 tips to increase your catch

Brook trout are, by far, the most-popular salmonids caught in Maine waters. Many approaches are available to catch these beautiful fish during the open-water season, such as spinner fishing, worm fishing, or fly fishing. Trolling is an additional and highly-efficient way to target brookies on ponds and lakes because it, by definition, is an active approach that covers a lot of water in a relatively short amount of time. I highlight below 14 tips to increase your odds of catching more brook trout using this technique. The information is derived from my own personal experiences of trolling for brook trout in Maine waters over many years. Keep in mind that the general principles presented below are universal and will apply wherever this beautiful creature makes its home.

 

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Smallmouth bass fishing on Crescent Lake in Raymond, Maine (June 18, 2016)

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The Crescent Lake boat launch is wide and spacious but comes right off busy Route 85

The Crescent Lake boat launch is wide and spacious but comes right off busy Route 85

Crescent Lake is a 716-acre body of water located in Raymond, Maine (see the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 5 B2). It is part of an interconnected waterway consisting of four lakes (namely Raymond Pond, Crescent Lake, Panther Pond, and Sebago Lake) and three streams (namely an unnamed and non-navigable stream connecting Raymond Pond to Crescent Lake, the navigable Tenney River connecting Crescent Lake to Panther Pond, and the navigable Panther Run connecting Panther Pond to Jordan Bay in Sebago Lake). The public access point to Crescent Lake is located at its southern tip next to Route 85. The launch is hard-topped and can accommodate big boats. Parking is on the shoulder of Route 85. However, beware that maneuvering the boat to get it down the ramp occurs on busy Route 85 itself.

 

 

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Brook trout and landlocked Atlantic salmon fishing on Pierce Pond, Pierce Pond Township, Maine (May 27, 2016)

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Day 3: Friday May 27, 2016

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I'm trolling this morning under a leaden sky. Good! It keeps the light levels down.

I’m trolling this morning under a leaden sky. Good! It keeps the light levels down.

Shoot, I “overslept”! I stumble out of my tent at 5 am and get ready for trolling. I don’t bother waking up Joel since he isn’t an early riser anyway. The conditions this morning are very different from the day before: a cold front moved through the region overnight, bringing in a heavy cloud deck, some rain, and lots of wind. What a difference from the perfect conditions we experienced yesterday evening, just a few hours earlier! The rain has stopped but everything is dripping wet. Fortunately, the air temperature is a comfortable 54°F. I start trolling with my usual arsenal: one spinning rod using two Mooselook Wobbler spoons with the monofilament line clipped to a 4-lb weight attached to a portable downrigger, and an 8-weight fly fishing rod paired up with lead core line fishing with a Grey Ghost and Governor Aiken streamer flies. That’s a total of four lures looking for fish 10 to 15 ft below the surface. I like using lead core line in the spring and fall when I don’t have to troll much deeper than two or three colors. In my experience, about 75% of the fish I’ve hooked while trolling over the years have been caught on streamer flies. The reason is that I make the effort of constantly “ripping” my line through the water, thereby causing the flies to make erratic and jerky movements which seem to attract the attention from the fish down below. Besides, by actively working the lead core line one can also experience first-hand the ferocious hits on the streamer flies, which is something which cannot be felt when the line is clipped to a downrigger trolling weight. I get one of those tremendous hits about one hour into my morning troll. But then the lead core line goes slack. Darn it, I missed the fish! I quickly spool in my line when suddenly a landlocked salmon announces itself by performing several crazy jumps out of the water and making two strong runs that rip line off my spool. It looks like it grabbed the Grey Ghost and just kept on swimming towards the boat until my quick spooling action caught up with it. I really like those surprises! The fish measures 18.5”, gets photographed and is released back into the water. I see no further action until I return to camp an hour later, but I’ve got my story to share with Joel over breakfast!

 

 

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Brook trout and landlocked Atlantic salmon fishing on Pierce Pond, Pierce Pond Township, Maine (May 28, 2016)

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Day 4: Saturday May 28, 2016

 

I love the ambiance of a wind-still foggy morning on Pierce Pond!

I love the ambiance of a wind-still foggy morning on Pierce Pond!

 

Now that is one fat native wild brookie!

Now that is one fat native wild brookie!

