Ice fishing for brook trout on Haley Pond in Rangeley, Franklin County, Maine (January 7, 2023)


Look for this sign on Route 4 in downtown Rangeley. The parking area is in the back next to the pond.


Haley Pond is a 170-acre body of water located in Rangeley, Franklin County, Maine (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 28 E5). To reach the public access point, drive into downtown Rangeley on Route 4 and look for the Rangeley Inn (big blue building). Right past it is a sign for “Sarge’s Additional Parking”. Turn into this lot, drive to the back, and park your vehicle next to the pond. You can walk right onto the ice from here. During open-water season, one could launch a canoe or kayak from this unimproved access, but not a trailered boat.



The access to Haley Pond is unimproved. I love the cloud deck! It keeps the light levels low.


So far, the 2023 winter in southern Maine has been odd: we have yet to experience a true arctic cold blast and most precipitation has fallen as warm rain. The ice conditions in the region are iffy at best, and mostly unsafe. Because foregoing ice fishing is simply not an option for me, I decide to try my luck in western Maine, away from the coastal plain and closer to the mountains. I use the following steps to identify potential target ponds: a) check the fishing regulations to identify which salmonid ponds are open to ice fishing (note: most salmonid ponds and lakes in the “north zone counties” are closed to ice fishing), b) check the stocking report to determine the type, size, and quantity of salmonids stocked last fall in the ponds open to ice fishing, and c) check the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer and Google Maps for ease of access. I pick Haley Pond based on these three criteria: it is open year-round under special-season code A (i.e., open to all fishing between January 1 and December 31), it was stocked last spring with 600 9-inch brookies and last fall with 500 14-inch brookies, and anglers can drive right up to the pond on well-plowed roads regardless of local snow conditions. The other attractive point is that the pond is shallow, with a maximum and mean depth of 23 ft. and 8 ft., respectively, ensuring that the ice should be safe. Click here for a depth map and more fisheries information.


I finally catch this first (tiny) brookie after tending five yellow perch flags at this hole


I arrive at the parking lot in front of Haley Pond by 7:30 am. The weather is perfect: a heavy cloud deck keeps the light levels low, the air temperature is a pleasant 32°F, and only a light breeze blows out of the northwest. Somewhat to my surprise, I am the only person on the ice and the pond does not have any ice shacks. I double-check the regulations on my cell phone (Haley Pond is open to ice fishing!) and use my spud to check the thickness of the ice. I switch to my auger when I fail to reach water after 5 inches. I am relieved to find 11 inches of solid ice. I drill 15 holes in the shallow bay (2 to 5 ft. deep) in front of the parking area: four holes will serve for my traps and the rest are jigging holes. I spread the traps far and wide since I have the place all to myself and only one inch of snow covers the ice, which makes for easy walking. My traps are deployed and I start jigging. One flag goes off in the farthest hole. The spool is not turning when I reach the trap but the line is angled. I raise the trap out of the water, set the hook, and bring in an 8-inch yellow perch. As I am rebaiting, a second flag goes off in the hole next to me. That one too yields a tiny yellow perch. Oh no, God, please, please, do not make me run around all morning long chasing yellow perch flags!


It’s taken a lot of running around, but I do catch the trout I came here for. Too bad the second one got off the jig hook…


But so it is! Over the next three hours, I tend 17 flags, 14 of which yield yellow perch, one fallfish, and one bullhead (nothing bigger than 10 inches). My farthest-out trap is particularly active, which requires a lot of running. I tell myself that I am going to bring it in closer after I catch the next yellow perch on it. Its flag goes off once again. I arrive huffing and puffing but the spool is actively turning for a change (yellow perch just grab the baitfish and drop back down to the bottom). I set the hook and am underwhelmed by the 10-inch brookie that plops on the ice. Regardless, at least this fish has an adipose fin instead of spines! I leave the outer trap in place based on this signal. The flag goes off again a bit later, and this time the spool is turning at 100 MPH when I arrive at the hole. I do not hesitate, set the hook, and finally feel what I came here for: a fat 14-inch brookie that gives all it got. Later on in the morning, one of the other traps catches another 10-inch brookie.


It is now 11 am, the flag action has died down, I am out of bait, and I call it good. I am exhausted. My Fitbit tells me that I walked (and ran!) 4.6 miles this morning tending all the flags. One last thing: I jigged as much as I could between all of the flag action and rebaiting. I had many nibbles (yellow perch…) but only hooked a single fish, which turned out to be another hard-fighting 14-inch brookie that got away right in the hole. If I had to do it all over again, I would recommend walking out of the bay further unto the lake and fish the eastern shoreline where the water gains more depth. I think that would thin out the herd of small yellow perch that swarm the shallow bay by the parking lot.


The results: I caught three brook trout (largest = 14 inches) in 3.5 hours of fast flag action but few trout.


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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