The nights have been cold, most of our lakes are finally frozen, and ice anglers are enjoying peak-season action all around the state. If you haven’t headed out onto the “hard water” for a day of fishing yet, school vacation is nearly upon us, and a trip to a local lake or pond might be the perfect activity.
Luckily, the state’s fisheries biologists regularly compile fishing reports from their regions that can help you catch more fish. Here are some tips from a couple of those Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife staffers:
From Fisheries Resource Supervisor Kevin Dunham of the Penobscot Region:
Waters to target: For anglers seeking landlocked salmon and brook trout, East Musquash Lake and Farrow Lake, both in Topsfield, as well as Upper Cold Stream Pond in Lincoln are great options. Upper Cold Stream Pond has been recently producing some exceptional lake whitefish, and anglers may catch an occasional lake trout at East Musquash and Farrow Lakes.
Season update: Due to less than ideal weather and early season ice conditions we have seen light to moderate angling activity on waters throughout the Penobscot Region. Nonetheless, early season fishing at both Lambert Lake and Duck Lake have produced some nice salmon. Schoodic Lake in Brownville and Lake View Plantation is always a good destination for lake trout and the annual Schoodic Lake Ice Fishing Derby is on tap for Feb. 15 and 16.
A tip for bringing someone ice fishing for the first time: Make sure they have warm clothing, including footwear. Being cold or wet on an ice fishing trip is no fun for even seasoned anglers. Alternatively, planning an introductory ice fishing outing on a bright, sunny, mid-March day can almost guarantee a novice will have an enjoyable experience regardless of how the fish are biting.
From Fisheries Resource Supervisor Frank Frost of the Fish River Lakes Region:
Waters to target: Madawaska Lake in Stockholm and Westmanland opens to ice fishing on Feb. 15 and is a great place to bring kids or people new to ice fishing. With easy access and close to the Caribou and Fort Kent areas, this 1,500-acre lake has been excellent for our fall yearling brook trout that are stocked annually. With an opening day in the middle of the general law season there are lots of newly stocked trout that are easy to catch. Opening day falls close to school vacation week each year providing a perfect opportunity to get the kids outside for a few days.
Long Lake in St. Agatha and Sinclair is one of the premier landlocked salmon waters in the state. Long Lake supports a two-season fishery for fish that average 18-20 inches with fish up to 10 pounds caught each season. After numerous years of below average growth rates due to low smelt abundance, Long Lake is back to producing great salmon. Now that the first two weeks of super-fast fishing and the annual derby is past, the crowds are light on this 6,000-acre lake in northern Maine. Although the catch rates are lower than in January, we always see some great fish caught in February and March.
Season update: The weather and conditions have been nothing short of excellent this year. Mild temperatures and many days with no or light wind have made 2020 ideal for anglers to get out and enjoy our many lakes open to ice fishing in the Fish River Lakes Region. Waters in the North Maine Woods continue to be very lightly fished so if you are looking for a backwoods adventure, consider trekking to northwestern Maine. The Fish River Chain has seen the typical use and fishing success that we have seen for years. Square, Eagle, and Long Lakes are producing the typical catches of togue, salmon, and brook trout. The St. John River is open to ice fishing and this relatively new opportunity is drawing more and more anglers each year.
Tips for bringing someone ice fishing for the first time: Choose a day with good weather; high temperature and low wind always makes for a good day on the ice. Use a portable pop-up shack with a heat source. Go to one of the stocked waters for fall yearling brook trout. Many of these waters also have smelt to catch as well. For fast action, set up in 30 feet of water with a small hook tipped with cut bait to catch these small fish that usually bite readily. Try Madawaska Lake mentioned above or Scopan Lake near Mapleton. Both waters have lots of stocked fish and abundant smelt to catch.
Reminder: Eagle Lake on the Fish River Chain of Lakes is one of our most popular fisheries in northern Maine. We continue to encourage anglers to help the fishery by harvesting small salmon they may catch. We are now in the fifth year of an aggressive regulation to reduce salmon numbers in the lake. We are also encouraging anglers to harvest small lake trout (togue) as well. Currently, there is no bag limit on salmon less than 14 inches and a two fish bag limit on those greater than 14 inches. The togue regulation changed in 2020 to allow more harvest of fish less than 23 inches. We are seeing slight improvement in the smelt population in the past year but are still encouraging anglers to harvest their catch whenever possible.