Native brook trout fishing in remote ponds in Baxter State Park, Maine

Baxter State Park offers a genuine wilderness setting. Most people know the park for the spectacular Mount Katadhin hike, including the one-of-a-kind Knife’s Edge Trail. Yet Baxter also offers a tremendous variety of outdoors opportunities which I decided to explore in-depth during a five-day hiking/camping/fishing trip with my son Joel in mid-September, 2012. As a serious bonus, the park offers some of the best native brook trout fishing opportunities on unspoiled ponds found anywhere in the state of Maine.

The hike started at Trout Brook Farm, located about 3 miles west of the northern entrance to Baxter State Park at Matagamon Gate (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 A1) and was scheduled to end at the Roaring Brook campground (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 C1). Click here for downloadable maps of the ponds and the hiking trails on this itinerary.

Our goal was to visit, camp at and/or fish 12 remote trout ponds during this 26-mile hike. Those ponds are listed below in “hiking” order from north to south. The trail leading to each pond is included in parentheses for easy referral:

  • Billfish Pond (Five Ponds Trail)
  • Round Pond (Five Ponds Trail)
  • High Pond (Five Ponds Trail)
  • Long Pond (Five Ponds Trail)
  • Lower Fowler Pond (Middle Fowler Pond Trail)
  • Middle Fowler Pond (Middle Fowler Pond Trail)
  • Lower South Branch Pond (Middle Fowler Pond Trail)
  • Upper South Branch Pond (Pogy Notch Trail)
  • Pogy Pond (Pogy Notch Trail)
  • Deep Pond (Pogy Notch Trail)
  • Russel Pond (Russell Pond Trail)
  • Whidden Ponds (Russell Pond Trail)
  • Sandy Stream Pond (Russell Pond Trail Trail)

Our trip was unfortunately cut short by a foot injury three days into the adventure.  I describe below each of the ponds on our original hike, together with pictures, maps, personal observations, and other information that you may find useful in planning a future trip based on this itinerary (note: I completed this awesome hike in late September 2014. Click here for a full and updated description).

A couple of issues to keep in mind:

1) Most of the ponds described below have one or more camp sites/lean-tos where you can spend the night. However, use of these facilities is by reservation only. Click here for more details.

2) The optimum time to fish for wild brook trout on these remote ponds is from mid May (note: the park officially opens on May 15) into late June. The warmer temperatures during the rest of the summer will drive the trout deeper into the water column and make them more difficult to catch, except by trolling for them. Trout fishing activity picks up again in late September when the weather cools down. Keep in mind that, with some exceptions, the fishing season on lakes and ponds in that part of Maine ends on September 30. Click here for more information on which of the ponds and lakes in BSP contain brook trout.

3) The park rents canoes ($8/day) on many of the ponds on this itinerary!! Fishing from a canoe will greatly enhance the whole experience, particularly if you plan on fly-fishing. So, make sure to inquire with Baxter State Park about canoe rentals when you book your reservation if one of your goals is to fish. Click here for more information on this subject. You’ll need to make arrangements beforehand in order to pick up and drop off the keys to unlock padlocks on the canoes.

4) Strict fishing rules apply on these ponds.  Click here to download the latest copy of the fishing laws and regulations from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. I summarized for each pond the rules that apply for the April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013 fishing season. Some of these rules may change in future years, so make sure to check the latest edition of the rule book.

5) This trip requires leaving a car at the Roaring Brook camp ground, and then driving with a second car for over 40 miles north on the Park Tote Road towards Trout Brook Farm where the hike actually starts. You’ll then need to drive back up from the Roaring Brook camp ground to Trout Brook Farm to pick up the second car once your trip is over. An alternative option would be to drive directly with a single car to Trout Brook Farm and hire a vehicle shuttler to bring this car down to Roaring Brook where you’d pick it up at the end of your trip. One of those service providers (which I have not used but include here FYI only) is Mount Chase Lodge (www.mtchaselodge.com; 207-528-2183).

6) Finally, all of these ponds are spectacularly remote, isolated, and beautiful. Every one of them, except for Lower South Branch Pond which can be reached by car, is accessible only via rough hiking trails. Be prepared, be self-sufficient, and be careful, because immediate help is unlikely to be available, if needed.

Here then is a description of the 12 ponds along the 26-mile hike.

View Map

Billfish Pond (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 A2) is the second of five ponds located along the “Five Ponds Trail” (the first pond – Littlefield Pond – appears not to contain trout). It is the only one of the 12 ponds on this hike which is stocked each fall with brook trout. Check the website linked to this blog for more information. This picturesque pond covers 70 acres. It has a maximum and average depth of 84 ft and 24 ft, respectively, and supports a healthy brook trout population. Click here for a depth map and more fisheries information. A canoe is available for rent from Baxter State Park via prior arrangements (you need a key to unlock the padlock).  A single camp site is located on the northern end of the pond.

