Feb. 10, 2008 - Weekly Ice Fishing ReportFebruary 13, 2008 - TRCRegion A – Southwestern MaineThe rising popularity of winter ice fishing derbies has been embraced by many nonprofit organizations as a means to launch fund-raising efforts to support various charities and programs. Two of southern Maine's largest ice fishing derbies are scheduled to occur over the next two weeks.On Feb. 17, FET Inc. will host a one-day event on Little Ossipee Lake. FET’s mission is “to promote fishing and more specifically ice fishing as a fun inexpensive family winter activity. Other major goals involve maintaining habitat and practicing ethical fishing tactics that will allow fishing to grow and prosper as a fun family orientated activity.” Proceeds from this family-oriented event support a variety of local programs including MDIF&W's Hooked on Fishing Not On Drugs Program, MDIF&W sportfish management and conservation in southern Maine, Waterboro Park, as well as other local charities. Lots of door prizes, a youth and adult division, and a grand prize of $3,000 draws a growing number of participants to this well-organized and fun event. Tickets may be purchased at the Route 5 launch ramp and at Lakeside Market on the day of the event, but must be purchased before 9 a.m. Tickets also are available at the Gray True Value hardware store until closing on Feb.15. Additional derby details may be found on FET's website (www.fetinc.net). The state’s largest ice fishing derby is scheduled the week following FET’s event on Sebago Lake (Feb. 22-24). This three-day event is hosted by the Windham Rotary, and has grown from being predominantly an ice fishing event to something more akin to a winter carnival, where many other nonfishing, family-oriented activities are planned including ice sculptures, polar dip, and auto/cycle/snowmobile/cross country ski races, to name a few. The popular kids fishing derby is scheduled for Friday Feb. 22 between noon and 3 p.m. at Thomas Pond outlet, located immediately adjacent to and north of Route 302. Kids must preregister to receive a free ice fishing trap. The fishing derby on Sebago Lake is a two-day event (Feb. 23-24). A statewide two-day derby also is scheduled for March 8-9. Prizes associated with the Sebago and statewide derbies include a Ski Doo GTX500, Ski Doo MX 2380, Polaris 300 ATV, an opportunity for entrants to win a 2008 Silverado Truck, and $20,000 in additional cash and prizes. Proceeds from the event will benefit a number of charities and good causes, including Camp Sunshine. For more information on the ice fishing derbies, prizes, registration, and a schedule of events, visit www.icefishingderby.com.Both nonprofit organizations (FET & Windham Rotary) should be acknowledged for their efforts to collaborate with MDIF&W in the development of derby programs that support MDIF&W fisheries management objectives. For example, the Sebago Lake derby has increased recreational togue harvest opportunity by creating prize incentives for anglers to “weigh in” all legally caught togue, and not just the largest togue. This additional harvest is desired as part of an overall management scheme to reduce the lake trout population and restore the lake's smelt population and salmon fishery. FET also has adopted numerous strategies to balance fishing interests on Little Ossipee Lake. For example, FET raised the minimum length entry requirement on bass from 10 inches (general law) to 20 inches, reducing derby related bass harvest by 95 percent. This change has reduced derby related bass mortalities on this very popular open water catch and release, tournament sportfish. -- Francis Brautigam, Regional Fisheries Biologist, GrayRegion B – Sidney, Belgrade LakesAs a fishery biologist I talk with hundreds of anglers every winter during our routine surveys. It’s always good duty and very interesting to hear the many different view points of anglers, one group may tout the latest regulations as the best thing for the fishery while the very next group is just as likely to tell me how stupid the same regulations are. I also enjoy all the questions these anglers ask, ranging from the past deer hunting season to the state budget. To this end I thought this week I’d list the top 5 questions asked this year.5. Are you a warden? This is one question every fishery biologist hears multiple times throughout the course of the winter. Of course we are not wardens and have no law enforcement responsibilities. 