Brook trout fishing on the Northwest River, Sebago, Maine (May 21, 2015)

View of the Northwest River upstream of Fitch Road. Notice the lack of holding pools

View of the Northwest River upstream of Fitch Road. Notice the lack of holding pools

The Northwest River is a short stream which starts as the outlet of Peabody Pond in the town of Sebago and flows for about five river miles until it reaches the western shore of Sebago Lake, also in the town of Sebago (see the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 4 B4 C4 C5). It picks up water not only from the overflow of Peabody Pond itself, but also from several small named (e.g., Hill Brook and Mill Brook) and unnamed tributaries along the way. The State stocks this body of water several times each spring with between 400 and 500 8” to 10” brook trout (click here for more details). I’m spending some time this morning exploring the lower 1.5 miles of the Northwest River to assess its potential as a trout fishery.

 

 

 

 

 

The Northwest River upstream of the breached boulder dam

The Northwest River upstream of the breached boulder dam

 

 

I park my car next to a closed bridge over the Northwest River on Fitch Road, which represents a short spur connecting Long Hill Road to Route 114 (a.k.a. Sebago Road). The weather is overcast, warm, and humid. Unfortunately, I’m immediately overwhelmed by hordes of hungry mosquitoes and blackflies, which have recently hatched and are desperately trying to get a blood meal out of me! I forgot both my head net and bug dope, which makes things even more miserable. However, the river looks quite promising from the vantage point of the bridge. It is 10-20 ft wide with a substrate consisting entirely of gravel and cobbles. The forest canopy also completely arches over the stream, creating an ideal low-light habitat. However, the water is real shallow (mostly < 1 ft), partially on account of the dry conditions. It is also darkly stained from flowing through the extensive wetlands that fringe its course further upstream. One thing that strikes me as I walk along its banks is the general lack of pools in this lower stretch. The average gradient is actually quite steep for the first 0.3 miles, which severely limits the amount of pool habitat, and hence trout holding water, in this stretch of the stream.

 

Much of the the Northwest River consists of this type of marshy habitat

Much of the the Northwest River consists of marshy habitat

I reach a small (breached) boulder dam behind which is located a ponded area, which I estimate to cover less than about 1 acre. The water appears much deeper here but the shoreline is rather muddy and uninviting. The character of the stream changes drastically above this pond: it is still shallow but less steep, less bouldery and more sandy. It is also obvious from the presence of several dry side channels that this stretch of the Northwest River must experience substantial surges during high flow events associated with rain storms and snow melt, perhaps as surplus water is stored in, and then released from, the marshes that are present in the watershed. The quality of the trout habitat deteriorates still more further upstream as the stream widens up drastically and opens up completely when it flows through an extensive wetland. The substrate is muddy and the water appears deeper. While I have no doubt that brook trout would thrive in this kind of marginal habitat, it no longer represents the stream habitat that was prevalent further downstream. To do justice to this stretch would require hauling in a canoe or kayak, since the substrate is too muddy to walk on. I do notice a car driving by on a nearby dirt road to my right (see also The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 4 C5), which suggests a possible way to bring in a small craft.

 

 

This kind of marshy habitat on the Northwest River is difficult to properly fish from shore

This kind of habitat on the Northwest River is difficult to properly fish from shore

I return to my car and drive up Folly Road from Route 114 to look at the Northwest River as it flows underneath this gravel road. The habitat on either side consists mostly of marsh lands. The downstream stretch is actually quite fishable from shore for several hundred yards before that too becomes more difficult to access on account of the marshy habitat. Finally, I drive up to the outlet at Peabody Pond and walk downstream for a bit. This upper-most stretch of the stream is narrow, shallow, and bouldery, and does not represent fishable trout habitat. So, how do I rate the Northwest River? I give it an overall score of C-. The lowest stretch looks the most like a classic trout stream. It is accessible from both banks, and has great substrate and riparian vegetation but lacks holding pools for the trout to hide in. The flowing stretch above the breached boulder dam suffers from the same lack of pools. Large pools are present further upstream, but the habitat deteriorates into a marshy mess, which diminishes the overall experience if the focus is trout fishing from shore.

 

 

 

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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1 thought on “Brook trout fishing on the Northwest River, Sebago, Maine (May 21, 2015)

  1. wonderful thanks
    I grew up on Sebago in Casco…Never fished this little Gem…Will try and get there this year.
    I now have cabin on Ossipee /Cornish.
    Be well,
    Mike Herman

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