Ice Fishing ReportFebruary 28, 2006 - TRCFebruary 28, 2006 Ice Fishing ReportRegion A- Southwestern MaineDespite the recent arrival of cold weather, ice conditions in southern Mainecontinue to be somewhat marginal, particularly in York County. Many of thelarger waters still have areas of open water and open water areas arestarting to show up along exposed shorelines, points, islands, and inlets.These conditions are more typically of mid-late March and anglers are urgedto use caution as we progress into the final month of the season.My creel survey on Kennebunk Pond in Lyman has been quite enlightening thisseason. This water has received unscheduled rainbow trout on and off since2001 when the Department first initiated an experimental rainbow troutstocking program. We hadn't heard many reports of rainbows being caught,particularly during the winter season when they tend to be a little tougherto catch. In the beginning of the season I saw very few rainbows, and mostof the trout being caught were brook trout and browns. More recently, thecatch rates seem to have shifted and most of the trout being landed arerainbows. This Saturday I observed 6 trout and all were rainbows in the14-20" range. One of the largest rainbows was caught by a little girl whosedad had promised to set her trap in a secret spot, and within a half hour ofsetting her trap she landed a 19 incher that weighed 2 1/2 pounds! The 300rainbows stocked this past fall tend to be in the 12-16" range, but bowsstocked in the fall of 2004 look very healthy and are exhibiting excellentgrowth. These three-year-old rainbows are in the 18-21" range and weigh 21/4 to 4 pounds. It is uncertain why the action is picking up for bows inthe later part of the season, but perhaps more people are beginning tofigure out that traditional traps and live minnows are not the best way tocatch a rainbow. Don't get me wrong, I have certainly seen some nice bowslanded on traps and live bait, but jigging and/or fishing salmon eggs/wormson 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 youthen you need try something different in your approach until you becomesuccessful again. As all humans, anglers also get entrenched into habitsthat we continue to use day in and day out just because they have beensuccessful for us in the past on other waters, at other times, and/or forother species. In general, its a good idea to stick with what you know andwhat has worked in the past, but my point is that when it fails to producedon'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 herefrom Colorado and she was excited about ice fishing the pond. I saw herlast Sunday and gave her a few pointers on the best techniques for catchingrainbows, and when I saw her again this week she indicated that she hadcaught a 12" bow after I left, and a nice 16-incher on Monday, which isbetter than many of the more experienced anglers I have talked to on thepond! The point is due to her lack of experience, she was more open-mindedand willing try less traditional methods of angling.The big ice fishing news over the weekend was the Sebago Lake DerbyRotaryFest, while this is typically a southern Maine event this year thederby went statewide due to the limited ice conditions on Sebago. The eventorganizers worked with the Department to limit fish harvest by imposingminimum size requirements on certain species and by not accepting theregistration of specific species (i.e. brook trout, salmon, and bass). TomNoonan, one of the key organizers of the derby, indicated that even thoughconditions were not ideal this year the event was still quite successful.Registrations were down about 45% over last year, but the derby and itsassociated events still raised a considerable amount of money for severallocal Maine charities. The first place prize (a 17' boat) was won by alarge Muskie caught at Glazier Lake in Aroostook County, while two NorthernPike 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 inRaymond and Lobster Lake in Lobster TWP during the final few hours. Formore information on the derby and its winners visit the event website @www.icefishingderby.com. -Jim Pellerin, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist Region B - Central MaineAs we write these ice fishing reports for the year, readers must rememberthat the ice conditions seem to be changing daily rather than weekly. Ireceived some information last week from the western part of the region thatLovejoy Pond in the town of Fayette was open in many places. One can onlyimagine 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 onthe ice. Anglers are still being rewarded on Wassookeag Lake in the town of Dexterwith some fine catches of togue and salmon. The last time I was out therewas last week, and by the way things are going, conditions could havechanged since then. In my travels, I've noticed this year that I'm meeting many anglersfrom other parts of the state who are searching for the same thing: "goodice". One group of knowledgeable togue anglers traveled from Dedham in theGreen 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 andthey wanted to give Wassookeag Lake a try. They were successful in catchingseveral nice togue. Another group that I encountered were on their way up to MooseheadLake for a week of fishing. To their surprise, when they arrived at theircamp to look out over their fishing spot, the area they intended to fish wasopen! The situation ultimately led them on journey back home. Along the waythey decided to stop and give Wassookeag Lake a try. One angler from thisgroup 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 afamiliar body of water. -Scott Davis, Fisheries Biologist SpecialistRegion C - Downeast Ice conditions have improved on Downeast lakes and ponds after this pastweekend's mini deep freeze but caution is still the word on many of thelarger waters such as Long Pond (MDI), Jordan Pond, Eagle Lake, Green Lake,Branch Lake, Graham Lake, Toddy Pond, Tunk Lake, Spring River Lake, andGardner Lake that are immediate to the coast and still have areas thatrefuse to freeze. The reason for this is two fold, first recent high windshave kept surface waters agitated during the usually calm night time hoursas well as during the day, making it hard for water to settle down andfreeze. Secondly, at this time of the year, our part of the hemisphere isgetting closer to the sun, making the light's rays more intense on thewater, keeping it from cooling down to 32 degrees.Overall, as Regional Biologist Ron Brokaw aptly pointed out, this is thewinter that wasn't, as the lack of snow and ice in our area has thrownanglers out of their usual winter modes and kept them house bound. On theup side, the lack of fishing this winter will make for better fishing thisspring as low winter use translates into more fish holding over to the openwater season. So mark this winter's thin ice waters on your spring fishinglist, 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 quotefrom him, stating that Maine's outdoor enthusiast's paradise is shrinking,reminded me of how many serious fishing issues face Maine people as well asthe people who love to travel to this special state. In Hancock and Washington Counties, the issues that threaten fishingopportunities and have statewide significance by the precedents they set forthe future. Many of these threatened fishing opportunities stem from theloss of public access to Maine's inland lakes and ponds. Waters ten acresand over are the property of the people of the state of Maine but withoutfair & equitable access, these waters become private playgrounds for the fewthat owns property around them. In the Downeast region, this battle is playing out at Branch Lake in thetown of Ellsworth. Since the late 1800's, Branch Lake had been stocked withcold-water game fish and provided anglers far and wide with premier sportfishing for landlocked salmon, brown trout and lake trout. Currently, theBranch Pond Association and the City of Ellsworth are blocking the buildingof a state boat launch on state land that would bring fair and equitableaccess to the people of Maine. The resources in this lake are the propertyof Maine people and they should have the same advantage to those resourcesas the 38 private launches provide to the lake campowners. Without this newreplacement boat launch, Inland Fisheries & Wildlife cannot stock this lakewith cold-water game fish as it has done for over 100 years. This situationis just the tip of the iceberg as state officials battle this same issue ondozens of waters across the state, spending millions of tax payer dollarsfighting groups that are trying to keep people off waters where they arewaterfront property owners..What can you do? Get involved! Talk to your community and state leadersabout the importance of public access to state waters and sport fishing.Remember the ability to use these waters and their resources is an importantpart 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 stayhealthy by showing people how to respect the environment throughconservation. It helps our children develop into well-rounded,well-adjusted contributors to society. Fishing is a big part of ecotourismand helps feed the backbone of our economy, which is small businesses. Thebusiness of inland fishing in the state of Maine is worth upwards of $450million dollars per year and the quality of life that surrounds this pursuitis priceless. Help keep our communities healthy by supporting public accessand the protection of fishing opportunities across our state.-Greg Burr, Fisheries Biologist SpecialistRegion D - Western MountainsIn last week's report from Region B, Regional Biologist Bob Van-Riperconfirmed the presence of northern pike in Mosher Pond. Mosher Pond is asmall headwater to Little Norridgewock Stream and a tributary to WilsonStream and the Sandy River. The Department's Chesterville Bog WildlifeManagement Area is located just downstream of Mosher Pond. From Mosher,northern pike have direct access to Norcross Pond, located immediatelydownstream. They'll then be able to move upstream in Little NorridgewockStream to North Pond in Chesterville and Parker Pond in Jay. From LittleNorridgewock and Wilson Streams pike can move to Locke Pond and Sand Pond inChesterville, or to Crowell Pond and Fellows Pond via the Sandy River andMcGurdy Stream. Most of these ponds support popular, high-quality sportfisheries for largemouth bass, chain pickerel, and white perch, and allsupport a diverse assemblage of native minnows and sunfish. From the SandyRiver, pike will of course have access to the entire Kennebec River belowMadison, encompassing several tailwater reaches supporting outstandingfisheries for brown trout and rainbow trout (e.g. Abenaki, Weston, andShawmut tailwaters). Specific, long-term consequences of the illegal stocking of pike in tinyMosher Pond are not easily predicted, but we can be certain of two things:if pike become abundant, impacts to native fish species and long-establishednon-native sport fish will be dramatic over a very large geographic area,and the Department's options for eliminating pike or effectively containingthem 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 theecological consequences of this practice warrants the attention of allconservation-minded people in the sporting and non-sporting community.