Downeast Maine Fishing
Downeast Maine is noteworthy because of the wide variety of angling experiences it offers. Anglers can choose among coldwater (salmonid) and warmwater fisheries in lakes, easily accessible and remote wilderness-type waters, wading or fishing from a canoe for wild brook trout in streams.
Numerous waters offer good fishing for one or more of 9 species of sportfish; landlocked salmon, brook trout, lake trout (togue), brown trout, splake, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, white perch, and pickerel. The region boasts one of the top 10 salmon and togue lakes in Maine (West Grand Lake), one of the top 5 riverine fisheries for salmon (Grand Lake Stream), some of the very best smallmouth bass angling in the state, and the premier lake for whitefish in eastern Maine,
West Grand Lake.
West Grand Lake This very popular water (14,340 acres) received in excess of 15,000 angler-days of use in 1997. Anglers are attracted to this crystal clear, largely undeveloped water which provides very good salmon fishing, excellent sport for togue and whitefish, and, somewhat surprisingly, good action for smallmouths. Most of the annual use occurs in May during the ice-out and late spring salmon fishery. In most years, anglers make good catches of nicely shaped 17-18 inch salmon by trolling streamers on the surface or fishing a wobbler down 2-3 colors. Biologists monitor this important spring fishery each year by conducting a creel survey as anglers return to the landing adjacent to the dam. For the 1995-97 seasons, the average weight of a salmon brought in on a stringer or in a cooler was 1 lb., 12 oz.,heavier than the statewide average.
The lake was formerly stocked with togue, but this practice ended in 1989 once it was determined that enough natural reproduction was occurring to sustain the fishery. Average weight of togue creeled by ice and open water anglers in recent years is 3 1/4-3 pounds. Fishing has substantially improved as current catch rates have more than doubled compared to 10 years ago. The lake has a well-deserved reputation as a producer of “lunker” togue; every year, a number of 10-20 pound fish are hauled up from the cold depths. During the 1994 ice fishing season, a 25 pounder was landed.
Every February, a village of ice fishing shacks suddenly appears in Junior Bay as whitefish enthusiasts try their luck. On the better days, anglers can catch a limit of 8 of these delectable fish.
Although West Grand is best known for its salmon, togue, and whitefish, the smallmouth bass fishery should not be overlooked.
Grand Lake Stream
The outlet of West Grand, Grand Lake Stream, supports an outstanding salmon fishery. Numerous non-residents eagerly make annual trips to this storied water in May-June and September-October to battle leaping salmon in fast water habitat. The following special regulations have helped maintain a quality fishery: fly fishing only, a one fish limit on salmon, and catch and release only during the extended October 1-20 season. Anglers catch good numbers of 17-19 “ salmon in most years, routinely releasing most of their fish.
Two sizeable hatches (Hendrickson’s around mid-May and caddis in early-mid June) afford anglers a good opportunity to catch fish on dry flies. Streamers and nymphs account for the bulk of the early season catch.
Two other waters, Big Lake and Grand Falls Flowage, in this part of the region provide outstanding smallmouth bass fisheries. Both waters attract numerous non-resident “sports” who fish these waters each June to do battle with feisty smallmouths. These waters have responded well to the slot limits adopted in 1992. These waters have provided excellent fishing in 1996 and 1997 with impressive numbers of 13-15” fish coming to the net. As these fish grow “through the slot”, there should be some fine angling for 16” bass in the next several years. Although Grand Falls Flowage has historically been a consistent producer of 16-18” bass, it seems it’s ready to yield even more fish of this highly desirable size. Anglers need to use caution when boating due to numerous slightly submerged deadheads. Further, for those seeking to fish within the Indian Township portions, they now need to secure a permit prior to their trip.
Use of slot limits is not confined to bass management as Region C has the only two salmon slot limits currently “on the books” in Maine. An experimental 16-20 “slot limit wherein all salmon between 16 and 20 “must be immediately released is being tested at Tunk and Alligator Lakes. The objective is to provide a satisfactory fishery for salmon 20 “in length. Although it’s much too soon to assess the effectiveness of this regulation, preliminary findings at Tunk are “good” and “fair” at Alligator.
Twenty years ago, the Downeast region stocked togue in 8 -9 waters. Now, only one is stocked as wild togue provide viable fisheries in Toddy Pond, Tunk Lake, Phillips Lake, Beech Hill Pond, Eagle Lake, Jordan Pond, and West Grand Lake. The single togue stocking program remaining at Green Lake is producing a noteworthy fishery. Togue stocked at a low density grow rapidly, and provide anglers with good numbers of 3 1/2-4 pound fish. The winter season of 1996 was especially good as numerous lucky anglers left the ice with 5-7 pound fish. A 19 -lb fish was caught in the 1994 ice fishing season.
Another interesting thing about most Green Lake togue…they are some of the fattest to be seen anywhere in central or eastern Maine!
Special regulations on two brook trout waters appear to be having favorable impacts. At Long Pond in Aurora, a fishery- initiative water, anglers enjoyed an especially good 1997 spring season for nicely shaped 14-15 “ squaretails. Fish are stocked as 9-11” spring yearlings, and are protected from harvest during their first summer in the pond. Trout grow rapidly on a diet of smelt, small sunfish, crayfish, and various bugs/insects. Each year, this water yields some 2-4 lb. trout, and a 6 lb, 15 oz trophy was caught in 1995…the largest reported in Maine that year!
