Fishing for rainbow trout on Crystal Lake, Gray, Cumberland County, Maine (October 18, 2020)

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It’s a wind-still morning and all’s quiet…

 

Crystal Lake (a.k.a. Dry Pond) is a 189-acre body of water located in Gray, Cumberland County (see the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 5 B3). Access is via the excellent hard-top public boat launch located at the southern tip of the lake by Mayberry Road (off North Raymond Road) next to the town-owned Wilkies Beach. Plenty of parking is available across the road from the launch.

 

I love how the slowly-warming air causes the fog to lift in swirls off the water.

 

Crystal Lake is an old acquaintance of mine. I have fished it on and off for 20+ years, the last time in 2015, so it’s high time for a return visit. Even though the shoreline is highly developed with houses and summer camps, the surface water has maintained its top quality and clarity. As a result, the lake has become a regional magnet for the dedicated liquid- and hard-water fishing crowd. It receives a decent annual stocking (between 5 and 6 fish/acre) of a trifecta of salmonid species, specifically brook trout, rainbow trout, and brown trout. I’ve had the most luck in the past catching rainbows, some of which reached decent sizes (18-20″). I also heard rumors that this lake has yielded serious brown trout in the past. In addition, it hosts a popular annual ice fishing derby which attracts several thousand hard-water enthusiasts from the surrounding area. The lake has a maximum and average depth of 59 ft. and 25 ft., respectively. Fall fishing is allowed using artificial lures only, but all salmonids have to be released alive. Check the fishing rules for additional details. Click here for a depth map and more fisheries information.

 

These kinds of views never get old.

 

I arrive at the boat launch at 7:20 am. It’s nippy outside (33°F), but wind-still. The water temperature is a relatively balmy 56°F. The contrast between the cool air and the warmer water, and the lack of wind, creates a heavy fog which will hang over Crystal Lake for the next hour or so until it is slowly burned off by the rising sun. I love these fall conditions: the fogginess, the cool air, the dampness, the smell of wet leaves, quietness. It’s definitely one reason I look forward to fishing in October and November, besides the fact that the salmon and trout are still actively biting and most anglers are off the water. I’m trolling using my usual set-up, namely (a) a portable downrigger fishing deep with two spoons tied to each other and (b) lead-core line fishing shallower using three small one-hook streamer flies tied to each other. The spoons provide their own wobbly action without my input, but the streamer flies need to be actively “worked” in order to be effective. I therefore hold the fly rod in my hands and constantly “rip” the lead-core line to cause the flies down below to behave in unpredictable ways. That action also causes the feathers to pulsate open and close. It’s those jerky movements and the ensuing flaring which attracts the fish. Based on years of experience, I estimate that when I use both a downrigger with spoons and lead-core line with streamer flies, up to 70% of my catch comes from lead-core fishing. The difference is that pronounced. Besides, it’s just so thrilling to experience the moment a fish pounces your streamer fly!

 

Quiet and peaceful views are nice, but this is the real reason I’m here this morning!!

 

Given the cooling water temperature and the late season, I’ll focus my fishing this morning along the shoreline in about 25 to 30 ft of water with the spoons placed 20-25 ft down and the streamer flies 10-15 ft down (about two colors). One thing to keep in mind when trolling with a downrigger on this water body is that Crystal Lake has a surprisingly uneven bottom, at least in the vicinity of the shoreline. Water depths will suddenly go from 35 ft to 10 ft or less in a matter of yards. I spend the first hour and a half constantly adjusting the lead weight on the downrigger up and down based on the info provided by my depth finder. It’s actually quite annoying, so I finally decide to ditch the down rigger and instead place a new set of spoons 2-3 ft below the surface using a couple of large split shots. The fog has completely lifted by now, the sun is rapidly rising in the sky, and I’ve yet to get my first bite. I suddenly get a smashing hit and a hook-up on my lead core line. Finally! Actually, the fish doesn’t feel very big and quickly reaches the boat, when it suddenly realizes its predicament, wakes up, and starts putting up quite a spirited fight! It turns out to be a decent 16.5″ rainbow trout. I’m delighted with my catch, take a couple of pictures, and quickly release the fish back to the water. Unfortunately, that is the one and only bite, and fish, of the entire morning. I talk to three other anglers on my way back to the launch. They all tell me that they didn’t catch any trout at all, so my one fish appears to be OK after all. Life is good 🙂

The results: I caught one 16.5″ rainbow trout in 3 hours of slow but peaceful 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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