Fishing for smallmouth bass on the Kennebec River in Fairfield, Somerset County, Maine (August 19, 2022)

 

My nephew Joey visits from away and asks me if I can take him smallmouth bass fishing. I want to ensure that we have a fruitful morning, so I select to visit the Kennebec River in front of the Shawmut Dam located in Fairfield, Somerset County, Maine (see the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 21 D3). I have had solid success at this location during two previous angling trips (click here and here for details) and hope to duplicate those past attainments with him. To reach this location, drive north out of Fairfield on Route 201 (Skowhegan Road) and turn right on Kennebec Street. Drive all the way down towards the dam and power station across from the railroad tracks. A blue boat-launch sign will direct you to the right through an open yellow gate towards the water. Keep in mind that anglers can only launch canoes and kayaks from this spot due to the shallow water and strong current. The area provides plenty of parking.

 

 

Joey caught his PB river bronzeback on the second cast of the morning!

 

We arrive at the put-in by 7:45 am. The air temperature is in the high 60’s and forecast to rise into the low 80’s, with a partially overcast sky. I am surprised by the seriously strong current surging through the outflow channel of the main turbine house next to the access area. We have had much rain lately and it looks like the Kennebec River is running higher than would typically be the case for August. We load up my canoe with our fishing gear and assess the best way to traverse the turbulent outflow channel. We need to get halfway across the river before paddling upstream towards the dam in order to fish the water in front of the turbines facing the side of the powerhouse. We figure that the best way forward is to enter the channel at a 45° angle and paddle furiously across to the other side. However, the instant we enter the channel, the strong current grabs the left side of the canoe and pulls it down brusquely, causing us to lose our balance and flip the boat!! It’s a moment of complete panic, but fortunately the water is bathtub warm, the bottom is only 3 ft. deep, and all of our equipment stays in the flooded boat. We struggle back to shore, empty out the canoe, and reassess our options. The only way to get across safely is to let ourselves drift 500-600 feet downstream past the worst of the current, make a left turn towards the center of the river, and then paddle energetically upgradient towards the dam. We finally reach our destination 20 minutes later.

 

The current in front of the powerhouse is just perfect to concentrate the bass at our feet. What a blast!

 

I anchor the canoe over a shallow but quite slippery boulder reef in front but to the left of the powerhouse so that we can step out and fish more comfortably while wading knee deep. The three turbines to the right are actively running, which provides a strong current in that area but also generates a slow reverse flow at our feet that moves water back up towards the powerhouse. This setup creates classic ambush habitat for smallmouth bass where they can hide in the sluggish current and dart out into the fast-moving water to grab interesting food morsels floating by. The action is immediate: Joey hooks a fish on his very first cast but misses the creature. He gets another hookup on his second cast, but this time the fish stays on the hook. He is immediately fighting a total brute that constantly rips line off his reel and buries itself deep into the water column. He finally lands a monster 20-inch river bronzeback!! We cannot weigh him because my wet electronic scale will not turn on. Damn! I estimate this fish to come in at a solid four pounds. Regardless, Joey is in seventh heaven because he just caught his personal best smallmouth bass! The bite is constant over the next 45 minutes. We land 11 bass using a combination of deep-diving crankbaits, 4-inch soft pink stickbaits, #2 Mepps spinners, and weighted tubes. We also miss multiple other fish. A kind employee warns us through one of the powerhouse windows that they are about to turn on two more turbines and that we should beware of rising waters and stronger flow. Ten minutes later, the turbines come online, additional river water surges through the powerhouse, and the bite promptly stops. It is clear that the new flow pattern has altered the previous current profile, causing the smallmouth bass to reposition themselves elsewhere in the river. You have got to be kidding me…

 

The last bass caught by Joey before the fish shifted in response to two more turbines coming online. We need to move.

 

With our original spot ruined, we get back into the canoe and start looking for bass further away from the powerhouse. We never quite pinpoint the school below but nevertheless catch several more bragging fish over the next two hours, including a hard-fighting 18 incher for me. We’re having a grand time chasing bronzebacks but we have to move on. This is my third summer visit in front of Shawmut Dam in as many years, and I have yet to be disappointed. I highly recommend taking the effort to reach this location and experience what I consider to be the best bass fishing that the Kennebec River has to offer.

 

This 18-inch hard-fighting hog totally makes my morning!

 

The results: I caught 14 smallmouth bass (largest = 18 inches) and Joey caught 11 smallmouth bass (largest = 20 inches) in 3 hours of terrific river 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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