Old News Archive

Ice Fishing Report - March 14, 2006

March 14, 2006 - TRC

Ice Fishing Report

Region A- Southwestern Maine

Less than 3 weeks officially remain as the 2006 ice fishing season draws to a close. In anticipation of an early ice out, many ice shacks were pulled off the ice over the weekend. Some anglers commented that the ice had deteriorated so much in the last week that they were done ice fishing for the year. Waters in York County have experienced the greatest loss of ice, where there are lots of open water hazards along shorelines, pressure ridges, where ice shacks had been located, and points, although where ice is present, it may be up to a foot thick. Use of vehicles or even ATVs and snowmobiles on the ice in York County is not recommended. Waters in Southern Oxford County are supporting 12 to 18 inches of ice, with fewer open water hazards.

Those anglers who ventured out over the spring-like weekend found the fish to be biting well on many waters. Brian Lewis reported seeing fish on most waters surveyed in York and Oxford Counties. This is usually a great time of the year to target large bass as evidenced by a 4 and 5 pound smallmouth bass Brian Lewis observed on Norway Lake last Saturday. While overall angling pressure is dropping, catch rates are holding up, and we still receive good reports of salmon, brown trout, rainbow trout, and even brook trout being taken. In most years, brook trout fishing typically offers the bulk of the action for the first month of the season, but not this year. We're seeing brook trout still taken in March, particularly for those that down size their bait and are willing to jig. Otter Pond #2 (Standish),
Littlefield Pond (Sanford), and Worthley Pond (Poland) are good prospects for late season brook trout action.

Overall, low winter use and harvest should provide a windfall to late season winter anglers and those awaiting the open water fishing season.

On a final note regarding the preparation of weekly fishing reports...We have strived to provide a balance between providing up to date fishing information for anglers, while not disclosing "secret" fishing locations or techniques. It is imperative for the successful management of fisheries in the region that we receive information from the public on water-specific management and we have tried to be discrete in our use of this information, particularly when requested. We hope this balance has been achieved and anglers remain comfortable contacting regional biologists to discuss their fishing experiences, as well as with their concerns.

-Francis Brautigam, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Region B - Central Maine

This being the last weekly fishing report of the ice fishing season, I thought a short review of the season would be appropriate. Highlights of the season were poor ice conditions coupled with a few bad weekends of weather and lots of water. For these reasons, fishing pressure was down considerably. Data from our surveys indicate angler use down approximately 40 % from last year, with one lake down as much as 85 %. Another reason fishing pressure may be down is catch rates. We have noted in previous years that during high water, winter fishing is usually slow, and we certainly have had plenty of water this winter. The good news is that catch rates appear to be picking up for the last weeks of the season, and if ice
conditions hold up, there should be good fishing. The slow winter fishing is good news for the spring angler. The low number of fish harvested this winter will make more fish available this spring. A number of ponds that received fall yearling stockings of brook trout (12-14") last fall will be good places to start your open water fishing come April 1.

-James Lucas, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist

Region C - Downeast

After last weekend's 50 degree weather and this week's rain, ice conditions are deteriorating fast, especially on the immediate coastal waters that had just buttoned up within the last couple of weeks. Caution is the word on the larger lakes below Route 9 as the ice turns to mush. The warm, wet conditions turn the top of the ice to "corn" ice and the sun's penetrating rays warm surface waters and erode ice from underneath. With both of these phenomenon's working, it won't be long before ice conditions turn treacherous on its way to early ice outs.

Tip of week! Those anglers seeking to catch large smallmouth bass through the ice need to know that now is the time. Typically, smallmouths are dormant in the winter months as they serve out their 190 day starvation period in the temperate regions of North America. This begins in October and ends in May. Within this period of time, smallies move very little and feed seldom while living off their fat reserves. However, as spawning time in May and June approaches, big gravid (loaded with eggs) females need nutrients to help with egg development and will start to feed in February and March. These pregnant feeding forays usually happen around cover areas where food is plentiful such as rock piles, points, saddle areas, downed trees and weed beds. Anglers seeking to catch these 3 to 4 ½ pound fish should use large bait and fish them in 6 to 15 feet of water with the bait set at least 3 feet off the bottom, over the tops of cover. Remember, fish can see up better than they can see down, so placing your bait up high is your best bet. Here are a few Downeast waters where past winters have proven successful for the ardent bass angler: Webb Pond - Eastbrook, Georges Pond - Franklin, Jones Pond - Gouldsboro, Molasses Pond - Eastbrook, Alamoosook Lake - Orland, Toddy Pond - Orland, Boyden Lake - Perry and Round Lake in Charlotte. Consult your law book on these waters and others, as many of these lakes have a 1 fish bag and 18-inch length limit on bass.

