A stunning view of Lower South Branch Pond from the canoe launch area
My son Joel and I are leaving town for the weekend to partake in our annual fall camping, fishing, and hiking trip. We’ve decided to visit one of our favorite destinations to pursue these shared passions, namely Baxter State Park (BSP) in northern Maine. The plan is to fish for native brook trout on Lower South Branch Pond on Saturday afternoon, sleep at one of the lean-tos at the camp area by the pond Saturday night, and spend the next day hiking the awesome Traveler Mountains loop trail, which starts and ends at the pond. The South Branch Pond camp site is accessible by car, which makes it very convenient to get to. Camping reservations must be made in advance by contacting BSP directly. Before I get on the topic of fishing, let me say that the effort required to hike the Travelers is, in my opinion, on par with hiking Mount Kathadin located at the southern end of BSP! The Travelers hike may take up to 9 or 10 hours to complete, ascends and descends three main peaks (and numerous “false peaks”), and is quite technical, particularly the first half of the hike (Center Ridge Trail) where long stretches of the “trail” consist of enormous boulder fields that will test your ankles, knees, balance, and muscles. Keep in mind that this hike is NOT for novices or beginners. And here’s the best part. Joel and I encountered a grand total of only two people during the entire day, while I suspect that Mount Katahdin was overrun by hordes of tourists!
Billfish Pond is pretty and surrounded by four peaks
Billfish Pond is a 70-acre body of water located off the Park Tote Road in the northern portion of Baxter State Park (BSP), Piscataquis County, Maine (see The Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 A2). This pond can be accessed by hiking on the Five Ponds Trail for about 2.5 miles starting at Trout Brook Farm on the Park Tote Road. The hike is flat and easy. Click here for full details on renting a camp site and obtaining the key to unlock the canoe which you’ll need to use if your goal is to catch fish. Only one camp site is available on this pond. It is, by far, the lousiest of the seven camp sites for rent on the Five Ponds Trail trout ponds because it is inside the woods, gloomy, without breezes, and with no view of the water…
Lower Fowler Pond is a 66-acre body of water located off the Park Tote Road in the northern portion of Baxter State Park (BSP), Piscataquis County, Maine (see The Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 A1). This pond can be accessed by hiking for about 1.5 miles on the Fowler Brook Trail which starts at the clearly-indicated trail head on the Park Tote Road. The hike is flat and easy. Click here for full details on renting a camp site and obtaining the key to unlock the canoes that are stored next to the pond and which are critical if your goal is to fish. Two camp sites are available on this pond, namely Lower Fowler Outlet and Lower Fowler Pond. We stayed at the latter but found that the former provided better views of the gorgeous surrounding landscape. I recommend renting that one instead, if it is available.
Daicey Pond covers 38 acres and is located at the end of a good gravel road off the Park Tote Road in Baxter State Park [BSP] (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 50 D4). The turn-off from the Park Tote Road is clearly marked with a large sign and is located about 10 miles from the southern entrance to the park (Togue Pond Gate). Most people who visit BSP do not know of the secret which is hiding in plain view at Daicey Pond, namely the presence of ten rustic log cabins that can be rented from BSP for a very reasonable fee. Several canoes stored by the pond are also available for rent for $1/hour. Payment is based on an honor system; the payment box is located at the nearby ranger station. This pond cannot be fished from shore, so make sure to bring your own craft or a bunch of dollar bills to rent one.
View of the rough access point to Abol Pond from the Park Tote Road
Abol Pond covers 70 acres and is located alongside the Park Tote Road in Baxter State Park, about two miles from the Togue Pond Gate (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 50 D5). Remarkably, given its relatively small surface area, the pond is about 1.2 miles long and has 3.4 miles of shoreline! This narrow and convoluted body of water consists of an eastern and western basin connected by a long and shallow thoroughfare. Both basins, but the eastern one in particular, provide spectacular views of Abol Mountain with majestic Mount Katahdin looming in the background. The pond can be accessed from two different locations. The easiest one is situated at the Abol Beach picnic area by the outlet on the western basin. The only problem with this launch area is that one then has to paddle one mile to reach the eastern basin. The alternative access point is located right off the Park Tote Road next to the pond at the point where the road dips down to pass over a large culvert. This access point, which is more central, is down a relatively steep bank by the road. I use the latter this morning.
Grassy Pond is one of a dozen and a half gorgeous native brook trout ponds sprinkled around the southwestern corner of Baxter State Park (BSP) in northern Maine. It is found right off the Appalachian Trail (AT) about 1 mile south of the Katahdin Stream campground located on the Park Tote Road (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 50 D4). At first blush, this pond would not seem to qualify as a brook trout haunt! It’s name aptly describes the apparent conundrum: the pond is so shallow (< 4 ft) that thin aquatic vegetation (“grass”) emerges all over the water surface. If this water body were located anywhere else but in BSP, it would be dismissed out of hand as habitat suitable only for pickerel, yellow perch, or sunfish. But don’t be fooled by appearances because Grassy Pond supports a thriving population of native brookies. The secret lies in its source of water, which is supplied directly by Katahdin Stream. This ice-cold brook, which originates on the slopes of mighty Mount Katahdin, enters the north end of the pond and exits it to the southeast. The stream keeps the surface water in the pond cool and oxygenated, and the abundant vegetation and soft bottom serves as a hyper-active bug factory to feed all the hungry trout.
