Fishing for smallmouth bass on the Kennebec River in Fairfield, Somerset County, Maine (August 24, 2019)

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The blue boat launch sign in front of Shawmut dam. The open yellow gate is visible in the background to the right.

 

I want to check out the smallmouth bass fishing on the Kennebec River in the shadow of the Shawmut Dam located in Fairfield, Somerset County, Maine (see the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 21 D3). To reach this spot, drive north out of Fairfield on Route 201 (Skowhegan Road) and turn right on Kennebec Street in Shawmut. Drive all the way down towards the dam and power station located across the railroad tracks. A blue boat-launch sign will direct you to the right through an open yellow gate towards the water. Only canoes and kayaks can be launched from this location due to the shallow water and strong current.

 

The large pool in front of the dam is full of chunky smallmouth bass which are falling for my #2 Mepps spinner!

 

I arrive at my destination at 11 am and am eager to start fishing. I notice that the spillway channel, which runs against the river bank by the boat launch, is roped off at its mouth to prevent anyone from paddling upstream into it. However, most of the channel itself is easily fishable from shore. Therefore, before putting the canoe in the water to paddle up to the dam, I grab my rod with the 2” deep-diving Rapala jointed shad rap brown crawdad and toss the lure in the strong current coming out of the turbine house. I make ten casts but am surprised at not getting a single hit. I return to the car to fetch my second rod tied with a pink 4” soft stick bait rigged “wacky style”. I cast that lure out a couple of times without eliciting any interest when the water suddenly stops flowing out of the turbine house and the current in the spillway immediately dies down. Within a minute or two, multitudes of small silvery baitfish (probably juvenile alewives) are chased to the surface by hungry fish below. It’s neat to observe all this top-water activity. I toss my wacky worm towards the rises but the lure gets totally ignored. Damn! I run back to the car to grab my ultralight spinning rod with a silver #2 Mepps spinner. My very first cast with that lure yields a feisty 13” smallmouth bass. Yes! I wish this were the start of something big but the feeding frenzy ends just as fast as it started and I do not get another hit on my spinner. It’s time to put the canoe in the water.

 

The 4″ soft stickbait also fooled a couple of fish at this location. Note the large brick turbine house in the background, with the dam to the right.

 

My actual destination is in front of the long dam that stretches across the Kennebec River. But access to that location is rather tricky today because the water is very shallow and the current quite strong. I paddle halfway across the river to avoid the strongest of the flow before turning towards the dam. At some point though, I need to climb out of my canoe and pull it further upstream because the water is just too shallow for paddling. But all of my efforts are richly rewarded when I reach what looks like a fabulous smallmouth bass location. In front of me is the impressive Sawmut hydroelectric dam. About a third is crowned by wooden flashboards which hold back the water in the reservoir behind, but the things are leaky and quite a bit of water flows through and over these boards. The remainder of the dam is water-tight; that section generates no flow and I stay away from it. An old brick turbine house sits to my left (looking upstream) and releases a lot of water. I use my anchor line to gauge the depth, which is about 6 ft in the general vicinity of the turbine house but 20+ ft towards the dam! It looks as if torrential volumes of water roaring over the dam in the spring have scooped out the gravel substrate in front of it…

 

Let them go and let them grow!

 

The action is immediate and essentially non-stop over the next two hours. The fish are clearly present, hungry, and quite aggressive. I fish almost exclusively with my ultralight spinning rod with 6-pound monofilament and the silver spinner mentioned earlier. The flimsy rod and strong current make it so that even a 14” smallmouth bass feels like a huge fish! While the majority of the bass are in the 12” to 14” range, enough measure between 14” and 17” to keep it all very interesting and challenging. The bigger ones are absolute brutes in the current and test all of my fishing skills. I absolutely love it! I reluctantly leave this great spot but highly recommend it if you want to experience what river smallmouth bass fishing is all about. And the best part? I had the place all to myself on a fine summer Saturday!

The results: I caught 19 smallmouth bass (largest 17”) in two and a half hours of fantastic fishing.

 

It is so much fun, and quite a challenge, to catch bruisers such as this one on ultralight equipment!!

 

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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