Ice fishing for yellow perch and pickerel on Panther Pond, Raymond, Maine (January 22, 2017)

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One happy camper!

The boy scout troop to which my nephew Christian belongs is having a winter camp-out at Camp Hinds located on beautiful Panther Pond in Raymond, Maine (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 5 B2). The boys are sleeping two nights in cabins and spending part of Saturday ice fishing. Previously, the leaders asked for volunteers to bring tip-ups, power augers, baitfish, and other gear to share with the kids. I can’t think of a better way of spending my Saturday morning than to express my love for hard-water angling and help kids get hooked on fishing!







It has fins, it has scales… We’re good!



I arrive at the cabins by 8:15 am (note: access to the Camp Hinds cabins and lean-tos along the shoreline of the pond is via River Road off Route 85 but is posted as No Trespassing). The boys are still enjoying breakfast when I walk in. The leaders and I quickly discuss a fishing strategy for this morning. We decide that our goal is to generate as many flags as possible regardless of the quality of the fish. We therefore agree to focus our efforts on targeting the abundant populations of white perch, yellow perch, pickerel, and bass which live in Panther Pond instead of trying to catch the much more elusive landlocked salmon and brook trout. I unload my equipment from the car and get on the ice while the boys don their winter gear. We have around 30 traps to deploy but only my auger to drill the holes!


My pickerel! No, my pickerel!

The weather this morning is perfect for ice fishing: it is wind-still and partly cloudy, with temperatures in the mid-30’s expected to rise into the lower 40’s. My goodness, we are in mid-January but enjoying late-March fishing conditions! In addition, the ice is covered by only an inch or two of snow which makes it possible to spread the traps far and wide. I have high hopes given these conditions. It takes us well over an hour to deploy 25 traps in 9 to 35 ft of water with the baitfish placed 2 ft off the bottom (the ice is about 11” thick). The kids get a kick out of drilling holes, scoping out the ice chips from those holes, measuring depth using a small weight clipped on the hook, grabbing a bait fish out of the bucket, and attaching it to the hook. However, I’m concerned that we only get a single flag during the set-up process. That is never a good sign, particularly when targeting abundant fish populations under ideal conditions… However, it is rewarding to see a dozen kids run like mad towards the flag, screaming and yelling from excitement.


Life is good!

We take a quick break and console each other on the slow bite. Since we’re getting little action offshore, we place the five remaining traps along the shoreline in 5 to 9 ft of water. One of those traps yields a flag and a pickerel within 10 minutes of deployment. Mmm, that catches our attention and causes us to retrieve two of the deeper traps and move them shallow too. Another flag pops up in the same area 15 minutes later and results in a second pickerel. That’s the signal I was waiting for. We drill more holes along the shoreline and move a dozen traps on-shore. The bite in our new target area remains tentative but results in another six flags and four pickerel over the next three hours (we only get two more yellow perch flags in the remaining offshore traps). All and all, the fishing was really slow today. And, to my surprise, we didn’t get any white perch or bass. Nonetheless, staying attuned to what the fish were telling us, and re-orienting the traps accordingly, increased the catch rate and allowed the kids the experience the joys of winter fishing.



The results: The kids landed three yellow perch and six pickerel in 5.5 hours of fishing.


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