Ice fishing for brook trout on Sand Pond in Baldwin, Maine (February 27, 2016)

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Glare ice and unlimited sunshine on Sand Pond

Glare ice and unlimited sunshine on Sand Pond

Sand Pond is a 61-acre body of water located in the town of Baldwin, Cumberland County (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 4 D4). The access point, which contains a sturdy boat launch, is located by the town-owned beach at the southern end of the pond next to Sand Pond Road off Route 11 (Bridgton Road). I’m selecting this pond because it is relatively small and therefore contains safe ice even though we’ve had a warm “El Ninjo” winter, but also because it was stocked last fall with larger trout (click here for details). Sand Pond is typical of the many popular put-and-take lakes scattered around the region. Heavier trout are stocked each fall in these waters to support a winter and spring fishery with the understanding that these fish do not survive the summer because the ponds are too shallow and the water column gets too warm. Sand Pond has a mean and maximum depth of 9 ft and 20 ft, respectively. Click here for more details on the fishing rules that pertain to this pond. Click here for a depth map and additional fisheries information.

 

 

 

The peninsula (to the right) stays in the shadows until deep into the morning.

The peninsula (to the right) stays in the shadows until deep into the morning.

I reach Sand Pond at 7:15 am with my son Joel and 13-year old nephew Christian. Daylight begins noticeably earlier in late winter. I wanted to be on the ice at 6:15 am to catch the early bite, but I couldn’t convince Joel to get out of bed at 5:15 am. I’m afraid that we’ll pay the price for our late start… The temperature is an agreeable 13°F and is expected to rise into the mid-30’s by late morning. The wind is also quiet, which makes for pleasant conditions. The biggest issue today is brightness: the forecast calls for unlimited sunshine which is never good for ice fishing. A look at the depth map (see above) shows an obvious fishing target: it’s the small peninsula above the outlet that sticks out into the pond along the eastern shoreline. Three reasons make that location stand out: (a) it will remain in the shadows longer into the morning as the sun rises in the east behind the trees, (b) trout like to hang around shallow points (click here for details), and (c) we can target nearby deeper water for largemouth bass. The heavy rain of two days ago has eliminated all the snow and created glare ice. We put ice cleats on our boots to prevent slipping and falling. I personally like the lack of snow because it makes pulling a sled a whole lot easier!

 

This half of the strategy yielded results!

This half of the strategy yielded results!

We reach the peninsula by 7:30 am and drill 10 holes in 3 to 8 ft of water to deploy our tip-ups baited with small 2” shiners. The ice is a safe but unimpressive 8” thick, as expected. The substrate around the point is sandy, which does not provide desirable trout holding structure but will have to do. We also deploy three tip-ups in 15 to 18 ft of water baited with 3”-4” minnows placed 2 ft off the bottom for largemouth bass. Another dozen holes will be used for jigging. Joel and I (and now Christian) always “share” our traps, meaning that I get the first flag, Joel gets the second flag, Christian the third, and then it comes back to me. We’ve fished this way for 30 years and it works great for us. The first trout flag pops up within 20 minutes. I tend the trap but have no taker. The trout grabbed the baitfish (the poor thing lost an eye in the encounter…) but then dropped it. I jig the hole for 10 minutes in the hope of enticing the fish to strike but don’t generate any interest. I plop the trap back into the hole with a fresh baitfish and start walking away when the flag pops up again! Darn it, the trout had been staring at my jig all along but ignored it… I scream at Joel who’s jigging way out and he comes running back to a turning spool. He doesn’t hesitate, sets the hook and brings in a 13” brookie. The trout part of our strategy bore its first fruit.

 

Jigging did not produce a single bite this morning...

Jigging did not produce a single bite this morning…

I would have liked to report that this event was the beginning of something big. Unfortunately, we only had two more trout flags in the next 45 minutes (but no fish) and then the feeding stopped completely and never started up again. We moved six extra tip-ups in deeper water around 9 am to fish for bass but didn’t generate a single flag out of that entire effort. I jigged for 2.5 hrs without one bite. I’m afraid that the one hour of missed fishing opportunity earlier in the morning has come back to haunt us… I walk over to another party who are fishing for largemouth bass in the middle of the pond north of the peninsula. They’ve had a bit more luck: 5 flags and three bass. So, the bass are definitely there but just not in our area. Fortunately, the sun is pleasant. Christian invents a game whereby he runs as fast as possible on the glare ice with a folded-out chair in front of him and then jumps on it to see how far he can slide forward. It keeps him warm and entertained, until he slips and falls and bust his lip open… That’s all part of the deal when you’re a 13 year-old boy  ;- )

 

 

The results: Joel caught a 13” brook trout, whereas Christian and I were both skunked after 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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