Smallmouth bass fishing on Panther Pond, Raymond, Maine (September 5, 2015)

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The fog over Panther Pond is being burned off by the rising sun

The fog over Panther Pond is being burned off by the rising sun

Panther Pond is a 1,439-acre body of water located in Raymond, Maine (see the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 5 C2). Access is via an unimproved dirt launch located right before the outlet dam on Mill Street. This launch, which can accommodate larger power boats, is rather steep with a surface consisting of sand and rocks. It can be useful to use a 4X4 vehicle to launch and retrieve motored vessels from this location. Parking for trailered vehicles is “rough” on the side of the road; space is available for only a handful of cars or trucks. A small parking area is located on the opposite side of the dam but can only hold vehicles without trailers. An alternative access option is to release a boat at the official hard-top launch on the southern tip of Crescent Lake (see the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 5 B2) and navigate into Panther Pond via the Tenney River.

 

 

 

Lily showing off her nice 18" smallmouth bass

Lily showing off her nice 18″ smallmouth bass

 

 

Panther Pond is a well-known early-season smallmouth bass lake which can produce some serious bragging fish (click here for details). However, these bass quickly move away from the rocky shallows once they have completed their spawn in early June. They then scatter and disappear into the deeper, cooler waters offshore where they become much more difficult to pinpoint and catch during the summer months. However, they do have predictable behaviors which bring them back into the shallows on a daily basis where they can be caught without specialized lures or fishing techniques. These fish will rise up from the depths at pre-dawn every morning to prowl over shallow sandbars, ridges, shoals and sunken islands looking for fish, bugs, crawfish or any other tasty morsels to snack on. The bass will descend back into their deep lairs as soon as the sun rises and the light becomes too intense. The trick, then, is to position oneself in an area and at a time where this behavior can be expected to occur.

 

The resident loon comes by for a visit

The resident loon comes by for a visit

Lily and I arrive at the dirt launch for Panther Pond off Mill Street at 5:30 am. Night is just starting to ebb away. We check the boat for fragments of aquatic plants (none are present), launch the boat and quickly make our way towards the shallow bay located just to the south of Betty’s Neck. I’m glad to see that the whole lake is carpeted by thick fog banks. That’ll keep the light intensity down for longer once the sun starts its inevitable rise in the sky later on this morning. Conditions are perfect, with air temps in the nippy low 50’s, little or no wind, and low visibility. We reach our target spot at 6 am and position the boat on the outside of the bay in about 10 ft of water. The bottom in this area gently but consistently rises from 20+ feet deep up to the bay where the water is no more than 2-3 ft deep. I’m hoping that set-up will cause smallmouths to swim up towards the shallows in search of a meal. We keep an eye out for rises or any other feeding activity but do not observe any action. Lily starts fishing with a 4” purple soft stickbait, whereas I use a Hula Popper (a small but noisy surface plug) in the hope of attracting some interest from below.

 

It took me three tries to finally catch this big boy, and what a fight he gave me!!

It took me three tries to finally catch this big boy, and what a fight he gave me!!

Within ten minutes, Lily gets a bite on her stickbait but misses the fish. That’s a good sign! She gets another bite a little while later and hooks a big bass which wiggles of the hook as it gets close to the boat. That’s disappointing but shows that the actors appear to be all in place. We also start seeing increasing surface activity: a rise over here, fleeing baitfish over there. I get a small, almost insignificant, swirl by my Hula Popper, but no strike. I crank my lure in as fast as possible, and quickly toss a stickbait in the general area of the strike using a second rod. Within seconds, the line tightens and starts swimming sideways. I set the hook hard but pull in only water, Sh*t, I missed my chance! I quickly crank in the stickbait, realign it properly on the hook, and toss it back out in the area of the hit. Five seconds later, same thing. But this time I get a tremendous run when I set the hook. I got him!! The fish dives deep and rips line of my reel. Holy mackerel, this thing is big. It doggedly stays down without breaching the surface. Is this even a bass?? Slowly but surely, the fish tires and emerges next to the boat. Oh, yessiree, it is indeed a bronzeback, and a nice one which measures 19.5” and weighs close to 4 lbs. The game is on! We both get several more strikes, and Lily hooks and lands an 18” smallmouth. Boy, the fish have heft this morning. The fog has completely burned off by a little after 7 am, allowing the sun to shine brightly over the water. The surface activity slows down markedly and then ceases, and so does the bite. The bass are done feeding in our area and have moved back deeper. It’s time to call it a day. A bald eagle flies low over the boat to check things out; a loon nonchalantly paddles by in front of the boat. What a great way to spend a gorgeous early Saturday morning!!

 

The results: Lily and I each caught one smallmouth bass (18” and 19.5”, respectively) in about one and a quarter hour 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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