Brook trout on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway headwater lakes usually bite fast and furious during the first few weeks of the ice fishing season. The first year that I came back to the waterway after spending 20-plus years on the Penobscot River Corridor, I was amazed at the quality of the trout fishing, especially when the season first opened.
During the winter of 2009, the ranger at Chamberlain Bridge was on his days off during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, so I went up and filled in for him. While patrolling the lake, it became obvious that people were having excellent fishing. I would ask how many fish a group had caught that day, and the standard answer was between 20 and 40 brook trout.
At first, I was a little suspicious about these glowing fishing reports, but I soon came to the conclusion that the fishing was indeed as good as people were reporting. The average fish being caught were between 12 and 14 inches long, but I did see a 20-inch brookie that day and had a report of another 20-inch fish that had been released.
One of the observations I made was that the people who were having the best luck were using red hooks. I asked about the hooks, and the typical answer was: “I don’t know if they are any better than regular hooks or not, but I’ve had good luck using these.” It wasn’t long before I switched my traps over to the red Eagle Claw laser point hooks.
The preferred location to fish is the rocky shoreline in shallow water with anywhere from 1 foot to 3 feet of water under the ice. Night crawlers seem to work as well as shiners for early season brook trout. The down side of using crawlers is that they seem to attract more chub than shiners do.
The AWW operates a winter campground at the Chamberlain Bridge parking lot and Kellogg Brook campsite. There are 48 sites available for a rental fee of $50 per month, plus the 7 percent meal and lodging tax. Eight sites are reserved in the parking lot for transient use at our regular camping fee of $4 per person per night for Maine residents and $8 for nonresidents. The water access campsites on the lakes are available for use in the winter as well as summer; the same fees apply to these sites.
The AWW provides public drinking water, vault toilets, and snowplowing at the Chamberlain Bridge winter campground. A groomed snowmobile trail is marked from the parking lot to the south end of Chamberlain Lake and to Round Pond-Telos lakes.
The winter campground at Chamberlain Bridge is used predominantly by fishermen who have been coming to the waterway to recreate for many years. Everyone helps each other out and watches out for each other at the winter campground and out on the lakes.
John and Ruth Snell of Carthage have been coming to the waterway to fish, hunt and trap since 1969. John keeps informal tabs on who hasn’t returned from fishing at the end of the day and reports any unaccounted-for visitors to the ranger stationed at the thoroughfare. People also keep a watchful eye out for John and Ruth, who are both in their 80s. Everyone is quick to lend a hand to anyone who needs assistance.
Those wishing more comfortable accommodations, such as a lakeside log cabin with beds, wood stove and gas lights, may contact Nugent’s Camps at 944-5991 or www.nugentscamps.com .
Check with the AWW ranger stationed at the Chamberlain thoroughfare for current ice conditions and some local advice on where to fish and what to use for bait.
Power equipment (except power augers and snowmobiles) are not allowed in the AWW. No power equipment of any kind is allowed on Allagash Lake and Stream. Allagash Lake is open to ice fishing only during the month of February. Consult the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife law book for the special fishing regulations that apply to the AWW and the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands website listed below for rules and regulations that apply to the AWW. Rule and regulations booklets for the AWW are also available at all waterway ranger stations.
Help keep the native fisheries of the Allagash unspoiled by not dumping unused baitfish down your fishing hole.
It’s important to check ice conditions before you go out. For specific advice on ice conditions and areas to avoid, visitors should check with the AWW ranger at Chamberlain Bridge or call the dispatch center in Ashland between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, at 435-7963, ext. 1.