Old News Archive

January 23, 2007 - Ice Fishing Report

January 23, 2007 - TRC

Region A- Southwestern Maine

The long awaited winter weather finally arrived in southern Maine last week, reversing the trend of deteriorating ice conditions. Smaller ponds in York and Cumberland Counties refroze and some moderately sized waters finally set up. In fact, this past weekend was the first serious effort to survey winter anglers and ice conditions allowed on-foot surveys of over a dozen small ponds in York, Cumberland and Oxford Counties. Foot travel on the ice was a must, as the ice is unsafe for ATVs and snowmobiles, particularly in the lower portion of the region. We found 2 to 5 inches of ice on smaller ponds in York and Cumberland Counties. Since many smaller waters in southern Oxford had retained some ice prior to last week's freeze, the ice conditions were more favorable, providing 4 to 8 inches of ice on many smaller waters. With the cold conditions forecasted for this week, the ice conditions should continue to show improvement in southern Maine and hopefully some of the larger, deeper lakes will finally set up.

The southern end of Sebago Lake ("the station") is one of the first areas of Maine's second largest lake to freeze, but the persistent winds that have accompanied the recent cold temperatures, have prevented formation of any ice in the lower lake. Although, there was some slush ice was observed in one small area, which suggests that we may be getting close.

Our angler survey detail over the weekend focused on those waters stocked with "catchable" fall yearling brook trout (12 - 14 inch brook trout). This past fall, we significantly increased our stocking of these larger size trout in southern Maine to enhance winter brook trout angling opportunities. Efforts to providing good fishing for brook trout in southern Maine has been a real challenge due to the extent of illegal introductions of competing warmwater fish, in particular bass. The use of larger sized fall yearling brook trout which are less vulnerable to predation is one strategy being used to enhance winter fishing for brook trout.

Good catches of fall stocked brook trout were observed on Knight's Pond (Berwick), Littlefield Pond (Sanford), Symmes Pond (Newfield), Keoka Lake (Waterford), Horne Pond (Limington), and Otter Pond #2 (Standish). Many waters stocked with fall yearling brook trout were also stocked with smaller numbers of 2 to 3 pound retired hatchery brood brook trout. These "brood" are very easily caught and are usually fished out very early in the season, but the lack of ice this winter has allowed for some extended fishing for these large fish, which showed up on several ponds surveyed over the weekend. A complete list of waters stocked with brood fish is available on the Department's web site (www.mefishwildlife.com).

New this year, Round Pond (Lyman) was opened exclusively to kids under the age of 16 (ice fishing only) under a two trap limit. Early reports indicate great catches of brook trout up to 14 inches long over the weekend. Once the word gets out, this fishing opportunity will most certainly be well received by youth anglers. This fishery was developed in partnership between the MDIFW and York County Fish and Game in an effort to support and encourage youth fishing.

Although some good fishing was observed on waters surveyed, angler use on most surveyed waters was generally light, and many anglers reported ice fishing for the first time this year. Angler use is expected to increase next weekend as angler confidence builds with improving ice conditions.

-Francis Brautigam, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Region B - Central Maine

The unusual weather has every one wondering if this years ice-fishing season will last very long. If the truth be told, it will probably last as long as we want it to, because if you recall in a normal winter, anglers are fired up to get out on January 1, but come the end of February, the urge is not so intense and outdoor pursuits are geared to warmer weather sports. Open water fishing is starting to be the hot topic. So when ice is safe, anglers will venture forth and get their fill and catch the fish they are after and eventually when they have had enough, other interests are tugging at them.

When I was a youngster, my dad, my three brothers and I would get up before the crack of dawn and head off to a favorite fishing pond and punch some holes in the ice. We would have a good mess of pan fish before too long. By late morning boredom would set in and after lunch we would be thinking about heading home. I remember one time on a popular water when other anglers showed up after we had several fish on the ice. They would set up around us thinking they would have similar success, only to be disappointed and because of poor luck announce “I’ve had enough of this kind of fishing!” and pull up and go home. So a fishing trip or season is all you make it out to be ----and when we have safe ice, try your favorite water and be patient and persevere.

I had to write this column in advance of a trip I was assigned to go on with the Fish and Wildlife Department, so I’ve had little recent contact with anglers on my surveys. A few anglers are venturing out on the available ice, so reports are few and fish hard to come by, as the “best” spot is not iced over. The smaller waters seem to be the best destinations, with a few coves and protected areas on the bigger waters with safe ice. Always test the ice you walk on with a cutting tool, before venturing out too far. Safety equipment such as ice picks and rope are good items to bring with you in case someone does break through the ice. Many advances have been made that help in making our winter sports safe, so go to your favorite shop and check out the devices that will make your trip more enjoyable. ---Be safe out there!

-William Woodward, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist

Region C – Downeast

Winter has finally arrived and with it the long sought after ice coverings on the Downeast area’s lakes and ponds. Biologists this past weekend found many eager anglers making their first trips of the season. Biologists reported that most regional water that are 1,000 acres and below are fully covered with 3 to 6 inches of ice. Some of the larger coastal lakes in the region are still treacherous with large areas of open water and thin ice conditions. Waters such as Tunk Lake, Donnell Pond, Gardner Lake, Green Lake, Branch Lake, Long Pond and Jordan Pond all have portions of unsafe ice or large areas of open water, so caution is advised if attempts are made to fish these popular waters.

As many anglers know, the first few weeks after the safe ice has formed is the best time to fish with many ready takers of all species giving fishermen fast action. Washington and Hancock counties hot spot where anglers will want to concentrate as follows:

Washington County:
Keenes Lake – Calais – Brook Trout
Goulding Lake – Robbinston – Brook Trout
Keely Lake – Marshfield – Splake and Brook Trout
Indian Lake – Whiting – Brook Trout
Montegail Pond – Centerville – Brook Trout
Pleasant River Lake – Beddington – Splake
Big Lake – T 27 ED – Salmon
Pocumcus Lake – T 6 ND – Salmon, Whitefish & Togue
West Musquash Lake – Talmadge – Togue
Pennamaquan Lake – Charlotte – Brown Trout
Foxhole Pond – Deblois – Brook Trout (*Children’s only water)

Hancock County:
Lower Hadlock – Northeast Harbor – Brook Trout
Bubble Pond – Bar Harbor – Brook Trout
Echo Lake – Southwest Harbor – Brook Trout & Salmon
Jacob Buck Pond – Bucksport – Brook Trout & Splake
Craig Pond – Orland – Brook Trout
Anderson Pond – T 10 SD – Brook Trout
Second Pond – Dedham – Brook Trout
Molasses Pond – Eastbrook – Brown Trout & Salmon
Donnell Pond – Franklin – Salmon
Beech Hill Pond – Otis – Salmon & Togue
Brewer Lake – Orrington – Salmon
Eagle Lake – Bar Harbor – Salmon & Brook Trout
Phillips Lake – Dedham – Salmon
Fitts Pond – Clifton – Splake

These waters are predicted to produce fair to fast fishing in the early season but please use caution when venturing out on any of the lakes and pond in the Downeast region, especially around known spring holes, inlets, outlets, saddle areas and in northerly wind fetch areas where breezes are funneled between mountains and keep surface waters moving, making thin ice conditions and pockets of open water.

Be safe and enjoy winter’s opportunities in Maine’s beautiful outdoors!

-Greg Burr, Assistant Regional Fishery Biologist

Region D - Western Mountains

The ice fishing season in western Maine is a good two weeks behind schedule in terms of ice formation. Anglers are finally getting onto the ice in numbers, "rimming it" as Dave Howatt says, meaning that they're fishing around the edges of the lakes where the ice is thickest. This method of fishing is productive for most species, but togue, which live in the deeper water, are less vulnerable this year. Ice thickness approaches a foot in the protected coves but thins to two inches or less over the deepest water. Anglers now also need to watch out for slush, and there are still some open spots on the deep lakes, as evidenced by rising mist on cold mornings. Our new kid-fishing waters that open to ice fishing - Toothaker Pond and Tibbetts Pond - are attracting young anglers who are pulling some nice big stocked brook trout though the ice.

Although we have more lakes open to ice fishing than we can check in a single year, we have fewer than most other regions of the state because the Rangeleys are closed to ice fishing. Accordingly, both Dave Boucher and Dave Howatt have traveled north for a weekend each to help check anglers on Big Eagle Lake. They enjoy the change in scenery and provide much-appreciated help to the biologists in northern Maine. Dave Boucher, who returned from Big Eagle on January 21, reports good fishing for trout but the usual problems with thin ice and slush.

There will be a milestone of sorts at Rangeley Lake in 2007 in that it will be the first time since 1962 that the lake will not be stocked. The suspension of stocking is a temporary measure, imposed because salmon growth rates have been declining somewhat for several years despite reductions in the stocking rate. We stocked 3,000 salmon as recently as 2001 but have gradually decreased the number to 1,500 in 2006. Yet, numbers of smelt continue to decline. The reason, it seems, is the increasing contribution of wild fish being hatched out in the lake's tributaries. Because of the one salmon limit and the high voluntary release rate of mature fish, spawning has increased and the composition of the salmon population is slowly changing from hatchery to wild fish. We've also been stocking a relatively small number of brook trout - we'll suspend this stocking for a year also given that large brookies also eat smelt and because we're beginning to see some wild brook trout in the fishery. The goal, of course, is to temporarily reduce the number of hungry mouths so that the smelt population can rebound to its former abundance.

-Forrest Bonney, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Region E - Moosehead Region

Ice conditions are improving, but not as fast as we would like. With last week’s cold weather ice thickness on our smaller ponds is likely over eight inches with as much as a foot in places. Despite last weeks cold temperatures anglers heading out onto larger lakes such as Sebec, Chamberlain, and Moosehead should still use caution.

