Smallmouth bass fishing on the Penobscot River, Greenbush to Passadumkeag, Maine (July 8, 2017)

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The Penobscot River between Greenbush and Passadumkeag is wide, shallow and dotted with islands

The Penobscot River is the premier river smallmouth bass fishery in Maine, bar none! The stretch flowing between the towns of Greenbush and Passadumkeag (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 35 B5 to D5) represents a gorgeous section of bass real estate. I meet up with my friend Tim at the Greenbush boat launch (which can accommodate large motorized craft) at 9 am. We leave his vehicle behind and drive my car 9.5 miles further north to the boat launch in Passadumkeag (which can also accommodate large motorized craft). We’ll be fishing from my 12 ft/8 HP aluminum boat which I hope will be able to pass through most of the extensive shallow areas that dot this stretch of river. Our goal today is to let the current float us down to the Greenbush boat launch while fishing for smallmouth bass along the way. We expect the trip to take about 5 hours. I have fished the Penobscot River between Old Town and Lincoln on and off for 30+ years but haven’t drifted it the way we’re doing today, so I don’t fully know what to expect. The water level is surprisingly high though given that it’s the beginning of July.

 

 

This stretch of the Penobscot river is full of healthy smallmouth bass!

 

 

I fish with a 5” unjointed floating Rapala and a purple 4” soft stickbait presented “wacky style”. The latter works great because the substrate in this section of the Penobscot River consists entirely of gravel, cobble, and boulders with few snags. Tim uses a soft plastic shad-imitating lure with a paddle tail. We both quickly start catching bass in a large pool upstream of a set of rapids. The bite is on!! We only make slow progress drifting downstream over the next 5 hours or so. Long stretches of the river run really shallow and we constantly have to step out of the boat and push it along when my propeller hits bottom. This experience would be much worse at the lower water levels more typically encountered in the summer. The fishing is good though! We hit all the usual bass-holding areas we encounter (e.g., behind large boulders, in deep pockets of water, next to the shoreline, along current seams) and continuously catch fish. We don’t land any monsters. All our bass measure between 12” and 16” but are invariably feisty fighters. The strength of these bronzebacks is astonishing. The river finally stays consistently deep after we pass Olamon Island (see The Main Atlas and Gazetteer map 33 C2). However, it’s mid afternoon by now and we need to start heading back out. The sky is also becoming overcast and we hear far-off thunder. We cautiously motor downstream for the next hour salivating at the excellent bass holding water we encounter but doing little fishing due to lack of time. It’s painfully obvious that this is the better half of the stretch flowing between Greenbush and Passadumkeag…

 

We spend too much time in the water guiding the boat through shallow sections of the river…

Here’s my suggestion on how best to fish this section of the Penobscot River. If you have a motor boat, then access the river from the Greenbush launch and make your way up to Sugar Island (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 33 C4) by staying in the main channel of the river. Navigate to the upstream end of Sugar Island before letting yourself drift down along the left bank (facing Greenbush). That entire shoreline between Sugar Island and the Greenbush launch has deep water (4 to 10 ft) and current and offers excellent smallmouth bass habitat. Unfortunately, it is this stretch of the river that Tim and I largely bypassed when we ran out of time earlier today. I recommend fishing the left shoreline only because we observed it and found it very promising. I do not know if the right bank of this same section of the river (i.e., the shoreline facing Argyle) is as auspicious as the left bank. Note that this approach only requires one car because the points of departure and arrival are both at the Greenbush launch. Beware that you should not put in a motor boat at Passadumkeag and float downstream with the expectation of returning to this launch. Long stretches of water below the launch are simply too shallow for motoring and you’ll be hauling your heavy boat by hand against the current…

 

Life is good when fishing the Penobscot River!

You have two choices if fishing from a kayak or canoe. If you only have one car, then put in at the Greenbush launch and paddle upstream for 3-4 miles up to Sugar Island before letting yourself drift down as explained above (or, if time is a limitation, paddle upstream only halfway to Cow Island before drifting down). If you have access to two cars, then consider leaving one car at the Greenbush launch and driving with the second vehicle to Passadumkeag to launch your craft from up there. Paddle downstream for about 5-6 miles to bypass all the shallow stuff before reaching Sugar Island. It would take up to 2 hours of non-stop paddling from the Passadumkeag launch to Sugar Island given that the river moves at a steady 2-3 miles per hour. But you’d have to control the strong impulse to stop and fish all the good spots on this stretch (like we did today…) and focus only on reaching Sugar Island with the knowledge that the best bass holding water starts from there. Also, keep in mind that the wind has a tendency to blow strongly up the river from the south/south-west sector in the summer. We ran into extremely strong headwinds today which would have slowed down a human-powered craft moving downstream. Regardless, I strongly recommend spending time and effort exploring this glorious stretch of the Penobscot River.

 

The results: Tim and I landed a total of around 40 smallmouth bass in 7 hours of fun fishing, which included 1 hour of walking in the water to guide my boat through shallow areas, one hour of drifting through water that was too shallow to fish or motor, and one hour of motoring to get back to Greenbush.

 

Come to Timmy!

 

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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