Now for a bit of Downeast togue (lake trout) history and science. It may interest many of you that most our togue populations in Hancock and Washington counties are not native to the waters where we now find them. For the past ten years, biologists in this region have looked closely at 8 self-sustaining populations of togue Downeast, to better understand their performances in these lakes. To do this, it was best to go back to the beginning and look at when togue were first introduced. The 8 waters we researched that now have moderate to over abundant wild lake trout populations are: Branch Lake, Toddy Pond, Tunk Lake, West Grand Lake, Eagle Lake, Jordan Pond, Beech Hill Pond and Phillips Lake.

Of these waters, Branch Lake was the oldest stocked lake trout water Downeast, as its one and only stocking occurred in 1899. From this stocking, as most of you know, derived a thriving togue population that is now its principle fishery.

Beech Hill Pond, Toddy Pond, Tunk Lake, Phillips Lake and West Grand Lake where all stocked for the first time between 1937 and 1938, and stocked periodically until 1989. Jordan Pond was first stocked in 1944 and periodically until 1992. Eagle Lake was first stocked in 1974 and stocking ended in 1995. All of the above stockings were ceased after it was determined that these populations were producing well enough on their own to sustain a fishery and keep themselves going. The success of these self-sustaining populations is largely contributed to the increased protective general length limit of 18 inches that was established in the late 1970's, as well as an increase in catch and release angling. Both of
these conservation efforts helped protect mature females reach their spawning shoals and increase reproduction rates.

In looking closely at these established populations, biologists collected ear bones (otoliths) from wild togue from the eight waters to learn more about their growth rates and longevity. The only way to do this is to pop ear bones from sampled fish, look at them under a microscope, examine the growth rings and determine their ages. It was interesting to find the following averages from each of the individual waters:

West Grand Lake - age 4 fish averaged 19. 5 inches, age 6 averaged 20.25 inches, age 8, 20.5 inches, age 10, 21 inches, age 14, 22.5 inches and age 18 year old fish averaged 23.3 inches. The oldest fish we examined were age 18.

Branch Lake - age 6 -19.8 inches, age 8 - 20.2 inches, age 10 - 21.2 inches,
and age 11 fish averaged 22.4 inches. The oldest specimen examined was 13
years old and 22.83 inches long.

Beech Hill Pond - age 4 - 17 inches, age 6 - 19 inches, age 7 - 20.2 inches,
age 10 - 23.5 inches. The oldest fish examined was 12 years old and 25.47 inches.

Tunk Lake - age 6 - 14.95 inches, age 7 -15.53 inches, age 11 - 22.22 inches, age 12 - 22.79 inches, age 14 - 22.8 inches, age 16 - 24.58 inches. The oldest fish sampled at Tunk was 23 years old and measured 35.98 inches long.

Phillips Lake - age 7 - 16.99 inches, age 8 - 17.32 inches, age 9 - 17.19 inches, age 13 - 21.52 inches. The oldest fish examined was 15 years old and measured 20.67 inches.

Toddy Pond - age 4 - 13.82 inches, age 7 -13.39 inches, age 8 - 14.94 inches, age 10 - 15.94 inches, age 11 - 16.18 inches, age 13 - 20.33 inches. The oldest fish examined was 16 years old and 20.55 inches.

Eagle Lake - age 4 - 11.96 inches, age 11 - 21 inches, age 12 - 22.84 inches, age 14 23.96 inches. The oldest specimen examined was 19 years old and measured 25.61 inches.

Jordan Pond - age 4 - 12.73 inches, age 5 - 13.4 inches, age 7 - 16.6 inches, age 8 - 18.19, age 11 - 21.22 inches. The oldest fish examined was 12 years old and measured 21.65 inches.