-Dave Boucher, Assistant Regional Fisheries BiologistRegion E - Moosehead RegionThe week of school vacation comes to an end but not without a little snowfor northern Maine. Thursday night's snow had anglers rearranging theirgear for their weekend fishing trips. Many noted that they unloaded theirATV's and replaced them with their snowmobiles. The 2-3 inches of snow madefor some good traveling on Saturday and anglers where able to get to theirfavorite fishing areas on Chesuncook, Sebec and Moosehead Lakes with littletrouble. Many of the anglers interviewed this past weekend wereparticipating in the Statewide Sebago Lake Derby and/or the Indian HillDerby.On Saturday Albert Hall and I were able to venture to the upper end ofChesuncook Lake due to the fresh snow. It was the first time this winter wehave been able to make the 20-mile trip to the northern area of ChesuncookLake, which is Maine's third largest lake. This has been due to the lack ofsnow and unsafe ice condition's earlier in the winter. There were manyparents and grandparents observed fishing with their kids and grandkids outof Chesuncook Village. Overall, the fishing was good and the kids wereenjoying their last weekend of fun before heading back to classes. Salmonwere coming well, and many of the anglers, both young and old, limited outon 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 onareas of the lake that were sheltered from the brutal northwest winds.Fishing was slow but the anglers having success had some nice fish. Laketrout are still the predominant fish in the catch and are providing goodaction to anglers who target them.Some notable cusk have been showing in the catch as of late and many anglershave 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 ordead bait. Although sometimes targeted in the open water season, the cuskfishery is primarily a winter sport. Catch rates increase after midFebruary, which coincide with post-spawning feeding activity, as reported inthe literature. Cusk spawn in mid-winter under the ice. It occurs at nightin shallow bays, on shoals, and points over sand and gravel. The adultsmove off the spawning area in the daytime. They are also caught in thedaytime by anglers fishing baits on or near the bottom for lake trout.Anglers who have never experienced fishing for cusk until the wee hours ofthe morning are missing out. It is not uncommon to catch a dozen or morecusk if you can find a concentration of spawning individuals. The mildflavored flesh of the cusk can be used in a variety of cooking methods, myfavorite being cusk chowder. Some fried salt pork, a few potatoes, anonion or two, some whole milk/evaporated milk, and of course, a couple cuskfillets. It makes for some taste table fair.-Stephen Seebac, Fisheries Biologist SpecialistRegion F, Penobscot Region Finally, we can say that Region F has good ice conditions throughoutthe Region. This weekend's survey crew found that the anglers on Cold StreamPond fishing for lake trout very successful. Several fish were observed upto 22". The salmon, though not numerous, continue to be in very good shape.The brook trout fishing has really slowed down. Fishing pressure continuesto be very low on Upper Jo Mary. One party was observed on Sunday. The 2anglers that made the trip were rewarded with a few brook trout. Fishingpressure was also low on Pleasant Pond in Island Falls with only 8 partiesobserved. No legal fish were reported caught, however reports for Saturdaywere just the opposite. The town of Island Falls held its annual WinterFest 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 wereregistered and weighed in at the May Mountain Variety. The first prizesalmon 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 ofexcitement catching smallmouth bass and pickerel. The Monday morning buzz at the local coffee shop in Dover-Foxcroft wasthe great fishing anglers are having on Schoodic Lake. Over the last weeklake trout up to 9 lbs were caught. Several lake trout in the 5 lb classwere 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 upin to the ice hole and his line broke off, and away the salmon went. Heestimated that he fish must have weighed at least 6 lbs. The big one almostalways gets away. Lots of smelts are being taken by hook and line. Baitdealers as well as recreational anglers are having excellent success. Againthis year, it seems that the smelts can be found around almost every point. Kids are still having good luck fishing our kids-only ice fishingwaters (Little Round Pond in Lincoln, Jerry Pond in Millinocket and PickerelPond in T 32 MD). We are getting reports of great white perch and pickerelfishing on Dolby, Pushaw, Seboeis and South Branch Lakes. Fishing pressure in Region F this winter has been very low. Poor iceconditions and inclement weather being the contributing factor. Just maybeMother Nature will settle down and we can have some great ice fishingconditions for the month of March. Get out and enjoy Maine's great outdoors.-Brian Campbell, Fisheries Biologist SpecialistRegion G - Aroostook CountyLight snow on Friday made travel conditions on area lakes prefect for theweekend anglers. Fishing pressure on backcountry lakes remains slow throughthis past weekend. I checked a young angler on Clear Lake, Chase Brooker ofFort Fairfield, who fishing with his dad caught his first brook trout whileice fishing. Travel conditions west of Ashland are good, road crews havedone great job dealing with all the rain we have had this winter. The lakeswe have checked this winter , i.e. Clear and the Musquacooks, Long Lake inthe Fish River Chain and lakes in the Houlton area have safe ice conditions.Naturally, anglers should give wide berth to inlets and the outlet wherethin ice may be an issue because of high flows in streams. The main bodiesof 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 coldweather and high winds. Angler activity in the eastern part of the regioncontinues to be steady although it has slowed a bit since the opening.Anglers interviewed in the southern reaches of the region were catchingmostly pickerel. The promise of a large salmon continues to draw anglers toLong Lake. The largest salmon measured at Long Lake this weekend by regionalstaff was a four pounder. A few hardy souls were interviewed on MadawaskaLake. 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.