Native brook trout fishing off Five Ponds Trail in Baxter State Park, Maine

This blog describes an easy, five-day hiking, camping, and native brook trout fishing adventure in the remote northeastern wilderness of Baxter State Park (BSP) in Maine. The trip is organized around the Five Ponds Trail which encircles the 1,767 ft-high Trout Brook Mountain. This picturesque trail, which meanders through a mixed hardwood forest and results in minimal elevation gain, gets its name from its location alongside five ponds, namely: Billfish Pond, Long Pond, High Pond, Littlefield Pond, and Round Pond.

 

The first three ponds support robust native brook trout populations. Neither Littlefield Pond nor Round Pond provide access to a canoe, which greatly limits their fishing potential (see below for details). Hence, those two ponds are not further discussed in this blog. Instead, I included Lower Fowler Pond and Middle Fowler Pond which are found in the immediate vicinity of the Five Pond Trail and also have strong native brook trout populations.

 

The total hiking distance for this trip is about 9.0 miles. Hence, the focus is entirely on camping and fishing, instead of hiking. The adventure starts at Trout Brook Farm located on the Park Tote Road about three miles west from the northern entrance to BSP at Matagamon Gate. Click here for downloadable maps of the ponds and the hiking trails on this itinerary. A small grassy parking lot by the trail head provides space to park your car for the duration of the trip.

 

I recommend spending a full day on each pond. This leisurely approach provides the opportunity to relax and fish a pond during different times in the day, such as early in the morning, mid-day or early evening. Based on this philosophy, this five-day trip breaks down as follows:

 

Day 1: Trout Brook Farm to Billfish Pond (estimated hiking distance: 3.5 miles)
Day 2: Billfish Pond to Long Pond: (estimated hiking distance: 1.0 mile)
Day 3: Long Pond to Middle Fowler Pond (estimated hiking distance: 1.5 miles)
Day 4: Middle Fowler Pond to Lower Fowler Pond (estimated hiking distance: 1.0 mile)
Day 5: Lower Fowler Pond to Trout Farm (estimated hiking distance: 2.0 miles)

 

Of course, one could easily shorten the trip to two or three days by fishing several ponds in one day, or skipping a few ponds altogether.

 

Keep the following issues in mind when preparing for this trip:

 

1) All five ponds on the itinerary have one or more camp sites which are available for use by reservation only. Click here for details on the BSP reservation procedures.

 

2) The optimum times to pursue wild brook trout are (a) the second half of May (BSP opens for the season on May 15) to the third week of June and (b) the last week of September. The May-June window coincides with the annual spring mayfly hatches, when the pond waters are warming up but are still cool enough to draw trout to the surface and keep them there. Starting in late-June, and until the second half of September, the warm surface waters force the trout to go deep in order to find cool water below the thermocline or around spring holes at the bottom, which makes them much harder to catch. The surface water cools down again towards the end of September with the first cold nights of fall. Note that, with some exceptions, the fishing season in BSP ends on September 30. Hence, fishing is no longer allowed on the ponds described in this blog (except for Billfish Pond) after that date, even though the park itself closes for the fall only on October 15.

 

3) The park rents canoes ($8/day) for each pond on the itinerary. I highly recommend taking advantage of these canoes because your chances of catching brook trout will increase exponentially if you fish on the water instead of from shore. This is even more imperative if you plan on fly fishing. The canoes are all padlocked. The keys are available from the ranger when you register at the Matagamon Gate. Click here for more information on this subject.

 

4) Don’t expect to catch lunker brook trout (with exceptions…). All the ponds on the itinerary are relatively small (< 100 acres) and unproductive. Some of them also lack forage fish. As a result, the typical native brook trout feeds mainly on aquatic bugs and remains on the small side (< 12”). But what these fish lack in size they amply make up with their will to fight when caught.

 

5) Bring a reel with lead core or sinking line to place lures well below the surface. Trolling can be very fruitful, particularly in the early morning hours before bug life starts to stir and the bright light of the sun pushes the fish lower into the water column (note: trolling is not allowed in Lower Fowler Pond). Trolling may also be key to catching more brookies in late September.

 

6) If you plan on spinner fishing, bring smaller spinners (e.g., #1 Mepps) to match the smaller size of the native brookies. Also, several of the ponds on the itinerary are loaded with leeches, which represent a favorite trout snack. Hence, don’t forget to include some leech-imitating lures such as black-colored spinners or spoons, dark woolly buggers, or something equivalent.

 

The fishing regulations on the five ponds are as follows (click here for more information).

