Fishing Report: Nice weather brought out a surprising amount of ice anglers in all of our reporting areas, with the Maine Statewide Fishing Derby really inspiring a lot of enthusiasm and activity from Aroostook to York Counties. Reports from the saltwater ice fishermen were that although ice conditions were quickly deteriorating, the fish were cooperating and providing some big catches.
Chris Henson at Kittery Trading Post says that he’s now looking forward to some great late season ice fishing, but his heart is in some early open water fishing for outsized rainbow trout. “This may be one of the best kept secrets in our region—the early season runs of rainbow trout up into the rivers and streams from the lakes and ponds they are usually in. Rainbow trout are spring spawners. In most places, especially in the mid-state and coastal areas, they will attempt to spawn but the acidity of the water doesn’t allow for it to be successful. There are some places in both New Hampshire and Maine where natural reproduction of rainbows does happen. In these areas, where fishing is legal, best practices are for catch and release fishing.”
“This is a sport of stealth and stalking, much like hunting. The best way to fish for these spawning rainbows is to sight them first. Good Polarized sunglasses are a must. When you find spawning fish you do not want to let them see you or all your efforts will be in vain. Make casts upstream of the fish and allow a drag-free drift. Fly fishermen do well on nymphs; especially some bright colored mayfly nymph imitations. Also, a single egg pattern fly will often bring a strike. Spawn bags and nightcrawlers will also work at times. Usually the fish will not swallow the bait and are quick to reject it when they pick it up, so early striking will avoid deep hooking and you’ll be more apt to get the thrill of a great battle with the fish.”
“We’ve watched trout that have been caught and released quickly find their way back to their mates and resume their spawning efforts.”
“New Hampshire stocks rainbow trout in a lot of its waters, but the mid-state lakes such as Winnipesaukee and Winnisquam are two favorites. Maine’s rainbow trout stocking is expanding, but early season fishing may not be available in most rivers and streams until the April 1st opener. A quick look at Delorme’s Atlas will identify major rivers and brooks that may hold early season rainbows. Know that you cannot fish many of the outlets into the lakes themselves as law prohibits that until April 1st. Also, know that you need to first identify the water you’ve picked has rules that will allow this early season, open water fishing.”
The Maine Statewide Fishing Derby was a smashing success, according to Carroll Cutting at Jordan’s Store in East Sebago. “We were the local fish weighing and checking-in station and were swamped with fish—close to 400 we had to weigh and enter! Everyone that came had a great time and there were some very respectable fish that were winners,” Cutting said. He faxed us the results from Tom Noonan, the derby coordinator.
First place in the togue (lake trout) division was Lester Hawkes with a 15.38 pounder. Second place togue weighed 8.18 pounds caught by Josh Watson. Third place togue weighed 8.14 pounds caught by Jason Beever. All of these fish came from Sebago Lake.
In the pickerel division the first place fish was caught in Sebago Lake by Holly Herrick. Second place pickerel was 3.74 pounds at 25 inches and third place was caught by Julie Mosely that weighed exactly the same—3.74 pounds, but the tiebreaker was the length, and Julie’s fish was one inch shorter. (No info on where those two fish were caught).
The pike division has some big fish with the winner, a 14.11 pounder taken by Brent Nelson Sr. from Sabattus Lake. Mike Guarino’s 12.27 pounder from Messalonskee Lake took second place while third place went to Doug Koehling at 11.97 pounds, also from Messalonskee.
Glacier Lake in Aroostook County accounted for the top three muskies. Cody Daigle’s 15.57 pounder took first place, followed by a 14.30 pound musky that was caught by Dan Pelletier. Shawn Pelletier held on to third place with his 13.58 pounder.
The winner of the grand prize, a 2007 pickup truck was Marc S. Plourde of Hermon, Maine. The winner of the Polaris ATV was Mike Depamer of Raymond, ME. Ryan Seymour of Brewer, ME won the Vexilar Flasher. The Jiffy Power Ice auger was taken home by Loren Fuller of Liberty, ME. Kittery Trading Post $50 gift certificates were won by Joshua Dimmit of Montville, ME, Holly Herrick of New Gloucester, ME, Micha Knope of New Gloucester and Bob Whalen of Levant, ME. (Many thanks to Tom Noonan for furnishing this info.)
