Old News Archive

Ice Fishing Report

February 28, 2006 - TRC

February 28, 2006 Ice Fishing Report

Region A- Southwestern Maine

Despite the recent arrival of cold weather, ice conditions in southern Maine
continue to be somewhat marginal, particularly in York County. Many of the
larger waters still have areas of open water and open water areas are
starting to show up along exposed shorelines, points, islands, and inlets.
These conditions are more typically of mid-late March and anglers are urged
to use caution as we progress into the final month of the season.

My creel survey on Kennebunk Pond in Lyman has been quite enlightening this
season. This water has received unscheduled rainbow trout on and off since
2001 when the Department first initiated an experimental rainbow trout
stocking program. We hadn't heard many reports of rainbows being caught,
particularly during the winter season when they tend to be a little tougher
to catch. In the beginning of the season I saw very few rainbows, and most
of the trout being caught were brook trout and browns. More recently, the
catch rates seem to have shifted and most of the trout being landed are
rainbows. This Saturday I observed 6 trout and all were rainbows in the
14-20" range. One of the largest rainbows was caught by a little girl whose
dad had promised to set her trap in a secret spot, and within a half hour of
setting her trap she landed a 19 incher that weighed 2 1/2 pounds! The 300
rainbows stocked this past fall tend to be in the 12-16" range, but bows
stocked in the fall of 2004 look very healthy and are exhibiting excellent
growth. These three-year-old rainbows are in the 18-21" range and weigh 2
1/4 to 4 pounds. It is uncertain why the action is picking up for bows in
the later part of the season, but perhaps more people are beginning to
figure out that traditional traps and live minnows are not the best way to
catch a rainbow. Don't get me wrong, I have certainly seen some nice bows
landed on traps and live bait, but jigging and/or fishing salmon eggs/worms
on traps tends to be much more successful.

The best fishing advice I ever got was not about a using a specific fly,
lure, or technique...the advice was that if something is not working for you
then you need try something different in your approach until you become
successful again. As all humans, anglers also get entrenched into habits
that we continue to use day in and day out just because they have been
successful for us in the past on other waters, at other times, and/or for
other species. In general, its a good idea to stick with what you know and
what has worked in the past, but my point is that when it fails to produce
don't be afraid to be flexible, keep an open-mind, and mix things up a bit.
I recently spoke with a woman on Kennebunk Pond that had recently moved here
from Colorado and she was excited about ice fishing the pond. I saw her
last Sunday and gave her a few pointers on the best techniques for catching
rainbows, and when I saw her again this week she indicated that she had
caught a 12" bow after I left, and a nice 16-incher on Monday, which is
better than many of the more experienced anglers I have talked to on the
pond! The point is due to her lack of experience, she was more open-minded
and willing try less traditional methods of angling.

The big ice fishing news over the weekend was the Sebago Lake Derby
RotaryFest, while this is typically a southern Maine event this year the
derby went statewide due to the limited ice conditions on Sebago. The event
organizers worked with the Department to limit fish harvest by imposing
minimum size requirements on certain species and by not accepting the
registration of specific species (i.e. brook trout, salmon, and bass). Tom
Noonan, one of the key organizers of the derby, indicated that even though
conditions were not ideal this year the event was still quite successful.
Registrations were down about 45% over last year, but the derby and its
associated events still raised a considerable amount of money for several
local Maine charities. The first place prize (a 17' boat) was won by a
large Muskie caught at Glazier Lake in Aroostook County, while two Northern
Pike caught in the Belgrade Lakes region took the 2nd and 3rd place slots.
The pike managed to edge out two respectable lake trout from Panther Pond in
Raymond and Lobster Lake in Lobster TWP during the final few hours. For
more information on the derby and its winners visit the event website @
www.icefishingderby.com.

-Jim Pellerin, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist


Region B - Central Maine

As we write these ice fishing reports for the year, readers must remember
that the ice conditions seem to be changing daily rather than weekly. I
received some information last week from the western part of the region that
Lovejoy Pond in the town of Fayette was open in many places. One can only
imagine what the conditions are like on Lovejoy Pond in the town of Albion!
Regardless of where you are planning your next outing, please be careful on
the ice.

