Old News Archive

Ice Fishing Report - Feb. 4, 2008

February 07, 2008 - TRC

Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife - Ice Fishing Report

Region A – Southwestern Maine

Angler field surveys (creel census) are one of the perks of a career in fisheries management. I say creel census is a perk of the job because we get to work outdoors at what can be a beautiful time of year. We also get to talk with folks while they are enjoying the great outdoors and often get to see an excited angler catch a fish.
Angler surveys involve interviewing anglers to determine what species and size of fish they catch and how long it took to catch them. We also measure and weigh the fish caught and answer any questions from anglers. Sometimes if we collect stomach content data you may even end up with cleanedfish courtesy of your friendly fishery biologist! These surveys provide us with data on our fisheries, including angler activity, and helps us make management decisions.
Unfortunately for Region A biologists our creel census season is essentially over. Most years we generally hit the ice twice a week for the entire ice fishing season, this year’s creel census was front loaded to four days a week in the month of January to accommodate a statewide study to assess the performance of fall stocked yearling brook trout (12-14 inches). This study will in part examine angler catch rates at a standardized stocking rate of 1.5 trout per surface acre. While the stocking of more “put and take” trout may equate to more fish being for the angler, the study will hopefully address the most efficient way of distributing these beautiful but expensive trout.
The end of winter creel census means more data entry, fish scale reading, and report writing for me, all of which are interesting and necessary parts of my job that unfortunately must be done indoors. It also means I will have more time to do some fishing of my own !
I have seen some very nice catches of fish in the recent past while surveying Keoka Lake in Waterford and Keewaydin Lake in Stoneham, and have received several favorable reports from other waters. Greg Massey of the New Gloucester state fish hatchery reports good catches of lake trout (togue) on Middle Range Pond in Poland including one about five pounds. Middle Range has also produced good catches of fall yearling (12-14 inch) brook trout and decent catches of rainbow trout in the recent past. Our project clerks (Anthony Legee and Steve Lurvey) last reported the fishing for advanced fall fingerling brook trout (8-10 inches) is still holding up at the Otter Ponds in Standish and Worthley Pond in Poland. Remember to down size both bait and hooks for greater success on these smaller trout; jigging may also give you an edge. One angler who left his traps at home in favor of his jig pole caught several brook trout at Worthley Pond and also iced a brown trout weighing nearly five pounds. A look at the calendar tells me there is two more months of hard water fishing left, I intend to enjoy them!
-- Brian Lewis, Fisheries Biology Specialist, Sebago Region


Region B -- Sidney Belgrade Lakes Region

The first month of the 2008 ice-fishing season is history and anglers who fished their favorite water should have been rewarded with some pleasant memories. In the Central Maine region, also known as the Belgrade Region , many waters were stocked with 11- to 14-inch yearling brook trout last fall. Some of the waters were stocked at a higher rate that provided anglers with fast action in the early part of the month. As January came to an end those persistent anglers were able to fill their limits.
Angler surveys on eight Belgrade Region waters showed that the range of success in catching a brook trout was between 20 percent and 40 percent. The better waters that we surveyed in January were Salmon, Cochnewagon, Alford, Biscay, and Nequasset. The three other waters surveyed, (McGrath, Flying, and Wilson) had lower success rates, but anglers still had an opportunity in making it a good fishing trip. Stocking rates of fall yearling brook trout in seven of the waters were between 1.2 and 1.6 fish per acre. Alford Lake, the eighth water in our survey, was stocked with less than 1 fall yearling brook trout per acre, but anglers were rewarded with the best brown trout success of all eight waters.
In earlier columns from this region, it has been mentioned that about 60 waters in this region are stocked with fall yearling brook trout. From the information from this winter’s work we will be better able to determine what adjustments need to be made in our stocking program for the future.
Anglers should still find brook trout in most of the waters we stocked last fall, but other species should not be overlooked. Many of the same waters have been stocked with brown trout that are showing up in creels for those who fish in the deeper water. Salmon are still available for those who fish Damariscotta, St. George, Upper Narrows and Swan Lakes. Togue are being caught regularly at Maranacook, Damariscotta, Lower Narrows, Wassookeag and Swan Lakes. Do not overlook the abundance of warmwater species such as perch, pickerel, crappies, pike, and bass that inhabit many of the waters of Region B.
-- Bill Woodward, Assistant Regional Fishery Biologist, Belgrade Lakes Region


