This little landlocked salmon jumped four times out of the water. What a treat!
Today is, most unfortunately, the last day of fishing on Pierce Pond in Somerset County (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 30 A2) for Joel, Salvy and I before we have to leave this slice of heaven and return back home to face Life. Joel already spent 11 consecutive days on the pond before today and has discovered an intriguing pattern. The cool weather and lack of sunny days over the last week and a half has kept the surface water temperature below normal for this time of the year. The mayfly hatches have been sporadic and inconsistent at best and the fish have not focused on this seasonal food source yet. However, the cool surface water temps have allowed the salmonids to feed extensively in shallow water in search of bait fish and other bug life. Through much trial and error Joel figured out that, based on the unusual prevailing conditions, select rock piles in shallow areas of Pierce Pond (and the pond is full of those piles!) are serving as magnets for prey items and the salmonids that feed on them.
It’s the long Memorial Day weekend of 2017 and that means that I’m on my annual pilgrimage to gorgeous Pierce Pond in Somerset County (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 30 A2). This huge “pond” is divided into three major basins (i.e., Upper Pond, Middle Pond and Lower Pond) which together cover a total of 1,650 acres. I’m fishing for four days in this special place with my son Joel and nephew Salvy. We’re renting a cozy log cabin a Cobb’s Camp in Lower Pond which affords us access to an indoor toilet, a hot shower, and cooked meals off the grid in the middle of nowhere! Pierce Pond is a totally pristine and unspoiled environment. The lake is completely surrounded by forests in a protected watershed. These conditions maintain the exceptional surface water quality which supports a robust and self-sustaining native brook trout population and a healthy population of stocked landlocked Atlantic salmon. General fishing laws apply, except that (a) the pond is closed to ice fishing, (b) the ponds opens to fishing on May 1 (but beware that ice-out can occur well past May 1 after a cold winter), (c) only artificial lures are allowed, (d) the daily bag limit for brook trout is two fish, and (e) the minimum length limit for brook trout is 10”, with only one fish allowed to exceed 12”
View of North Otter Pond from the rough access point
North Otter Pond covers 71 acres and is located in Bowtown Township in Somerset County, Maine (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 30 A2). This pond can be reached as follows: from North New Portland (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 30 E2), drive north on Long Falls Dam Road for about 23 miles and turn right on Carrying Place Road at the sign for Cobb’s Camps. Drive down this gravel road for 10.1 miles until the Yield traffic sign and turn left on Bowtown Road (note: Google Maps calls this road “Otter Pond Road”). Pass Harrison Camp on the left, cross Pierce Pond Stream and drive for another 2.5 miles or so. Turn left on a short dirt road that leads to a small parking area. The pond is 300 ft further down from there. Both Carrying Place Road and Bowtown Road are gravel roads that are drivable by regular cars but can be rough during mud season in early spring. It took me about one hour to cover the 15 miles or so from the turn-off on Long Falls Dam Road to the pond. Hence, this pretty pond is reachable by car even though it is rather remote.
This blog identifies the TOP ponds in Somerset County, Maine that provide the best odds of catching brook trout during the spring of 2017. A pond is considered TOP due to its trout stocking density: all else being equal, the more brook trout that are stocked per acre of pond, the greater the chances of catching those fish! Most of these ponds cover less than 50 acres and are therefore relatively small. Trout activity typically peaks between late April and mid-June, after which the fishing slows down in response to rising surface water temperatures. Check out this blog on trolling techniques for catching trout.
All of the ponds described below were stocked last fall but were closed to ice fishing. The stocked trout were all relatively small but had 7 to 8 months to fatten up a bit. More details are provided in the stocking reports compiled by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. It is recommended to check the regulations about special fishing rules that may apply on these ponds, such as daily bag limits, minimum size limits, use of live bait fish, artificial lure requirements, limits on outboard engine size, etc. Note also that the list of TOP brook trout ponds excludes “kids-only” ponds.
The TOP ponds stocked with brook trout this spring in Somerset County are listed below in alphabetical order:
This blog highlights the ponds in Somerset County which provide the best odds of catching larger stocked trout during the 2017 ice fishing season. Around 20 ponds open to ice fishing in this county are stocked with trout each fall. Most of these fish are relatively small (7” to 12”), but plentiful, in order to provide fast action. The state also spiced up some of the ponds with larger trout, which are defined here as fish measuring 13” or more, and weighing at least 1 pound. Click here for tips to increase your chances of catching more brookies through the ice.
I’m trolling this morning under a leaden sky. Good! It keeps the light levels down.
Shoot, I “overslept”! I stumble out of my tent at 5 am and get ready for trolling. I don’t bother waking up Joel since he isn’t an early riser anyway. The conditions this morning are very different from the day before: a cold front moved through the region overnight, bringing in a heavy cloud deck, some rain, and lots of wind. What a difference from the perfect conditions we experienced yesterday evening, just a few hours earlier! The rain has stopped but everything is dripping wet. Fortunately, the air temperature is a comfortable 54°F. I start trolling with my usual arsenal: one spinning rod using two Mooselook Wobbler spoons with the monofilament line clipped to a 4-lb weight attached to a portable downrigger, and an 8-weight fly fishing rod paired up with lead core line fishing with a Grey Ghost and Governor Aiken streamer flies. That’s a total of four lures looking for fish 10 to 15 ft below the surface. I like using lead core line in the spring and fall when I don’t have to troll much deeper than two or three colors. In my experience, about 75% of the fish I’ve hooked while trolling over the years have been caught on streamer flies. The reason is that I make the effort of constantly “ripping” my line through the water, thereby causing the flies to make erratic and jerky movements which seem to attract the attention from the fish down below. Besides, by actively working the lead core line one can also experience first-hand the ferocious hits on the streamer flies, which is something which cannot be felt when the line is clipped to a downrigger trolling weight. I get one of those tremendous hits about one hour into my morning troll. But then the lead core line goes slack. Darn it, I missed the fish! I quickly spool in my line when suddenly a landlocked salmon announces itself by performing several crazy jumps out of the water and making two strong runs that rip line off my spool. It looks like it grabbed the Grey Ghost and just kept on swimming towards the boat until my quick spooling action caught up with it. I really like those surprises! The fish measures 18.5”, gets photographed and is released back into the water. I see no further action until I return to camp an hour later, but I’ve got my story to share with Joel over breakfast!
