May 8, 2006 Fishing Report
May 08, 2006 - TRC
Anyone planning to trout fish in streams should consider an investment in some bug dope. Last Thursday while turkey hunting near a local stream, I was besieged by a vicious onslaught of swarming black flies just as soon as the sun appeared over the horizon...eliminating any prospect of hunting "motionless". The bug dope will also help with ticks, which are noticeably more abundant this year. Low stream flows, warming temperatures, the arrival of black flies, and budding leaves are all signs that this is one of the best times of the year to stream/brook fish for brook trout. In addition, many of our hatchery fish have been stocked, although some of the more heavily fished streams/rivers are in the midst of being stocked a second time, which occurs in May. As a bonus this year, an additional 12,000 spring yearling brook trout from Dry Mills and Casco Hatcheries will be stocked into the following waters over the next week or so: Chandler Brook (Pownal); Chandler River (E. Br -Pownal); Coffin Pond (Brunswick); Cold Rain Pond (Naples); Collyer Brook (Gray); Ell Pond (Wells); Halls Pond (Paris); Hinkley Pond (lower -S Portland); Hinkley Pond (Upper- S Portland); Jordan River (Panther Run - Raymond); Josias River (York); Little River (Gorham); Little River (N. Br Gorham); Mill Brook (Westbrook); Mousam River (Sanford); Muddy River (Naples); Neoutequet River (N Berwick); Northwest River (Sebago); Otter Pond (#2 - Standish); Otter Pond (#4 - Standish); Pineland Pond (NG); Piscataqua River (W. Br - Falmouth); Presumpscot River (RT 35 -Windham); Royal River (NG/Yarmouth); Songo River (Locks) (Casco); Stetson Brook (Lewiston); Stevens Brook (NG); West Brook (Wells); Wilcox Pond (Biddeford); Wild River (Batchelder's Grant); and Worster Brook (Berwick).
At the time of this report, the Sebago smelt run is over, but what a run it was ! This year was the first in nearly a decade that smelts ran up the Crooked River as far as the Route 302 bridge. In addition, large schools of spawning smelts were observed off Quimby's beach and anglers reported unusually large clouds of smelts off the Songo River just prior to the start of the run. Smelts even ran in many of the brooks historically used along the western shore, including Bachelder Brook, Burnell Brook, and Nason Brook.
Needless to say we (and many anglers) are very pleased by the growth in the smelt population; a critical accomplishment towards rebuilding Sebago's salmon fishery. Although, as expected, the spring fishing for lake trout and salmon is not as fast as many anglers would like (due to previous reduced salmon stocking rates and declines in the togue population) the fish being caught are in excellent shape. Three to five pound salmon and togue are common and we predict anglers will be catching salmon in the 7 to 8 pound class by the end of the summer. We know of at least two lake trout reported this spring that weighed in the mid to high "teens". Last week Greg Massey, our census clerk reported one angler had caught 5 salmon, all between 3 and 6 pounds. Another angler fishing 50 to 70 feet of water caught 25 lake trout in one day !
Sebago salmon growth rates have markedly increased over the last 4 years, along with the smelt population. These gains are sufficient to support a very modest increase in salmon stocking, which will be increased from 1000 to 2000 fish this year. This proposed level of stocking equates to about 20% of the rate salmon are typically stocked in waters in southern Maine. This low level of stocking should not impact the smelt, given their current abundance. As long as the smelt population remains abundant and salmon growth remains good, salmon stocking rates will be cautiously and incrementally nudged up. This conservative management approach will reduce the potential for future dramatic swings in the smelt population.
Francis Brautigam, Regional Fisheries Biologist
Region B - Central Maine
Anglers call this office daily to ask the question 'how do I get to' such and such a pond, lake or stream. Most of the time, our reply is pretty easy, usually consisting of a set of directions to the requested access location. On occasion though, we have to give the disappointing answer that you can't get to a particular water due to lack of access.