Anglers are still being rewarded on Wassookeag Lake in the town of Dexter
with some fine catches of togue and salmon. The last time I was out there
was last week, and by the way things are going, conditions could have
changed since then.

In my travels, I've noticed this year that I'm meeting many anglers
from other parts of the state who are searching for the same thing: "good
ice". One group of knowledgeable togue anglers traveled from Dedham in the
Green Lake area in search of their favorite game fish: landlocked salmon.
They told me that the ice conditions on Green Lake were far from safe and
they wanted to give Wassookeag Lake a try. They were successful in catching
several nice togue.

Another group that I encountered were on their way up to Moosehead
Lake for a week of fishing. To their surprise, when they arrived at their
camp to look out over their fishing spot, the area they intended to fish was
open! The situation ultimately led them on journey back home. Along the way
they decided to stop and give Wassookeag Lake a try. One angler from this
group was rewarded with a nice 19-inch salmon.

So when you do make your plans and set your mind on a destination to fish,
do not be surprised if you end up right back where you started, on a
familiar body of water.

-Scott Davis, Fisheries Biologist Specialist


Region C - Downeast

Ice conditions have improved on Downeast lakes and ponds after this past
weekend's mini deep freeze but caution is still the word on many of the
larger waters such as Long Pond (MDI), Jordan Pond, Eagle Lake, Green Lake,
Branch Lake, Graham Lake, Toddy Pond, Tunk Lake, Spring River Lake, and
Gardner Lake that are immediate to the coast and still have areas that
refuse to freeze. The reason for this is two fold, first recent high winds
have kept surface waters agitated during the usually calm night time hours
as well as during the day, making it hard for water to settle down and
freeze. Secondly, at this time of the year, our part of the hemisphere is
getting closer to the sun, making the light's rays more intense on the
water, keeping it from cooling down to 32 degrees.

Overall, as Regional Biologist Ron Brokaw aptly pointed out, this is the
winter that wasn't, as the lack of snow and ice in our area has thrown
anglers out of their usual winter modes and kept them house bound. On the
up side, the lack of fishing this winter will make for better fishing this
spring as low winter use translates into more fish holding over to the open
water season. So mark this winter's thin ice waters on your spring fishing
list, as fish that weren't caught this season will be there for the next.

A recent talk with highly respected outdoor writer Tom Hennessey and a quote
from him, stating that Maine's outdoor enthusiast's paradise is shrinking,
reminded me of how many serious fishing issues face Maine people as well as
the people who love to travel to this special state.

In Hancock and Washington Counties, the issues that threaten fishing
opportunities and have statewide significance by the precedents they set for
the future. Many of these threatened fishing opportunities stem from the
loss of public access to Maine's inland lakes and ponds. Waters ten acres
and over are the property of the people of the state of Maine but without
fair & equitable access, these waters become private playgrounds for the few
that owns property around them.

In the Downeast region, this battle is playing out at Branch Lake in the
town of Ellsworth. Since the late 1800's, Branch Lake had been stocked with
cold-water game fish and provided anglers far and wide with premier sport
fishing for landlocked salmon, brown trout and lake trout. Currently, the
Branch Pond Association and the City of Ellsworth are blocking the building
of a state boat launch on state land that would bring fair and equitable
access to the people of Maine. The resources in this lake are the property
of Maine people and they should have the same advantage to those resources
as the 38 private launches provide to the lake campowners. Without this new
replacement boat launch, Inland Fisheries & Wildlife cannot stock this lake
with cold-water game fish as it has done for over 100 years. This situation
is just the tip of the iceberg as state officials battle this same issue on
dozens of waters across the state, spending millions of tax payer dollars
fighting groups that are trying to keep people off waters where they are
waterfront property owners..

What can you do? Get involved! Talk to your community and state leaders
about the importance of public access to state waters and sport fishing.
Remember the ability to use these waters and their resources is an important
part of the quality of life we've come to expect in the state of Maine.
Fishing is a wholesome family activity that helps our communities stay
healthy by showing people how to respect the environment through
conservation. It helps our children develop into well-rounded,
well-adjusted contributors to society. Fishing is a big part of ecotourism
and helps feed the backbone of our economy, which is small businesses. The
business of inland fishing in the state of Maine is worth upwards of $450
million dollars per year and the quality of life that surrounds this pursuit
is priceless. Help keep our communities healthy by supporting public access
and the protection of fishing opportunities across our state.