Region C -- Downeast

Feb. 1 marked the start of ice fishing at West Grand Lake, and many anglers took advantage of the quality fishing that the lake has to offer. Region C staff members have increased the numbers of stocked salmon in the last couple of years, and anglers are reaping the benefits. The forage base appears to be in good shape this year as many anglers are reporting fish regurgitating 1½ inch smelts. The lake trout population is strong and we encourage anglers to harvest their limit to help hold the population in control. As of Feb. 3, ice conditions were glare ice. Ice depth ranged from 12-14 inches in most places. Anglers still need to use caution around inlets and outlets, saddle areas around islands, and near rocks and shoals. There is no snow on the ice now, and with rain in the forecast for the middle part of this week, it doesn’t look like there will be snow anytime soon.
Fisheries staff members have interviewed ice fishermen in the northwestern section of the lake. Our target species was lake whitefish in the Junior Bay area. We weighed and measured a fair number of fish, mostly between 14-16 inches. We also removed a small number of scales from each whitefish in order to determine the age of the fish by looking at the scales under a microscope. By comparing the age of the fish to its length we can get a good idea about how the population is doing. We conducted a similar study in 1994, which we will compare to this year’s findings. It is important to monitor the population of this significant and highly sought after species.
Anglers also were successful at catching some nice salmon and lake trout over the weekend. The first West Grand fish of the season for some mid-coast anglers turned out to be a real beauty - a 28 inch, 7 pound togue that dwarfed other fish on the ice. Action was steady and productive all over the lake, and many anglers experienced success while jigging.
Anglers from many parts of the state make the drive to fish West Grand every winter. This 14,000-acre lake is one of the region’s premier salmon and lake trout waters. If you choose to fish it, you’ll go home with memories of beautiful scenery in a remote setting. With four species that bite actively in the winter, most people catch salmon, togue, whitefish, or cusk.
-- Joe Overlock, Fisheries Biologist Specialist, Grand Lakes Region


Region D – Western Mountains

The first month of the 2008 ice fishing season is now history, and it certainly was a successful one for anglers in western Maine. Reasonably good ice conditions to start the season helped, of course, but decent weather, prudent stocking, and a brand new water to ice fish (Pleasant Pond) also made folks happy. Here's a brief summary of what we've observed.
Through the first weekend in February our field staff interviewed slightly more than 1,100 anglers on five lakes. These include Pleasant Pond in Caratunk, Clearwater Pond in Industry, Porter Lake in New Vineyard, Oaks Pond in Skowhegan, and Wentworth Pond in Solon. The highest fishing pressure, as we expected, was at Pleasant Pond where a burgeoning togue population needed some thinning to improve brook trout survival. Porter Lake was the next most heavily fished water, followed by Clearwater Pond, Wentworth Pond, and Oaks Pond. We've “handled” over 400 individual fish from these five lakes, included more than 200 togue, 90 salmon, 55 splake, 32 brookies, and a smattering of rainbow trout, white perch, smallmouth bass, chain pickerel, and cusk.
Working on the ice with fisherman is always a pleasure, and the information we collect is very important in helping us evaluate stocking programs and fishing rules. And having the chance to chat with anglers in this informal setting is a great way to gather input from those who actively use Maine's fishery resources.
-- David Boucher, Fishery Biologist, Rangeley Lakes