Be ready to bushwhack in order to find the secret honey holes…
Nesowadnehunk Stream is a tributary of the west branch of the Penobscot River with its source located at the outlet of Nesowadnehunk Lake. This 17-mile stream flows roughly along the western and southern boundary of Baxter State Park (BSP) in northern Maine (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 50; the outlet of Nesowadnehunk lake is on map 50 B4). About three quarters of the stream runs approximately parallel to the Park Tote Road which connects the south entrance (i.e., Togue Pond Gate) to the north entrance (i.e., Matagamon Gate) of BSP. The surrounding watershed is hilly and deeply forested with a mixture of evergreen and deciduous trees. The stream is typically 20 to 40 ft wide and has a depth ranging from < 1 ft to > 4 ft. Depending on the location, the substrate varies from soft silty mud, to coarse gravel, to exposed bedrock, to boulders. Fishing on this stream is particularly enjoyable in late summer-early fall due to the cooling surface water and the total lack of black flies, mosquitos and deer flies which can drive even the most dedicated angler to insanity in the spring and early summer. Keep in mind that open-water fishing in this part of Maine ends on September 30, whereas BSP closes for the season on October 15.
This blog describes an easy, five-day hiking, camping, and native brook trout fishing adventure in the remote northeastern wilderness of Baxter State Park (BSP) in Maine. The trip is organized around the Five Ponds Trail which encircles the 1,767 ft-high Trout Brook Mountain. This picturesque trail, which meanders through a mixed hardwood forest and results in minimal elevation gain, gets its name from its location alongside five ponds, namely: Billfish Pond, Long Pond, High Pond, Littlefield Pond, and Round Pond.
The first three ponds support robust native brook trout populations. Neither Littlefield Pond nor Round Pond provide access to a canoe, which greatly limits their fishing potential (see below for details). Hence, those two ponds are not further discussed in this blog. Instead, I included Lower Fowler Pond and Middle Fowler Pond which are found in the immediate vicinity of the Five Pond Trail and also have strong native brook trout populations. Continue reading →
Today is unfortunately the last of our memorable five-day Baxter State Park through-hike and native brook trout fishing trip. It is also the last day of the 2014 fishing season in the park. After spending a warm and dry night in the bunk house at the Russell Pond camp site, I get up once more at the crack of down to fish Deep Pond. This water body covers 8 acres and is located an easy 15-20 minute hike from Russell Pond (see the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 51 B1). It has a maximum and mean depth of 19 ft and 9 ft, respectively, and is home to an abundant, but stunted, native brook trout population. The water is clear and the shoreline is completely forested. The pond develops an oxygen deficiency in the summer at depths of 12 ft or more which forces the trout to reside in the upper half of the water column during the warm season. Deep Pond could actually be fished comfortably from shore by kids using bobbers and worms. An enormous flat rock sits at the water’s edge by the canoe launch and can easily accommodate several people. Good casting would place the bait, or a lure, close to the center of the pond. 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.
This fat native brookie fell for my “psychedelic” spoon
The cold front, which announced itself yesterday evening, definitely arrived overnight. The wind is blowing hard from the northwest and the sky is completely overcast with a low cloud deck shrouding the nearby Traveler Mountains. But that doesn’t stop me from crawling out of my tent at the crack of dawn for a morning troll on Upper South Branch Pond using lead core line. I’d like to repeat the experience from last evening by catching another brookie. I do hesitate for a moment about fishing alone when I get to the lake shore: paddling the canoe by myself into the stiff wind will be quite a chore. But what the heck: how often do I get to fish this gorgeous pond? I’m richly rewarded in three ways for my tenacity. I land a healthy 13” native brook trout after about 30 minutes trolling with two spoons fished in tandem one color down (just like yesterday evening). I also experience a unique sound effect: the resident loon calls out twice in a row as I pass it by; its haunting song echoes off the surrounding rock cliffs! I stop paddling to soak in this precious moment… Finally, I see a dark shape ambling in the shallow water along the southern (downwind) shoreline of the lake as I troll back towards my starting point. It’s a young bull moose grazing on the aquatic vegetation! Wow, that’s really awesome except that the wind is pushing me straight in the direction of the animal. The canoe acts like a sail whenever I try to turn it sideways… Then one of my lures decides to hang up on the bottom. F*ck!! I paddle backwards like a madman to retrieve my lures and then turn the canoe sideways and paddle like a maniac to stay away from the moose but parallel to the shoreline. Fortunately, the beast gives me a long dumb look, completely ignores my grunts and paddling shenanigans, and slowly moves on. It’s now 6:50 am and I don’t have the strength left in my arms to battle upwind for another round. I call it good, glad to have caught two nice brook trout in less than 1.5 hours of trolling between yesterday evening and this morning.