Some anglers occupy their winter time fishing the “hard water” with friends, heading out onto frozen lakes and ponds where they can socialize with their friends.
For others, winter is a time to hunker down, tie flies and dream about that seemingly distant day when they’ll be fishing open water again.
The wait is nearly over. On Monday — April 1 — anglers will get to celebrate the traditional open-water opening day (if they can find open water) around the state.
A quick disclaimer: Notice the use of the word “traditional.” In southern Maine, opening day now takes place whenever an angler can find open water. And in northern Maine, this year’s ice fishing season has been extended three weeks, and won’t end until April 21.
For those who’ve developed the habit of observing that April 1 opener, however, there are some options available. Yes, there’s still plenty of ice on many lakes. But Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife fisheries biologists have shared a few choice locations with BDN readers to consider.
Down in Region C — the Grand Lakes Region — regional biologist Gregory Burr shares what his colleagues around the state will recognize as a familiar refrain: There aren’t many lakes and ponds that have shed their winter coats of ice.
But look for flowing water, and you just might be in business.
“The famed Grand Lake Stream should be again holding ‘black salmon’ or ‘kelts’ in the dam pool,” Burr said. “These spawned out salmon left over from last fall’s stream mating should provide good action for fly fishermen with sinking line, streamers and nymphs.”
Burr said fisheries staffers have met with representatives of Woodland Pulp, the owners of the dam at West Grand Lake, and said the company expects to be able to provide favorable fishing flows at Grand Lake Stream for the first two weeks of the season.
Burr also shared a pair of other moving-water spots: The Orland River below the Alamoosook Lake Dam, and the Pennamaquann River below Route 1 in Pembroke.
“[The Orland River] is a spot where brook trout, salmon and brown trout often hang out early waiting for meal to come over the dam, Burr said. “In May we stock this spot with brook trout and it’s a terrific location to take a young person or other person new to the sport of fishing for some fast action.”
In Region F — the Penobscot Region — which is based in Enfield, biologist Kevin Dunham also had a classic fishery to recommend: The West Branch of the Penobscot River.
“Especially popular spots are in T2 R10 WELS along the Golden Road and include Nesowadnehunk Deadwater and Abol Deadwater where the chance of catching landlocked salmon and brook trout appeals to the ever-optimistic opening day fisherman,” Dunham said.
Anglers can fish those areas in small boats or canoes, with rules designating the use of only one-hook artificial lures. The minimum length on salmon is 18 inches, and only one may be kept.
“Another popular opening day option for salmon and trout is the East Branch Penobscot river in T6 R8 WELS below the Matagamon Lake dam,” Dunham said. “This section of river is limited to the use of artificial lures only and is more conducive to wading and bank-fishing.”
And closer to Bangor, Dunham said Pushaw Stream off Route 43 in Old Town has become a popular spot to target early season spawning northern pike.
In Region D — the Rangeley Lakes Region — regional biologist David Howatt oversees some of the state’s classic fly fishing waters, and he said some spots will be open for those who don’t mind working to earn their first casts.
“Grand Falls on the Dead River in T03 R04 (Somerset County) is one of these places. It requires lengthy ride in on snow-covered logging roads to be reached,” Howatt said. “Another access route to the Falls is via the Maine Huts & Trails path along the east side of the Dead River. No motorized vehicles are allowed on this trail, so cross-country skiing, which in itself is a great family activity, would be the most efficient way to travel there.”
The Big Eddy, just below Long Falls Dam on the Dead River, offers a roadside option to those who are a bit less adventurous.
“It is a popular place on April 1 and a great place to start a new tradition,” he said.
Howatt said spots along the Kennebec, Carrabassett and Sandy rivers may also be worth checking out.
In Region B — the Belgrade Lakes Region — regional biologist Jason Seiders said the popular lakes are still buttoned up, but there are plenty of rivers available early in the open-water season.
Among those: The St. George River in Warren, Union and Appleton, which sees anglers through the winter and is stocked with brown trout and brook trout; the Megunticook River in Camden, which provides a chance to catch rainbow trout; and the Medomak River in Waldoboro (brown trout and brook trout).
Additionally, Seiders said the Bingham stretch of the Kennebec River provides some good early fishing for rainbow trout and landlocked salmon, but he cautioned that anglers need to pay particular attention to the flows being released at Wyman Dam. And when the conditions are right and the flows aren’t overwhelming, the Madison stretch of the Kennebec holds some large brown trout, along with an occasional brookie or landlocked salmon.
And up in Region G — the Fish River Lakes Region — regional biologist Frank Frost said there’s not much open water around.
“Northern Maine is looking at a pretty normal opening day — lots of ice still and very, very little open water,” Frost said. “We are experiencing winter-like conditions this week (lows of zero last night) so our thick ice on waters and the deep snow pack is still solidly in place. Traditional waters that will be free of ice should be fishable on April 1 — places like Churchill Dam (an opening day ritual for some) and Mars Hill Dam on the Prestile Stream in Mars Hill — but that’s about it for open water. “
As for lakes and ponds? Ice, ice, ice.
“The usual small ponds in eastern and southern Aroostook that open along the shoreline a bit in late March/early April are completely buttoned up right now,” he said.