Old Stream, in Washington County, historically has been one of the top 10 trout streams in eastern Maine. However, angling quality declined substantiallly in the 1980’s due to increased fishing pressure, much of it from canoe trips. Since the stream continues to provide high quality habitat, the problem was over-exploitation by anglers. In an effort to halt the decline, special regulations were adopted in 1996 .
Old Stream is one of the few Downeast trout streams which annually yields some large trout in the 14-16 “ size class. Early follow-up work suggests an increase in the numbers of sub-legal 8-10” trout. As these fish continue to grow in 1998 and 1999, the fishery for legal trout should improve. In addition to Old Stream, anglers can fish 3 other special regulation streams: Fifth Lake Stream, West Branch of the Narraguagus River, and the upper reach of Crooked River.
From a management perspective, brown trout fill an important regional niche. They have provided satisfactory fisheries in waters where brook trout and salmon failed to do so. They have performed well in waters which are too warm for brookies or lack suitable forage(smelts) for salmon. Some of the better waters are Walker Pond, Flanders Pond, Jones Pond, Patrick Lake, Six-Mile Lake, Molasses Pond, and Bog Lake. Both Walker and Flanders yield 3- 4 lb browns on a regular basis.
Patrick Lake is a favored ice fishing spot where anglers make good catches of 15-18” browns. Limited fisheries for wild brown trout exist in Branch Lake and Lower Patten Pond. Special 18-in minimum lengths on brown trout in these waters allow all females to spawn once prior to being subjected to angling mortality. Both these waters produce a few fish in the 4-6 lb class in most years.
Splake are currently stocked in about a dozen regional waters. In most of these waters, they have provided good ice fishing for 12-15 in age II fish. Although returns of older-age fish have been disappointing in some waters, other waters have yielded some fine 2-4 pound fish. Peaked Mountain Pond, closed to ice fishing, provides some fine spring and fall sport for 14-17” splake. Second and Third Lake Old Stream have yielded some 4-5 lb fish because of special harvest restrictions. Burntland Lake, Mopang Lake, and Toddy Pond are other good bets for splake. Fitts Pond, which received an introductory splake stocking in May, 1997 provided some good angling for 12-14 “ fish in the early part of the 1998 ice fishing season.
Downeast Maine boasts some of the very best smallmouth bass angling in Maine. Numerous lakes contain these sporty fish; anglers have many choices depending on whether they want to catch a lot of small bass, a fair number of medium size bass, or a chance at a fish or two in the 2-3 lb range. Meddybemps Lake and Cathance Lake provide very fast angling for small 9-11” fish. It’s not uncommon for a reasonably skilled angler to catch from 30-40 bass in a day on these productive waters.
Four Hancock county waters, Webb Pond, Abrams Pond, Great Pond,, and Georges Pond, are managed for trophy smallmouths through 18” minimum lengths and 1 fish limits. Two Washington county waters, Third and Fourth Machias Lakes, are similarly managed, and two others, Silver Pug Lake and Wabassus Lake, provide trophy bass angling through catchand release regulations. All these waters annually produce some 3- 4 lb smallmouths.
For those anglers seeking good action for medium size bass, Branch Lake, Green Lake, Graham Lake, Crawford Lake, Pocomoonshine Lake, Rocky Lake, Gardner Lake, Hadley Lake and Boyden Lake should fill the bill. The best fishing typically occurs from late May-late June, which encompasses the spawning and post-spawning season. For much of this period, smallmouths can be caught in shallow water by casting lures or flies. Some outstanding fishing can be enjoyed with top water lures or flies in the early morning or evening when the wind abates creating calm surface conditions. Seeing a 2-3 lb smallmouth smash a surface lure represents the epitome of bass fishing. Although largemouths are relatively uncommon in eastern Maine, they provide good action in waters like Pierce Pond, Wight Pond, Crawford Lake, Pocomoonshine Lake, Second Lake and Rocky Lake.
Many anglers believe that the best eating freshwater fish of them all is the white perch. The firm, white, flaky flesh is truly delectable. White perch are widespread throughout the Downeast region, and provide excellent sport in numerous waters. Anglers, once they become familiar with the “perch holes”, can expect to make good catches of desirable size (10-12”) fish at Webb Pond, Georges Pond, Lower Pond, Upper Patten Pond, Third Pond, Lower Lead Mountain Pond, Rocky Lake, Second Gardner Lake, Bog Lake, Pierce Pond, Big Lake, Grand Falls Flowage, East Machias River above Hadley Lake, Spectacle Pond, Crawford Lake, Meddybemps Lake and Third Machias Lake.
Once the perch “school up” in the summer, good catches are made in August-September by fishing worms a foot or so off bottom in the perch holes. It’s one of the few species of freshwater fish which can be caught “one after the other” just like mackerel in the ocean. Their ready catchability along with fine taste makes this species one of the most eagerly sought after in Downeast Maine. It’s also one of the best species to seek when teaching a youngster the basics of fishing. Anglers who don’t go white perch fishing at least several times a season are truly missing out on a good thing.
*Information provided by Fisheries Division at Inland Fisheries and Wildlife