4. Are there any bad spots on the lake (referring to the ice conditions)? This may be the most frequently asked question during the first week or so of the season.3. How much success are anglers having fishing at night ? Now that ice fishing is open 24 hours a day people seem to be very interested in night fishing but most are not willing to deal with the cold and dark to give it a try. I've heard very little from people fishing at night. Most of the nighttime fishing has occurred from around 4 a.m. when its really just an early start rather than a nighttime trip. These early anglers have reported to me that the best fishing they have is just a dawn and now most of them just start around dawn. I know night fishing for smelt and black crappie can, at times, be very fast fishing. Hanging a light over an open hole while fishing through a hole close by seems to be the acceptable technique. 2. This is a generic question regarding specific fishing regulations, such as how many trout can I keep? Or what’s the minimum length limit on bass? These questions are always easy ones to answer and usually not too controversial, although the answer usually leads into a lengthy discussion on fishery management. The most common discussion I’ve had in central Maine concerns natural reproduction of trout in lakes and ponds. Fishermen are very interested in having native trout but unfortunately we have very little natural reproduction in these waters. The lack of quality stream environments hinders trout spawning, there's also a lack of good nursery areas for young trout. Any trout that survives and moves into the lake experiences problems with poor water quality and the high numbers of competing fish species. These factors severely limit the number of trout that reach legal size.1. And by far the most asked question is, “Where are all the fish? This is the easiest question of all to answer, since they are, of course, in the water !-- James Lucas, Fisheries Biologist, SidneyRegion C – DowneastFree fishing days for this winter will be Feb.16-17 ! Anyone may fish without a license on those days as long as their fishing license has not been revoked or suspended. All other laws and regulations apply. This is a great weekend to try ice fishing for free if you have never participated. Beware, you may love it and decide to buy a year-long license ! Then you also will have an excuse to buy such “necessities” as tipups, ice auger, snowmobile or ATV, ice shack, or even a lakeshore camp !Togue are biting well at many of our lakes. Give togue fishing a try. You may like the action and the size of your catch. Although often caught on live bait and tipups, togue catchability improves if you jig for them. Proven producers are leadfish, Swedish pimples, chartreuse Weeping Willows, and airplane jigs, all commonly tipped with a piece of cut bait. Most anglers prefer fishing from 25- to 60-foot depths. Lakes that are producing good catches of togue this winter are Beech Hill Pond in Otis, Branch Lake in Ellsworth, Toddy Pond in Orland, Tunk Lake in Twp 10 SD, West Grand Lake in Grand Lake Stream, and West Musquash Lake in Topsfield.White perch are a perennial favorite of ice anglers because they usually bite actively both early and late in the day. Sometimes the flags fly so fast that anglers can’t catch up to all of them quickly. Good locations for white perch fishing are the Chain Lakes (Twp 26 ED), Bog Lake (Northfield), Pocomoonshine Lake (Alexander), Meddybemps Lake (Meddybemps), Georges Pond (Franklin), Graham Lake (Mariaville), sections of the eastern end of Green Lake, and Webb Pond (Eastbrook).With school vacation week upon us soon, family ice fishing trips will produce some excited kids chasing tipup flags, interspersed with trips to the campfire to cook some famed red hot dogs and warm up with a cup of steaming hot chocolate. -- Rick Jordan, Regional Fisheries Biologist, JonesboroRegion D – Western MountainsThis January was a good month to have gone fishing. Anglers had a lot of action and caught some nice fish. Here are the results of our last month’s clerk creel surveys:Pleasant Pond, Caratunk – The 336 anglers that we interviewed caught 192 legal lake trout and 2 brook trout. The largest togue sampled was 33½ inches long and weighed 11¼ pounds. In the month of January we estimate that 443 togue were harvested; they weighed a total of 1196 pounds.Clearwater Pond, Industry – We interviewed 290 anglers who caught 11 brook trout, 24 salmon