The daily bag limit on trout in Billfish Pond is two fish with a minimum length limit of 10 inches. Only one of the two trout may exceed 12 inches. Use or possession of life fish is prohibited, but dead fish, salmon eggs, and worms are allowed as bait.

 

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Round Pond (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 A2) is the third of five ponds located along the “Five Ponds Trail”. This small pond only covers 6 acres but has a maximum and average depth of 31 ft and 12 ft, respectively. Click here for a depth map and more fisheries information. A canoe is not available for rent from Baxter State Park. Hence, all brook trout fishing must be done from shore. Camping is not available on this pond either. However, one of the camp sites at Long Pond (see below) called Long Pond Pines is no more than 10 minutes away.

The daily bag limit on trout in Round Pond is five fish with a minimum length limit of 6 inches. Use or possession of life fish is prohibited, but dead fish, salmon eggs, and worms are allowed as bait.

 

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Long Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine

Long Pond (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 A1) is the fourth of five ponds located along the “Five Ponds Trail”. The pond covers 70 acres. It has a maximum and average depth of of 33 and 14 ft, respectively. Click here for a depth map and more fisheries information. A narrow ridge separates this pond from High Pond which is located < 100 ft to the north of it. The best way by far to fish Long Pond is from a canoe, two of which are available for rent from Baxter State Park via prior arrangements (you need a key to unlock the padlock). One reason to use a canoe is that the water depth along the shoreline is generally too shallow to offer good trout fishing, particularly in the summer.

 

 

Long Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine

Long Pond is the only one of the 12 ponds on this hike which supports a healthy rainbow smelt population. So, be sure to troll this pond using smelt-imitating flies or spoons. The larger brookies in this pond reach sizes of 1 pound or more. The easiest access for shore fishing is from the narrow ridge separating Long and High Ponds.  Long Pond has two campsites named Long Pond Outlet and Long Pond Pines. We stayed at the former and were quite pleased with the views of the pond.

The daily bag limit on trout in Long Pond is five fish with a minimum length limit of 6 inches. Use or possession of life fish is prohibited, but dead fish, salmon eggs, and worms are allowed as bait.

 

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High Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine

High Pond (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 A1) is the last of the five ponds located along the “Five Ponds Trail”. The pond covers 17 acres. It has a maximum and average depth of 15 ft and 8 ft, respectively. Click here for a depth map and more fisheries information. The pond does not thermally stratify in the summer, meaning that the bottom is as warm as the top. Trout congregate around spring seepage areas in the summer to survive the high water temperatures. Find the springs and you’ll catch the trout! High pond supports a healthy trout population, with fish weighing up to 1 pound. It also has a resident beaver who clearly resented me fishing along the shoreline and made it a point to swim back and forth in front of me while loudly slapping its tail in the water!

 

 

High Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine

A narrow ridge separates this pond from Long Pond which is located < 100 ft to the south of it. High Pond can be easily fished from the shoreline along that narrow ridge. However, fly fishing requires using one of the rental canoes from Baxter State Park which can be carried over the ridge from the canoe storage area by Long Pond. Make sure to make prior arrangements with Baxter State Park because you’ll need a key to unlock the padlock.

 

The daily bag limit on trout in High Pond is five fish with a minimum length limit of 6 inches. Use or possession of life fish is prohibited, but dead fish, salmon eggs, and worms are allowed as bait.

 

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Lower Fowler Pond with a view of the Traveler Mountains

Lower Fowler Pond (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 A1) covers 64 acres but is relatively shallow, with a maximum and average depth of 15 ft and 8 ft, respectively. Click here for a depth map and more fisheries information. Trout congregate on the bottom around spring seepage areas in the summer because the pond does not thermally stratify. Find the springs and you’ll catch the trout. The pond supports an abundant population of native brook trout. However, be aware of the fishing restrictions noted below!

 

 

 

 

Lower Fowler Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine

The best way by far to fish this relatively big pond is from a canoe, two of which are available for rental from Baxter State Park via prior arrangements (you need a key to unlock the padlock). The pond has two camp sites named Lower Fowler Outlet and Lower Fowler Pond. Both camp sites are located towards the northern end of the pond.

 

Lower Fowler Pond is fly-fishing only. Using dead fish, salmon eggs, or worms is prohibited, as is trolling with artificial lures. The daily bag limit on trout in this pond  is two fish with a minimum length limit of 10 inches. Only one of the two trout may exceed 12 inches.