-Greg Burr, Fisheries Biologist Specialist


Region D - Western Mountains

In last week's report from Region B, Regional Biologist Bob Van-Riper
confirmed the presence of northern pike in Mosher Pond. Mosher Pond is a
small headwater to Little Norridgewock Stream and a tributary to Wilson
Stream and the Sandy River. The Department's Chesterville Bog Wildlife
Management Area is located just downstream of Mosher Pond. From Mosher,
northern pike have direct access to Norcross Pond, located immediately
downstream. They'll then be able to move upstream in Little Norridgewock
Stream to North Pond in Chesterville and Parker Pond in Jay. From Little
Norridgewock and Wilson Streams pike can move to Locke Pond and Sand Pond in
Chesterville, or to Crowell Pond and Fellows Pond via the Sandy River and
McGurdy Stream. Most of these ponds support popular, high-quality sport
fisheries for largemouth bass, chain pickerel, and white perch, and all
support a diverse assemblage of native minnows and sunfish. From the Sandy
River, pike will of course have access to the entire Kennebec River below
Madison, encompassing several tailwater reaches supporting outstanding
fisheries for brown trout and rainbow trout (e.g. Abenaki, Weston, and
Shawmut tailwaters).

Specific, long-term consequences of the illegal stocking of pike in tiny
Mosher Pond are not easily predicted, but we can be certain of two things:
if pike become abundant, impacts to native fish species and long-established
non-native sport fish will be dramatic over a very large geographic area,
and the Department's options for eliminating pike or effectively containing
them are exceedingly limited. I have to wonder if the selfish individual(s)
who perpetuated this crime considered this before dumping the bucket.
Illegal stockings are among the foulest of fish and game violations, and the
ecological consequences of this practice warrants the attention of all
conservation-minded people in the sporting and non-sporting community.

-Dave Boucher, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist


Region E - Moosehead Region

The week of school vacation comes to an end but not without a little snow
for northern Maine. Thursday night's snow had anglers rearranging their
gear for their weekend fishing trips. Many noted that they unloaded their
ATV's and replaced them with their snowmobiles. The 2-3 inches of snow made
for some good traveling on Saturday and anglers where able to get to their
favorite fishing areas on Chesuncook, Sebec and Moosehead Lakes with little
trouble. Many of the anglers interviewed this past weekend were
participating in the Statewide Sebago Lake Derby and/or the Indian Hill
Derby.

On Saturday Albert Hall and I were able to venture to the upper end of
Chesuncook Lake due to the fresh snow. It was the first time this winter we
have been able to make the 20-mile trip to the northern area of Chesuncook
Lake, which is Maine's third largest lake. This has been due to the lack of
snow and unsafe ice condition's earlier in the winter. There were many
parents and grandparents observed fishing with their kids and grandkids out
of Chesuncook Village. Overall, the fishing was good and the kids were
enjoying their last weekend of fun before heading back to classes. Salmon
were coming well, and many of the anglers, both young and old, limited out
on salmon for the day. Many of the salmon checked on the ice were in the 14
- 16 inch range, but none were over 20 inches.

On Sunday regional staff fought high winds, with near white out conditions,
to locate anglers on Moosehead Lake. Most anglers were found fishing on
areas of the lake that were sheltered from the brutal northwest winds.
Fishing was slow but the anglers having success had some nice fish. Lake
trout are still the predominant fish in the catch and are providing good
action to anglers who target them.

Some notable cusk have been showing in the catch as of late and many anglers
have asked questions on their viability as a fishery in Moosehead Lake.
Cusk are readily taken in the winter by fishing at night with either live or
dead bait. Although sometimes targeted in the open water season, the cusk
fishery is primarily a winter sport. Catch rates increase after mid
February, which coincide with post-spawning feeding activity, as reported in
the literature. Cusk spawn in mid-winter under the ice. It occurs at night
in shallow bays, on shoals, and points over sand and gravel. The adults
move off the spawning area in the daytime. They are also caught in the
daytime by anglers fishing baits on or near the bottom for lake trout.
Anglers who have never experienced fishing for cusk until the wee hours of
the morning are missing out. It is not uncommon to catch a dozen or more
cusk if you can find a concentration of spawning individuals. The mild
flavored flesh of the cusk can be used in a variety of cooking methods, my
favorite being cusk chowder. Some fried salt pork, a few potatoes, an
onion or two, some whole milk/evaporated milk, and of course, a couple cusk
fillets. It makes for some taste table fair.

