I’m taking Giovanni, my 11-year old grandson, out fishing this morning. I want to make sure that he catches plenty of scaly creatures to keep him interested and engaged. So, we’re going 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). I checked this location out last year and did well. I hope to emulate that success this time around. To reach this spot, 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 located across 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 only canoes and kayaks can be launched from this spot due to the shallow water and strong current.
We arrive at our destination at 10:30 am. The sky is overcast but it is hot and muggy with no wind. We load the canoe with our fishing gear and paddle upstream towards the dam. At one point, the river becomes too shallow and it’s just easier to get out of the boat and pull it behind us. We soon arrive in front of the impressive structure that is Shawmut Dam. The Kennebec River is flowing at its seasonal low. Just about all of the water passes through the electricity-generating turbines in the power house located along the western shoreline where I parked the car. Some water flows over the spillway located mid-way on the dam. We spend about 20 minutes casting our lures around that general area but I only succeed in foul-hooking one smallmouth bass. This is clearly not the right location. We paddle into the current towards the power house and anchor in about 10 ft of water (note: the water is > 20 ft deep right up against the dam). We start casting but I’m uncomfortable with the canoe which is buffeted by the strong current. Giovanni is also fidgety which doesn’t improve the stability. Instead, we decide to paddle towards a shallow bouldery shoal located on the left of the power station where we can get out of the canoe and fish from firm ground.
Now we’re hitting our strides! This new fishing spot is on the edge of the strong water flow coming out of the turbines. In fact, at our feet the current moves upgradient towards the power station. That combination is always a winner with the smallmouth bass crowd: they love hiding in the slower counter-current circulation in order to jump on any unsuspecting food morsel drifting in the strong current coming out of the turbines. And we start catching fish with soft 4” stickbaits rigged “wacky style” and #2 Mepps spinners fished on ultralight spinning rods. I’m underwhelmed by the size of the bass though: they’re all between 10” and 14” in length, but fun to catch. But then I hook into a big boy on my spinner. The fish gives a tremendous fight, darting in and out of the current and moving down to the bottom. But I slowly wear him out and bring him to the surface. Woow, what a fantastic fight. The creature gets photographed and released to fight another day.
It is now close to 1 pm and we haven’t had a hit in about 20 minutes. Giovanni has lost interest and is also getting hungry. I tell him that I’ll make ten more cast and then we’ll leave, unless I catch a fish which then resets the count back to ten. He stays put and watches me cast. I catch a fish within ten casts, then again, and again, and again! Those four extra smallmouth bass finally convince him that he ought to get back in the action. He wades out in the water, casts out his spinner, and immediately screams that he’s hooked into a huge fish! He handles himself like a pro. The fish is simply too big to be horsed in with his ultralight spinning rod without breaking the line. So, he lets the fish run when needed and gently brings it back in when he can. He spends six minutes fighting this hog, which finally rises to the surface and comes to shore. Giovanni is in seventh heaven. He caught his personal best river smallmouth bass ever, measuring 19”. He willingly lets it go, and off we paddle back to the car after a wonderful fishing trip and a great bonding session.
The results: We caught 19 smallmouth bass (largest = 19”) in 2.5 hours of fun fishing.
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