Difficulty: Easy to moderate, depending on how much of the pond you choose to skate, the ice conditions and the weather, especially the wind speed.
Information: Fields Pond is a 191-acre pond in Orrington that’s long been a popular place for paddling, fishing, swimming and ice skating. A few houses are located at the pond’s north end, with the rest of the shoreline undeveloped.
Fields Pond Audubon Center is located on the pond’s east side. This conserved land is composed of 229 acres of forestland, wetlands and fields. It also includes 1,600 feet of the pond’s shoreline.
A network of public hiking trails at the Audubon center includes a trail that travels through a beautiful evergreen forest to the shore of Fields Pond. The center also maintains the parking lot for a boat launch on the pond, where there’s a public right of way.
When ice skating, it’s important to note where streams or brooks are flowing in or out of a body of water because ice is often weaker, thinner or nonexistent near flowing water. Fields Pond has a narrow inlet at its southeast corner, and a larger outlet called Sedgeunkedunk Stream on its southwest corner. Another stream is located at the pond’s northwest corner, where a wetland butts up against the forest.
The pond features a 22-acre island, which is a part of Fields Pond Audubon Center. The island is mostly surrounded by open water, with a portion of the northwest side hemmed in by a wetland. On the east side of the island, a small rock close to shore displays three memorial plaques. They commemorate “Nate” Francis Ford, “Duke of Fields Pond” (1913-1999), Virginia Ford (1917-2014) and Malcolm “Mack” Carter (1922-1993).
As a warm-water fishery with plenty of underwater vegetation, Fields Pond is known as a place to catch white perch and pickerel, according to a survey conducted by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The pond is also home to eels, hornpouts, sunfish and minnows.
The pond’s maximum depth is 31 feet near its southeast corner and inlet, according to an online map provided by Lake Stewards of Maine. Its mean depth is 13 feet.
Personal note: Ice skating on Fields Pond was really just my excuse to tag along with my co-workers while they went ice fishing on a recent Friday. With temperatures in the 30s and a bluebird sky, it was a day outdoors that I didn’t want to miss. Plus, my coworkers are a whole lot of fun.
So at 9 a.m., I met John Holyoke, the BDN Outdoors editor, and Sam Schipani, BDN Homestead reporter, at the boat launch parking lot. Also joining us for the adventure was Sam’s boyfriend, Alex Cole, who has recently developed a love for fishing.
I tossed my ice skates into their sled full of fishing gear, then followed them out onto the ice. The plan was for John to teach Sam how to ice fish for her column and video series “Sam Tries Things.” Meanwhile, I’d explore the pond and report back from time to time.
Carrying ice picks — just in case I fell through the ice — I skated all around Fields Pond, being careful to avoid the inlet, where from a distance I saw a deep blue stretch of open water. That day, the ice boomed loudly as it settled. I’ve been told that the loud, unnerving, drum-like sounds are produced by ice expanding, contracting or shifting due to temperature changes. Or maybe the fish are just having a mid-winter party.
Around midday, I returned to the group (no fish yet) and sat on the ice to eat an Italian sandwich, which Sam kindly made for me. She even remembered to leave out the onions.
I then explored the pond some more. In some places, the ice was perfectly smooth, while in others, I had to navigate around old tire tracks and patches of thin, crusty ice that’ll break and catch your skate.
Near the pond’s sole island, I stopped to chat with an ice angler who’d driven his ATV out onto the ice. He sat on the vehicle’s seat, a fishing pole in hand. We talked about the fine weather. That’s what had brought him out that day, he said. The sun. It wasn’t really about the fish.
Close by, I stopped to inspect some especially beautiful ice. It was dark, almost black, and scattered throughout were tons of tiny little air bubbles. It looked like a starry sky. I took photos, but they don’t really capture its beauty or depth. Nature is always more interesting in person.
By early afternoon, I could feel a mild sunburn developing on my cheeks, so I returned to my fishing friends. They were just about ready to call it quits for the day. But then, just a few minutes after I arrived, Sam reeled in her first fish — ever. It was a great ending to our adventure.
How to get there: A boat launch to the pond is located at Fields Pond Audubon Center in Orrington, right past the Orrington-Holden town line. The boat launch is located at the end of a gravel driveway, which is just west of the Audubon center’s main entrance and parking lot off Fields Pond Road. If driving from the east, the boat launch drive is about 1.2 miles from where Fields Pond Road ends at Wiswell Road in Holden. It will be on your left. If driving from the west, the boat launch drive is 1.8 miles from where Fields Pond Road ends at an intersection with Brewer Lake Road and Johnson Mill Road at Bob’s Kozy Korner store in Orrington. Coming from this direction, the drive will be on your right.
For more of Aislinn Sarnacki’s adventures, visit bangordailynews.com/act-out. Follow Aislinn Sarnacki on Twitter: @1minhikegirl, and Instagram: @actoutdoors. Her guidebooks “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine,” “Maine Hikes Off the Beaten Path” and “Dog-Friendly Hikes in Maine” are available at local bookstores and wherever books are sold.