Maine anglers flock to name waters like Grand Lake Stream, East Outlet of the Kennebec and Kennebago rivers — perfect examples of places that attract crowds. I’ve often counted 30 and more anglers on these waters and other storied spots like them.
In contrast, marginal trout waters in late April and May produce superb action at times, and anglers often find solitude because folks look at these places as havens for pickerel and yellow perch — not salmonids.
However, for the next two or three weeks, water temperatures in marginal rivers or streams hover in the high 40s through the mid-60s and attract trout from heavily stocked lakes, ponds and rivers that lie up- or downstream. In the cool, flowing May waters, trout and even the occasional salmon provide delightful sport.
When I was as young as 7 years old and growing up in Windsor, Choate Brook between Savade Pond and the Sheepscot River’s West Branch attracted me for about two weeks each spring as brook trout ran.
Most of the trout measured in the 6- to 10-inch range, but a 12-inch specimen might hit on any cast. A foot-long brookie proved rare enough to give me bragging rights for a while.
My boyhood friend, David Brann, lived on Choate Brook, so we fished this conveniently situated water. What a way to grow up.
Years later, Tom Seymour of Waldo and I hit a stream for several springs and kept it as secret as possible. We even called it “Secret Stream” in case someone eavesdropped on our conversation.
This wonderful fishery produced brown trout up to 18 inches and looked like an English chalk stream in the Hampshire region of England.
Eventually, Secret Stream began attracting crowds, so we gave it up, but word on the street has it that no one fishes this placid stream much anymore — even though ponds and a river in the drainage receive heavy stockings.
I’m getting ready to go back to make up for lost time.
How do you find marginal honey holes this month?
The quest begins with two sources:
• The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer from DeLorme Publishing.
• The stocking list from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) at www.mefishwildlife.com or in the April issue of The Maine Sportsman magazine.
Anglers start by looking at the DeLorme maps and finding brooks, streams and rivers flowing from or into ponds and lakes. Then, the stocking list indicates if these waters have brookies, browns or rainbows.
I know. I know. Hatchery trout turn folks off because they want wild or native salmonids. I feel exactly the same way, but in central Maine, it’s difficult to get away from stocked fisheries without visiting tiny brooks that usually produce dinky trout — OK at times but a steady diet turns me off.
Besides, several incidents in my fishing life have proven to me many people cannot tell the difference between hatchery or wild salmonids, unless the hatchery fish come from a bad batch, complete with eroded fins.
I’ve related an anecdote here before, but it’s worth repeating. For a short period of years, the Sheepscot River beside the IFW’s Palermo Rearing Station held a year-class of stocked splake that had grown into the 18-inch range. I’ve watched fly rodders playing these Frankenstein fish and have even netted the beasts for them.
“Nice splake!” I might say or a similar comment. Some of these folks would fly at me like a madman, claiming the fish were brook trout.
Although exceptions exist, splake are pig simple to identify. For starters, they seldom if ever have red spots down the entire side, but rather, two or three red spots just behind the gill slit. I’ve never seen one with blue aureoles.
Oh, yes, the forked caudal fin might work for identification part of the time, but all salmonids have a forked tail when an exhausted fish can no longer hold the fin erect, or so biologists have told me.
(I once wrote here and have lived to regret it that the sure way to determine a splake begins with counting the pyloric caeca, which requires killing the fish and eviscerating it to see the fatty nubs on the viscera. Brook trout have 23 to 55, splake have 65 to 85, and lake trout 93 to 180. No one needs to count pyloric caeca, though, because 99.9 percent of the time, the red-spot method will do. However, some readers misunderstood and thought counting all the nubs was essential for identification. My apologies.)
When foliage starts to unfold and the water temperature ranges into the mid-50s to low 60s, fishing can boom in these marginal fisheries. They surely provide me with sport until north-country fishing picks up in places where many of the waters have nothing but native brookies.
When a holdover 16-inch brookie or 20-inch brown from a previous stocking bends my rod double, though, I often forget that it’s one of those “trashy” hatchery fish.
Early in the month, before north-country fishing picks up, these marginal waters offer plenty of lifelong memories.
Ken Allen of Belgrade Lakes is a writer, editor and photographer. He can be contacted at: