Native brook trout fishing in Baxter State Park: Day 3 (September 28, 2014)

This blog is a continuation of this blog.


DAY 3: Middle Fowler Pond to Upper South Branch Pond


A gorgeous view of the Traveler Mountains from the north shore of Lower South Branch Pond

A gorgeous view of the Traveler Mountains from the north shore of Lower South Branch Pond

The brook trout fishing on Middle Fowler Pond was so incredible yesterday evening that I decide not to fish the same pond again this morning. Instead, we rise at 7 am and get ready for our first “real” hike of our five-day trans Baxter State Park adventure. The trail from our current camp site to the large camp ground at Lower South Branch Pond is only about 5 miles. However, the first half consists of gaining about 1,000 ft to cross over Burrell Ridge. That represents a serious physical effort considering that our backpacks weigh over 40 lbs… We leave Middle Fowler Pond around 9:30 am and have lunch on top of the ridge by noon. The view from up there towards the opposite cliffs is beautiful, but we don’t have a ton of time to waste. Soon, we’re on our way down and reach the ranger station at the outlet of Lower South Branch Pond by 1:30 pm. Our camp site for tonight is located another 2 miles away, at the southern tip of Upper South Branch Pond. That site does not have a canoe. So we rent one from the ranger (we’ll bring it back tomorrow morning), load it up with our gear, and paddle upwind towards the thoroughfare that links the two ponds. We portage the canoe for about a quarter mile to pass the shallow thoroughfare. Note that it is possible to pull the canoe through it as we did in 2012, but at the risk of getting wet feet. Reaching the camp site on Upper South Branch Pond by canoe from the ranger station takes less than one hour.


Upper South Branch Pond after the wind died down, with a view of the North Ridge of the Traveler Mountains

Upper South Branch Pond after the wind died down, with a view of the North Ridge of the Traveler Mountains



The wind blows hard from the southeast by the time we reach Upper South Branch Pond. The water is frothing with white caps. Be aware that these two ponds face in a northwest to southeast direction. The surrounding mountains funnel the wind when it blows in from these two directions, acting as a gigantic wind tunnel. So, even though both ponds are relatively small, they can quickly become hazardous for inexperienced canoeists. We dig-in our paddles and finally reach our campsite. It is well worth the effort to get to this remote spot, even for people who are “crowd camping” at the large camp ground on Lower South Branch Pond. Come spend a night and watch the setting sun paint the North Ridge cliffs of the Traveler Mountain into a soft rose-pink color. It’s a unique experience. We reach the camp site by 3 pm and go through the routine of setting up our tents. The conditions are quite different from the last two afternoons: the sky is clouding up and the wind is still quite stiff. It’s clear that we’re not going to get an evening hatch out of these conditions. Also, the cold front that had been announced for the last several days seems to be at our door steps.


View Map

View of the eastern shoreline of Upper South Branch Pond

View of the eastern shoreline of Upper South Branch Pond

Upper South Branch Pond (see the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 A1) covers 84 acres but has a definite “big pond” feel. It has a maximum and mean depth of 76 ft and 43 ft, respectively, making it by far the largest and deepest pond on our fishing itinerary. The water is clear. The substrate consists mostly of gravel and cobble. The pond supports native brook trout, with the largest fish reaching well over 12”. The water column in this pond strongly stratifies in the summer into a warm top layer and cold bottom layer. The daily bag limit on trout is five fish with a minimum length limit of 6”. Use or possession of life baitfish is prohibited, but dead fish, salmon eggs, and worms are allowed as bait. Click here for more information on the fishing regulations. Click here for a depth map and more information on the pond and its fisheries.




A nice (but fuzzy...) brookie caught by trolling on Upper South Branch Pond

A nice (but fuzzy…) brookie caught by trolling on Upper South Branch Pond

My two wimpy team mates decide not bother fishing this evening, so I’m on my own. I’ll be trolling, but this time I’m using two bigger lures fished in tandem: the first one is a 3” bronze Mooselook Wobbler spoon with a “brown trout” pattern on the top; the trailing one is a 2 and a quarter inch-long Stinger spoon colored orange, yellow and green and speckled with black dots. I’ve had luck catching brookies using this color combination in the past. I point the nose of the canoe in the wind (which has turned … again) and paddle upwind towards the outlet. It’s a pain to strip out the lead core line because the wind quickly stops the momentum of the canoe and starts swinging it side ways, at which point it is difficult to reposition it back into the wind when paddling alone. But I succeed in putting out my color and a half of lead core. My first pass upwind and downwind lasts about 40 minutes and yields nothing. I reel in my lures, reposition the canoe into the wind, and start all over again. This time I only go down one color. The fish gods smile on me as I approach the cliff wall before the thoroughfare: I get a great hit which strips line off my lead core reel. I shout a loud scream, as agreed beforehand, to let Joel and Salvador know that I’ve got a fish! I let go of the paddle and fight a beautiful 13” brookie in pre-spawning colors. It fell for the Mooselook spoon. The fish gets photographed and released. I’m now drifting back downwind and reset my line for another pass. My arms are tired by the time I reach the southern shore and I don’t have the strength to paddle back upwind once more. I call it a day, glad that I caught my trout.


The results: I trolled for 1.5 hours and caught one 13” brookie.

This story continues here


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