Ice fishing for brook trout on Otter Pond #4 in Standish, Maine (December 18, 2017)

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General view of the back end of Otter Pond #4

 

Otter Pond #4 (a.k.a. Snake Pond) is a 6-acre body of water located in Standish, Cumberland County, Maine (see the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 5 D1). Click here for details on how to reach this location and click here for a depth map. Keep in mind that the land surrounding the Otter Ponds belongs to the Portland Water District (PWD) and that access is by permit only. The triplicate permit form is available from a small kiosk by the parking lot off Route 35. Place one completed copy in the slot by the kiosk, one on the dash board of your car, and one in your pocket. I talked to a PWD security person who was checking the permits when I returned to my car today and asked him why they bothered with this system at all. He explained that PWD needs to submit an annual report to the state and the federal government on the use of this land since it is located right next to the Sebago Lake public drinking water intake facility. The permit system allows PWD to perform this task efficiently. Also, people who don’t fill out a permit receive a written warning. Repeat offenders are banned from using the parking lot. So, make sure to follow the rules.

Numerous ice anglers from throughout southern Maine visit Otter Ponds #2 and #4 early in the ice fishing season. Both ponds are heavily stocked with brook trout each fall and reliably freeze over by mid-December (note: the two other Otter Ponds are not stocked). I drove to Standish on Friday 12/15 to check the ice thickness in preparation for my first ice fishing trip the next day. It had been fiercely cold over the last week or so and I expected the ponds to be frozen over. They were but the ice was only about 2” thick. Mmm, that’s below my comfort zone. So, I decided to give Winter a couple of more days to do its job and instead made arrangements to go fishing on Monday.

 

Small but beautiful (and tasty too!)

I get out of bed at an ungodly hour on Monday morning in order to start fishing half an hour before sunrise. To my surprise, given that it is a work day, three other cars are already parked when I arrive at 6:20 am. I fill out the permit, pack my gear into my sled and walk next to the old railroad tracks for 10 minutes to Otter Pond #4. When I arrive, I notice that the ice is honeycombed with five dozen frozen fishing holes. Holy mackerel, this place was pounded over the weekend! Keep in mind that the Otter Ponds experience extreme fishing pressure and are largely cleaned out of trout by mid-January.

 

This little guy fell for a baitfish

The conditions are beautiful this morning. It’s a cold 7°F but wind still. The sky is completely overcast and expected to spit out flurries later in the morning on account of an approaching low pressure system. That’s always good for ice fishing! I deploy four traps baited with 2” minnows in 3 to 6 ft of water along the right shoreline of the pond. I also drill several more holes to jig using a small yellow airplane jig. My expectations for success are sky-high but the trout have different ideas… I do not get a single flag or jig hit for the first hour. You’ve got to be kidding me! It’s time to get creative and stay flexible. I drill four new holes further down the right shoreline and move all my traps over there in the hope of finding the elusive fish. Another hour goes by resulting in one flag and one 7” trout on the jig. I’m underwhelmed, but also tenacious! I move my operation for a second time clear across the pond along the left-hand shoreline, drill more holes, redeploy my four traps, and start jigging again.

 

The jig performed much better by adding a tasty morsel to it!

I finally hit my strides! I get six flags over the next two hours, but only one of which yields a brookie. The trout are skittish; they grab and maul the baitfish but then drop it without swallowing. I’ve seen that before! Jigging, on the other hand, proves to be the ticket this morning. I get dozens of hits and bring up five trout. The jigging improved greatly when I attached the tail-end of a baitfish to the back hook of the lure. That is something I neglected to do earlier in the morning. It is clear from the action that including the baitfish tail adds aroma and taste to the water which attracts the trout. So, overall, the morning was a success but I had to make it work. The trick was to stay flexible, and try out different things. The one disappointment was that all the trout were small (7” to 10”). But that’s why I’ll be ice fishing again next weekend hoping for bigger ones! Life is good indeed.

 

The results: I landed a total of seven brook trout measuring between 7” and 10” in four hours of fishing.

 

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