Ice still remains on our lakes and ponds but it won’t be long before we’re be back on open water.
The great weather predicted for the upcoming weekend should gobble up most of the remaining ice.
Here is a preseason fishing forecast from our regional fisheries department. I thought you would find it interesting.
Variety is the salt of angling. In the Moosehead Lake Region, the angler can find the variety of angling opportunities in which they seek. There are various fish species to pursue and various types of angling techniques to bag your quarry. After a long and successful winter of ice fishing in the Moosehead Lake Region we will soon hear the delightful sounds of the words “ice-out”. Snow melt and spring run-off are changing angling opportunities daily. Although many of the ponds and lakes are still covered with ice they will produce some of the fastest fishing of the open water season shortly after ice-out.
Lake trout fishing strategies change with the season. Lake trout typically seek a constant water temperature between 40-52 degrees F. Lake trout can be targeted between the surface and at depth of 15 feet at ice-out. In mid- to late spring, anglers will need to get down to deeper water around depths of 30 – 50 feet as water temperatures increase. Lake trout primarily feed on small fish, but can be taken with heavy jigs or cut bait and are also caught by trolling large spoons and lures. Anglers can find some fast fishing on Moosehead Lake, First Roach Pond, and Lower Wilson Pond if they are targeting lake trout this spring.
Spring is also a good time to find landlocked salmon cruising the shallows and the mouths of tributaries looking for smelts as they begin to congregate. Gray Ghosts, Black Ghosts, Mickey Fins, and a variety of other smelt imitation streamer patterns can be deadly this time of year. So as local ponds and lakes that provide principle fisheries for these mini-Atlantics begin to thaw, anglers could be surprised at what the Moosehead Lake Region has to offer. Some places to try this spring are Chesuncook Lake, Brassua Lake, Moosehead Lake, and First Roach Pond. There are also good opportunities to catch landlocked salmon on some of our local river fisheries like the Roach River, Moose River, East and West Outlets of the Kennebec, and the West Branch of the Penobscot.
Many of the season’s largest brook trout are caught along the shore as water temperatures begin to increase. Even the most novice angler can find fish that will take an assortment of flies, lures, and bait. Make sure to check the law book to determine which fishing gear is allowed on bodies of water you plan to fish.
Once we begin to see an increase in water temperatures and a decrease in stream and river flows, we will begin our annual spring stocking of legal-size brook trout. These brook trout are stocked in easily accessible waters through the region to create “instant fishing” opportunities. Many of these waters are stocked on more than one occasion to distribute the catch among anglers and to ensure fishing success longer into the season.
“Ask the Guides”
During the winter months when we don’t really have any fishing to report on we are going to dedicate our reports board to questions we receive from newsletter readers participating in our “Ask the Guides” segment. Here you will find questions sent in followed by comments from the guides who make their living guiding the waters of the Moosehead Lake Region.
When it comes to figuring out fish there is always something to learn. Please read, learn, and enjoy what the guides have to say.
Seneca Love sent us this great question,
“I have fished the East Outlet once in October, and I caught one
> salmon about 14 in. on a #18 hares ear nymph. That was the only time ever
> that I have fished the East Outlet. But I am extremely knowledgeable about
> the West Branch of the Penobscot, because that is rearly the only place I
> fish. Can you tell me the similarities between the East Outlet and the
> West Branch(such as hatches, types of fish, and productivity)?
It’s all about time on the water required to learn any river.
The East Outlet has the same hatches with both salmon and trout. If there is
a difference it would be the West Branch has a much larger population of
salmon and also smelts. Al salmon are born in the WB and live out their
entire life in the river. The fish in the East Outlet come and go from both
Moosehead Lake and Indian Pond.
I guide both rivers and there are lots of times when I would consider the
East Outlet fishing better like last summer. After the hatches started to
fade away I found it hard to catch many fish with the higher than normal
flows on the West Branch. The East Outlet fished better for me because of
lower water flows making it more fishable.
The bottom line is it is all about time on the water and learning a system
and where the fish hold. We both know there is a lot of unproductive water wherever we fish.