In an attempt to get out and check anglers on Moosehead Lake this past weekend, I did venture out onto the southern part of the lake on Sunday. I only encountered 3 parties fishing and the folks I spoke to are still a bit reluctant to venture too far out onto the ice. In and around Greenville and Greenville Junction, the folks I spoke with said they had ice thickness ranging from 5 to 14 inches. The thickest ice is in East Cove inside of Mile Light, which has been buttoned up for about a month. At the Public Landing in Rockwood I spoke to a couple of parties that were fishing approximately 100 yards off shore and they had 4 to 8 inches of ice. One good thing is that this latest snowstorm didn’t drop the large amount of snow that was earlier forecasted and the strong northwest wind we had on Saturday and Sunday swept a lot of the snow to shore, so there isn’t a thick blanket of snow to insulate what ice we have. Lets hope for continued cold temperatures to help increase ice cover on these larger lakes.

We have been checking Chamberlain Lake, Telos Lake, and Round Pond this winter and have been finding that the few parties that we have interviewed were experiencing some nice catches of lake trout and brook trout. Traveling on and around the lake has slowly improved so that the guys were able to get around the lake safely. However, anglers going there for the first time still should use caution. In conducting our creel census work at Chamberlain, there has been a report of one of our radio tagged brook trout being caught. Upon catching the trout the angler noticed the external antenna and we are grateful to report that this fish was released and will continue to provide us with some very valuable information about brook trout in this system. We would continue to encourage anglers to release any tagged trout that they may encounter within the Chamberlain Lake System.

Reports from some of our smaller waters, which were stocked this past fall with 12-14 inch fall yearling brook trout have been very encouraging. Mt. View Pond and Prong Pond here in the Greenville area have been producing some good fishing. Harlow and Manhanock Ponds have seen lots of use this winter and have provided some enjoyable fishing for folks in the Guilford area. A few anglers making there way to Piper Pond in Abbott have reported some good splake fishing as well.

-Jeff Bagley, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist

Region F, Penobscot Region

Ice fishing in the region is still significantly restricted by poor ice conditions. The average temperature in the Bangor area has been 7° above normal thru Jan 22 despite the recent cold spell when the nighttime temperature dropped to - 18° F on 2 consecutive nights. The snowstorm that dropped 5 to 8 inches of snow in the region occurred before the cold spell and served to help reduce ice formation during the cold spell that followed.

Pleasant Pond in Island Falls has had decent ice conditions and has supported a good, consistent fishery for nice salmon and trout. The large basin of Cold Stream Pond has some very thin ice a short distance from shore and angling activity is restricted to the upper basin and areas close to shore. Ice conditions on East Grand Lake are very poor with anglers fishing in only a few, carefully chosen locations. Many of the smaller lakes have sufficient ice but even on those lakes anglers must use extreme caution.

Ice fishing derbies have been postponed on two area lakes. The Cold Stream Pond derby scheduled for the weekend of January 13 has been rescheduled to February 9, 10, and 11 and the East grand Lake derby scheduled for the weekend of January 27 has been rescheduled to February 24 and 25. The Schoodic Lake derby scheduled for the weekend of February 17 has not been changed at this time. A few Northern pike have been caught from the illegal introduction in Pushaw Lake and Mud Pond in Old Town. Anglers who catch Northern pike are encouraged to keep the fish and report the catch to Department personnel working on the lake or to the IFW offices in Bangor or Enfield. Kids only ice fishing ponds; Jerry Pond in Millinocket, Little Round Pond in Lincoln and Pickerel Pond in T32MD (near Milford) have been very popular with young anglers and have produced many fine brook trout.

-Mike Smith, Regional Fisheries Biologist

Region G – Aroostook County

Ice conditions around northern Maine lakes have improved in the last week with the return to normal winter weather. Up to 10 inches was measured at Long Lake on Friday, January 19. However, ice thickness is still highly variable with some areas on Long Lake as thin as 3 inches. Relatively thin ice and the additional weight of new snow has created slush conditions on all regional lakes from the Allagash Waterway to the Fish River Chain of lakes. Recent snow has greatly improved access trails particularly those passing through wood cover. Even though we are now experiencing cold weather, a thin layer of snow on the ice is an effective insulator so that formation of new ice will be slow. Extreme caution will be necessary for the remainder of the season.

Fishing was very good during the first week on the Fish River Chain. Opening day on Square, Cross, Long and Eagle Lakes is January 15th. Many 3.5-5.5 pound salmon were seen during the first week and on the first Saturday at Long Lake, we missed measuring a salmon that tipped the scale at 8 pounds 11 ounces; we've noticed that anglers catching large fish like this one leave the lake almost immediately to weigh their catch on a certified scale and call their taxidermist. Brook trout catches on regional lakes have been very good as well; we've measured many trout 2-3 pounds and observed one on Sunday that missed 4 pounds by a few ounces. Angler activity in the Allagash Region was lower than expected during the past weekend; the winter storm on Friday that ended up along Eastern Maine and the cold, blowing conditions on Saturday and Sunday kept anglers from heading into the backcountry.

-Frank Frost, Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist

Submitted by : Mark Latti, DIFW, Division of Public Information and Education
284 State Street, State House Station #41, Augusta, ME 04333
For More Outdoor Information, and Sporting Licenses 24 Hours A Day, 7 Days A Week, Please Visit: www.mefishwildlife.com or contact ifw.webmaster@maine.gov

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