Many anglers wait all winter long for the state’s lakes and rivers to shed their winter coats, then spend the spring and early summer hop-scotching from spot to spot, enjoying the most popular of Maine’s fishing seasons.

But after the dog days of August arrive and the fishing slows, many of those fishermen head elsewhere — the beach is a good option. Some pack their rods away until the next year.

Others know that if they bide their time, they’ll be able to enjoy some top-notch fishing once the mornings turn nippy and the leaves begin to change color.

Fall fishing has been upon us for a few weeks now, and those diehard anglers have been busy. What is it about fall fishing that makes the activity special? What drives those anglers to keep fishing after so many have given up? Those were the questions the BDN posed to a few fishermen and biologists.

Here are a few of their responses:

From Jeff McEvoy, the owner of Weatherby’s, a traditional sporting camp in the tiny outdoor-oriented village of Grand Lake Stream: “Fishing in GLS in the fall — Cool air, foliage, rising mist on cold mornings,” McEvoy wrote in an email. “And the fish are just freaking awesome! Fat, colorful and aggressive. [It’s] not always easy fishing, as the fish have other things on their minds, but the quality of the fish is usually far superior to the spring fish, as they have been feeding on smelt all summer long in West Grand Lake.”

From Gregory Burr, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s regional fisheries biologist for the Grand Lakes Region: “I think what attracts anglers to fish in the fall is the cool, crisp air, the beautiful foliage and the chance to catch some larger fish in their spectacular spawning colors (the size quality will often be larger in the fall just prior to spawning as fish are gravid with eggs and milt and are just coming off their best growth season),” Burr wrote.

“One of the best fall fisheries we have is for landlocked salmon in Grand Lake Stream. The stream is open to fly fishing only and catch and release until Oct. 20. [In late September] Woodland Pulp has increased flows [at the dam at West Grand Lake] at our request and this will start pulling in salmon to the stream from West Grand and Big lakes. As we get closer to Oct. 20, the fishing will get better and better and salmon will be located in all pockets of the stream. Colorful streamers work best in the fall here (The Montreal, Barnes Special, Mickey Finn, Black Ghost and Marabou Muddler).

“Also, your readers shouldn’t forget about fishing the many small stocked brook trout ponds that we have open in the fall. Many of these ponds produce brookies between 13 and 16 inches and are great fun on a light spinning rod or fly rod. These fish have been feeding down in the cold, deep depths all summer and are now coming up into the shallows to feed on insects and small fish and are easily accessible from a canoe, kayak, small boat or float tube. Colorful Rapalas, lures and streamers work the best,” Burr wrote.

From fisherman Steven Mogul of Bangor, who looks forward to annual trips to popular fly fishing spots during the fall: “What makes fall fishing special? Color!” Mogul wrote. “The brookies look spectacular in their vibrant spawning colors, and holding one (briefly) with the fall foliage behind it … well, it just about makes me swoon! And the male landlocked salmon have a vicious kype in the fall, so that when you bring a good one to net you might fear a vicious attack. I also enjoy the cool weather and the fleece that comes with it. And maybe the best part of fall fishing: the absence of black flies and mosquitoes. I’d much rather apply sunscreen than DEET … I’m still hoping to get to [Grand Lake Stream] before it closes, and then maybe to the East Outlet to put the season to bed. I need two more days on the water to reach 25 for this season!”

While the fishing can be fantastic and the scenery unparalleled during the fall, one fisherman said that just being able to spend time on the water made a huge difference during a particularly trying time of his life.

From fisherman John Kirk of Winterport: “Simply put, no hunting on Sundays is not the only reason I didn’t hunt in Maine for the first seven years I lived here. The fishing was (and is) good; really good,” Kirk wrote. “As summer was winding down in 2004, I was finishing up a fairly epic summer of fishing. From stripers to trout to salmon to bass, it had been an outstanding season.

“From what I had been told, the best what yet to come — just wait for September and October. Little did I know that other life changes were in store for me that made the need to be on the river that much greater. Not only was summer winding down, but so was my marriage of 11 years.

“For the month of October, I lit out for the East Outlet, mostly by myself, in the dark every Saturday morning from Bangor. I would set up camp at the Sluice, have everything ready for dark and then hit the river. I fished long, demanding days and caught lots of fish. I spent a lot of time, by myself, thinking about my life and what was happening to it. Every so often, that reverie would be broken by the take of salmon or a brook trout, the sound of the drag of my reel and me mumbling to myself, ‘Wow, another big salmon.’

“I would return to my campsite after dark. I would make a big fire, cook supper, drink some whiskey and listen to the Red Sox march towards the seemingly impossible. I would get up in the dark, make coffee and breakfast and fish again, grateful for the intrusion of the fish into my brooding.

“When October ended, the East Outlet closed and I moved from my house in Bangor to a small camp in Orrington. Fall fishing was quickly followed, but by no means replaced, by ski season.

“I started hunting again in 2010. I don’t seem to fish as much in the fall as I did 10 years ago. The relentless drive has left. What are left are those memories of how that singular purpose in October of 2004 kept me sane.”

John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...