The fish on the West Branch are all wild, bigger and stronger (with a few seasonal exceptions) than the fish on the East Outlet. The EO is about 50% stocked fish, but we’re getting more and more wild fish every year. The brookies on the West Branch are all wild too.
When the water warms in the summer, the WB usually fishes much better because of colder water coming from Rip Dam, as opposed to the top water coming from the EO dam.
The EO “seems” to have a better and more consistent hatch of stone flies that the WB, but there may be those who find this to be the opposite. The caddis “seem” to be more prolific on the EO.
And as we all know, the smelts that come through Rip Dam provide the heavy dose of protein that grows bigger salmon.
In A.A. Luce’s book Fishing and Thinking (1959), he wrote of the mysteries of the stream: ” In trying to understand the behavior of the trout, as in trying to grasp the nature of truth, this attitude, technically called emperical, is essential. There are no ’causes’ of the behavior of trout, if by ’cause’ we mean a mechanical force acting on an animated machine, and mechanically producing effects…There is only one way of finding out whether it is a good fishing day or not; and that is to fish and find out. Experience is the only test.”
See you on the river!
Bill Stanton sent in this great question to “ASK the Guides”
Which of your dry fly patterns would you recommend for skittering across the surface without absorbing too much water and sinking?
The caddis flies. We skitter them all the time because fish tend to chase caddis that skitter about naturally. Mayflies don’t work very well if skittered, they need a drag free drift.
If you plan on skittering your caddis make sure to treat your leader with floatant also so it won’t sink and pull down your fly.
Tim Shaw sent this question to “Ask the Guides”,
I would like to see in your newsletter a little article on the tackle (lines, leader, flies) and techniques (area of pond, water temp, depth of water, time of year) for fishing in the ponds when no visible hatch is occurring. I am an experienced fly fisherman but have limited knowledge of pond fishing.
I have to say, one of the hardest skills to acquire is knowing how to work a trout pond when there is nothing going on, no hatch and no trout showing.
First you need the right tools for the job. Water temperature is always important so a good thermometer will help you determine what you should be trying.
You’ll need at least two different fly lines, a floating and a sinking. If you own only one sinking line it should be a fast-sinking that is also a full sinking line, one with a sink rate of around 2 1/2 – 4 1/2 inches per second. A fast sinking, 10′ sink-tip would be the next and a super-fast full sinking line if you plan to fish ponds of water depths greater than 15 feet.
At ice out, water will be under 40 degrees and insect activity is minimal. As the water slowly starts to warm mayfly nymphs start to actively feed in swallow 2-10′ of water especially along the shoreline the sun beats down on. This renewed insect activity provides a banquet of food for dragon fly nymphs that now are crawling on top of the duff along the shoreline gobbling up the easy prey. It is here and now that the sink-tip line is important. With a good dragon fly nymph imitation you can cast along drop-offs then let your sink-tip line take the nymph to trout patrolling the shoreline. All you need is a short, 6′ piece of 3X tippet material as your leader.
Nymphs just crawl about so a slow retrieve will work the best. This is a good time and place to use a black or olive woolly bugger also. If there is a good minnow population a streamer imitation like a black nose dace could do the trick, just use a faster retrieve.
As the water begins to warm after the ice has been out for a week of more you’ll begin to see fish working the surface on any calm afternoon but you can see no obvious insect activity. It’s midge season and time to drag out the tiny fly box that contains Griffiths Gnat , Blue Wing Olive, and Clusters in sizes 20-24. You’ll need 6X tippet material and a very steady hand. Because they are near impossible to see on the water I like to use midges as a dropper 2′- 3′ behind a larger dry fly. It lets you know where the midge is and acts as a strike indicator. Trout tend to sip midges making it hard to see the take. If your larger dry moves just lift your rod. Remember you’ll be playing a sometimes large trout on a very tiny hook on very light leader.
