Ice fishing for landlocked Atlantic salmon on Moose Pond, Bridgton, Maine (February 13, 2017)

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View south down the middle basin of Moose Pond. I’ve got the place all to myself this morning! The sky is also completely overcast.

Moose Pond covers 1694 acres and is located in Bridgton (Cumberland County) and Denmark (Oxford County), Maine (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 4 A3). A convenient public access point is available off Route 302 at the northeastern tip of the middle basin of the lake, right before the road crosses the water. Plenty of parking is available along the shoulder of the road. This pond supports a robust landlocked Atlantic salmon fishery which consistently produces 20+ inch fish. This species is the focus of my efforts today. However, ice fishing for salmon can be slow business. The reason is that the state stocks this species at a low rate (typically about one fish per two or three acres of lake) in order to preserve the local rainbow smelt populations, which represent the salmon’s main forage base, and to allow for decent growth. Hence, lots of patience is needed… Keep in mind that because of the popularity of this fishery with the local hard-water angling crowd and the easy access from Route 302, the regulations for Moose Pond during the ice fishing season stipulate a daily bag limit of one landlocked salmon with a minimum length of 16”. Click here for a depth map and more fisheries information.




The first short salmon of the morning. Note the large, powerful tail!



I’m quite excited about today’s expedition to Moose Pond. Not only is it my first salmon trip of the 2017 ice fishing season, but the weather is spectacular: a low dense cloud deck keeps the sun completely away, little or no wind makes things quite comfortable, and a big ole nor’easter is rushing up the coast bringing with it a strong low pressure. One cannot ask for better conditions! To further stack the odds in my favor, I get out of bed at an ungodly hour in order to reach the ice at the crack of dawn, at 6:10 am! On the other hand, I’m not looking forward to the  hike needed to reach the 40+ ft of water depth I like to target when salmon fishing. There’s about 10” of fresh snow on top of the ice which makes walking quite a chore. Fortunately, several snowmobile trails fan out from the boat launch. I stay on one of them and reach my spot out on the lake with relative ease 20 minutes later.


View of the Pleasant Mountain range, with the Shawnee Peak ski resort on the right.

I immediately drill a hole through the ice to check the water depth. 40 ft; that’s barely deep enough but will have to do because I’m exhausted from all the walking! As per tip #7, I drill four holes in a row and place my smelts 5 ft, 10 ft, 15 ft, and 20 ft deep. This simple setup allows me to systematically probe different depths at which the salmon may be chasing their next meal. I also drill several more holes to jig for lake trout. Then, nothing happens for the next hour and a half… I’m also surprised that only one other party is on the ice this morning. They’re sticking close to Route 302. The flag from my 15 ft-deep trap finally goes up! I expect a rapidly-turning spool but nothing moves when I reach the tip-up, even though the fishing line is angled sideways meaning that something still has the bait in its mouth. I slowly bring in the line and set the hook as soon as I feel resistance. A feisty but small (14”) landlocked salmon plops on the ice. I place the baitfish from two of the three other traps at 15 ft and return to jigging. Nothing happens for another hour, at which point I give up jigging and deploy a fifth trap with the baitfish placed 15 ft down.




The second landlocked salmon of the morning was the brother of the first one.

A second flag finally pops up. Again, the spool is not turning but the line is angled sideways. This is just bizarre, but it seems to be the pattern this morning. I slowly bring in the line and once again set the hook upon feeling resistance. I land a second 14” salmon. By now it is 10:30 am and I unfortunately have to leave to attend some family business. I did catch the sought-after landlocked salmon, but both fish were short. I suppose I was expecting more in response to the highly-favorable weather conditions. One of my followers told me afterwards that he had fished that same general area of Moose Pond two weeks earlier and caught five landlocked salmon in the 18” to 20” range. So, the fish are definitely there but must want to bite first!





The results: I landed two 14” landlocked salmon in 3.5 hours of fishing.


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