Fishing for smallmouth bass on the Kennebec River in Skowhegan, Maine (July 27, 2019)

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The public boat launch on the Kennebec River downstream of Skowhegan is located off Route 2 right next to the Kennebec Banks Rest Area


I continue my investigation of the smallmouth bass fishery on the Kennebec River (click here, here, here, and here for other locations) by targeting the area below the two hydroelectric power dams that girdle the island located in the middle of the river in downtown Skowhegan, Somerset County, Maine (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 80 B1 [Skowhegan]). An overview of the general area via Google Maps prior to my departure indicates that the river between these two dams and the Great Eddy located about 1 mile further downstream has several swift sections which look to be too shallow for use with a motor boat. So, I’ll bring my canoe instead. A more focused look via Google Maps of the river flowing right below the two dams shows what appear to be flat rocky ledges along both shorelines, some of which look accessible from the river-facing section of Water Street (i.e., Patten Court).



Come to papi. The island by the Great Eddy is just visible in the background


Boy, am I in for a surprise when I reach downtown! Remember those “flat” ledges I thought I saw in Google Maps? Well, they are actually 30 to 50+ ft steep cliffs forming a kind of gorge through which the Kennebec River flows on its way to the Great Eddy. I get a fantastic view of this whole area from the footbridge that crosses the river downtown, connecting Patten Court on the west side to Mount Pleasant Avenue on the east side. It’s crystal clear from this vantage point that one cannot safely bring a canoe to the water’s edge from anywhere in the downtown area. I’m learning the hard way since until today I’ve never had the opportunity to visit Skowhegan in all the years that I have lived and fished in Maine … So, I need to implement Plan B, which consists of driving south (downriver) on Route 2 for about 3 miles until I reach the public boat launch next to the Kennebec Banks Rest Area. I’ll fish the section of the Kennebec River between the launch and the Great Eddy over a distance of 1.5 miles or so.


That’s about as big as the smallmouth bass get in this stretch of the Kennebec River


I reach my new starting point at 1:45 pm and am paddling upstream by 2 pm. I note here that the launch is spacious, can accommodate substantial power boats, and offers plenty of parking. The weather is simply glorious: mid 80’s with a light south-easterly breeze: Maine summer at it’s best! The water is also noticeably warm, as is obvious by the half-dozen people who are enjoying a refreshing dip by the launch. This stretch of the Kennebec River up to the Great Eddy is actually quite nice. A noticeable current is present but is neither swift nor overly strong. The water depth ranges from 3 to 6 ft and the bottom consists entirely of gravel, cobbles, and boulders. A boat can safely motor upstream to the Great Eddy without fear of hitting rocks. It takes me about one hour of constant paddling to reach the Great Eddy, where further progress is impeded by shallow and fast-flowing riffles. I troll using a 4” floating Rapala lure as I paddle upstream and catch three small (<12”) bass along the way.


But what these little guys lack in size, they more than make up in fighting spirit!


I switch to a 4” soft stickbait rigged “wacky style”, which is the ideal bait to use in this kind of shallow, open, and unobstructed habitat. My first stop is a large pool formed by swift current flowing around the small island at the foot of the Great Eddy. I catch about half a dozen smallmouth bass in 20 minutes, which is great, but all these fish measure between 8” and 12”. Mmm, I’m starting to see a pattern here and it’s not to my liking… Next, I let the canoe drift downstream while fishing the shoreline. I stumble on a 1,000 ft stretch where the action is non-stop, but again all the smallmouth bass are the 8” to 12” variety. In fact, that action was so good that I paddle back upstream to refish that same stretch. I finish the afternoon by drifting and fishing all the way back to the launch. So, my overall impression is that the smallmouth bass in this short section of the Kennebec River are abundant and aggressive but invariably on the small size (<12”). The river is ideally suited for drift fishing, although I’d used a motor boat instead of a canoe on account of the current. The one huge fly in the ointment is the presence of Route 2 next to the river. The traffic on that road out of town is relentless and the constant vehicle noise definitely takes away from the beauty of the place.


The results: I caught around 30 smallmouth bass (all measuring between 8” and 12”) in 3 hours of fast 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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