-Stephen Seebac, Fisheries Biologist Specialist


Region F, Penobscot Region

Finally, we can say that Region F has good ice conditions throughout
the Region. This weekend's survey crew found that the anglers on Cold Stream
Pond fishing for lake trout very successful. Several fish were observed up
to 22". The salmon, though not numerous, continue to be in very good shape.
The brook trout fishing has really slowed down. Fishing pressure continues
to be very low on Upper Jo Mary. One party was observed on Sunday. The 2
anglers that made the trip were rewarded with a few brook trout. Fishing
pressure was also low on Pleasant Pond in Island Falls with only 8 parties
observed. No legal fish were reported caught, however reports for Saturday
were just the opposite. The town of Island Falls held its annual Winter
Fest on Saturday. As a part of the festivities, they had a fishing derby.
Many anglers from the area as well as visitors took part in the derby,
taking to the ice on Pleasant Pond and Mattawamkeag Lake. The fish were
registered and weighed in at the May Mountain Variety. The first prize
salmon weighed in at 4.9 lbs. First prize brook trout weighed in at 1.5 lbs;
both fish came out of Pleasant Pond. Anglers on Mattawamkeag had plenty of
excitement catching smallmouth bass and pickerel.

The Monday morning buzz at the local coffee shop in Dover-Foxcroft was
the great fishing anglers are having on Schoodic Lake. Over the last week
lake trout up to 9 lbs were caught. Several lake trout in the 5 lb class
were landed. One guy commented that the fishing just gets better every year.
One of the anglers had lost a nice salmon on Saturday. He said he got it up
in to the ice hole and his line broke off, and away the salmon went. He
estimated that he fish must have weighed at least 6 lbs. The big one almost
always gets away. Lots of smelts are being taken by hook and line. Bait
dealers as well as recreational anglers are having excellent success. Again
this year, it seems that the smelts can be found around almost every point.

Kids are still having good luck fishing our kids-only ice fishing
waters (Little Round Pond in Lincoln, Jerry Pond in Millinocket and Pickerel
Pond in T 32 MD). We are getting reports of great white perch and pickerel
fishing on Dolby, Pushaw, Seboeis and South Branch Lakes.

Fishing pressure in Region F this winter has been very low. Poor ice
conditions and inclement weather being the contributing factor. Just maybe
Mother Nature will settle down and we can have some great ice fishing
conditions for the month of March. Get out and enjoy Maine's great outdoors.

-Brian Campbell, Fisheries Biologist Specialist


Region G - Aroostook County

Light snow on Friday made travel conditions on area lakes prefect for the
weekend anglers. Fishing pressure on backcountry lakes remains slow through
this past weekend. I checked a young angler on Clear Lake, Chase Brooker of
Fort Fairfield, who fishing with his dad caught his first brook trout while
ice fishing. Travel conditions west of Ashland are good, road crews have
done great job dealing with all the rain we have had this winter. The lakes
we have checked this winter , i.e. Clear and the Musquacooks, Long Lake in
the Fish River Chain and lakes in the Houlton area have safe ice conditions.
Naturally, anglers should give wide berth to inlets and the outlet where
thin ice may be an issue because of high flows in streams. The main bodies
of the lakes where we have checked, however, are in good shape for fishing.

Creel census efforts over the weekend by Ashland staff were hampered by cold
weather and high winds. Angler activity in the eastern part of the region
continues to be steady although it has slowed a bit since the opening.
Anglers interviewed in the southern reaches of the region were catching
mostly pickerel. The promise of a large salmon continues to draw anglers to
Long Lake. The largest salmon measured at Long Lake this weekend by regional
staff was a four pounder. A few hardy souls were interviewed on Madawaska
Lake. These folks were rewarded with a few nice brook trout.

-Derrick Cote, Fisheries Biologist




NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.