Smallmouth bass fishing on Panther Pond, Raymond, Maine (August 14, 2017)

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The sun is setting and the surface commotion is gone. It’s time for the smallmouth bass to grab dinner before dark!

Catching smallmouth bass in ponds or lakes during high summer in Maine can be a real challenge, even for the experienced angler. The surface water is warm (75° to 80°F), the sun is bright, and the human activity levels can be intense as a result of water skiing, jet skiing, pontoon boating, or power boating. The fish seek shelter 15 to 25 ft below the surface to locate cooler water, hide from the sun, and find respite from all the human commotion above. Unlike the nippier and less hectic spring months, when the smallmouth bass congregate and concentrate in large numbers along bouldery shorelines for the annual spawn, the summer bronzebacks are scattered over a much larger area and in deeper water. That makes them intrinsically more difficult to find and catch.

 

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Brook trout fishing on Pierce Pond, Pierce Pond Township, Somerset County, Maine (May 29, 2017)

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Excellent trolling conditions!

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”

 

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Brook trout fishing on Abol Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine (May 25, 2017)

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View of the rough access point to Abol Pond from the Park Tote Road

Abol Pond covers 70 acres and is located alongside the Park Tote Road in Baxter State Park, about two miles from the Togue Pond Gate (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 50 D5). Remarkably, given its relatively small surface area, the pond is about 1.2 miles long and has 3.4 miles of shoreline! This narrow and convoluted body of water consists of an eastern and western basin connected by a long and shallow thoroughfare. Both basins, but the eastern one in particular, provide spectacular views of Abol Mountain with majestic Mount Katahdin looming in the background. The pond can be accessed from two different locations. The easiest one is situated at the Abol Beach picnic area by the outlet on the western basin. The only problem with this launch area is that one then has to paddle one mile to reach the eastern basin. The alternative access point is located right off the Park Tote Road next to the pond at the point where the road dips down to pass over a large culvert. This access point, which is more central, is down a relatively steep bank by the road. I use the latter this morning.

 

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Rainbow trout and brook trout fishing on Long Pond, Denmark, Maine (May 18, 2017)

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A stunning view of Pleasant Mountain from the rough boat launch at Long Pond

Long Pond covers 55 acres and is located in Denmark, Oxford County, Maine (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 4 A2). This pond can be reached as follows when driving from the Naples/Bridgeton area: in the town of Denmark, turn right unto Denmark Road (just after crossing the outlet of Moose Pond), drive on Denmark Road for exactly 4.0 miles, make a left at the stop sign, drive down that road for 0.1 mile and take the first road (Long Pond Drive) to the left. A “No Trespassing” sign is nailed to a large tree but this road is open to the public. Stay on Long Pond Drive for 0.9 miles; the public launch is on the left and is clearly marked. Note that the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer shows that the access point is on the eastern side of the pond, when in fact it is located on the western side. It took me a while, and talking to several locals, to figure that one out…

 

 

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Rainbow trout and brown trout fishing on Kennebunk Pond, Lyman, Maine (December 3, 2016)

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The boat launch on Kennebunk Pond is unimproved and sandy.

The “boat launch” on Kennebunk Pond is unimproved and sandy.

Kennebunk Pond is a 224-acre body of water located in Lyman, Maine (see the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 2 B5). A rough and sandy public boat launch is located off Kennebunk Pond Road at the outlet on the eastern side of the pond. Ample parking is available across from the launch. Be aware that this launch is quite shallow, particularly in the fall when the water level in the pond is low. In my opinion, only hand-carried craft or small motor boats can effectively be put in and retrieved from this spot in late fall. Anything bigger would be problematic, and would require a 4X4 vehicle. This pond was stocked last month with a total of 641 brown trout, rainbow trout and brook trout measuring between 12” and 15”. Our goal this morning is to catch some of those fish.

 

 

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Lake trout fishing on Sebago Lake, Maine (November 12, 2016)

The water level by the boat launch is really low but fortunately the boat has a low draft and Joel brought the waders!

The water level by the boat launch is really low but fortunately the boat has a shallow draft and Joel brought the waders!

Mid-fall is a great time to troll for landlocked Atlantic salmon and lake trout in southern Maine. The surface water temperatures in the larger lakes have dipped into the mid- to upper-40’s and the cooling temps allows these cold-loving fish to emerge from the depths to partake in their annual breeding efforts. The salmon congregate in the shallows to migrate up their spawning rivers, whereas the lake trout assemble along bouldery shorelines to deposit their eggs. And, as an added bonus, most open-water anglers have closed up shop for the season, meaning that no one else is on the water! My son Joel and I decide to take advantage of these conditions to fish Sebago Lake, with a particular focus on the area in front of where Panther Run (i.e., the outlet of Panther Pond) enters Jordan Bay. A few days earlier, I walked down a small stretch of Panther Run downstream of the dam on Mill Street in Raymond and observed spawning landlocked salmon, meaning that they’ve started swimming up from the lake. Beware that the direct tributaries to Sebago Lake (including Panther Run) are closed to fishing from October 1 to March 31.

 

 

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Trolling for brook trout on ponds and lakes: 14 tips to increase your catch

Brook trout are, by far, the most-popular salmonids caught in Maine waters. Many approaches are available to catch these beautiful fish during the open-water season, such as spinner fishing, worm fishing, or fly fishing. Trolling is an additional and highly-efficient way to target brookies on ponds and lakes because it, by definition, is an active approach that covers a lot of water in a relatively short amount of time. I highlight below 14 tips to increase your odds of catching more brook trout using this technique. The information is derived from my own personal experiences of trolling for brook trout in Maine waters over many years. Keep in mind that the general principles presented below are universal and will apply wherever this beautiful creature makes its home.

 

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Brook trout and landlocked Atlantic salmon fishing on Pierce Pond, Pierce Pond Township, Maine (May 27, 2016)

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Day 3: Friday May 27, 2016

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I'm trolling this morning under a leaden sky. Good! It keeps the light levels down.

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!

 

 

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Brook trout and landlocked Atlantic salmon fishing on Pierce Pond, Pierce Pond Township, Maine (May 28, 2016)

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Day 4: Saturday May 28, 2016

 

I love the ambiance of a wind-still foggy morning on Pierce Pond!

I love the ambiance of a wind-still foggy morning on Pierce Pond!

 

Now that is one fat native wild brookie!

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…

 

 

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Brook trout and landlocked Atlantic salmon fishing on Pierce Pond, Pierce Pond Township, Maine (May 26, 2016)

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Day 2: Thursday May 26, 2016

 

Good morning, Pierce Pond!

Good morning, Pierce Pond!

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!

 

 

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