Fishing for smallmouth bass on the Penobscot River in Greenbush, Penobscot County, Maine (June 27, 2021)


Antony’s first-ever river smallie! We celebrated this catch to loud acclaim!


The central portion of the Penobscot River flowing between Orono (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 23 A3) and Medway (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 43 B5) is considered a premier smallmouth bass fishery in the state of Maine, on par with the choiciest locations on the Androscoggin River (click here, here, here, here, and here for examples). The focus of my attention this afternoon is on a section of water flowing through the town of Greenbush. The river in these parts meanders past a dozen or so large wooded sandy islands, which create interesting and diverse habitats that attract large numbers of smallmouth bass.


I’m not finding the depth we need to catch larger fish…



Today’s expedition is the direct continuation of a trip I took with a friend several years ago when we drifted down the Penobscot River from the boat launch in town of Passadumkeag (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 33 B4) to Greenbush. My goal today is to motor upstream along the eastern shoreline from the Greenbush boat launch to Sugar Island (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer 33 C4), located about three and a half miles further up, and then let the current carry my boat downstream while fishing for bass. I arrive at the well-maintained Greenbush boat launch with my 11 year-old grandson Antony around 1 pm. Only three other cars are visible in the spacious parking lot, which means that we’ll have the river pretty much to ourselves.


Size doesn’t really matter at this age: life is good as long as the thing has fins and scales!


I’m surprised to see how low the water level is, and silently hope that it won’t cause us grief… We putt-putt away 15 minutes later. Antony is all excited because it’s his first time ever chasing river smallmouths, and I’m thrilled to introduce him to this new experience. The weather conditions are also perfect: mid 80’s with partial sunshine and a strong breeze blowing in from the south. The water temperature is a balmy 77°F. I’m anxiously looking at my depth finder as we move upstream. The water depth varies between 2 and 4 ft. and does not improve with distance. It takes 45 long minutes to carefully navigate 1.5 miles while avoiding grinding my propeller into the gravelly substrate at several locations. We then simply run out of depth before reaching Cow Island… Sh*t! I don’t have the time this afternoon to locate the deeper channel which I know runs through the islands somewhere. I resign myself to start drifting down from here and make the best of a less-than-ideal situation.


We finally found deeper water!


We both start fishing using pink-colored 4-inch stickbaits rigged “wacky style”. This setup works great when the water column is free from obstructions (e.g., aquatic plants, submerged branches, etc.), which is the case today. The exposed hook also greatly increases the hooking rate. I land two smallies in the first ten minutes, to the great surprise of Antony. But he too quickly gets the hang of how to handle this lure, and he catches his first bronzeback to great acclaim. The wind is playing an annoying trick with us though: it blows so persistently in the upstream direction that the strong current is unable to drift the boat downstream… I want to get away from the eastern shoreline to look for deeper water. I slowly motor our way across to the other side. We’re drifting between islands, catching bass, but not finding depths of more than 3 to 4 ft, and often much shallower. We finally make our way to the western shoreline and locate water 5 to 7 ft. deep. None too soon! The fishing quickly improves and the bass are also larger. But we’ve unfortunately run out time and can’t spend more than 30 minutes before we have to call it a day and head back to the boat launch. The fishing this afternoon was not as successful as I had hoped, mainly because I was unable to find deep(er) water until the end of the trip. However, I highly recommend spending quality time exploring this beautiful section of the Penobscot River to unlock its many secrets.


Antony caught the biggest fish this afternoon. I think he’s hooked on river bass fishing!


The results: We landed 16 smallmouth bass (largest = 15 inches) in 3.5 hours of fun but challenging fishing.

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