Francis Brautigam, Regional Fisheries Biologist Specialist in Maine’s Region A (Sebago area) filed this email report for us: “Finally Sebago's largest basin (the "Big Bay") iced over early last week just in time for spring thaw. I haven't spoken to anyone yet that has ventured out on what is expected to be very thin ice covering the Big Bay. Warming temperatures last week limited additional ice formation and the heavy wet snow on Friday has not improved the ice conditions. However, the unusually cold temperature forecast for this week may firm up the ice and slush to allow some fishing on what many consider to be the best area of the lake for catching large togue.”
“Last week I fished Jordan Bay with Greg Cutting and his friend Mike. I must admit that Greg had the lure and the technique that allowed him to land 7 togue before I caught my first one. All the togue were fat and healthy and the largest was maybe 5 pounds. The togue appeared to be very spotty, and not biting very aggressively that day. Very subtle "bouncing" of the jig on the bottom was required to initiate a strike and the jig color of the day was white. Greg had a handheld depth finder with a fish detecting beeper that would sound when a fish swam beneath his hole. At times the beeper was sounding steadily, suggesting a togue would swim by the jig numerous times before taking a ‘bite’.”
“We spoke with another group of jig fishermen who were fishing nearby and they also indicated very spotty fishing for togue in association with schools of smelt. When you find the schools of smelt, the togue are not far behind. We did hear about a 15 - 20 pound togue that was apparently caught and released on Sebago within the last couple weeks.”
“Many anglers on Sebago have commented that the winter togue fishing is slower than a few years ago. Dramatic increases in smelt abundance has likely concentrated the togue more, which means anglers need to be more mobile in their fishing habits to find them. We also remain hopeful that the togue population has declined in recent years under the more liberalized harvest regulations (6 togue daily bag, 14 inch minimum, only 1 over 23) established to reduce the population. “
“The addition of heavy snow last Friday made for some slushy conditions on area lakes and despite the nice weekend weather, angler use was light on waters surveyed. Littlefield Pond (Sanford) and Keoka Lake (Waterford) continue to produce brook trout for those anglers who target them. Keoka Lake (Waterford) and Wilson Lake (Acton) also offered some good action for white perch up to 11 inches long.”
“Although use on Round Pond (Lyman) has been light, this youth-only fishing pond offers some great action for brook trout and parents are encouraged to bring their kids to this unique fishery, but remember only kids under age 16 may fish on Round Pond in the winter, and a two line, two trout limit is in effect.” (This report is a bit outdated, coming to us early last week.)
Craig Bergeron at Saco Bay Tackle said he figured that the smelt rental camps in Mid-Coast Maine would be hauling their camps off the ice because of the warming trends. “Saltwater ice melts a lot faster than freshwater and the tidal situation creates even faster melting. We’ve still got plenty of good ice here on our inland lakes and they should remain fishable for a couple of more weeks. Also, for the fly rodders that need to cast a fly for some trout, we often see some great sea run action here early in the spring and even occasionally will have a hatch of bugs that the trout will be working. The Ogunquit and Mousam Rivers are the two favorites here,” Craig ended.
The word from River’s Edge Sports in the Rangeley Lakes area was that very little ice fishing opportunity was available there but one pond, Haley Pond right in the Town of Rangeley did provide some action on yellow perch and an occasional salmon or brook trout. Ice thickness is about half what it usually is this time of year in that area, so look for early ice out. Snow sledding conditions are great.
Gayland Hachey at Hachey’s Fly and Rod Shop in Veazie near the Penobscot River says that he expects another very limited fall season for the 2007 Atlantic salmon. “Last year’s fall season was a bit of a failure. Of the well over 200 salmon permits that were sold, only one fish was actually landed. Do you think that many of those people will be returning?” he asked us.