and 27 lake trout. The largest brook trout was 16¾ inches in length and the largest salmon was 19 inches long. A few smallmouth bass were caught as well, the largest being 18¾ inches long and weighing 3½ pounds.Porter Lake, New Vineyard -- 41 anglers interviewed caught 102 salmon and 21 lake trout. Thirty-five percent of the anglers were successful at catching salmon and 41 percent of the fish were released back into the hole. The largest salmon kept was over 18” in length and the largest lake trout weighed 3¾” pounds. Oaks Pond, Skowhegan -- 42 anglers interviewed caught 2 brook trout, 36 splake, and a 17½-inch rainbow trout. Twenty-eight of the anglers were successful at landing a legal splake making for an 86 percent catch rate. These are very high numbers for a winter salmonid fishery.Wentworth Pond, Solon -- 99 anglers interviewed caught 20 brook trout and 43 splake. Average lengths were 14 inches for splake and 13 inches for brook trout. The largest fish were a 16¾-inch splake and a 14¾-inch brookie. White perch are beginning to show up in the fishery now.Anglers fishing late in the afternoon may see better action. With the days getting longer, there is more opportunity to fish later and anglers are reporting good action just before sunset. This seems to be the case with many fish species, but is especially true with lake trout and white perch.This also is an excellent time of year to target cusk after the sun has set. Area waters that contain cusk and are open to icefishing are Chain of Ponds and Clearwater Pond in Franklin County, and Embden Pond, Oaks Pond, Spencer Lake, and Wyman Lake in Somerset County.-- Dave Howatt, Biology Specialist, StrongRegion E – Moosehead LakeThis week marks the opening of the “Salmon Ice Fishing Season” on Moosehead Lake. On Feb.15 anglers are allowed to harvest, as part of their daily bag limit, one salmon over 18 inches. Prior to Feb. 15 all salmon caught were to be released alive without removing the fish from the water. Although, anglers are able to keep salmon, we are still emphasizing the importance of good handling practices of salmon that falling short of the 18-inch mark. The best way to release these fish without injury and without increasing handling stress is to cut the line as close to the eye of the hook as possible, with the fish still in the water.Looking at the fish data the Moosehead Lake Region fisheries staff has collected for the early part of the season will give you an idea of what to expect if you’re interested in fishing Moosehead Lake. Eighty-four lake trout over 18 inches have been measured, and the largest was 27 inches and weighed 5.7 pounds. The average lake trout kept over 18 inches was 19.6 inches and about 1.9 pounds. Lake trout (14–18 inches) have been averaging 15.7 inches and roughly a pound, and we have sampled 414 lake trout in this size range. Also, we have collected data on 63 lake trout less than 14 inches. These fish have averaged 13.2 inches and around half a pound. Lake trout are the predominant fish in the catch and are providing fast action to anglers targeting them in water depths 25-45 feet. We encourage anglers to take advantage of Moosehead Lake’s liberal bag limits on these smaller lake trout in hopes to decrease the number in this over abundant lake trout fishery.In our travels this winter we have seen very few brook trout on Moosehead Lake. To date, we have only seen 6 brook trout during our census coverage. The sad thing is that we have also seen almost as many illegal brook trout. Our staff has encountered 4 brook trout that have fallen short of the 14-inch minimum length limit. The 14-inch minimum length limit on brook trout has been in effect for the last three seasons on Moosehead Lake. Anglers should familiarize themselves with the regulations that are in place on the water bodies they fish. Length and bag limit regulations are different from water body to water body because management objectives often differ from water to water. So please consult the regulation book to confirm the regulation for the waters you are fishing this winter. -- Stephen Seeback, Fishery Biology Specialist, Moosehead LakeRegion F -- PenobscotOver the past week the fishing pressure along with angling success has greatly improved here in Region F. This past weekend Department census clerks checked landlocked salmon exceeding 5 lbs from both Cold Stream Pond and Schoodic Lake, in addition to nice catches of lake trout. Anglers also