Fishing for smallmouth bass on the Androscoggin River in Jay, Maine (August 5, 2018)

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The blue access sign to Riley Dam is clearly visible from the road

It was so much fun catching lunker smallmouth bass yesterday on the Androscoggin River below the Jay Hydroelectric Power Plant in Jay that I decided I needed another dose of where that drug came from (click here for tips on how to catch these magnificent fighters)! My fishing effort today is on a short stretch of the Androscoggin River flowing just below the Riley Dam Power Plant which sits about one mile upstream of the Verso paper mill in Jay in Franklin County, Maine (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 19 E5). To reach the public access point, drive north into Jay on Route 4/17 and then turn left on Route 140. Drive for exactly 3.2 miles on this road until you reach the unnamed turn-off to the put-in for Riley Dam. That location is clearly marked by a blue sign next to the road. Plenty of parking is available. Keep in mind that this put-in can only accommodate hand-carried craft as it lacks an actual boat launch.

The put-in just below Riley Dam. A lot of water is pouring over that structure!! The power plant is visible in the upper left-hand corner.

I hear a loud, roaring noise as I drag my canoe down towards Riley Dam. OMG, the water level has risen markedly since yesterday in response to all the extra rain over the last 48 hours! The river angrily pours over the structure, creating a frothy spectacle at the foot of the dam. I also notice that the water is visibly cloudier, presumably because it is carrying more suspended sediment picked up from further upstream. I gingerly step in my canoe and let myself be carried by the strong current, fully aware that I need to be respectful of these changed conditions. My original intent was to start fishing along the shoreline by the dam where the water typically slows down or even turns around to create contrasting currents which attract smallmouth bass. However, the water level is so high that it submerges some of the vegetation growing along the bank and never quite slows down, even right up against the shoreline. A quick read of the river shows a promising alternative target, namely the large heart-shaped island situated about 200 ft downgradient from the power plant.


A nice smallmouth bass caught in the slower current located next to the island. Note the water tumbling over Riley Dam in the background.

That island is perfectly located to deal with today’s challenging hydraulic conditions. Water flowing both through the power plant and tumbling over the lip of the dam is cleaved into two separate streams by the blunt upstream-facing head of this rocky outcrop. This lay-out creates relatively quiet bass holding water on the left side, right side and downstream end of the island. I focus my attention on the right side (looking upstream) because it is deeper (> 6 ft) and bouldery. Based on yesterday’s experiences, I skip my regular smallmouth bass lures and instead go straight for a jointed crayfish-imitating crankbait. I fan-cast the lure towards the deeper, swifter off-shore water and quickly bring it in towards the canoe. It’s hard work but yields two very nice smallmouth bass over the next hour. I want to explore the area further and therefore fish the left side of the island and the back end but with no success. Next, I’m looking for a spot below the island where the two streams of water rejoin but I have difficulty pinpointing the location on account of the strong current. I anchor anyway but half an hour of fan casting the crankbait in that general area generates no hits.


Another lunker caught in the same general area next to the island. The power plant is just visible in the background through the vegetation.

I quickly realize that exploring further downstream makes no sense today because the fast water would make paddling back up by myself sheer hell or perhaps even impossible. So, I play it safe and return to my original spot next to the island. An additional hour of fishing the current seams with the crankbait produces two additional lunker bass. Wow, the action is certainly slow this afternoon (an average of about one fish per hour) but the quality of every one of these fish is simply superb! All four bass measure between 16” and 18”, are fat, and fight like angry wounded bulls, taking full advantage of the strong current. I’m glad that I was able to put together a successful game plan this afternoon in the face of the tough flow conditions. It also helped that I didn’t have to waste any time figuring out the right lure!


This crayfish-imitating crankbait was the key to success this afternoon!

The results: I caught four smallmouth bass (largest 18”) in 3.5 hours of tough but rewarding fishing.


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