Gayland said that universally all of the participants in last fall’s season had fished in accordance with the very restrictive rules and set a great example for the future. “We hope that kind of an example set will enable some kind of a restrictive spring season to be re-opened.”
Jason MacKenzie at Suds-n-Soda Sports in Greenland says that he figures that the Great Bay smelt fishing would probably come to an end this week as ice has quickly pulled away from the shores, even though the main ice pack is still about two feet thick in some areas. “This time of year it’s all about getting on and off the ice. Last night we took a ride around checking on the different access areas and they were getting chancy, especially on the Squamscott River in Exeter and Stratham. We’ll be running out of seaworm bait this week and won’t re-order. Some of the last minute diehards will still go out and catch a few fish using nightcrawlers,” he laughed.
“We did hear of plenty of action on crappie and other panfish in some of the local ponds, but they will also tend to loose their ice quickly here in the southern part of the state.”
George Taylor at Taylor’s Trading Post in Madbury was pleased with the turnout of ice fishermen last weekend. “We put out a lot of bait. They were having some great pickerel fishing on the Bellamy here and quite a few yellow perch, some good crappie catches and largemouths in the three pound range—no really big ones yet. Big pickerel were the surprise for us—lots of fish closing in on the two-foot long size. We also heard that Little Long Pond in Rochester and Wheelwright Pond in Barrington were doing well on crappie.”
“Our saltwater crowd over on the Oyster River at Landing Road really did well. They said that the smelt were just boiling up in their holes but also reported that access to the ice pack was getting chancy. We’d say this would be the last week there.”
In the Lakes Region, Alan Nute at AJ’s Bait and Tackle in Meredith said that there were plenty of fishermen in his area. A big gathering of friends was having their annual party with a lot of kids fishing and a big barbecue out on Pemigewasset Lake in New Hampton. “They caught a ton of panfish—crappie, perch and pickerel and one huge bass, a five pound largemouth.”
“Here on Winni the lake trout seemed to slow down, but catches were reported in Center Harbor and other places where it seemed the smelt may have been starting to school up near the spawning streams. Some nice catches of real quality yellow perch were taken here at Meredith Bay. We saw one bucket of yellows that were mostly 12 to 14 inches!”
Alan said that he was taking the day off tomorrow and was headed for the Connecticut River to fish for pike. Some of his buddies had fished there this weekend and had caught some undersized pike, some yellow perch and even a crappie.
The Connecticut Lakes Region seems to be the best place for late season ice fishing action, as both ice conditions and good snow travel are making for ideal fishing. Tom Remick at TR’s Bait in Pittsburg says that he’ll have a good supply of bait right up until the end of the ice fishing. “This is the best time of year for cusk and the First Lake (Connecticut) is probably the best cusk fishing in the northcountry.”
Pete Santini at Fishing FINatics in Everett reports that Walsh’s Party Boat out of Lynn Harbor had steamed well offshore to the area open for codfishing on Saturday and they found some huge fish. One of the cod landed was a 63 pounder. Most of their fish came on cod jigs and pelican green teasers.
“Our inshore cod fishery will open April 1st and for the last few years we’ve had some great fishing. Believe it or not, we’re hearing of some flounder being caught at the Sugar Bowl off Castle Island Pier. The fish are in a warm water discharge area there. Clams, and seaworms juiced with Seabait concentrated seaworm scent has been best.”
“Another place where a warm water discharge is attracting fish is at the Charles River behind the Royal Sonesta Hotel. Stripers, largemouth bass and some pike are hitting rubber shad baits there. The key for the largemouths is to fish your lures very slowly.”
“Next weekend there will be a huge crowd at Gillette Stadium for the 2007 Massachusetts Striped Bass Association’s show—both Saturday and Sunday. Also, remember that this year’s Boston Striper Shootout is scheduled for June 15th and 16th. Hall of Famer Wade Boggs will be one of the contestants in this year’s event.”
Kay Moulton at Surfland at Plum Island reports that although there has been quite a few fishing for codfish in her area, none have been reported yet.