Outdoors

Open-water fishing in north is still a way off

Posted April 25, 2009, at 1:11 a.m.

As you head outside and bask in the bright sunshine today (if, that is, our local weather prognosticators are on target with their latest predictions), you’ll have abundant recreational options.

Perhaps a hike in Bangor’s city forest piques your interest. Maybe you’d rather go ride a bike … or head to Old Town and shop for a new canoe at a bargain price.

Or maybe it’s time to take the tarp off your boat, fire up the motor, and head to your favorite lake for a day of fishing.

If you’re living in greater Bangor, that last option is certainly available.

Farther north, however, our friends are still waiting for spring to truly arrive … no matter how high the mercury rises this afternoon.

The lakes and ponds in Bangor area have been ice-free for more than a week now, but you don’t have to travel too far to find spots where evidence of winter is still present.

I made contact with a couple of water-watchers this week, and both are waiting patiently for the last remnants of winter to melt away.

Dan Legere, the proprietor of Maine Guide Fly Shop in Greenville, says there are fishing options available in his region, but the state’s biggest lake is still ice-covered.

In an e-mail update on the conditions of his region, Legere said that eager Moosehead Lake anglers won’t have to wait much longer before fishing on the 74,890-acre lake.

“Ice hasn’t gone out yet but all indications are it should be gone by the first of May,” Legere wrote. “A number of factors always influence ice-out. The rain and wind event of the last couple of days has reduced the white snow pack ice to the remaining black ice that originally formed last December.”

Legere said the conditions that lead to ice-out have arrived, and progress is being made every day.

“The measurable amount of rain that fell has water entering the lake from everywhere bringing the lake level up rapidly, creating quite a bit of open water around the shore, and opening large areas wherever it is flowing into the lake,” Legere wrote. “Any wind now will start to push the ice around breaking it up even more. Add the unseasonably warm temperatures and bright sunshine predicted for this weekend and everything falls into place for an early ice-out.”

Legere spends much of the spring and summer guiding anglers on the moving waters of the East Outlet of the Kennebec River and the West Branch of the Penobscot River. Fishing that flowing water is a bit tough right now, but will improve rapidly.

“There are not many bright or new fish in the rivers quite yet even thought the Moose and the Roach [rivers] have good water flows,” Legere wrote. “The East Outlet is at minimum flow, 511 cubic feet per second, for flood control and to capture the remaining runoff and complete filling the lake which always gets pulled down over the winter months.”

Legere has spent thousands of hours on his local waters, and thoroughly understands the factors that make fish move into the rivers he targets.

“Once the smelt runs begin in a weeks or so and river flows remain high, there will be a run of fresh salmon in the rivers,” he wrote. “Salmon love current and when they gather at the mouth of the rivers for the banquet of smelt, a certain percent will decide to run up river. Once in the river they’ll find the abundant insect population and stay till the heat of summer runs them back into the lakes.”

And that, obviously, is good news for anglers … if they know where the fish are holding.

Thankfully, Legere has some helpful advice.

“For now the most productive moving water is where any river enters the lake,” Legere wrote. “I have always said I believe 90 percent of the fish are in 10 percent of the water and that 10 percent is currently at the mouth of the rivers where the smelt have staged for their annual spawning runs. Pound those spots with sinking lines and BIG SMELT patterns and you’ll find fish.”

Armed with some good information about the Greenville area, I fired off an e-mail to Rich Rossignol in the St. John Valley, looking for an update on his favorite lake.

Rossignol, who lives in Madawaska on the shore of Long Lake, didn’t disappoint.

Rossignol spends countless hours on the lake during the winter, and though he prefers to do his open-water fishing on other, smaller ponds, I knew he’d have some valuable information to pass along.

Before I pass along Rossignol’s report, however, a half-hearted apology may be in order.

A couple weeks back I received another e-mail from a former college classmate who wants me to stop writing about Long Lake, one of his favorite haunts.

His basic message: Stop spreading the not-so-secret news that Long Lake may be your best bet to catch a seven-, eight-, or 10-pound landlocked salmon in Maine.

It’s clearly too late for that, but rest assured, there’s plenty of water on Long Lake to accommodate all us. Releasing more of those Long Lake footballs than we keep will also help the lake retain its stellar reputation.

Here’s what Rossignol had to say:

“I’m happy to see spring come around — it’s just reaching us up here — everything’s still pretty iced-in though. I understand It’s been spring for some time in the ‘other Maine,’” Rossignol wrote. “The edges along the shore of Long Lake are finally starting to open up a bit, now that it stopped freezing at night. I suspect it’ll be a few more weeks before we see open water. I’d say that’s it’s an average year for the ice.”

I asked Rossignol about smelting options, and he willingly passed that information along … with an editorial addendum that I tend to agree with.

“The smelts should start to run about a week or two after the ice finally lets go. This year like the last the only open brook on the lake is Mud Brook down in the Van Buren Cove part of the lake,” Rossignol wrote. “They closed all the other brooks and inlets in the lake and that’s OK as far as I’m concerned. I know that a lot of people don’t share my opinion but as far as I’m concerned I’d rather catch a five-pound salmon on a line than stand in a brook and catch two quarts of smelts with one swoop of a net. To me that’s fishing. I’m no biologist but there’s a reason the fish in Long Lake can grow to football size In three years. But that’s just my opinion.”

An opinion worth considering, in my view.

“Many people will start off the year fishing off of the causeway in St Agatha,” Rossignol continued. “It’s usually pretty good over there right after ice out. Once the water warms up a bit (mid June) the salmon will start to bite [when anglers are] trolling or plugging.

“I’m probably not your best source for tips on summer salmon fishing — I do most of my salmon fishing on hard ice and come spring I enjoy hitting some of the smaller trout ponds in the area,” he wrote. “There’s a ton of real nice trout ponds/lakes within an hour of home. Fall Brook Lake, Debouley pond, Perch Pond and the Wallagrass lakes are all real good spots to catch your fair share of great tasting brook trout. The fishing usually pretty steady and great places to bring kids.”

jholyoke@bangordailynews.net

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