Eight easy steps to sow a baitfish

Your blog author with a nice brown trout caught at the end of the summer on a sown smelt

Trolling with sown bait is a time-honored Maine tradition for catching salmonids. This highly-effective approach can be used with both fresh bait or dead preserved (e.g., frozen, salted, pickled) bait.

 

Live bait, and smelt in particular, are difficult or impossible to find at your local bait dealer in the summer. The alternative when trolling for salmonids in the summer, therefore, is to use either dead baitfish or lures (e.g., spoons or streamer flies). A dead sown baitfish, if prepared as described in this blog, will provide a much more realistic profile than an artificial lure. Don’t get me wrong here: I’m not implying that artificials don’t work, far from it. After all, I’ve caught way too many salmon and trout trolling with spoons and streamer flies over the years. What I am saying though is that a baitfish, even dead, is more natural-looking than an artificial lure and therefore increases the odds of catching the fish we so desire. I suspect the major reason that the Maine fishing rules only allow for artificial lures when fishing for salmonids in ponds and lakes in southern Maine after October 1 when those fish are getting ready to spawn is because the real thing is so much better at fooling them than artificial lures.

 

Personally, I prefer using a sliding minnow rig if my baitfish is alive. The reason is that a live baitfish will remain alive for a long time on the sliding minnow rig, and will therefore really look and swim like the real thing down below. On the other hand, one just can’t sow a live baitfish as described below and expect it to stay alive for long! So, my preference is to use the sliding minnow rig with live bait and the sowing technique with the stiffer dead bait.

 

Finally, over half a dozen different techniques have been developed to sow a baitfish. Each one gets to the end results slightly differently. The approach I discuss below was taught to me by a Maine old-timer. I find it quick and extremely easy to implement, and simple to teach. So, here it goes.

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Fishing for brown trout on Sand Pond in Litchfield, Maine (September 22, 2018)

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The boat launch on Woodbury Pond is spacious and can accommodate big boats.

 

Sand Pond covers 177 acres and is located in Litchfield, Kennebec County, Maine (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 12 D3). This pond does not have its own hard-top public boat launch. The closest one is located at the northern end of Woodbury Pond, which is connected to Sand Pond via a wide underpass over which runs Routes 9 and 126. That public access point can be reached as follows: while driving north on Hallowell Road, turn left on Hardscrabble Road and make an immediate left on Whippoorwill Road. Drive 0.3 miles on this road until you see the blue public access sign to your left. The boat launch is clean, spacious and well-maintained. It provides plenty of parking and also access to a convenient porta potty.
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Fishing for brown trout on Horne Pond in Limington, Maine (September 16, 2018)

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The sign to the boat launch on Horne Pond is clearly marked at the entrance by North Road

Horne Pond (a.k.a Pequawket Lake) covers 166 acres and is located in Limington, York County, Maine (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 4 D4). The public boat launch can be reached by turning onto Moy Mo Da Yo Road (I swear I didn’t make that name up!), which is the first dirt road on the right side of North Road about 400 ft after you turn onto it from Route 25. The turn-off on North Road is clearly indicated by a large green sign. Drive for another half a mile or so on this dirt road and follow the directions for the boat launch. The launch is hard-topped and can accommodate substantial boats. Ample parking is available nearby.
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Fishing for brown trout on Hancock Pond in Denmark, Maine (September 15, 2018)

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The morning fog is lifting as the sun is about to emerge over Hancock Pond

Hancock Pond covers 858 acres and straddles the boundary between the towns of Sebago and Denmark in Cumberland County and Oxford County, respectively (see The Atlas and Gazetteer map 4 B3 and 4). The public access is located along the eastern shoreline at the intersection of Hancock Pond Road and Wabunaki Road. The boat launch is hard-topped and can accommodate large motorized craft. Ample parking is available on Hancock Pond Road behind the large white electrical switch boxes across from the entrance to the launch. This pond, one of many in southern Maine which are stocked annually with brown trout, is known to grow some serious fish. Click here for a depth map and more fisheries information. I have it on good authority that 6++ pound brown trout behemoths swim around this body of water… This species is hardier than our native brook trout and also does better in the presence of other competing fish species, which is why browns are stocked in “marginal” brook trout waters. However, they are weary creatures and are less likely than brookies to grab artificial lures like spoons. I take advantage of the fact that I can still use live bait before the seasonal rule change on October 1, when only artificial lures are allowed in southern Maine.
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Fishing for smallmouth bass on the Androscoggin River in Livermore, Maine (September 8, 2018)

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Joey is a happy paddler this morning!

My nephew Joey is visiting Maine from away and asks me if I could take him fishing before he leaves back home. Are you kidding me? That’s like asking a honey bee if it wants to drink sweet nectar out of a fragrant flower!! Of course I’ll take him out and put him on fish. I want the trip to be as successful as possible though. I therefore choose a location on the Androscoggin River where I had tremendous luck catching fat smallmouth bass two weeks ago, namely in front of the Otis hydropower station in Livermore, Androscoggin County, Maine (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 11 A5). Click here for directions on how to reach this location. We have about 2 hours to make something happen because Joey needs to be back on time to pack up and get to the airport later on that afternoon

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Fishing for Smallmouth bass on the Androscoggin River in Brunswick, Maine (September 1, 2018)

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The turn-off is in front of this sign next to mailbox #822 on River Road.

My goal this afternoon is to fish the Androscoggin River below the dam and hydropower station located in Brunswick, Maine, across the river from Pejepscot (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 6 B2). Note that I am not talking about the “head of tide” dam/power station located in downtown Brunswick (see The Atlas and Gazetteer map 78 B2, just upstream of the route 24/201 bridge over the river). For the record, I did fish that latter spot this morning and only caught 4 scrawny smallmouth bass in 1.5 hours of intense fishing in what otherwise looked like an ideal location. I suspect that the twice-a-day brackish conditions in this section of the river are less suitable to sustain a healthy and robust bass population. Hence, I didn’t bothered writing a blog about this tidal location.

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