Smallmouth bass fishing on the Androscoggin River in Lewiston, Maine (July 31, 2016)

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The informal put-in off Switzerland Road In Lewiston

The informal put-in off Switzerland Road In Lewiston

This blog is the last in a series of four entries pertaining to smallmouth bass fishing on the Androscoggin River flowing through the Lewiston/Auburn metro area (click here, here, and here for the other three related blogs). Today, my focus is on the area right below the Gulf Island Hydropower Dam. This sizable structure is responsible for maintaining Gulf Island Pond, which is the largest reservoir on the Androscoggin River in Maine. I’m not aware of the presence of a public boat launch between the Gulf Island Hydropower Dam and the Deer Run Hydropower Dam located about a mile further downstream. So, I use Google Maps prior to my departure to locate a potential access point for my canoe. To reach this informal put-in, drive north through Lewiston on Routes 11/100/202 and turn left on Switzerland Road. Stay on this road for 1.2 miles (pass the Saint Peters Cemetery). The put-in is on the left across from the first house after the cemetery. You’ve gone too far if you drive underneath the high-voltage power lines or reach Gulf Island Avenue. Note that one cannot drive directly to the dam from this side of the river because Switzerland Avenue turns into a CMP Company private road, which is posted and gated. The put-in is located about 2000 ft downstream of the dam. Parking is along the road shoulder. Note that I did not check for an alternative access point on the other side of the river.

 

 

 

I caught over half a dozen of these fat red-breast sunfish on my spinner

I caught over half a dozen of these aggressive red-breast sunfish on my spinner

 

 

I arrive at the informal put-in on Switzerland Road around 4:30 pm and push off 15 minutes later. I’m by myself this afternoon and no one else is on the river. I’m always amazed, and pleasantly surprised, at how few other open-water anglers I run into during my weekend fishing trips, even in densely-populated urban areas. That works well for me! The sky is mostly cloudy and the air temperature is in the comfortable low 70’s. A light breeze blows in from the northeast. The Androscoggin River appears deep and slow-moving at this spot, so I tie a 4” floating Rapalla lure to my line and troll right along the shoreline as I paddle my way upstream. This strategy yields a small yellow perch and my first smallmouth bass in the ten minutes it takes to reach my target area. The omens are good… Multiple signs warning of unpredictable water-level changes appear along both shores as I get closer to the dam. Two floating rafts with large warning signs are also placed in the river about 300 ft below the dam notifying boaters of danger. The river at this spot is split roughly in half by a large rocky island. Looking upstream, all of the water this afternoon is flowing out of the turbine building located to the right of the island while the water is quiescent and stagnant to the left of the island.

 

This 15" bass gave me a tremendous fight on my ultralight spinning rod. What a treat!

This 15″ smallmouth bass gave a tremendous fight on my ultralight spinning rod. What a treat!

I’m immediately impressed by what I see: strong flow, multiple current seams, rocky outcrops, bouldery substrate, and shallow to deep water. This is just the kind of diverse habitat that loves to attract and hold river smallmouth bass. However, all of this good stuff is located in the immediate vicinity of the dam. The current quickly slows down and the water depth increases the further one moves downstream. I  start fishing in the current behind the rocky island with a #2 Mepps (my all-time favorite spinner) using an ultra-light fishing rod coupled with a small reel holding 6 lb fishing line. I love this set-up because I can cast the spinner a country-mile away. In addition, even a relatively small fish will completely bend the rod over, which is always fun. I get immediate action! Over the next 30 minutes, I land five smallish bass and, to my surprise, over half a dozen fat red-breast sunfish! I stay put but, to avoid the sunfish, switch to my floating Rapalla and land several more bass. Out of curiosity, I paddle to the side of the island that has no current. Not surprisingly, I only catch one bass in about half an hour. Clearly, the lack of any current makes this general area unappealing to the local bronzeback population.

 

This is the very first time that I have caught a white perch in the Androscoggin River!

This is the very first time that I have caught a white perch in the Androscoggin River! The turbine building is on the right of this picture.

I then paddle to the opposite shoreline to the area where the water pushes out of the dam. The flow is quite strong but I find a nice current seam behind which I can park my canoe in quiescent water. That is where I catch the biggest bass of the day: a 15” fish which, swimming with the current, pushes my ultralight spinning rod and light line almost to the breaking point. It’s a contest of wills, with the fish stubbornly remaining in the current and I trying to move it out of the current without snapping the line. I win the contest. River fishing doesn’t get any more exciting than this! Another unexpected catch on the Mepps in this general area of high current turns out to be a fat white perch! I also let the canoe drift down the current several times while fishing with a soft stickbait. That amazing lure yields several more bronzebacks. I’ve been fishing for over two hours now and need to head back to my car. I slowly paddle downstream along the shoreline trolling with my Rapalla. I catch several more bass, but my very last fish caught right before I reach the put-in is another surprise: a large fat fallfish! I had a fantastic time on the Androscoggin River this evening. The only “complaint” is that all the bass were on the small size (8” to 15”), as I have noted in my three previous blogs about this stretch of the river flowing through the Lewiston/Auburn area. Regardless, this short stretch of river yielded five separate species of fish, namely yellow perch, smallmouth bass, red-breast sunfish, white perch, and fallfish. Quite a smorgasbord!

 

The results: I caught 17 smallmouth bass (largest = 15”), and missed at least a dozen more, during two and a half hours of great fishing.

This fallfish rounded off the smorgashboard of fish species for this evening

This fat fallfish rounded off the smorgasbord of five fish species caught this evening

 

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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