Fishermen guard their favorite fishing spots tenaciously. Fanatically, even.
Some tell tales of taking buddies with them to productive fishing holes … but only after blindfolding that pal, or swearing them to secrecy, or threatening them with bodily harm should they ever spill the beans.
But there’s plenty of water here in Maine. We’ve got thousands of lakes and ponds and streams and rivers. And while we won’t tell you exactly where to fish on a given water — exploration is half the fun, after all — we figure it doesn’t hurt to mention a few places anglers are likely to catch a fish.
All of the spots listed are already popular, and get plenty of attention. None qualify as “remote” or “pristine” or “unspoiled” — all terms that are tossed about when writers start waxing poetic about remarkable fishing destinations that most of us can’t afford, or won’t be able to find in the first place.
No, these are all working-class, close-to-the-road destinations. But all have fish. And the possibility of landing a lunker is always there.
You’ll never know if you don’t wet a line. Right?
First up, let’s head north to the Aroostook County towns of Madawaska and St. Agatha. That’s where you’ll find Long Lake, one of the premier landlocked salmon hotspots in Maine.
The fish you’ll find in this sprawling 6,000-acre lake are often referred to as “Long Lake footballs,” because the salmon that live here take full advantage of the abundant smelt population and often look like they’ve just pushed themselves away from an all-you-can-eat buffet.
The lake has a maximum depth of 163 feet and fish can be caught at different depths throughout the summer, though local residents are more apt to target the lake from ice-out until late June.
Want to catch a six-pound landlock? You can do it at Long Lake. Seven? That’s possible, too. Eight? Sure … if you’re good, and lucky and you don’t get there a day too late.
Confused? Don’t be.
Long Lake anglers always tell you (even after a pretty good day of fishing) that you showed up a day late. “You should have been here yesterday,” they’ll tell you, often in a thick St. John Valley French accent. “The fishing was really good then.”
Over in Hancock County, in the towns of Dedham and Ellsworth, you can spend a day targeting a wide variety of species on Green Lake.
If you’re up on your piscatorial history, you may realize that Green Lake sits in one of the four Maine river basins that originally held landlocked salmon (And if you did know that, you might want to stop thinking about fishing so much).
The full list: The Union River basin, which includes Green Lake, the St. Croix basin, including West Grand Lake, the Penobscot River basin, which counts Sebec Lake among its gems, and the Presumpscot River basin, which features Sebago Lake.
Green Lake covers 2,989 acres and has a maximum depth of 170 feet.
You can still catch nice salmon in Green Lake, but you may be just as apt to hook a hefty lake trout, or a feisty smallmouth bass.
Jonathan Carter, who earlier this year became the first Maine angler to compete in the Bassmaster Classic, has spent plenty of time on Green Lake, and said the people who focus solely on the lake’s coldwater fishery will miss out on some good sport.
“Green Lake is a great smallmouth fishery,” Carter said in an email. “There are lots of fish in the 3½-pound range and plenty that are bigger. The fish there are well fed and the bass don’t see much pressure at all. It’s one of the region’s best-kept secrets.”
Up near Dover-Foxcroft, anglers often take advantage of some easily accessible water on the Piscataquis River.
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife liberally stocks brook trout in the section of the Piscataquis between Guilford and East Dover-Foxcroft (6,000 fish had been stocked by late May), and there are plenty of places to park a car and fish along that stretch.
A disclaimer: The Piscataquis gets pretty low and warm later in the summer, and the brook trout likely die … fishing when you could walk across the river without getting your feet wet might not be very productive.
Luckily, the DIF&W takes that fact into account when stocking: The Piscataquis is considered a “put-and-take” fishery, meaning that the department doesn’t expect many of the fish to survive and spawn. Therefore, the fish that are stocked are generally of “legal” length, and anglers are encouraged to keep a few fish to cook up.
And finally, thanks to the folks at Bassmaster magazine, we can tell you that Maine’s got three world-class bass-fishing lakes (at least, according those whose votes matter). In a recent ranking, those three lakes — Sebago, Cobbosseecontee and Kezar — were all ranked among the top 100 bass lakes in the U.S.
And Carter has fished all three.
Sebago Lake [No. 63 in the Bassmaster rankings] is a monster: It covers 28,771 acres and reaches a depth of 316 feet. It’s located in Naples, Casco, Standish, Windham, Raymond and the town of Sebago. And though its status as a salmon lake is well-documented — the Latin name for landlocked salmon is salmo salar Sebago — the bass don’t mind.
“Sebago’s clear water makes it excellent for both smallmouth and largemouth during the spawning season in June,” Carter said. “The fish flood the shallows and it’s hard not to run into them during this time of the year. There are countless three-pound smallmouths and just about every tournament has an eight-pound largemouth come across the stage. This year it will be the site of the B.A.S.S. Nation Eastern Divisional Championship.”
Kezar Lake in Lovell [No. 54 in the rankings] is a long ribbon of water that covers 2,510 acres and reaches a depth of 155 feet. Simply put, if you want to catch nearly all the freshwater fish that live in Maine, starting at Kezar is a good idea. According to DeLorme’s Maine Fishing Depth Maps, you can find brook trout, brown trout, salmon, togue (lake trout), largemouth and smallmouth bass, white perch, cusk and pickerel.
“Although I haven’t fished Kezar more than three or four times, it’s a place I always think about going back to,” Carter said. “The largemouth get huge here and in spring and fall it’s not uncommon for anglers to catch fish in the seven- and eight-pound range. Not only is it great fishing, the White Mountains and pine forests make it a beautiful destination.”
Cobbosseecontee Lake [No. 30] is another sprawling water — 5,543 acres — that will take some time to explore. The lake, which is in West Gardiner and surrounding towns, bottoms out at 100 feet deep, and also features brook trout and landlocked salmon.
But bass fishermen appreciate it more than most.
“Cobbosseecontee is one of my favorite lakes in Maine,” Carter said. “It has great numbers of big largemouth along with a solid population of smallmouth. It’s a lake that has so many different types of cover that you can catch fish just about anywhere.”
Which, it seems, is a good way to sum up the state as a whole: You can catch fish just about anywhere.