Fishing for smallmouth bass on the Androscoggin River in Jay, Maine (August 4, 2018)

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One of the three dams which stretches across the Androscoggin River in Jay.

My attention this afternoon is on the Androscoggin River flowing through Jay in Franklin County, Maine (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 19 E5). The river between the towns of Rumford in Oxford County (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 19 E1) and Livermore Falls in Androscoggin County (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 11 A5) supports a nationally-renown fishery for trophy smallmouth bass (click here for an example). My mission is to place some of those lunker fish in my boat!! Click here for tips on how to catch these magnificent fighters.

 

The power plant is typically the main “source” of water for this stretch of the Androscoggin River during the summer. However, the water is also flowing over all three dams due to the rain of the last 10 days.

The Androscoggin River in Jay passes through two back-to-back hydropower facilities: one is the Riley Dam Power Plant which sits about one mile upstream of the Verso paper mill, while the second one is the Jay Hydroelectric Power Plant located about half a mile downstream of the mill, just above the Riley Road bridge which spans the river in Jay. I’m focusing all my fishing efforts on the river flowing just below the Jay Power Plant dam. The public access point to this section of the river is located on Pine Island off Riley Road and is clearly indicated by a blue sign on the road. Note that this access point can only accommodate hand-carried craft as it lacks an actual boat launch. The carry-in is about 300 ft away from the large parking area down a marked and well-maintained foot path.

 

It took me about an hour to finally nail this big boy! The bridge connects Riley Road with Pine Island. In the background, one of the three dams that spans the Androscoggin River in Jay. Note the high volume of water flowing over it.

The Androscoggin River at this location flows past two islands, the largest of which is Pine Island. Three separate low-head dams, each about 15-20 ft high, link one bank of the river to the other, with the two islands serving as immovable geologic anchors. Behind those dams sits a large reservoir, the water of which flows through the turbines of the power plant located on the left bank (looking downstream) of the river. Water flowing over a dam or through turbines invariably generates strong and interesting currents which reliably attract and retain river bronzebacks. I’ll put that proven observation to the test today. I also want to stack the odds in my favor for catching lunker smallmouth bass by targeting the most-promising river habitat possible and avoiding “dead water”.

 

Another tank caught in the Androsscoggin River!

It’s been raining hard all morning long, but weather.com promises that the precipitation will end in Jay around 3 pm, followed by partial clearing for the evening’s sunset. I take their word for it and reach the public put-in on Pine Island around 3 pm. The steady rain has stopped but it is still drizzling. My first impression of the physical setting is “wow, this looks really nice”!! The river is running high for this time of the year in response to the rainy weather of the last 10 days. Water is tumbling over all three dams and is also passing through the power plant. Hence, water is flowing through the entire width of the Androscoggin River at this spot, which is quite unusual for the end of July. After putting my canoe into the water, I paddle directly upstream towards the dam that blocks the river between Riley Road and Pine Island. I fish the whole area for over one hour using a soft stickbait, a #2 Mepps spinner, and a floating Rapala and catch absolutely NOTHING, not even a nibble! I’m shaking my head in disbelief. I move further downstream to go around Pine Island and finally catch my first smallmouth bass of the afternoon, and it’s a chunky one! But clearly, something is amiss in my fishing approach today…

 

This crayfish-imitating crankbait was the key to success this afternoon! Note that I removed the front-facing hook on each treble to make the lure a bit more snag-proof.

I work my way around Pine Island and paddle upstream against very strong current until I reach the middle dam. The conditions once again look absolutely perfect, but I catch NOTHING after another 45 minutes of fruitlessly tossing my three favorite lures, plus a spinner bait. Same deal in front of the third dam. OK, I need to change something because my go-to smallmouth bass lures simply aren’t working today. I switch to a crayfish-imitating jointed crankbait, toss it out, start bringing it in and immediately hook a bass! Ahah, I’m on to something! I anchor my canoe in two locations below the power plant: one is a large back-eddy along the shoreline where the current turns around and flows upstream towards the power plant, and the other one is in deeper water (5-8 ft deep) downstream from the dams and the power plant but upstream of the Riley Road bridge in an area where several current seams intertwine, pile up, and slow down a bit. I systematically “fan-cast” the crankbait and land seven smallmouth bass over the next hour. Success at last! Half of those fish measure between 15” and 18”, and none are smaller than 12”. All fight with incredible passion and tenacity, particularly the larger fish.

 

It took a lot of frustrating trial and error but I was able to figure out how to convince some of the local bass denizens to grab my lure. I’m leaving Pine Island one happy angler. Not only did I come up with a winning strategy but I also caught the bragging fish I was hoping for. That combination would make anyone’s day!

 

The results: I caught eight smallmouth bass (largest 18”) in 3.5 hours of challenging fishing.

 

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 “Fishing for smallmouth bass on the Androscoggin River in Jay, Maine (August 4, 2018)

  1. My wife and I are headed to Maine in a couple of weeks. We will be visiting in Winthrop and Norridgewock. Fishing most of the time. Can’t wait to hit the water! Looking for Canoe rentals or maybe small boat. Studying and reading fish updates and blogs to get a good understanding of the area. Maybe we will see you on a river or lake!

    John Gaydos
    Ct fisherman

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