Ice fishing for smallmouth bass and largemouth bass on Panther Pond, Raymond, Maine (February 23, 2019)

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It’s crisp and cold this morning. Time to rise and start ice fishing!

 

It’s the annual winter school vacation, so it’s high time to go camping and fishing with the kids… on the ice! My son Joel and I are eager to make it a success because this will be a new experience for his two boys. The goal is to find a spot on a local lake where we can drive up, pitch the family tent, and be reasonably assured of catching quality fish to keep the two boys engaged and entertained. Previous fishing experiences on Panther Pond in Raymond, Maine (see the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 5 B2) has shown us that this body of water supports a serious smallmouth and largemouth bass population of braggin’-size fish (click here, here, and here for examples). My son Joel and I are putting that information to good use.

 

Joel showing off one of the two nice largemouth bass caught this morning

 

We are going to camp and fish at the end of “Betty’s Neck”, a large peninsula that sticks out prominently into Panther Pond. Much of that peninsula belongs to the Slovenski family who run the Slovenski Summer Camp for Kids. Access to that portion of the lake is by driving down Route 121 (Meadow Road) north towards Casco, turning right on David Plummer Road by the Slovenski Camp sign, and driving down that road for a couple of hundred feet, past Chickadee Lane. Beware that David Plummer Road is not always well-plowed and can be icy in the winter. The access point to the lake is on the left, through an open wooden gate and down a steep slope. Most people leave their car by the gate and get on the ice walking or using snow mobiles and four-wheelers. We’re hauling too much camping equipment, fishing gear, and food, so we simply drive our four wheel-drive vehicles right on the ice and towards our camping/fishing spot. An earlier check showed that the ice was a perfectly-safe 21” thick. We spend the afternoon setting up camp and the evening telling tall fishing stories around the campfire under a cold but bright and brilliantly star-lit sky.

 

Giovanni caught this 19 incher all by himself!

 

We arise at 6 am to start fishing. It’s nippy (16°F) but wind still, and hence bearable for the boys. We drill multiple holes and deploy all our traps in 4 to 35 ft of water, placing the baitfish 2 ft off the bottom. Unlike when fishing for white perch, the bait fish need to be placed close to the bottom because that’s where bass typically hang around during the cold winter months. And then, nothing happens… We stay warm in the car, and start preparing breakfast at 8 am: eggs and sausages, food for the soul when winter camping! We finally get our first flag around 9 am, which results in a fat 18” smallmouth bass. That’s a good omen. The flag action is slow but steady over the next several hours, and we’re catching quality fish! We land two cusks (17” and 22”), two pickerel (20” and 21”), two largemouth bass (21” and 22”), and four smallmouth bass. Both boys are handling their own traps and really getting the hang of how to play big fish without losing them or breaking the fishing line.

 

This hog unspooled ALL the line from my tip-up in a matter of a few minutes. What a treat!!

 

One memorable fish needs its own recounting. A flag goes up in one of my deeper traps. We make our way through the snow and, to our utter astonishment, discover upon arrival at the hole that the entire 100 yards of braided line is gone all the way to the knot tying it to the spool!!! I immediately set the hook and feel a very heavy weight at the other end. Holy sh*t, there’s something huge out there. I slowly begin the long retrieval process as Joel furiously respools all the line coming out of the water. A massive smallmouth bass pokes its head through the hole several minutes later. We can’t believe our eyes because this fish is huge! It measures 22.5” and weighs close to 5.5 pounds! I have been ice fishing for over 35 years and have never seen a fish unspool all the line on a tip-up in a matter of a few minutes. I love it that I’m still making new experiences like that. This winter camping – ice fishing trip was a true success and will have to be repeated in the future.

 

The results: We caught two cusks (largest = 22”), two pickerel (largest = 21”), two largemouth bass (largest = 22”), and four smallmouth bass (largest = 22.5”) in 8 hours of slow but eventful fishing.

 

Anthony handled this big boy without any help.

 

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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1 thought on “Ice fishing for smallmouth bass and largemouth bass on Panther Pond, Raymond, Maine (February 23, 2019)

  1. This has to be one of my most favorite posts on the Fish-a-Metric (and inspires me to look through the archives for what I’ve missed)! Are you kidding me… ice camping with the family, and success to boot (though I had to look up what a “cusk” was)… life is good! Keep up the great reporting. Hope to make it to Maine one day.

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