Today is our last day at the Cobb’s camping site on the Upper Pond island before we move our operations to one of the cabins at Cobb’s Camp in Lower Pond. I once again crawl out of my sleeping bag at 4:30 am for my morning troll. It rained heavily last night but now it is wind still and the whole lake is covered by a heavy blanket of fog, which is very much to my liking! I’m fishing alone since Salvy needs to catch up on his sleep. I’m using my usual technique of two Mooselook Wobbler spoons on a down rigger, and two streamer flies on my lead core line fished 10 to 15 ft down. I’m on the water for no more than 15 minutes when my downrigger rod starts shaking. I put down my lead core line which I’m holding in my hands and quickly remove the downrigger rod from the rod holder to unclip the line and set the hook. Shoot, I’m pulling water… I bring in the spoons, cast them out, and start futsing with the downrigger clip when my lead core line suddenly begins shaking violently. Holy mackerel! It looks like the fish which missed hooking itself on the spoon subsequently bit one of the streamer flies when they both passed it by 30 seconds later! And this fish ain’t no minnow either!! I get several powerful runs but no acrobatics. It must be a large brook trout, which it is! The fish measures a relatively short 18.5” but has a hefty girth of 11.5” and weighs in at around 3.3 pounds! It gets carefully measured, photographed and released to grow bigger and be caught again at some future date. Now here’s a fish to brag about around the breakfast table! But I’m not done yet for this morning. Twenty minutes later, I hook but miss a 16” landlocked salmon on one of my streamer flies, and 30 minutes after that I land the smallest salmon (8”) I’ve ever caught on Pierce Pond over the last 15 years. It fell for the Grey Ghost. I’m experiencing a magic morning: the fish are active, the fog is slowly burning off by the rising sun, the water surface is calm, and I’m engaged in my favorite activity. It doesn’t get much better than this…

 

 

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Brook trout and landlocked Atlantic salmon fishing on Pierce Pond, Pierce Pond Township, Maine (May 26, 2016)

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Day 2: Thursday May 26, 2016

 

Good morning, Pierce Pond!

Good morning, Pierce Pond!

I drag myself out of my sleeping bag at 4:30 am for early-morning trolling. I like fishing at the crack of dawn because the bite can be quite good before the sun rises and drives the fish deeper. The weather is beautiful, with light wind, temps in the mid 50’s and full visibility. Regardless, I’m dressed like I’m going ice fishing. I know from experience that I feel cold this early in the day because I’m still half asleep, move little, and haven’t had breakfast or a hot beverage. All my efforts are for naught though because I do not get a single hit in the next two hours, either on the streamer flies or the Mooselook Wobbler spoons. Regardless, I deeply enjoy my “alone” time and like the experience of seeing a new day emerge from the night. I return to camp by 7 am. Joel and I prepare breakfast, which for me consists of a healthy portion of pancakes, scrambled eggs, and pork patties, washed down by two cups of hot tea. I’m fully awake now!

 

 

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Brook trout and landlocked Atlantic salmon fishing on Pierce Pond, Pierce Pond Township, Maine (May 25, 2016)

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Pierce Pond is a 1,650-acre gem of a lake nestled in the mountains of central Somerset County (see the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 30 A2). It consists of three basins (Upper, Middle, and Lower Ponds, arranged from north to south) connected by two shallow, boulder-infested thoroughfares. The surface water is crystal clear and its quality is superb. The local brook trout population is entirely native, wild and robust. Trout well into the 3 lbs. are not uncommon. The State also stocks landlocked Atlantic salmon, which creates a lively fishery, although those fish rarely exceed 4 lbs., and most stay below 3 lbs. Click here for a depth map and more fisheries information. The fishing rules are strict in order to protect the outstanding fishery, as follows: (a) the pond is closed to ice fishing; (b) the pond is open to fishing from May 1 to September 30; (c) only artificial lures are allowed; (d) the daily bag limit on trout is two fish with a minimum length of 10” and only one of which may exceed 12”; and (e) no size or bag limit on lake trout. Pierce Pond is completely surrounded by a protected forested watershed. Hence, civilization intrudes minimally. The entire shoreline is deeply wooded and not a single dock or house is visible anywhere, except for Cobb’s Camp where we will be staying for the second half of this trip.

 

 

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