I love the ambiance of a wind-still foggy morning on Pierce Pond!
Now that is one fat native wild brookie!
Today is our last day at the Cobb’s camping site on the Upper Pond island before we move our operations to one of the cabins at Cobb’s Camp in Lower Pond. I once again crawl out of my sleeping bag at 4:30 am for my morning troll. It rained heavily last night but now it is wind still and the whole lake is covered by a heavy blanket of fog, which is very much to my liking! I’m fishing alone since Salvy needs to catch up on his sleep. I’m using my usual technique of two Mooselook Wobbler spoons on a down rigger, and two streamer flies on my lead core line fished 10 to 15 ft down. I’m on the water for no more than 15 minutes when my downrigger rod starts shaking. I put down my lead core line which I’m holding in my hands and quickly remove the downrigger rod from the rod holder to unclip the line and set the hook. Shoot, I’m pulling water… I bring in the spoons, cast them out, and start futsing with the downrigger clip when my lead core line suddenly begins shaking violently. Holy mackerel! It looks like the fish which missed hooking itself on the spoon subsequently bit one of the streamer flies when they both passed it by 30 seconds later! And this fish ain’t no minnow either!! I get several powerful runs but no acrobatics. It must be a large brook trout, which it is! The fish measures a relatively short 18.5” but has a hefty girth of 11.5” and weighs in at around 3.3 pounds! It gets carefully measured, photographed and released to grow bigger and be caught again at some future date. Now here’s a fish to brag about around the breakfast table! But I’m not done yet for this morning. Twenty minutes later, I hook but miss a 16” landlocked salmon on one of my streamer flies, and 30 minutes after that I land the smallest salmon (8”) I’ve ever caught on Pierce Pond over the last 15 years. It fell for the Grey Ghost. I’m experiencing a magic morning: the fish are active, the fog is slowly burning off by the rising sun, the water surface is calm, and I’m engaged in my favorite activity. It doesn’t get much better than this…
I drag myself out of my sleeping bag at 4:30 am for early-morning trolling. I like fishing at the crack of dawn because the bite can be quite good before the sun rises and drives the fish deeper. The weather is beautiful, with light wind, temps in the mid 50’s and full visibility. Regardless, I’m dressed like I’m going ice fishing. I know from experience that I feel cold this early in the day because I’m still half asleep, move little, and haven’t had breakfast or a hot beverage. All my efforts are for naught though because I do not get a single hit in the next two hours, either on the streamer flies or the Mooselook Wobbler spoons. Regardless, I deeply enjoy my “alone” time and like the experience of seeing a new day emerge from the night. I return to camp by 7 am. Joel and I prepare breakfast, which for me consists of a healthy portion of pancakes, scrambled eggs, and pork patties, washed down by two cups of hot tea. I’m fully awake now!
Pierce Pond is a 1,650-acre gem of a lake nestled in the mountains of central Somerset County (see the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 30 A2). It consists of three basins (Upper, Middle, and Lower Ponds, arranged from north to south) connected by two shallow, boulder-infested thoroughfares. The surface water is crystal clear and its quality is superb. The local brook trout population is entirely native, wild and robust. Trout well into the 3 lbs. are not uncommon. The State also stocks landlocked Atlantic salmon, which creates a lively fishery, although those fish rarely exceed 4 lbs., and most stay below 3 lbs. Click here for a depth map and more fisheries information. The fishing rules are strict in order to protect the outstanding fishery, as follows: (a) the pond is closed to ice fishing; (b) the pond is open to fishing from May 1 to September 30; (c) only artificial lures are allowed; (d) the daily bag limit on trout is two fish with a minimum length of 10” and only one of which may exceed 12”; and (e) no size or bag limit on lake trout. Pierce Pond is completely surrounded by a protected forested watershed. Hence, civilization intrudes minimally. The entire shoreline is deeply wooded and not a single dock or house is visible anywhere, except for Cobb’s Camp where we will be staying for the second half of this trip.
This blog identifies the ponds in central New Jersey that provide the best odds of catching trout during the spring of 2016. For the purpose of this blog, central New Jersey covers Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, and Somerset counties. The fishing action on these bodies of water can be fast and furious in the spring. Trout activity typically peaks for three or four weeks between mid-April and mid-May, after which the bite slows down due to rising surface water temperatures.
A pond is considered TOP due to its trout stocking density: everything else being equal, the more trout that are stocked per acre of water, the greater the chances of catching those fish!! Click here for driving directions to these choice fishing spots. Click here for details on actual stocking days. Click here for the latest law book about special fishing regulations that may apply.
The hottest trout ponds for this spring in central New Jersey are listed below in alphabetical order: