Fishing for brown trout and smallmouth bass on Horseshoe Pond in Stoneham and Stow, Oxford County, Maine (September 3, 2022)

 

The rising sun is quickly burning off the morning fog. I love this vibe!

 

Horseshoe Pond is a 132-acre body of water located in the towns of Stoneham and Stowe within the boundary of the White Mountain National Forest in southern Oxford County, Maine (see the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 10 D1). The access point is by the outlet at the end of Horseshoe Pond Road, a well-maintained gravel road. The boat launch is unimproved but can easily accommodate small, trailered boats. Beware that motorboats with engines over six horsepower are not allowed.

 

 

This brown trout is not huge but is definitely fat and well fed!

 

Several forested hills and low mountains surround Horsehoe Pond to the north and west. The shoreline is only slightly developed, with discrete cabins tucked away along the water’s edge. The surface water is crystal clear. The state stocks the pond each spring with 200 yearling brookies and each fall with 150 yearling brown trout. My goal today is to catch the latter. Horseshoe Pond has an average and maximum depth of 12 ft. and 40 ft., respectively, making it rather shallow. The depth map shows that only a relatively small portion in the southern half of the main body of the pond has water deep enough to support a thermocline. That area is the focus of all my attention. A review of the measured temperature and dissolved oxygen data for this pond provided by Lakes of Maine shows that the cold water below the thermocline develops a severe dissolved oxygen deficiency in the summer. As a result, the brown trout (and the rainbow smelt, their main prey in this pond) congregate in a narrow band of cool but well-oxygenated water within or just above the thermocline. The data show that this band of water occurs about 23 to 25 ft. below the surface in late summer. That is my target fishing depth for this morning (four colors on my lead-core line). Finally, this pond supports not only a salmonid fishery, but also a thriving smallmouth bass fishery. I hope to land a few bronzebacks as “bycatch”… Except for the restriction on engine size mentioned above, summer fishing on this pond falls under the general fishing law provisions.

 

I could not believe my eyes when this 21-inch hog finally got netted. It is a privilege to catch and release a smallmouth bass of this size.

 

I arrive at the boat launch of Horseshoe Pond by 6:15 am and push off 15 minutes later. The air contains a definite early-fall nip, with a temperature of 49°F. A layer of cold air sitting over warm water (74°F at the surface), coupled with wind-still conditions, invariably generates a lot of early-morning fog this time of the year. I love the vibe! I make my way down the narrow arm and into the main section of the pond and start trolling as soon as my depth finder shows 30 ft. of water. I forgot to pack my downrigger last night and will therefore only use my lead core line. I start fishing using three large smelt-imitating, double-hook streamer flies tied back to back, with the last fly (the “straggler”) placed noticeably farther back than the first two flies. This attention to detail does me no good because I have nothing to show for all my trolling efforts one hour later. By now, the sun has risen above the surrounding hills and burned off the morning fog, the sky is blue and bright, and I have to up my game if I don’t want to leave skunked. I remove the three large streamer flies and replace them with three smaller smelt-imitating single-hook streamer flies. I am hoping that this compact presentation will make my offerings more enticing to the scaly denizens below. And so it proves to be! I finally get my first hookup 20 minutes later. The fish fights low and hard, and refuses to come to the surface. It turns out to be a very fat and healthy-looking 17-inch brown trout! I am elated because all my calculations bore fruit and yielded the desired result. I take a few bragging pictures and quickly release the creature back to its watery world.

 

This 19 incher represents icing on the cake but is definitely on the skinny side…

 

I continue trolling at the same depth and with the same three flies and get a tremendous hit 30 minutes later. This fish is definitely of a much higher caliber than the previous one. However, it breaches the surface of the water 10 seconds later and reveals itself as a massive smallmouth bass! Holy smokes, I hooked a hog! The fish consistently rips line off my spool and refuses to come to the boat. It takes several agonizing minutes to carefully wrestle him to the surface and into the waiting net. I cannot believe my eyes: this beauty measures 21 inches and weighs 4.5 pounds. What a treat! I catch my last fish of the trip 25 minutes later, still trolling with the same three flies about 23-25 feet deep. This one also breaches the surface within seconds of hookup, and turns out to be a respectable but rather-skinny 19-inch bronzeback. I call it good 15 minutes later, pleased with my morning: the action was slow (only four hits yielding three fish in over three hours of trolling), but the quality of the fish was invariably good. Horseshoe Pond is unusual because it supports both a successful cold-water and warm-water fishery. This location is already on my radar for a future return visit!

The results: I caught one chunky brown trout (17 inches) and two big smallmouth bass (largest = 21 inches) in 3 hours of slow but fruitful fishing.

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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