I hope you find this information interesting. For a more in-depth analysis of these findings I will be publishing a report this summer. If you're interested in receiving a copy of this report please e-mail your mailing address and I will send you one as soon as they come off the presses. My e-mail address is gregory.burr@maine.gov

-Greg Burr, Fisheries Biologist Specialist

Region D - Western Mountains

Last week's fine spring-like weather kept lots of folks interested in ice fishing, despite the sloppy conditions. Many lakes had a few inches of standing water, especially on the windward shores, and getting around on snowmobiles continued to present some difficulties due to the lack of snow. When these conditions persist, an ATV is often a better choice for traveling.

The warm March temperatures are pleasant, of course, but in most cases it means the best days have passed for salmon, trout, and togue fishing. Recognizing this, many ice anglers place more emphasis on warmwater species, such as white perch, pickerel, and bass. March can provide the best bass fishing of the winter, and indeed we've seen some excellent catches during the last week or so. Late-season bass are usually some of the largest fish seen during the winter. These big bass are often the first to initiate spawning later in the spring, because they've passed through the tough Maine winter with plenty of stored energy. Clearwater Lake and Hancock Pond are good bets for big, late-winter smallmouths.

Overall, the 2006 ice fishing season has been rather hum-drum. Poor ice, weird weather, and the generally slow fishing make me look forward to ice-out, and baseball season.

-Dave Boucher, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist

Region E - Moosehead Region

In our travels this weekend, the Moosehead fisheries staff surprisingly were faced with some tough traveling on Moosehead and Sebec Lakes. With the lack of snow on the lakes, the warm temperatures created lots of standing water. By mid afternoon, most of the ice was covered with an inch of water and many pockets of 6 to 12 inches of water were also encountered. Whether folks were on snowmobiles or ATV's it seemed that no one was able to keep dry. Oddly enough, a good set of rain gear was definitely the garment of choice this beautiful, sunny weekend.

People venturing onto lakes and ponds which have water on them should be
cautious around pressure ridges and even in areas of earlier ice fishing activity. We observed the water draining through cracks around these ridges and old fishing holes. Water draining through these openings had eroded the ice and opened them up considerably. One fishing hole I observed was acting like a sink drain and had opened up approximately 2 feet across.

We did encountered several parties fishing in the Rockwood and Greenville areas. I also noted that several of the parties contained our next generation of anglers. Many of these parties had brought the youngsters along to take advantage of the warm March weather. Unfortunately, the fish did not seem to cooperate, as very few fish were observed on the ice. However, the youngsters I spoke with were having a good time just the same. One little guy mentioned that the hot dogs were good and the snow was sticky !

Moosehead Lake gave up a very nice lake trout this past week. Neal Molaghan of Rockwood caught the 15-½ pound, 37-½ inch lake trout. The word from Sebec Lake this past week was that fish were coming slow but the salmon and lake trout that were caught were in exceptionally good condition. Lake trout in the 5 to 7 pound class were checked on the ice and a couple nice salmon in the 3-pound range.

Mid to late March is a time when anglers who have ice shacks on a body of water should start thinking about pulling them off or at least getting them closer to an access point so they aren't faced with venturing out onto bad ice. This was evident this past weekend as many shacks showed up at various landings around Moosehead. Anglers that haven't been to their ice shack for a while may want to do so to ensure that it remains high and dry. Warmer temperatures have a tendency to cause blocking materials supporting ice shacks to settle into the ice and slush. And as anyone that has found a shack in this condition can attest it's not a fun task in getting it out.

As a quick reminder to anglers removing shacks from Maine waters, here are a
couple of the laws pertaining to ice shacks on Maine waters:
* Any ice fishing shack left for more than 15 days on property not owned by the person owning the shack, without permission of the landowner, is considered abandoned and may be removed or destroyed by the landowner. The landowner may recover any costs incurred for removal or destruction of the shack through civil action.

* All ice fishing shacks, while on the ice of any inland waters, must be labeled on the outside in 2-inch letters with the name and address of the owner. Ice fishing shacks must be removed from the ice of inland waters within 3 days after those waters close to ice fishing. (This also applies on border waters with New Hampshire).

For example: Sebec Lake closes this Wednesday, March 15th. Ice shacks must be removed from the ice by March 18th and removed from the access point by March 30th.
It was reported this past weekend that one of our radio tagged lake trout from Moosehead Lake was caught. The lake trout was caught and released in the Rockwood Area. There is no way to tell which of the 26 lake trout it was as the tags are located inside the fish with no exterior distinguishing marks other than the visible antenna running along its stomach. This lake trout is the second fish to be caught of the 30 fish we collected and tagged this past fall. We would like to thank the angler that caught and released this fish and would also encourage other anglers if they should encounter one of our tagged fish on the end of their line to release it as well.