 

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Middle Fowler Pond with view of the Traveler Mountains

Middle Fowler Pond (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 A1) covers 45 acres but looks bigger than its size suggests because it is relatively narrow and therefore quite long. It has a maximum depth of 26 ft and a mean depth of 13 ft. Click here for a depth map and more fisheries information. The pond has two camp sites, namely Middle Fowler Pond North and Middle Fowler Pond South. I recommend staying at the first of these two camp sites if you have the option. The reasons are twofold: (a) the shore fishing for trout is superb right across from that camp site along the rocky shoreline because the water drops precipitously to > 15 ft deep, and (b) the view of the four Traveler Mountain peaks across from the campsite is stunning.

 

 

 

Middle Fowler Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine

Trout congregate around spring seepage areas in the summer because the pond does not thermally stratify. Find the springs and you’ll catch the trout! Two canoes are available for rental and represent the most efficient way to fish this pond.  Both canoes are stored next to the Middle Fowler Pond North camp site. The most efficient way to reach the other camp site, if that’s the only one available and you’re hiking south, is to place your gear in the canoe and paddle down the pond (about 0.6 miles). Return the canoe to the storage area the next morning and hike back to pick up your gear before continuing on your journey.

The daily bag limit on trout in Middle Fowler Pond is five fish with a minimum length limit of 6 inches. Use or possession of life fish is prohibited, but dead fish, salmon eggs, and worms are allowed as bait. This pond supports a healthy population of native brookies, but the trout are invariably small (< 12 inches).

 

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Lower South Branch Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine

Lower South Branch Pond (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 A1) covers 93 acres and has a maximum and average depth of 60 ft and 32 ft, respectively. Click here for a depth map and more fisheries information. This pond, which is accessible by car from the Park Tote Road, has a park ranger station. It also has multiple tent sites and is a “touristy” pond. But boy, is she beautiful! Three of the four Traveler Mountain peaks look down on the lake and give it a majestic outlook.

 

 

 

 

Lower South Branch Pond with view of the Traveler Mountains

The only efficient way to fish this pond is by canoe, which can be reserved beforehand or rented at the site from the park ranger. Native brook trout of up to 2 pounds are caught in Lower South Branch Pond. Motors of any kind (including electric) are forbidden. Beware that this relatively small pond represents “big water” which can quickly whip up angry 2-ft waves when southern winds howl in through the “wind tunnel” created by the Traveler Mountains on one side of the pond and Black Cat Mountain on the other, as Joel and I found out during our trip!

The daily bag limit on trout in Lower South Branch Pond is five fish with a minimum length limit of 6 inches. Use or possession of life fish is prohibited, but dead fish, salmon eggs, and worms are allowed as bait.

 

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Upper South Branch Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine

Upper South Branch Pond (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 A1) covers 84 acres and has a maximum and average depth of 76 ft and 43 ft, respectively. Click here for a depth map and more fisheries information. This pond definitely took the cake in terms of sheer beauty and majesty, bar none (with Middle Fowler Pond and Lower South Branch Pond a close second…)! I cannot recommend enough that you spend a night at the lean-to on the southern end of the pond in order to admire the total isolation, the multiple rock cliffs, Pinnacle Ridge, and The Traveler which, at 3541 ft is the highest peak in this part of BSP. And, as a bonus, you will glean Mount Katadhin for the first time on the southern horizon!

 

 

 

 

Upper South Branch Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine

In addition, I recommend renting a canoe to reach the lean-to on Upper South Branch Pond, which is two miles from the ranger station on Lower South Branch Pond.  Place all your gear in the canoe, paddle up to the shallow thoroughfare between the two ponds, haul the canoe through the thoroughfare, and then paddle to the camp site. This effort should take a total of about one hour. Use the canoe to fish in the evening (there is really no other way to honestly fish this pond) and return it to the ranger station early the next morning. Leave your gear at the camp site on Upper South Branch Pond and hike back from the ranger station to pick it up and continue on your way south. If anything, using this approach will save you from having to walk your backpack from the ranger station to the camp site! It takes about 45 minutes to hike back without gear.

The daily bag limit on trout in Upper South Branch Pond is five fish with a minimum length limit of 6 inches. Use or possession of life fish is prohibited, but dead fish, salmon eggs, and worms are allowed as bait. The ranger told us that the brookies grow up to 2 pounds in this pond.

 

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Pogy Pond (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 B1) is located on the Pogy Notch Trail. It covers 22 acres and has a maximum depth of 13 ft. This pretty pond sits in the shadow of the two Poggy Mountains on one side and South Traveler Mountain on the other side. The pond has one lean-to. A canoe is available for rent from Baxter State Park via prior arrangements (you need a key to unlock the padlock).

 

The daily bag limit on trout in Pogy Pond is five fish with a minimum length limit of 6 inches. Use or possession of life fish is prohibited, but dead fish, salmon eggs, and worms are allowed as bait.