reported good catches of salmon from Upper and Lower Jo Mary, Pemadumcook, Pleasant Pond, and East Grand. At Scraggly Lake anglers were having lots of action for small, but legal salmon (the regulations on Scraggly are 3 fish, 12-inch minimum length limit). One lucky angler at Scraggly landed two nice brook trout, one just over 2 lbs and one weighing in at a hefty 3½ pounds ! In the Penobscot Region we have two fishing derbies this weekend. The Millinocket Fin and Feather Club will be holding a “Family Fishing Day” at Jerry Pond Feb.16 (Storm Day Feb. 17) for more information check out http://ffc.50webs.org/fin.html.The Milo Fire Department will be holding the 46th Annual Schoodic Lake Fishing Derby. Schoodic Lake has a well-deserved reputation for delivering larger-than -average lake trout and landlocked salmon. Fat lake trout from 5 to 7 pounds have become commonplace over the last 10 years at Schoodic, and landlocked salmon also are becoming an attraction. This year salmon over 5 pounds are expected each weekend that clerks check the lake. This past weekend was no exception. Anglers attending the Schoodic Lake derby will notice a change in the way lake trout and landlocked salmon are entered into the derby. This year, either species will have to be at least 22 inches to be registered. That doesn’t mean that an angler cannot keep a fish of legal size, only that the fish will not be eligible to be entered for a prize in the derby unless it is over 22 inches. The Milo Fire Department is to be commended for taking this extraordinary step to ensure the future of the Schoodic Lake fishery. After all, there are not many places where the fishing for both lake trout and salmon is good enough that a derby will not even measure fish less than 22 inches! For more information you can call 207-943-2303 or check out their web sight at http://www.trcmaine.org/fishingderby . Anglers can visit the Department’s Web site for a list of derbies being held around the state this weekend. http://www.maine.gov/ifw/fishing/derbies_tournaments/index.htm.If you want to try ice fishing and you do not have a license this is the weekend for you. Any person, except those whose license has been revoked or suspended, may fish on these days without a license. All other laws and regulations apply. Get out and enjoy the Maine outdoors !-- Brian Campbell, Fisheries Biologist Specialist, Bangor Region G – Aroostook CountyRecent snow storms have made travel on area lakes very difficult. Deep snow on lake-ice creates slush as the weight of the snow forces water up onto the ice. If anglers are lucky to find areas with no slush, they oftentimes create it when holes are drilled for fishing. We have observed many parties stuck in slush when trying to pull tote sleds full of gear during the past week. During the derby at Long Lake, numerous trucks were stuck in snow, slush, and water and were having difficulty getting out. Anglers should be aware of these conditions during mid-February. Fishery biologists continue to check anglers on area lakes. Use on the Fish River Lakes will likely level off at this time in the season and we are seeing more people venturing into the woods at Carr Pond, Millinocket and Millimagassett Lakes. During the Long Lake derby held Feb. 2-3, biologists counted more than 400 anglers fishing during the two-day event. The winning landlocked salmon weighed 7 pounds, 11 ounces; the largest brook trout weighed 3 pounds, 14 ounces.Feb. 15 marks the opening of Madawaska Lake, a 1,500-acre water located along Route 161 in Westmanland and T16 R4. The Lake was opened to winter fishing for a three-year period beginning in 2006. Fishery regulations and stocking changes were made to coincide with this new season. To provide for higher catch rates, the Department has stocked 1,500 large, catchable brook trout in the fall of 2005, 2006 and 2007; these trout are available to be caught during the subsequent winter season. During the past two years, a small number of landlocked salmon have also been stocked; these fish should grow well due to the large smelt population. Fishery biologists will be monitoring this experimental fishery again in 2008. -- Frank O. Frost, Fisheries Biologist, AshlandSubmitted by : Deborah Turcotte, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Acting Public Relations RepresentativeSHS 41, 284 State St., Augusta, ME 04333W: (207) 287-6008 C: (207) 592-1164NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.