Old News Archive

March 2, 2008 - Ice Fishing Report

March 02, 2008 - TRC

Region A – Southwestern Maine
A salmon management plan for Sebago Lake has been drafted and is available for viewing on the Department’s Web site. The direct link is www.maine.gov/ifw/fishing/regional_information/region_a.htm. The current draft plan is based on input received to date from area fish and game clubs including Sebago Lake Anglers Association, Windham-Gorham Fish and Game, Sebago Lake Chapter of Trout Unlimited, and Pine Tree Fish and Game. The plan also is based on input received from Larry Fiori of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine as well as key Department staff.

The draft plan attempts to advance the expectations under the “Classic Salmon Initiative” while balancing the need to address local angler interests and the need to protect an indigenous population of landlocked Atlantic salmon. The plan contains a brief history of lake management and a discussion of regulatory options, as well as identifies a set of action items to support attainment of the following salmon management goal and objectives:
“Management Goal: Develop and maintain a sustainable landlocked salmon fishery characterized by higher size quality and greater abundance, so as to provide a more equitable allocation between the salmon and lake trout angling community.

Management Objectives: (1) Sustain an abundance of smelt consistent with the lake’s carrying capacity and limit annual fluctuations; (2) reduce the competing lake trout population; (3) limit the threat to smelt and landlocked salmon (predation/competition) from illegally introduced aquatic organisms (northern pike & landlocked alewives) within the drainage; (4) maintain and where practical enhance the contribution of wild salmon to the lake and Crooked River fishery; and (5) supplement the wild salmon fishery with hatchery fish when forage, wild salmon production, salmon growth, and angler exploitation support increased stocking; (6) sustain high salmon growth rates to the extent practical to maximize growth potential, while considering the need to maintain acceptable salmon catch rates.”

The draft plan was posted on the Web to provide the public with an opportunity to comment on the plan. We are particularly interested in feedback on the following:
1) Does the plan identify and address management issues considered most important to achieving the stated management goal and objectives ?
2) Are there any perceived inconsistencies not discussed in the plan ?
3) Is there public support for the draft plan as a balanced approach to achieve stated management objectives and the attainment of size quality expectations under the Classic Salmon Initiative ?

Public comments may be e-mailed to francis.brautigam@maine.gov. Comments received by April 4th will be considered in the final draft.

On Feb. 22 the Department filed comments in opposition to the proposed construction of Scribner’s Mill dam on the Crooked River. In addition, many organizations and sportsmen’s clubs filed comments with Dana Murch of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection in opposition to the dam. Project proponents are seeking a license to construct a dam that would provide a source of water to operate historical water powered mill equipment, largely to be used for public display and educational purposes. The Department took a strong opposing position because of the high fisheries values associated with the Crooked River and downstream Sebago Lake.

The Crooked River supports one of the few indigenous populations of landlocked Atlantic salmon in Maine and produces virtually all of the wild salmon that maintains Sebago’s popular wild salmon fishery. Fish passage and habitat loss are key issues of concern. Anyone interested in a copy of MDIF&W’s review comments may send an email at the aforementioned address.

All the results of Sebago’s recent togue fishing derby on Feb. 23 and 24 may be viewed at www.icefishingderby.com. The top three prizes were awarded as follows: Gerald Parlin accepted first place with a 7.86-pound togue; Edward Gooldrup claimed second place with a 7.76-pound togue; and third place went to Joshua Hughes for a 7.58-pound togue. I believe this is the first year that a togue in the single digit weight class has taken first place.
-- Francis Brautigam, Regional Fisheries Biologist, Sebago Lakes Region

Region B – Sidney and Belgrade Lakes
Having observed many anglers over the years using different angling techniques to catch fish through the ice, I sometimes wonder what they will think of next in their pursuit of landing a trophy. Each geographic area of the United States has its own contribution to the variety of tackle used to ice fish. In the state of Maine, I have seen several unique ice fishing implements. Here are some examples.

On Sheepscot Lake and nearby waters, I have observed what resembles a school of wooden fish scattered on the surface of the ice. The wooden fish are used to indicate to the angler whether a fish is on or not. The familiar balanced tip-up works on a similar principle, with this trap there is a fish on your line when the tail of the wooden fish is up. Furthermore, on this trap, the reel is above the water.

Most anglers in Maine use the standard tip-up to fish through a hole that has been drilled through the ice. Tip-ups are devices that trip a flag which springs up and indicates when a fish is on the baited hook. The reel holding the line is under the surface of the water. Popular devices are named Thompson, Moosehead, Polar, Eskimo, Jack’s Traps or any other name that are of similar design.

I still have a set of Cameron traps that were built by the late Sperry Cameron, the hatchery supervisor at Embden Hatchery back in the early 1970’s. There is nothing unique about them, but they do have some sentimental value and they still catch fish. They are built like the popular standard tip-up.

I recently had a set of traps built by Mark Damren, currently the assistant supervisor at Governor Hill Hatchery. Although this type of trap is most often seen on the Belgrade Lakes, they also are sometimes used on other waters. These traps do not utilize the standard reel that permits the line to peel off when a fish is hooked.

Instead the baited hook on your line goes through an eye ring on the tip of the spring steel that pulls the flag down towards the hole. The “perch trap” indicates a fish is on when the flag drops. Most anglers using these devices have their traps in very close proximity to one another. As I witnessed once myself, when a school of perch goes through, all flags are sometimes pulled down almost simultaneously.

This winter I saw an interesting device for the first time. It used the standard fishing pole with a spinning reel attached. The bent pole was attached to a spring lever that releases when a fish takes the bait on the end of the line. The reel bail is left open. As line peels line off, the straightened pole alerts the angler that a fish is on.

I should not forget the very common practice of jigging. When jigging, an angler stands over a hole with a short rod or hand line that has terminal tackle consisting of a lead fish, lure or bait. This technique is used on many waters and can produce some remarkable fishing. I have seen togue up to 25 pounds jigged through the ice, and I myself have gotten into a school of perch that I jigged as many as I needed or wanted to spend time cleaning.

So with a good month of ice fishing left, the adventurous angler needs to get out and try one of the implements or techniques that I have mentioned as Region B waters are able to provide any number of fish that an angler desires.
--Bill Woodward, Fishery Biologist, Belgrade Lakes Region

Region C – Downeast
March has arrived with her winds and sunny afternoons that trigger the snowmelt leading to Maine’s eventual “mud season”. Many anglers love March fishing, with the sun on their faces and a chance to fish for a few hours in just a sweatshirt, quite a change from the icy blasts of January’s winds. Now the days are noticeably longer and twilight lasts until 6 p.m. Just four weekends remain in which to squeeze those memorable last trips for togue, trout, salmon, perch, and bass before the ice auger and snowmobile are put away for the off season !

Here are some of the questions every March angler should ask themselves while planning the next fishing trip:
Can I make it up the lake through the snow with a 4-wheeler or do I need to take a snowmobile ?
Or the opposite, if I take my snowmobile, is there enough snow to lubricate the sliders ?
Will my snowmobile (or ATV) start once I get there ?
Has the ice melted and pulled away from the shore, making it impossible to get on the lake ?
Are there pressure ridges that cannot be crossed safely ?
Will the bait shop still have smelts and shiners, or have they run out for the season and chosen not to restock ?
Finally, if the answers to all the above questions are favorable, the last question is, “will the fish bite today ?”
-- Rick Jordan, Regional Fisheries Biologist, Jonesboro