When June finally arrives so does the mayfly hatches. For the first couple for weeks the fish keep bankers hours. The high sun warms the water a few degrees by mid-day when hatches begin and continue all afternoon till around 5 pm then fade away and fat, happy trout disappear. You might as well head for Happy Hour because late evening feeding isn’t that popular to the trout. If you want to stay you might catch a spinner fall just at dark but fish are fat and happy from the mid-day meal and quite often not that interested. Hatches include Blue Dunns, Black Gnats, Adams, Hendricksons and Red Quills in size 10 or 12. If fish get finicky I will use the associated unweighted nymph as a dropped a couple of feet behind the dry.
Bankers hours don’t last that long as the heat of summer arrives warming the water to over 70 degrees driving trout to the cooler 55-60 degree water of spring holes where they will spend most of their time till fall when the water cools. If is wasn’t for cold spring water entering the ponds from the bottom, often in a small area no bigger than the foundation of a house, trout could not survive the heat of summer.
If there is a magical time during the summer trout pond cycle it comes around the beginning of July with the Green Drake or Hex hatches. The monster mayflies that hatch just before dark will bring the biggest trout out of the spring holes in search of the abundant bugs often referred to as cheeseburgers with wings. If you have even witnessed the first drake hatch on a pond you will never stop talking about it. I always bring a second rod with a sinking line along. With the right nymph you can begin to catch trout well before sunset as fish begin to cruise the shallows in search of an easy meal.
Once the Drakes are done hatching, usually by mid-July, trout will spend all their time in the cool water of the spring holes. They have had a great season of hatches and remain in the spring holes living on the fat they put on earlier. Fish can be caught during the heat of summer but it is very technical fishing with sinking lines, nymphs and the closely guarded secret of where the spring holes are located. If you are not fishing close to the bottom where the cold ground water enters the pond you are fishing in bath water where there are no fish.
Once the heat of summer breaks around the end of August water temps start to drop and the bath water of summer releases its hold on the ponds. It’s now time of trout to exit the spring holes and go on the feed once more. They usually spend a long enough duration in the cool water of the spring hole and work up a mighty appetite.
By the second week of September you should find trout cruising around ponds in search of a meal. There aren’t really any hatches that time of season so you won’t see many rising fish but they are looking. All you need to do in the fall to catch trout is tie on a Royal Wulff or the like and let it lay on the surface then twitch it so it makes a set of rings. Fish are cruising about looking for anything. I believe they often will key in on the concentric rings made by something struggling on the surface.
You’ll be surprised at what shows.
Good luck Tim and thanks for your question.
Capt. Rob Thompson of Kennebec, Maine
asked the guides:
“When a landlock, a laker, a brookie strike at a smelt or streamer what part are they most likely to strike, the tail or the head? From befind or from the side?
“In my experience, salmon and brook trout hit a fly from behind, then turn. This behavior may have something to do with chasing bait in moving water?! If a fly has too long of a tail, the result is a tug, but no take. Bass go for the eye spot, both striped bass, largemouth & smallmouth alike.” Michael Jones
I don’t think there is any question these fish strike at the tail of a fly. We watch fish come at streamers all the time and as Mike mentioned, strike a streamer from behind then turn to head back where they came from. Once in a awhile they one will gobble a fly but 99% of the fish we bring to net are just barely hooked, many just by a piece of skin. If you ever lost a fish after thinking you have him hooked solid it is probably because the fish is only hooked by a piece of skin that ripped loose when the fish put the power on. All because they are nippers and hit short from behind. Dan Legere
John Mooney asked the guides:
Hi, I just started trolling tandem streamers for LL salmon and I was wondering first what type/color fly you would start the day with and when to change the fly and why?
John: “I was told by an old Maine guide that whenever in doubt (when it comes to light conditions and time of day) go with a Black Ghost Streamer. The logic follows that a black & white pattern will be visible in all light conditions. It is a virtual salmon and trout killing machine!
When to change the fly? I always say out loud “we better change flies!”, and then a fish will strike the cold fly 3 out of 5 times?! Don’t try to figure that one out, it just seems to work that way in practice. Really, I change flies
whenever I have lost faith in the one I am dragging; the most important thing is to have confidence in what you are presenting behind the boat.” Michael Jones