-Jeff Bagley, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist

Region F, Penobscot Region

Fishing success has remained quite spotty across the region with very good fishing in some places and very slow in fishing in others. Recent reports indicate that fishing has been slow in East Grand and Deering Lake in the eastern part of the region, but it has been better in the waters in upper Hancock County.

Cold Stream in Enfield has produced some good lake trout fishing and the liberal regulations have allowed anglers to keep more fish. This winter some very nice salmon in the 5-pound class have been taken as well. There has been some excellent fishing on the kids only ponds, Pickerel Pond near Old Town, Jerry Pond in Millinocket and Little Round Pond in Lincoln. Reports from Seboeis Lake have been good. Anglers are reporting nice catches of salmon, splake and white perch. South Branch Lake is producing lots of nice white perch. Upper Jo Mary anglers are catching 16" salmon and 10" brook trout. If there are any pickerel anglers reading this, Passamagamet Lake in T1R9 is producing some four plus ponders.

As spring approaches, the Cobb Fish Hatchery crew under the direction of fish culture supervisor Henry Hartley will begin working on their spring stocking schedule. This spring, the guys here at the hatchery are scheduled to stock 10,400 landlocked salmon, 23,000 splake, 12,500 lake trout, and 68,000 brook trout. The total number of fish being reared at fish hatchery is 125,500. Cobb Hatchery has 3 new faces; John Wilmot, Assistant Fish Culturist and Fish Culturist A.J. Ludden and Trapper Lemay are responsible for producing some of the best fish in the State.

The warm temperatures of the past week and the 1/2 " of rain is rapidly
deteriorating ice conditions. Use extreme caution when venturing onto any lake to ice fish. The increasing warm temperatures and the movement of smelts into their spawning areas should turn the tables on the doldrums and the cold temperatures of winter, reviving the interest of both angler and game fish.

-Brian Campbell, Fisheries Biologist Specialist

Region G - Aroostook County

Warm weather conditions made for sloppy travel this weekend, but this did not deter anglers heading to the Musquacook Lake area to fish. Nineteen anglers were checked on Clear Lake Saturday, the most activity I have seen in the previous weekends that I had been checking the lake. All anglers were targeting lake whitefish with jig sticks in hand (one angler was using two jig sticks at the same time !). Several whitefish, trout and togue were caught while the bite was on in the morning, but come afternoon, the only action was grabbing a tan from the warm sunshine. A number of anglers were also checked on 2nd Musquacook with several togue and trout laid out on the ice. Road conditions for travel are equally as sloppy as the travel on the ice as the roads were breaking up under the bright skies. Anglers traveling to the back country lakes to fish should be prepared for rough travel until a cold spell arrives but it is normal in mid to late March to have the sun by mid-day melt the ice in the roads as bare gravel is exposed to absorb the heat. I would emphasize bringing suitable tarps or covers to protect gear
when enroute in vehicles or sleds. Sunscreen and sunglasses are equally nice to have this time of year.

This past weekend was the last one to fish Long, Cross, Square and Eagle lakes in the Fish River Chain as these lakes close to fishing on March 15. Ice conditions at present are excellent for removing shacks from these lakes. This winter will be remembered for the world record salmon caught on a tip-up at Long Lake. Will this record stand for 15 years as was the case with the former record? Only time will tell but it will make for a shorter summer in anticipation of ice fishing season 2007 !

In closing, I would like to offer my congratulations and thanks for a job well done to Ron Brokaw, the soon to be retired Regional Fishery Biologist from Region C in Jonesboro, our Downeast region. I have enjoyed working with Ron these past 27 years and in all cases, whether or not you agreed with his management proposals, you can be assured that his first and foremost concern was the fishery resource. His quick wit and laughter has been especially appreciated at meetings in which topics are often beat to death like a dead beaver. His two drawbacks: that of being a Mets fan in Red Sox Nation and a University of New Hampshire graduate in Black Bear Country ! Best Wishes in your retirement Ron and thanks for the memories.
Go Sox!

-Dave Basley, Regional Fisheries Biologist

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