We here in Maine are extremely fortunate that the great majority of our waters are accessible to all, whether they are anglers, boaters, or just plain old sightseers. However, our lakes and ponds are also very desirable places to have a camp or home. This is especially true around the mid-coastal neck of the woods. Many of our waters are becoming surrounded by camps, with an increasing number of those being built or transformed into year round homes. With increased development, access, and land for access to ponds is becoming a more challenging effort for this department and other state and local agencies concerned with acquiring, developing and maintaining access sites.
It usually takes several years to establish a permanent access point. First, a suitable parcel of land has to be located and purchased. Given current land values, especially those with water frontage, this can often be time consuming and may be expensive. Quite often too, the process requires public meetings and coordination with adjacent landowners.
Once the property is acquired, it needs to be developed to the point where it is functional. This includes some design work to provide for the intended use of the site. Some sites require ramps into the water, trailer-backing spaces, parking and rest facilities. Others might just be one or two parking spots off the side of the road and a trail to the water's edge.
On many waters, there are no 'formal' access points. On these, it is the good will of private waterfront landowners who allow the public to get to the water. We all need to be aware that it is our behavior and actions that ensure that this good will is continued. Please remember to ask first before assuming that it is all right to trespass across someone's land. Be sure to be courteous and respect the landowner's wishes and requests. If you see trash at the spot, do your part and pick it up. It is this sort of behavior that keeps non-public access points open. Far too often, property owners 'close' former access points because of disrespect to their land. From a Department standpoint, we can't stock fish in waters that don't have public access, so everyone, visitor and landowner alike, loses in lost angling opportunity.
We are getting all sorts of fishing reports from around the region. Some are glowing, like the one I got from Egypt Pond this morning. It seems a local angler and daughter were out boating and fishing last evening after the breeze died down and limited out on brookies. I've also had reports of fast fishing from Great Pond and Unity Pond.
Water levels in streams and rivers are somewhat lower than usual at this time of year, due to low snowmelt volumes and lack of rain so far this spring. The water is still relatively cold though and fish appear to be feeding pretty actively. While most of the major 'hatches' of aquatic insects are about to commence, midges and black flies have made their appearances known in a big way.
Robert Van-Riper, Regional Fisheries Biologist
Region C - Downeast
"The fishing has been fantastic!" replied a Downeast Maine Warden when I asked him for a local fishing report. "But the chubs have already begun to bite, so anglers shouldn't hesitate if they hope to fish the streams and rivers."
If you love to fish, now is the time to assemble your favorite fishing gear, waders, or your choice of boat, and pursue that healthy addiction to fishing. And if you fished in the past, but have let your license lapse for a few years while your rod and reel gathered dust in the garage, this is the year to get back into fishing! While you are at it, take a youngster fishing, or recruit a friend to start fishing with you this year.
The early start of spring 2005 has sped up the timing of Maine's spring fishing. And increased brook trout natural reproduction has been clearly noted, due to cooler waters and higher water levels of the past 3 summers, so anglers report much improved trout numbers, especially compared to the drought years of the 1990's. Hatches are just starting, so afternoons on the streams will yield memories of dimples and rings like raindrops as trout surface feed on mayflies. Nothing can match the excitement of matching the hatch at this time.
Landlocked salmon and lake trout spring fishing is in its prime right now! West Grand Lake has been producing hot, steady action for both species. Growth of salmon is excellent at West Grand, with some of last year's stocked fish having grown from 8" when stocked to 16¼" when caught this spring - it doesn't get any better than that! Cathance Lake in Cooper, Nash's Lake in Calais, and Green Lake in Ellsworth have also been steady producers. Whether you like streamers, spoons, Rapalas, or bait, now is the time to be trolling your favorite salmon lake !
Spring stocking is well underway. Spring yearling brook trout have already been stocked in many of the regular ponds, and anglers are enjoying the action. This week, the Downeast Regional Biologists will be boat-stocking landlocked salmon in both Hancock and Washington Counties. We boat the fish into deeper water before stocking them to move them away from shallow-water predators, a practice that has improved survival rates.
Enjoy eastern Maine's fishing this week - the lawn and garden can wait. The blackflies and mosquitoes are out now, so remember your favorite repellent.
Rick Jordan, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist
Region D - Western Mountains
Anglers contemplating an excursion to Mooselookmeguntic Lake will notice a major rule change for landlocked salmon. The minimum length limit was reduced to 12 inches, and the daily bag limit was increased to three, with only one fish over 18 inches permitted (all 3 may be 12 to 18 inches). These liberalized catch limits were recommended because wild salmon have become so abundant that the available forage (smelts) cannot support good salmon growth. There are currently several large age-classes of salmon that are slow-growing, skinny, and downright unattractive. This "stockpiling" of salmon is also beginning to negatively affect the growth of the lake's outstanding native brook trout population, because they rely on smelts, too. The increase in salmon abundance has been coincident with higher release rates of legal-size fish - 76% of legal salmon were released by anglers in 2004 - and reduced fishing pressure since 1998.
Since this fishery is supported entirely by natural reproduction, harvest regulations are our primary tool for reducing the number of predators and maintaining a reasonable balance between them and smelts. So we're encouraging everyone to "comply" with the intent of the liberalized rules. Remember, wild salmon in Mooselookmeguntic are an eminently renewable natural resource, and harvesting a few meals will in no way destroy this fishery !
Another chronic problem with salmon growth is occurring in Richardson Lake. This fishery, unlike Mooselookmeguntic, is supported largely by hatchery stocks because spawning and rearing habitat is limited. We'll attempt to rebuild this lake's forage base by suspending our salmon stocking planned for 2006, and we'll recommend the closure of all the lake's tributaries to the dipping of smelts, beginning in 2007.
Local Guides Kash Haley and Kris Thompson report some excellent catches of brook trout and landlocked salmon from the Rapid and Magalloway Rivers. Reports of superb pond fishing are beginning to dribble in as well. Get out and enjoy!
Dave Boucher, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist
Region E - Moosehead Region
The smelt runs are winding down in the Moosehead Lake Region. A few smelts and eggs were observed in the usual brooks on Moosehead Lake, but overall the runs on the big lake were a little disappointing. The best reports came from Kingsbury Pond where the smelts were very abundant this spring. Piper Pond also had another good smelt run which is good news since we have reduced the number of stocked splake and will plant a very small number of salmon starting this spring.
The hatchery trucks from the Embden and Enfield facilities have begun delivering fish the region. Many of our "put and take" waters will get their first stocking in the next two weeks. These fish provide fishing in easily accessible waters and are intended to provide fishing opportunities in waters that are not able to sustain wild fisheries. It can also take some of the fishing pressure off of the wild trout ponds in the area since many anglers take advantage of these stocked fish. In general, these waters have a two fish limit to help distribute the catch amongst anglers over several weeks.
This past week we stocked the Piscataquis River in Dover-Foxcroft and Guilford. Prior to the late 1980's, the river was not clean enough to stock. Now that new wastewater treatment facilities are online, the river is in great shape. We stock the river several times in the spring and again in the fall. It is also open to fishing year-round. This stretch of river now provides a tremendous fishing opportunity to southern Piscataquis County. It is not uncommon to see anglers wading up and down the river in the evenings, flycasting for brook trout (see the attached photo). We frequently take calls in the office from out-of-town anglers requesting information on the stocking of the river. So, the put and take stocking program not only provides expanded fishing opportunities for license holders, but also contributes a little to the local economy by attracting folks from outside the immediate area. That's a win-win for everyone. We want to thank Bob Nelson and his bucket brigade from Dover-Foxcroft for their assistance in stocking the river.