Region E -- Moosehead Lake

Well it seems that February is upon us and although the temperatures don’t show any indication of warming up soon, there has been a noticeable change in the amount of daylight we now have. February is also the month that brings about the opening of three waters in the Moosehead Region that many ice anglers look forward to. Allagash Lake, Lobster Lake, and Big Houston Pond all have special regulations designed to protect and enhance some very unique fisheries. Big Houston and Lobster provide anglers the opportunity for catching some big lake trout. Large salmon are also a possibility at Lobster. Although these waters are only open for the month of February, the wait is often times rewarded with some very good fishing. Check your ice fishing law book for complete regulations on each of these waters.
I will mention this as a reminder and to allow folks to plan accordingly if they wish, but Feb. 16 and 17 is the State of Maine’s Free Fishing Weekend. This is a great opportunity for families to get together and spend a day fishing on one of Maine’s many lakes and ponds. This free day applies to any person except those whose license has been revoked or suspended. All other regulations pertaining to the specific water body apply.
Fishing activity on Moosehead Lake was quite a bit slower this weekend then last. Saturday’s blustery winds kept most anglers at bay, but many more were encountered on Sunday. Most of the parties we surveyed this past weekend were still targeting and taking advantage of our plentiful togue population. As a note, Moosehead anglers will be allowed to harvest salmon on Feb. 15. The bag limit on salmon is one fish with a minimum length limit of 18 inches. Anglers fishing at Chesuncook Lake and Sebec Lake have indicated that the fishing has been quite good. The salmon fishing at Chesuncook has been fairly fast and Sebec has given up some decent 5- to 6-pound lake trout.
This past week it was brought to the attention of the fishery staff here in Greenville that there was a misprint on our Department’s Web Page regarding the Year Round Fishing Opportunity for the East Outlet of the Kennebec River. The regulation has been corrected and reposted on our website and now reads: From dam at Moosehead Lake to yellow posts at tail of Beach Pool.
In closing I have my quote of the week. Groundhog Day was this past Saturday and while conducting creel census on Moosehead Lake, I had a gentleman ask me if I thought Punxsutawney Phil had seen his shadow. Before I could answer, another gentleman fishing with him spoke up and said “regardless if Phil saw his shadow or not, I guarantee Greenville, Maine will have six more weeks of winter”. I guess I’d have to agree with that statement.
-- Jeff Bagley, Assistant Regional Fishery Biologist, Moosehead Lake Region


Region F -- Penobscot

Fishing reports from around the Penobscot Region find that the togue are biting at Schoodic Lake, but we are advising anglers to still be wary of thin ice conditions. Schoodic is notorious for late freeze-up, and while there may be 12 to 16 inches of ice near shore, we are getting reports of as little as 3 to 5 inches of ice in the middle of the lake. Biologists working on Matagamon and Scraggly this weekend found few people fishing, but plenty of slush and tough going on the lakes. Last Friday’s storm, which was a mix of rain and snow in central and southern Maine, left 10 inches of new snow in the northern areas of Penobscot County. We’re getting reports of nice catches of salmon from the eastern portion of the region, including Sysladobsis (Dobsie), East Musquash, West, Duck, and Spring Lakes. If you’re headed to that area of the region, you might also consider giving Nicatous Lake a try. We stock landlocked salmon and brown trout in Nicatous, which also has healthy populations of warm-water game fish including white perch, pickerel, and bass.
Finally, the Pushaw Lake ATV and Snowmobile Club held its 28th annual ice fishing derby at Pushaw Lake this past weekend. Biologists from Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Marine Resources teamed up during the two day event, interviewing anglers on the ice and at the weigh-in as we continue to evaluate the status of illegally introduced Northern pike in the lake. This year seven pike were registered, accounting for a relatively small portion of the overall derby catch. We consider this good news, as it appears that the number of pike in Pushaw Lake is still quite low. In addition to monitoring the pike population, covering the derby also allows us to interact with the public and discuss the risks of illegal introductions to the native fish communities in Maine lakes. The overwhelming majority of anglers I talked to this weekend are disgusted with the apparent recent increase in illegal introductions and are hopeful that the few individuals that are responsible for these crimes are caught and receive the maximum punishment allowed under the law.
-- Richard Dill, Fishery Biologist, Penobscot Region


Region G – Aroostook County

Long Lake of the Fish River Chain continues to be a desirable destination for anglers. Over the course of the first two weeks that the season has been open I have interviewed many anglers on Long Lake from all corners of the state. Many anglershave caught their “fish of a lifetime” on Long Lake. Steve Anderson of New Sweden has been fortunate to catch not one but two such fish. On June 25, 1991 Steve landed an 8 pound 5 ounce salmon on Long Lake that now graces a wall in his home. A great fish to be sure, but lightning would strike again on Jan. 15 of this year while fishing with family and friends. While jigging with his favorite lure, Steve hooked and landed a 28-inch salmon. Wouldn't it be your favorite lure if you were to catch a twenty-eight inch salmon on it ? The 9-pound salmon is a 5-year-old fish stocked in June of 2004. This great fish is destined to be placed next to Steve's first. Congratulations Steve on a fine salmon.
-- Derrick Cote, Biology Specialist, Fish River Lakes Region

Submitted by Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife


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