 

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Deep Pond (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 B1) is located on the Pogy Notch Trail. It covers 8 acres and has a maximum and average depth of 20 ft and 9 ft, respectively. Click here for a depth map and more fisheries information. The pond strongly stratifies in the summer but experiences a dissolved oxygen deficiency in water deeper than 12 ft, which prevents the trout from moving too deep during the warm months. The pond offers great views of Traveler Mountain to the north and Hamlin Peak to the south. It does not have a lean-to or camp site, even though one canoe is available for rent from Baxter State Park via prior arrangements (you need a key to unlock the padlock). The pond is located about 0.8 miles north of Russell Pond (see below).

 

The daily bag limit on trout in Deep Pond is five fish with a minimum length limit of 6 inches. Use or possession of life fish is prohibited, but dead fish, salmon eggs, and worms are allowed as bait.

 

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Russel Pond (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 C1) is the most isolated of the ponds on the 26-mile long journey. It is located along the Russell Pond Trail. This picturesque body of water covers 20 acres, with a maximum and average depth of 6 ft and 4 ft, respectively. Click here for a depth map and more fisheries information. Brook trout survive the hot months by seeking out the spring seepage areas at the bottom of this shallow pond. Find the springs and you’ll catch the trout!

 

Russell Pond is surrounded by Wassataqouik Mountain, Russell Mountain, South Turner Mountain, and North Turner Mountain. It also has a substantial campground, together with a ranger station. Canoes can be reserved beforehand or can be rented on the spot from the park ranger. A key is not required. Shore fishing for brookies is possible by hopping on the many boulders that dot the shoreline. The wild brook trout population is abundant but the fish are relatively small.

 

The daily bag limit on trout in Russell Pond is five fish with a minimum length limit of 6 inches. Use or possession of life fish is prohibited, but dead fish, salmon eggs, and worms are allowed as bait.

 

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The three Whidden Ponds (see the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 C1) are located along the Russell Pond Trail. They provide a spectacular setting to enjoy beautiful views of the Great Basin and North Basin areas of Mount Katadhin.

 

The ponds are all small and shallow: Pond #1 covers 10 acres with a maximum depth of 4 ft; Pond #2 covers 7 acres with a maximum depth of 2 ft; and Pond #3 covers 2 acres with a maximum depth of 3 ft. Click here for depth maps and more fisheries information. The sizes and depths of these ponds may vary somewhat depending on beaver activity at the outlets. Amazingly, considering their small size and shallowness, all three ponds have a thriving population of (small) native brookies, which find refuge in springholes and groundwater seepage areas at the bottom of the ponds. A canoe, camp site, or lean-to is unavailable at any of the ponds. All fishing must be done from shore. Note that the ponds are only 1.5 miles north of the Roaring Brook campground. You could carry waders in if you stayed at the campground.

 

The daily bag limit on trout in the Whidden Ponds is five fish per pond with a minimum length limit of 6 inches. Use or possession of life fish is prohibited, but dead fish, salmon eggs, and worms are allowed as bait.

 

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Sandy Stream Pond (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 C3) is the last of the ponds on the 26-mile itinerary. It is located along the Russell Pond Trail less than 0.5 miles north of the Roaring Brook campground. It offers a spectacular view of Mount Katadhin and South Turner Mountain.

 

The pond covers 17 acres and has a maximum depth of 4 ft. Click here for a depth map and more fisheries information. The surface water is remarkably cold, even in the summer. As a result, growth is slow and the native brookies are fiesty but small. Sandy Stream Pond will also give you a good chance of observing moose in early morning or late evening. A canoe, camp site, or lean-to is unavailable. All fishing must be done from shore. You could carry waders in if you stayed at the Roaring Brook campground.

 

The daily bag limit on trout in Sandy Stream Pond is five fish with a minimum length limit of 6 inches. Use or possession of life fish is prohibited, but dead fish, salmon eggs, and worms are allowed as bait.

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3 thoughts on “Native brook trout fishing in remote ponds in Baxter State Park, Maine

    • Thanks for your comment, Todd. I highly recommend this experience if you’re into remote fishing and long-distance hiking (or just long-distance hiking…). Baxter State Park is a true jewel and an outdoor’s paradise.

      Stay tuned as I will re-do this hike in late September of 2013 with my son and nephew. The original hike with my son in 2012 was cut short on the third day due to a foot injury. That really bummed us out, considering all the effort it took to organize and execute the trip. I’ll update the article with many more pictures and new stories!

      Cheers, Stan

  1. Hi all,
    I feel so lucky that I read an article in BDN Maine Outdoors that led me to information on these remote fishing gems !!
    I have been waiting 6 decades to discover an area that responds to my thinking of where I want to be not only fishing but in pristine environment…and most of all ..quiet.
    If anyone reading this has first hand experience in selecting a number of flys for the early season , I would be most grateful. I am in the time right now where I met a wonderful fly tyer that will provide me with most handsome flys, I have some streamers in mind but I am still a novice in this direction and hatching in these pond areas as well.
    Alan

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