 

  • Billfish Pond, Long Pond, High Pond, and Middle Fowler Pond: the daily bag limit on brook 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.
  • Lower Fowler Pond: fly fishing only, with a daily bag limit on brook trout of two fish with a minimum length of 10”, only one of which may exceed 12”.

Finally, click here if you are interested in learning more about a different different kind of hiking/camping/fishing adventure based on hiking through Baxter State Park from north to south.

With the formalities out of the way, let me discuss each pond featured on this itinerary.

 

View Map

Billfish Pond with Billfish Mountain in the background

Billfish Pond with Billfish Mountain in the background

Billfish Pond (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 A2) covers 70 acres and has a maximum and average depth of 84 ft and 24 ft, respectively.  These features make it “big” water. The water column is crystal clear, with substrate consisting mostly of gravel and cobble. The pond supports a healthy native brook trout population, which is enhanced by the State with an annual fall stocking of additional brook trout.  The water column stratifies each summer, with warmer surface water overlying colder bottom water, thereby providing a cold-water refuge for the trout at depth. Click here for more information on the pond and its fisheries. BSP maintains a camp site and a canoe at the northern end of the pond.

 

 

 

View Map

A quiet evening of canoeing and fishing on Long Pond

A quiet evening of canoeing and fishing on Long Pond

Long Pond (see the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 A1) covers 70 acres and has a maximum and mean depth of 33 ft and 14 ft, respectively. The water column is crystal clear, with substrate consisting mostly of gravel and cobble. The pond supports a robust native brook trout population, with the largest fish reaching up to 14”. This water body is also unusual in that it is one of the few small native brook trout ponds in BSP with a self-sustaining rainbow smelt population. I’m sure that the larger trout feast on this forage base. Hence, don’t forget to bring smelt-imitating lures if you’re planning on trolling this pond. The water column stratifies in the summer, with warmer surface water overlying colder bottom water, thereby providing a cold-water refuge for the trout at depth. Click here for more information on the pond and its fisheries. BSP maintains a camp site at the eastern end (Long Pond Pines) and western end (Long Pond Outlet) of the pond. I’ve camped at Long Pond Outlet and like this site because it is spacious and comfortable. The canoes are stored on the northern shore of the pond next to the Five Pond Trail, about half-way between the two Long Pond camp sites.

 

View Map

High Pond is small but Pretty

High Pond is small but Pretty

High Pond (see the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 A1) covers 17 acres and has a maximum and mean depth of 15 ft and 8 ft, respectively. The water column is crystal clear, with substrate consisting mostly of gravel and cobble. The pond supports a robust native brook trout population, with the largest fish reaching 12”-13”. It is separated from Long Pond by a 100 ft wide spit of land on top of which runs the Five Pond Trail. The water column in High Pond does not stratify into a warm and cold layer in summer, meaning that the bottom is just as warm as the top. Trout survive the hot months by congregating around spring holes. Click here for more information on the pond and its fisheries. BSP does not maintain a camp site on this pond. Instead, people stay at the nearby Long Pond camp sites. You’ll also need to drag a canoe over the Five Pond Trail from the Long Pond storage area in order to fish High Pond from a boat. That takes just a couple of minutes.

 

View Map

The skyline on Middle Fowler Pond is simply spectacular

The skyline on Middle Fowler Pond is simply spectacular

Middle Fowler Pond (see the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 A1) covers 45 acres and has a maximum and mean depth of 27 ft and 13 ft, respectively. It looks much bigger than its actual size because it is long but narrow. The water is crystal clear, with substrate consisting mostly of gravel and cobble. The pond supports an abundant native brook trout population, but the trout are uniformly small with none reaching over 12”. All the fish are also infested with a skin parasite called “black spot”. It is unsightly on the trout but harmless to humans. The water column does not stratify into a warm and cold layer in summer, meaning that the bottom is just as warm as the top. Trout survive the hot months by congregating around spring holes. Click here for more information on the pond and its fisheries. BSP maintains two camp sites, namely Middle Fowler Pond North and Middle Fowler Pond South. I recommend staying at the first of these 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 views of the Traveler Mountain peaks across from the campsite are stunning.

 

View Map

Lower Fowler Pond is another beauty!

Lower Fowler Pond is another beauty!

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. Trout congregate on the bottom around spring seepage areas in the summer because the pond does not thermally stratify. The pond supports an abundant population of native brook trout. However, as with Middle Fowler Pond, all the trout are infested with “black spot”.  Click here for more information on the pond and its fisheries. Keep in mind that only fly fishing is allowed. BSP maintains two camp sites named Lower Fowler Outlet and Lower Fowler Pond. Both camp sites are located towards the northern end of the pond, as are the rental canoes.

 

 

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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