Fishing for brown trout on Great Pond in Belgrade, Kennebec County, Maine (November 19, 2022)

Great Pond is a 5,239-acre body of water located in Belgrade, Kennebec County, Maine (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 20 E4). To reach the public access point, drive north on Route 27 (Augusta Road) towards the town of Belgrade Lakes, turn right on Sahagian Road, drive for less than a quarter mile and then turn left on Boat Way Lane. Blue boat launch signs clearly indicates these two turn-offs. The spacious and well-maintained launch offers a hardtop boat ramp with plenty of parking. It also provides a permanent outdoor bathroom.

 

The boat launch is wide and spacious.

 

Up until the 1990’s, Great Pond boasted a nationally-renown landlocked Atlantic salmon fishery capable of producing 6- to 8-pound hogs that attracted “sports” from far away. Unfortunately, unchecked eutrophication in the surrounding watershed and the introduction of non-native fish species (e.g., northern pike and landlocked alewives come to mind) doomed this destination fishery. Smallmouth bass is now the most popular species. The state actively sustains a brown trout fishery by stocking several thousand 12-inch browns annually. This species is hardier than the landlocked Atlantic salmon, less fussy about water quality, and able to feed on a variety of food items. Occasionally, the State also releases larger fish, as was the case on November 15, 2022 when they let go of 347 18-inch brown trout. That number of fish of that size get my full attention! Where could those large brown trout be hiding? The fish stocking trucks always access ponds and lakes via boat launches or other publicly-accessible points. The only boat launch is the one mentioned earlier (as shown in The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer) and must therefore be the release point for those big browns. Hatchery-reared brown trout also like schooling and staying close to shore until hunger forces them to disperse to find food. Great Pond does not have special rules related to brown trout fishing in the fall. That is nice because anglers can use any lure or bait and can keep two trout for the frying pan. However, beware that the minimum keeper size for brown trout is 14 inches. I also reviewed the depth map for Great Pond in preparation for this trip and noticed that the entire area in front of the launch is quite shallow (< 5 ft.). I decide not to wader fish but instead use my boat.

 

It’s been cold the last couple of nights and ice has started to form around the shoreline by the launch.

 

I reach the boat launch at Great Pond by 1 pm accompanied my 14 year-old grandson Giovani. The weather is nice, with an air temperature of 38°F, full sunshine, and only a light breeze. However, make no mistake: it is chilly and we are dressed as if we are going ice fishing! The water temperature equals 45°F and a thin layer of ice has formed along the shoreline by the launch. I am surprised to see two bass boat trailers parked nearby: those anglers must be out there chasing smallmouth bass. We put the boat in the water and put-put away 15 minutes later. Giovani and I will only use lead-core line (no downriggers) to troll because of the shallow nature of the bay in front of the boat launch. We use small wet flies and spoons. Well, let me cut through the chase: we trolled for two hours in water 3 to 10 ft. deep and did not get a single hit… I also lost Giovani within the first 30 minutes. It is clear that we are doing something wrong. G declares that he is ready to head home and I reluctantly agree.

 

This big boy was caught from shore in less than a foot of water!

 

We return to the launch, retrieve the boat from the water, tie it down on the trailer, and start packing the truck with our gear. Giovani is playing with some ice along the shoreline when he suddenly points to a rise 30 ft. offshore. I will be damned! I grab my ultra-light spinning rod, which I always bring with me on these kinds of occasions, run to the shoreline, cast my #2 Mepps spinner towards the rise, and start the retrieve. No more than 15 ft. from shore in 1 ft. of water (at most), a large brown trout pounces on my spinner and gets hooked. No freaking way! It is clearly one of the fish stocked a few days earlier and it was sitting right there. It gets photographed and quickly released. We then notice more rises a bit farther out and get really excited about this situation. However, we did not bring our waders and the only way to reach these fish is to put my boat back into the water and carefully paddle out. That is the new game plan. As we switch gears to relaunch the boat, one of the bass boats comes flying back towards the launch. Are you kidding me? Not now!! It will be mostly dark by the time the person pulls his boat out and things settle down again. We reluctantly decide not to bother launching our boat again and instead turn around with a heavy heart to drive back home. But, boy, did I learn a lesson: those large brown trout stocked a few days earlier are literally sitting in 2 ft. of water right by the launch. And I always need to bring my waders with me when I go trolling in the fall for trout! Click here for the rest of the story…

 

The results: I caught one 18-inch brown trout 2.5 hours of slow fishing.

 

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