Native brook trout fishing in Baxter State Park: Day 4 (September 29, 2014)

This blog is a continuation of this blog.

 

DAY 4: Upper South Branch Pond to Russell Pond

 

This native brookie for my "psychedelic" spoon

This fat native brookie fell for my “psychedelic” spoon

The cold front, which announced itself yesterday evening, definitely arrived overnight. The wind is blowing hard from the northwest and the sky is completely overcast with a low cloud deck shrouding the nearby Traveler Mountains. But that doesn’t stop me from crawling out of my tent at the crack of dawn for a morning troll on Upper South Branch Pond using lead core line. I’d like to repeat the experience from last evening by catching another brookie. I do hesitate for a moment about fishing alone when I get to the lake shore: paddling the canoe by myself into the stiff wind will be quite a chore. But what the heck: how often do I get to fish this gorgeous pond? I’m richly rewarded in three ways for my tenacity. I land a healthy 13” native brook trout after about 30 minutes trolling with two spoons fished in tandem one color down (just like yesterday evening). I also experience a unique sound effect: the resident loon calls out twice in a row as I pass it by; its haunting song echoes off the surrounding rock cliffs! I stop paddling to soak in this precious moment… Finally, I see a dark shape ambling in the shallow water along the southern (downwind) shoreline of the lake as I troll back towards my starting point. It’s a young bull moose grazing on the aquatic vegetation! Wow, that’s really awesome except that the wind is pushing me straight in the direction of the animal. The canoe acts like a sail whenever I try to turn it sideways… Then one of my lures decides to hang up on the bottom. F*ck!!  I paddle backwards like a madman to retrieve my lures and then turn the canoe sideways and paddle like a maniac to stay away from the moose but parallel to the shoreline. Fortunately, the beast gives me a long dumb look, completely ignores my grunts and paddling shenanigans, and slowly moves on. It’s now 6:50 am and I don’t have the strength left in my arms to battle upwind for another round. I call it good, glad to have caught two nice brook trout in less than 1.5 hours of trolling between yesterday evening and this morning.

 

Even though Joel and I got disoriented by Howe Brook Trail, the brook itself was quite pretty. And look at all those colors!!

Even though Joel and I got disoriented by Howe Brook Trail, the brook itself was quite pretty. And look at all those colors!!

I wake up the two sleeping beauties at camp because we have a long day ahead of us. Joel and I need to return the canoe to the ranger station at the northern tip of Lower South Branch Pond and then hike back two miles to our camp site to pick up Salvador before heading south. Salvador hurt his right ankle yesterday and wants to give his injured foot a rest. We have breakfast and are all packed up by 10 am. Joel and I leave with the canoe, expecting to return by 11:30 am at the latest. We make a basic beginners error by not bringing a map or water with us. Why bother, since the hike back to camp is a straightforward 45 minute walk. Well, it does matter… On our way back, we get confused and veer off Poggy Notch Trail and accidentally follow the Howe Brook Trail, which peters out 30  minutes up into the woods! We stumble back into camp and a worried Salvador at 12:45pm, tired, hungry, and thirsty after an unscheduled six-mile excursion! We quickly refuel and rehydrate and are ready to head south at 1:15 pm.

 

 

Poggy Pond would be worth fishing, if only we had had the time to do so...

Poggy Pond would be worth fishing, if only we had had the time to do so…

We have a long hike ahead of us this afternoon: over eight miles to reach Russell Pond where we’re spending the night. Fortunately, the terrain is essentially flat between here and there, with little or no net gain or loss of elevation. The weather is also conducive for a strenuous effort, with temps in the mid-50’s, a leaden sky and a light drizzle to keep us cool. The surrounding views along the way are enchanting, with all the maple and birch trees in full glorious fall foliage colors. Unfortunately, we’ll have to skip fishing Poggy Pond as originally planned due to our misadventure this morning. This water body covers 22 acres and has a maximum depth of 13 ft. It is located right next to the Poggy Pond Trail, roughly midway between Upper South Branch Pond and Russell Pond (see the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 B1). The pond has a lean-to and also a canoe for rent. Keys to unlock the canoe are available from the ranger at either Lower South Branch Pond or Russell Pond. Poggy Pond supports a healthy population of native brook trout. The daily bag limit on trout is five fish with a minimum length limit of 6”. Use or possession of life baitfish is prohibited, but dead fish, salmon eggs, and worms are allowed as bait. Click here for more information on the fishing regulations. We take a short break at the pond to admire its pretty setting and munch on a power bar, before we take off again.

 

 

Russell Pond is isolated and remote

Russell Pond is isolated and remote

We arrive at the Russell Pond camp ground by 5 pm. I’m exhausted after 14+ miles of hiking and serious paddling earlier this morning. The camp ground is actually quite substantial with three tent sites, five lean-tos, and an eight-person bunk house arrayed along the western shoreline of the pond. To our surprise, we are the only ones staying over tonight. I can see how this place would be really hopping during the busy summer months. We’re actually not too excited about setting up camp because we’re tired and everything is wet and cold due to the constant drizzle. The ranger informs us that, for an extra $3, we can enjoy a dry table, a warm wood stove, and a bed in the bunk house, since it is available for the night. We gladly pay the extra fee and are ecstatic to spend the last evening of our five-day Baxter State Park adventure dry and warm!!

 

View Map

Small but beautiful...

Small but beautiful…

Joel and Salvador get themselves settled in the bunk house, whereas I go back out to spend the last remaining hour of daylight fishing for brookies on Russell Pond. This water body covers 20 acres and is located smack in the center of the park (see the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 C1). It has a maximum and mean depth of 6 ft and 4 ft, respectively. The pond itself is pretty, but it is the half-dozen surrounding high mountain peaks that provide a stunning background. Unfortunately, I don’t get to enjoy the views because the low cloud deck hides everything. Note that the pond could probably be fished from shore or by hopping on one of the many large boulders along the shoreline, but fishing will be much more enjoyable and rewarding from one of the four canoes that can be rented from the ranger. The native trout are numerous but small, with none exceeding 12”. The daily bag limit on trout is five fish with a minimum length limit of 6”. Use or possession of life baitfish is prohibited, but dead fish, salmon eggs, and worms are allowed as bait. Click here for more information on the fishing regulations. Click here for a depth map and more information on the pond and its fisheries. I put the canoe in the water and start casting around with a #2 Mepps spinner. I should really be using a smaller #1 size but don’t have one on hand. The pond has a lot of submerged aquatic vegetation which constantly fouls up my lure. Fortunately, a little brookie falls for my Mepps, making it such that I have caught fish in all five ponds which I have visited over the last 4 days of our hike. I feel great about that and call it good, as the night rapidly closes in and the drizzle intensifies.

 

The results: Upper South Branch Pond: I trolled for 40 minutes and caught one 13” brookie; Russell Pond: I fished for 45 minutes and caught one 7” brookie.  

This story continues here.

 

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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