Ice fishing for brook trout on Deer Pond in Hollis, Maine (February 7, 2016)

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Christian is jigging. Notice the ice shacks by the boat launch.

Christian is jigging. Notice the ice shacks by the boat launch and the sloppy slush on the ice.

Deer Pond is a 32-acre body of water located in the town of Hollis, York County (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 2 A5). The town-owned access point, which is not shown on the map, can be found at the southern end of the pond right off busy Route 117 (Cape Road). Driving east on Route 117, look for a long brown wooden fence on the left. This access point, which is not posted, is situated on the left at the end of that fence. Parking is mostly on the shoulder of Route 117. I’m targeting Deer Pond for ice fishing this morning for two reasons: (a) I had great success catching trout while trolling this pond last November (click here for details), and (b) the pond was nicely stocked by the state last fall with larger trout (click here for details). My goal/hope is to catch some of those larger fish through the ice. In addition, Deer Pond is unusually deep (maximum depth of 60 ft) for its small size. The large volume of cold, highly oxygenated water allows the trout to survive from year to year, and grow big. As a result, this pond has restrictive ice fishing rules to protect the high quality of its trout fishery. Specifically, only two lines are allowed per person. Click here for more details on the fishing rules. Click here for a depth map and more fisheries information.

 

 

We are still deep in the shadow, even though the sunlight is hitting the opposite shore.

We are still deep in the shadows, even though the sunlight is hitting the opposite shore.

I reach Deer Pond with my 13-year old nephew Christian a 6:45 am. The weather forecast for this morning calls for bright sunshine, temps in the high 20’s to low 30’s, and light wind. I’m surprised to see the number of ice shacks on this small pond. I count eight of them! Clearly, this place is a popular destination with the local hard water crowd. The ice is an unimpressive 7” thick, with 2-3 inches of fresh snow on top, an inch of which consists of sloppy slush. We’ve had a warm “El Nino” winter so far this year and it shows in the unusually thin ice. Normally, we’d expect to have 14”-18” of ice at this point in the season. We head towards the eastern shoreline located across and to the right of the access point. This area will be shaded and protected from the bright sunshine later on in the morning by the tall trees behind us. It is also the general location where I had so much luck trolling last fall. I drill a series of holes in 4 ft to 9 ft of water, and several more holes in deeper water further out. I set out two tip-ups in shallow water baited with small 2” minnows, and we both start jigging.

 

 

Christian finally caught this bait stealer!

Christian finally caught this bait stealer!

Well, let me just take the suspense right out of the story by saying that we did not get the experience I was hoping for. Instead, we each caught one miniscule (8” and 9”) brook trout after 3 hours of fishing…, yet we arrived with 20 shiners and ran out of them! The trout were actively feeding but were consistently able to steal the bait off the hooks without either getting hooked or (most of the time) even triggering a flag. After 30+ years of ice fishing, it still baffles me how trout can pull off this trick. I have to constantly check my traps to make sure that they remain baited. In fact, at one point the three tip-ups in the water are all fishing with naked hooks. We get seven flags this morning, only two of which showed a turning spool when we reached the trap, and yielded the two aforementioned trout. The other five flags yielded stolen or mangled bait fish. So, lots of feeding activity but few trout to show for it.

 

 

 

It is a brook trout, but barely...

It is a brook trout, but barely…

The jigging was also disappointing. I jigged for most of the three hours, whereas Christian gave up after about an hour. I had a dozen tentative bites, one actual hook-up, but no trout on the ice to show for all my efforts. I also consistently jigged the holes that produced flags, but could not entice an aggressive hit. My conclusion is that the trout were out and about, but were finicky and tentative biters this morning for reasons only they know. That is certainly not the first time I’ve encountered this particular behavior while ice fishing. Also, Christian complains about having cold hands and being unable to warm them up. I suspect that he has poor circulation in both hands. This issue is recurring and is starting to affect his ability to enjoy ice fishing. I promise to buy him a flameless catalytic hand warmer for our next trip on the ice. I’d hate for him to lose interest in ice fishing over an issue with an easy fix. Meanwhile, I send him out of the shadow line and into the bright sunshine further out into the lake where he can sit in a chair and soak up the warmth, which he does with obvious relish!

 

Aaahh, finally some warmth!

Aaahh, finally some warmth!

The results: We each caught one tiny brook trout in 3 hours of fishing.

 

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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