Other waters that have been recently stocked include: West Outlet of the Kennebec on Rte 15 near Moosehead Lake, Crocker Pd - Dennistown Plt, Heald and Sandy Streams - Jackman, Black Stream- Sangerville, Chase Stream Pd- Misery Twp, Chub Pd - Hobbstown and Fitzgerald Pd - Big Moose Twp.
Tim Obrey, Regional Fisheries Biologist
Region F - Penobscot Region
You should have been here last week ! Seems like every opportunity that I've had this spring to go fishing, I've heard that refrain. Cold Stream was as hot as it gets, with numerous anglers calling to rave about the nice, fat salmon that they were boating in mid-April. Four year-old salmon were being reported between 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 pounds. Good turnaround for Cold Stream, which has had its share of problems the last few years. But by the third week in April, things had slowed considerably. Togue anglers were still dredging up some nice lakers from deeper water, but the spring salmon fishery "up on top" had ended. Just about the time I got to go.
Went up to East Grand the end of the month, and guess what ! They had world class fishing for lake trout the week before. One party on Patriot's Day caught many togue throughout the day between 5 and 10 pounds ! Smelt runs at East Grand have been very impressive, and the condition of salmon being boated is starting to reflect that. Out to Duck Lake, much the same story. Most everybody has been hooking up with some very impressive fish, with many landlocks in the 3+ pound class two days before we arrived ! We did manage a few landlocks in the 15 to 18 inch category though.
Very discouraging news from Sebago Lake this past week ! Three more pike were reported this past April, with evidence now that they are reproducing. The count from this past winter and spring at Pushaw now stands at 25, with 11 observed during this past ice fishing season, and 14 from our spring trapnet operations. The largest was an 11 1/2 pounder that was 8 years old, and a 16-inch fish aged at 2 years old. Again, very discouraging !
The Penobscot River smallmouth bass fishery is just beginning, with reports of catches of 5 to 15 bass in a half day of fishing. River water temperatures are starting to climb, so it shouldn't be long before things really improve. There are many opportunities for float trips on the Penobscot for anglers with a canoe available and the desire for something very different. You can put in, for example, at Passadumkeag and float down to Greenbush, or put in Lincoln and float down to Howland/West Enfield. Highly recommended trips that you should not only have some great fishing, but also see otter, eagles, deer and other wildlife.
Jim Albert of Glenburn was in the office the other day with a mounted salmon that had caught back in 2002 at Schoodic Lake. The fish was 34" long and weighed 13 pounds and 3 ounces! After looking at the scales from that fish, it was determined that it was a wild landlocked salmon that spent two years in the stream, and four years in the lake. I will try to get a picture posted on our website soon.
Nels Kramer, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist
Region G - Aroostook County
Fishing continues to be excellent in the small trout ponds in eastern Aroostook County. With the upcoming traditional Mother's Day weekend, families should make plans to visit some of these ponds for a picnic lunch and spending some time fishing. Hopefully the blackflies will not be too thick. Legal size brook trout were just recently stocked in the East Branch Mattawamkeag and North Branch Meduxnekeag Rivers. Other waters that were recently stocked with these trout include Rockabema Lake, Durepo Lake and Limestone Stream. Splake have been stocked in Cochrane and Conroy Lakes. Echo Lake, Hanson Brook Lake and Monson Pond have also provided great fishing.
Smelt runs in Long Lake have been excellent this year. Most of the brooks all around the lake were "black" with this important forage fish for landlocked salmon. This should translate into excellent salmon growth for the salmon population in Long Lake. Smelt runs in most other regional lakes were also observed to contain good numbers of spawning fish. It may take a while for fish to get back on the feed after they have had their initial gorge on smelts. Many times this leads to a discouraging fishing trip for anglers expecting fast ice out fishing. My advice: Be patient, it can only get better.
Dave Basley, Regional Fisheries Biologist
NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.