Brown trout fishing on Crystal Lake, Gray, Maine (May 30, 2015)

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General view of Crystal Lake

General view of Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake (a.k.a. Dry Pond) is a 189-acre body of water located in Gray, Cumberland County, Maine (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 5 B3). This relatively small lake is heavily developed, particularly along its western shoreline, but sustains a popular regional salmonid fishery consisting of rainbow trout, brown trout and brook trout. The state stocks the lake annually with these three species to sustain their populations. It is also the location for a popular annual ice fishing derby (click here for more details) attended by several thousand people each year. A hard-top boat ramp is located at the southern end of the lake off Mayberry Road. The town of Gray also maintains a public beach and swimming area right next to this ramp. Ample parking is available across from the launch. All in all, this lake is a busy spot but well worth a visit in the spring on account of its superb trout fishing. I’ll note here that, in the past, I have caught rainbow trout trolling on this water body well into July, which is evidence of the high quality of this fishery. Crystal Lake has a maximum and average depth of 59 ft and 25 ft, respectively. Click here for a depth map and more fisheries information.

 

 

This sliding-hook rig keeps the bait fish alive and lets it swim straight and true!

This sliding-hook rig keeps the bait fish alive and lets it swim straight and true!

 

 

My son Joel and I arrive at the boat launch at 9 am. We are greeted by an attendant who checks our boat and trailer for the presence of invasive plant species. The weather is beautiful, with full sunshine and a stiff southwestern breeze. It is perhaps too gorgeous when it comes to trout fishing… The air temperature stands at a balmy 73°F and is forecast to rise up into the low 80’s later on in the afternoon. The temperature of the surface water is an astonishing 71°F! That’s incredible considering the ice came out just over five weeks ago and the calendar tells us we’re still in May. Our strategy today is to troll for trout with live shiners placed 10 to 15 ft below the surface. Joel will use a portable down rigger to bring his bait down to the right depth, as will I, but I’m also deploying a fly-fishing rod with lead core line. We both use sliding-hook rigs to secure our baitfish. The single (sliding) hook goes through the upper lip whereas one of the terminal treble hooks goes into the bait’s anal vent. We like this rig because it is quick and easy to use, and also allows the baitfish to stay alive and swim straight in a completely natural way. I do not recommend trolling in this lake without using a depth finder. The bottom along much of the shoreline has highly irregular topography due to the presence of sunken reefs, boulder piles, and submerged islands, all of which love to snag trolling weights and lures!

 

Joel with a brown trout and a winning smile!

Joel with his 16″ brown trout and a winning smile!

We’re pulling out of the boat launch at 9:20 am and slowly work our way around Crystal Lake starting along the western shore. We must frequently raise and lower our bait on account of the constantly changing bottom profile. All that effort yields one hit, but no fish, in 1 hour and 15 minutes of trolling. That hit came in the north-western corner of the lake. We’re back at the boat launch now and start the second round of trolling. Lo and behold, the rod attached to my downrigger starts shaking at exactly the same location we had our first hit. I unclip the line and fight a lively 16” brown trout! One hit represents pure chance, but two hits at the same location is a pattern! We look more closely at our depth finder screen and notice that the bottom quickly rises from 32 ft to 17 ft where we first had the hit and then caught the brown trout. We surmise that the trout are hiding along this steep submerged slope to ambush their prey. We decide to stop trolling around aimlessly and instead focus all our attention on that drop-off. We make five additional passes over the next 45 minutes, which generates three hits, yielding one 16” brown trout for Joel. I absolutely love it when we figure out a pattern and use that knowledge to catch more fish! We’d happily stay longer but, unfortunately, Joel needs to be back home at 1 pm. We return to the boat launch, glad that we each caught a brown trout under less than ideal conditions (i.e., bright sunshine and warm surface water).

 

The results: I caught one 16” brown trout, as did Joel, in 3 hours of trolling.

 

Was the information in this blog useful? I invite you to share your thoughts and opinions. Also, feel free to discuss your fishing experiences at this location.

 

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