Region D – Western Mountains
Western Maine received 12 to 16 inches of new snow from last week’s double-whammy of storms. Access to many of the region’s lakes became tougher as a result of the bad weather. Several parking areas are simply not being plowed any longer and travel on the ice is through deep snow. No major slush yet, but that’s expected to change with the warming temperatures and rain that are forecasted for this week. Angler activity was very low last weekend on all the lakes we checked.
While the 2008 ice fishing is showing signs of winding down, there’s still plenty of time to get out and enjoy the stronger sun and longer days of March. Bass fishing usually picks up now, especially around south-facing shoals and shorelines, or near open water. Temperatures warm more quickly in these areas and larger bass seem to seek these areas to prepare themselves for the impending spawning season (that means they want to eat a lot!). Good bets for March bassing in this region include Clearwater Lake, Hancock Pond, Wesserunsett Lake, Webb Lake, Roxbury (Ellis) Pond, Norcross Pond, Crowell Pond, and Parker Pond (Jay). In case the bass aren't interested, most of these waters also provide decent action for white perch and pickerel.
-- David Boucher, Fishery Biologist, Rangeley Lakes

Region E – Moosehead Lake
Two months are down, and we have one to go in this unusual ice fishing season in which we have seen above average snowfall. The weather this past weekend undoubtedly put a damper on fishing pressure in the Moosehead Lake Region. Although the snow continues to pile-up, ice conditions remain safe, but caution in traveling is still advised. The snow is a welcome sign for snowmobile trails, but on our lakes and ponds slush will soon be a problem for travel in some areas as temperatures warm and the weight of the snow continues to accumulate.

Over the past two months the Moosehead Regional Fisheries staff has been encouraging anglers to keep any and all lake trout under 18-inches. We feel that we have done a good job educating anglers about the over abundance of smaller lake trout in Moosehead Lake. Catch rates on lake trout 14 - 18 inches are still high and show no sign of slowing down as we enter the last month of the season.

If you have been fishing Moosehead Lake this year and have kept your share of lake trout, you must have them coming out your ears. Wondering what to do with all those lake trout? Lake trout broiled over an open fire, smoked lake trout, and skinless lake trout fillets, either baked or pan fried, are a good bet. However, if an endless supply of lake trout is in your grasp, cooking for one meal will undoubtedly result in leftovers. Cooked lake trout leftovers are the main ingredient for a fish cake recipe that will make your mouth water for another limit of Moosehead Lake lake trout. The following is a favorite recipe of our good friend and confidante, Paul Johnson, Regional Fisheries Biologist Emeritus:

Lake Trout Fish Cakes

In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the cooked leftover lake trout with 1 egg per pound of fish, ¼ cup mayonnaise per pound of fish, ¼ cup milk per pound of fish. Mix well using a sturdy fork. Sautee ¼ cup of finely chopped onion per pound of fish in butter and add this to the fish mixture. Season the mixture with minced garlic, horseradish, soy sauce, and/or lemon pepper- the amount of each of these ingredients depends on the amount of fish you begin with, and the level of each ingredient you will be able to tolerate and still enjoy the finished product. Lastly, add cracker crumbs to thicken the mixture to a consistency that can be worked by hand into patties. Make 4-inch patties and place them on a greased pan, or avoid having to make patties by using a greased muffin tin. A dollop of butter on each patty is optional. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for at least 30 minutes, but no more than 45 minutes.

Now someone will ask “What about mercury?” and “How many Moosehead Lake ‘lake trout’ are we safely allowed to eat?” Valid questions, ones we frequently field during our creel census duties on the big lake. In general, the smaller the lake trout, the less mercury individuals contain. The statewide fish consumption advisory can be found in your 2008 ice fishing regulation booklet, and also at http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/eohp/fish.

We are hoping anglers will continue to target Moosehead Lake as a destination during the last month of the ice fishing season to help to continue “thinning” the lake’s abundant lake trout population.

On a final note, since this will be the last ice fishing report from the regional staff, we would like to thank the many anglers we interviewed over the course of the winter. It is always entertaining to meet new anglers and create new memories with veteran anglers on Maine largest lake.
-- Stephen Seeback, Fishery Biology Specialist, Moosehead Lake Region

Region F -- Penobscot
Region F biologists interviewed very few anglers this past weekend, not surprising considering Mother Nature’s most recent gift of 8-16 inches of snow in central Maine, depending on where you live. Those that did venture out caught a few trout, salmon and togue from the lakes we’ve been reporting on all season: Schoodic, Seboeis, Scraggly and Matagamon. We did get a report of an 8-pound togue caught at Cold Stream Pond last week. In the past, Cold Stream Pond has had the reputation for good fishing during the first week or two of the season, followed by long stretches (weeks at a time) of extremely slow fishing. So far this year Cold Stream has been one of our most consistent lakes, producing good action for salmon, togue and brook trout.

