Nestled in the heart of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway is one of the jewels of the waterway, Umsaskis Lake. The lake is surrounded by rolling hills and Priestly Mountain off to the west. Umsaskis is smaller than the large headwater lakes that make up the southern section of the waterway, only 1,222 acres and about 5 miles in length.
What Umsaskis Lake lacks in size is more than made up by its beauty, abundance of wildlife and outstanding fishing. The fishing is second to none on the waterway, with 20-inch native brook trout caught every spring.
Umsaskis doesn’t grow the big, 10-pound-plus togue that Eagle and Chamberlain lakes produce, but there is an abundance of 3- to 5-pound lake trout. These “lakers” are caught at two primary locations on the lake. The first spot is off the old headquarters site, marked by a spring pipe running on the southwest shoreline. The second spot is off the Ledges Campsite. Both of these locations can be fished by simply anchoring your canoe in 35 feet of water and plug fishing with live or cut bait just off the bottom.
Brook trout can be caught almost anywhere in the spring with the traditional hotspots being at the upper end of the lake where the river runs in, off Drake Brook and in the thoroughfare between Umsaskis and Long Lake.
Fishermen should take note that the fishing regulations change at Chisholm Brook. From this brook upstream to Churchill Dam, fishing is restricted to the use of artificial lures only.
Opportunities to view wildlife in their natural habitat abound at the upper end of Umsaskis Lake. This marshy area is a prime moose feeding area. You will also find an abundance of other aquatic mammals and birds that thrive in a marshy environment, such as otter, mink, muskrat, beaver, ducks, geese and birds of prey. It is almost like a wildlife park except it really is wild!
Umsaskis Lake is easy to get to by taking American Realty Road about 50 miles due west of Ashland. There is a nice hand-carry canoe launch next to the ranger station and a 10-vehicle parking lot a short distance from the launch area. This section of the waterway is restricted to canoes and kayaks only. Outboard motors are allowed, provided that they do not exceed 10 horsepower.
The campsites, trails and facilities at Umsaskis are very well taken care of. This is because Allagash Ranger Steve Day takes his job seriously and makes every effort to help ensure that your experience is safe and enjoyable. He is very knowledgable about the area and willing to assist you in any way he can. Steve and his wife, Cindy, really love the area and that affection is evident when you talk with them about the waterway.
Umsaskis Lake will always be a special place to me. I spent three seasons working there in the late 1970s.
I can still remember the day I arrived at Umsaskis. I traveled up from my hometown, Lisbon Falls, a day early so I could get settled into my two-room camp for the summer and be ready for my first day of work. I was all excited to explore my new area and try my luck fishing.
After cleaning the camp and getting moved in, I decided to go fishing. I looked at a map and decided that the mouth of Drake Brook looked like it might be a good spot. I anchored my canoe off the brook, cast my Rapala lure a few times, and caught a nice, fat 20-inch togue and an 18-inch whitefish. I can remember thinking, “This is going to be good duty!”
As it turned out, my time at Umsaskis Lake was better than good. It was a great time in my life. I ended up meeting my wife at Umsaskis. Our first date was fly fishing at the mouth of Chisholm Brook. She outfished me that evening, and 33 years later, she still does on a regular basis. I guess you might say that I caught a keeper that night.
Ice-out and spring fishing are just around the corner. Thinking about trying a new fishing spot? Why not give Umsaskis a try? I can personally guarantee that you will not be disappointed.
For information on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, go to www.maine.gov/doc/parks or call 941-4014, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Division of Parks & Public Lands, 106 Hogan Road, Bangor, ME 04401.
Matthew LaRoche is superintendent of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.