For many Mainers, Memorial Day weekend means cookouts, heading to camp and relaxing.
Many others head fishing each Memorial Day weekend, whether with a group of friends or the whole family.
Everywhere I’ve gone this week, I’ve run into friends and acquaintances who were gearing up for their own traditional fishing trips. Some will head into the deep woods and pitch tents. Others will hop into canoes and make their way down beautiful rivers. Others will drive to a secret brook, take a fly rod or a tin of worms, and hike into the forest for an afternoon.
I say, let’s join them.
Let’s figure out a place we can fish … pack a lunch … and hit the road.
The weather promises to be perfect, after all. The water has warmed nicely, and the trout are feeding.
This is a prime time for fishing on many of the state’s brooks, lakes, ponds and rivers.
If you can’t figure out a place to go, don’t worry: I’ve taken all the guess work out of it.
Well … I guess it would be incorrect to say I’ve done anything. But three of the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife’s longtime fisheries biologists have, in response to an e-mail query I sent Thursday.
Tim Obrey, who oversees the vast Region E that includes Moosehead Lake and the Greenville area, will share some hotspots. Dave Basley of Ashland-based Region G will direct you to a few Aroostook County gems. And Gordon “Nels” Kramer of Enfield-based Region F has provided a laun-dry list of suggestions from his neck of the woods.
Best of all, each biologist included some easy-access spots that are perfect for kids. Some of those spots, in fact, are maintained especially for youth or family fishing.
And they’re well stocked.
Here then, are a few ways you may want to spend your Memorial Day weekend.
Let’s start in Greenville. I specifically asked Obrey to provide some information about the Piscataquis River fishery, which has become a popular spot for wading and shore-based anglers over the past several years.
One reason for that popularity: a rigorous stocking program that provides plenty of fish for people to catch … and keep, if they choose.
Here’s some of what Obrey had to say:
“One of my first projects as a college summer student working for the Greenville office of the [DIF&W] fisheries division was a survey of the Piscataquis River,” Obrey wrote. “In the 1980s the river suffered from poor water quality. Sewage and occasional chemical spills plagued the river. However, efforts by the towns and private businesses along the river to improve the water quality were very successful. By the early 1990s, a remarkable transformation occurred on the stretch of river between the towns of Guilford and Sebec. The river was, and still is, very clean and we can now stock the river to provide trout fishing opportunities.”
Now the river is managed as a “put-and-take” fishery, meaning that biologists expect very few of the fish they stock to survive from year to year. Few cool spring holes exist in the river, and the Piscataquis warms up to the point that it’s not suitable for trout during the dog days of summer.
Therefore, the state encourages people to take advantage of the fishing opportunity when the water is still cool, and expects anglers to keep a fish or two if they choose.
“We stock the river in the spring and fall with hatchery brook trout. In the spring, we typically stock 12,000 to 14,000 brookies in the section below Guilford Dam downstream to East Dover,” Obrey wrote. “The stocking usually occurs in two events spread out by a few weeks. This way, we create some early spring fishing then the river gets another stocking to provide for some late spring, early summer fishing.”
In the fall, the DIF&W stocks another 1,500 to 2,000 trout that measure from 10 to 12 inches in length. The river is open year-round. Artificial lures must be used, and there is a two-fish limit.
Among Obrey’s suggestions on the river: the East Dover Bridge, the Dover-Foxcroft Chamber of Commerce, Low’s Bridge in Guilford, the confluence of Salmon Stream, Guilford-Sangerville Bridge, and just beyond the outfield fence of the baseball field in Guilford.
If you’re looking to take kids fishing in Obrey’s region, he has a few other suggestions.
The small impoundment behind the YMCA in Dover-Foxcroft may still hold some stocked brook trout, while Snow’s Pond in Dover-Foxcroft has stocked brookies and some pickerel.
Drummond Pond in Abbot is open to all anglers during the summer and just children during the winter. It was stocked Thursday, Obrey reported. A Hooked on Fishing event is planned for Drummond Pond on June 5.
Now let’s focus our attention a little farther north, where Basley has some ideas for those looking to fish in Aroostook County.
“Mud [Russell] Pond adjacent to the South Oakfield Road in Linneus has been recently stocked with 600 brook trout,” Basley reported. “This small pond has a gravel boat launch and is an ideal spot to spend the day with a family in a boat or canoe. The pond also contains white perch, pick-erel and bass to keep anglers’ interest should the trout not cooperate. The daily bag limit on trout is two fish with a six-inch minimum legal length. There is no size or bag limit on bass.”
In Presque Isle, young anglers can hone their skills at Mantle Lake, a small impoundment restricted to those under age 16, or to those with a complimentary license.
“A park and picnic area are next to the pond to entertain other family members who may not wish to fish,” Basley wrote, adding that 500 brook trout were stocked for a Hooked on Fishing event a week ago, and many of those fish are still swimming in the lake.
If a trip into the North Maine Woods is more your style, Basley suggests Little Pillsbury Pond in T8 R11 WELS, which is in Piscataquis County.
“There are a number of well-maintained campsites at Little Pillsbury and the pond can be fished with a small boat or canoe,” Basley wrote. “The lake was stocked with 2,200 trout in the fall of 2009 and should help to provide a nice skillet of trout for those camping nearby.”
There is also the chance at Pillsbury, Basley said, to see a moose nearby.
Over in Enfield, Kramer provided a long list of options worth considering.
For landlocked salmon, he says East Grand Lake, Pleasant Lake in Kossuth Township, Lower Sysladobsis Lake, Spednic Lake, Pleasant Lake in Island Falls, and West Seboeis Lake.
Brook trout enthusiasts may want to head to Grand Lake Matagamon, Scraggly Lake, Farrow Lake, Molunkus Lake and Tomah Lake.
Kramer also suggested several ponds in and around Baxter State Park. In the interest of saving space (and to avoid raising the ire of the hike-in fishing crowd that cherishes those sensitive waters) I’ll just tell you that park rangers can help you find what you’re looking for.
For togue fishermen, Kramer says Cold Stream Pond, Schoodic Lake, Millinocket Lake, Pemadumcook Lake and East Grand are great choices.
Splake fishermen can target Endless Lake, Seboeis Lake, Cedar Lake and Lower Togue Pond. On Endless Lake, Kramer points out, there is no size or bag limit on largemouth bass.
Bass can be found in the Penobscot River, South Branch Lake, Baskahegan Lake, Nicatous Lake and Grand Lake Seboeis.
And for kids, Pickerel Pond in T32 MD, Jerry Pond in Millinocket, Hannington Pond in Reed Plantation, Rock Crusher Pond in Island Falls, the Pleasant River in Brownville, Harris Pond in Milo, Mattagodus Stream in Springfield and Cold Stream in Enfield will provide hours of fun.
A final reminder: Check your regulation book for more specific information about size and bag limits at any water you’re unfamiliar with.
Have fun … and be safe.
Free fishing days are June 5-6
Here’s an important reminder: If you’re planning to take advantage of the state’s annual Free Family Fishing Days, the dates listed in your fishing law book are incorrect.
Despite what the book states, you can not fish for free without a license on May 29 and 30.
The actual dates of Free Family Fishing weekend are June 5-6. DIF&W listed the dates incorrectly due to a clerical error.
On Free Family Fishing weekends, anglers who are not otherwise prohibited from holding a fishing license can fish without buying a license. All other rules and regulations, such as size requirements and bag limits, remain in effect.