The Eastern Maine Snow Riders held its annual ice fishing derby at Molunkus Lake in Macwahoc this past weekend. The biggest fish entered in the derby was a pickerel tipping the scales at about 2 pounds. Prizes also were awarded for individual species including white perch and brook trout. We reported earlier this winter that Molunkus Lake was stocked last fall with 1,000 fall yearling brook trout. After a slow start in January, anglers are reporting that the hatchery trout have been biting quite well recently. The largest trout entered in last weekends derby weighed just shy of 1-pound.

Many winter derbies are held across the State of Maine each year for both cold and warm water species of fish. Often times the participants in these derbies include entire families that want a distraction from being cooped up inside during the long winter months. There is no doubt that most everyone enjoys eating a nice salmon, trout or togue every now and then, and nothing beats a feed of deep fried white perch fillets or a perch “chow-dah.” However we often hear folks asking what they should do with their pickerel after the derby is over. Pickerel are quite tasty, but they are notoriously boney and because they generally do not get much larger than 20 inches long from most Maine lakes, the dissection of Y-bones from fillets can be quite labor intensive. Here’s a technique for preparing pickerel fillets that is quick, easy, and virtually takes care of all the bones.

First, fillet and skin the pickerel as you would any other fish from the head down to the tail. Second, lay the fillet with what would be the inside of the fish up on the cutting board lengthwise from left to right in front of you. Third, make vertical cuts with a sharp knife across the fillet every 1/8-1/4 inch (from top to bottom), be sure to cut through the bones but not all the way through the meat. Gauging how deep to cut can be a bit tricky at first, but after a fish or two you’ll get the hang of it. It’s not a big deal if you do cut all the way through, as you’ll probably want to cut the fillets into smaller nuggets before cooking anyhow. In a bowl, mix a couple of eggs with a cup or two of milk and allow the fillets to soak for at least 30 minutes. Roll the fillets in your favorite breading mixture (I like crushed saltine crackers with salt and pepper mixed in) and deep fry until golden and crispy on both sides. You may still find a bone or two, especially from larger fish, but for the most part they will be taken care of during the cooking process. Enjoy !
-- Richard Dill, Regional Fishery Biologist, Penobscot

Region G – Aroostook County
The last weekend in February brought ideal travel and fishing conditions for anglers in northern Maine. I surveyed two lakes in the southern portion of our region during this time and experienced the best traveling on trails and lakes that we have seen all winter. With frequent snowstorms throughout the season, anglers have dealt with thin ice, slush, and drifting snow making any angling experience difficult. The great conditions in the Millinocket and Millimagassett lakes area didn’t last long, however, as we received two recent storms totaling more than 20 inches of snow. March fishing will begin with deep snow on northern Maine lakes; as of Sunday, March 2, slush had not yet developed on several of these lakes that we routinely check.

As we approach the last month of the season, we typically see large groups of anglers venturing out to areas that have received relatively little use during the first couple months of ice fishing. More remote areas like the Allagash Waterway, Musquacook Lakes, and Beau and Glazier lakes will see more anglers this month as weather and travel conditions moderate, days are longer, and some days in late March feel more like spring than winter. Any of these areas are great, late season destinations, each offering a slightly different angling experience. This is a great time of year to experience the backcountry of northern and western Maine. Many summer roads are converted to snowmobile trails during winter or, when a heavy crust develops on the snowpack, one may explore more remote areas even further.
-- Frank O. Frost, Fishery Biologist, Ashland

Submitted by : Deborah Turcotte, Acting Public Relations Representative
Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
SHS 41
284 State St.
Augusta, ME 04333

W: (207) 287-6008, C: (207) 592-1164

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