The traditional start to open-water fishing season began Monday, but while the tradition to bust out the fly rod on April 1 was upheld by many, it’s also become more unnecessary.
A new law two years ago opened many more stocked waters across much of the state to year-round fishing so, theoretically, anglers can wet a line before April 1 or at any time of year.
Likewise, ice fishermen can still fish on safe ice on stocked ponds and lakes this time of year in many parts of the state. And some are doing just that.
Regional fisheries biologist Nels Kramer in Eastern Maine said he’ll be on one up north this weekend.
But traditions are worth upholding, particularly when it comes to fishing. So once again we’re rolling out our open-water fishing report for the fifth year.
And just like this time last year, the regional state fisheries biologist all reported that there was not much to report at this time.
But we know better.
Sebago Lake’s Jordan Bay is still iced in, and despite a semi-mild winter temperature-wise, ice covers most of the lakes and ponds in southern Maine, reported biologist Jim Pellerin.
But ice-out will come soon to this region of the state.
Until then, and until the April showers arrive, Pellerin said the stream fishing will be promising.
“Guys are already fishing the Big Bay a little,” said Pellerin with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. I expect this weekend, if the wind dies down, the (Sebago) state park launch will be busy.
“People remember last year how it opened up early. I think they’re getting antsy.
The ice will go fast in central Maine over the next two weeks, head fisheries biologist Jason Seiders said. And next weekend could be the first shot at most of the waters there. But winter hasn’t quite left the region.
“Guys were ice fishing on the south end of Messalonskee Lake for pike this past weekend,” Seiders said of the big fish, which spawn at ice-out.
Meanwhile, biologist Scott Davis said there are holdover brook trout to be found in streams and rivers.
Davis suggests casting to stocked brookies in Bowler Pond in Palermo and Tyler Pond in Summerhaven.
Mount Desert Island might offer the only ice-free lakes in the Downeast region this weekend, regional biologist Greg Bur said.
Of course, the usual opening-day Grand Lake Stream fans already were out casting to salmon.
“Grand Lake Stream is running a lot of water because of the snow pack. In anticipation of a run-off they drain the lake down. But the fish usually stay in the dam pool,” Bur said. “The better fishing there doesn’t start until May, when the fish start dropping out of the lake and are more active as the temperature warms up. Then the fishing just keeps getting better and better as new fish enter the stream.”
From May and into June, during the caddis hatches, is the best time on the stream to cast to salmon anywhere from 16 to 23 inches in length, Bur said.
It’s another two weeks in western Maine before anything opens up, biologist Bob Van Riper said. But Sandy River fishermen will be ready.
There are two new boat launches on the Sandy that went in the last year for anglers to access miles of river.
For now Van Riper suggests trying the smaller brooks and streams around Rome and New Sharon, where he’s picked up a small brookie or two on opening day in past years.
The big news in this region is all about the records set by the IFW staff netting northern pike in Pushaw Lake. It does not bode well for the Penobscot River and its tributaries.
On just their first day, biologists netted and killed 31 northern pike in the lake, Kramer said. The biggest catch for an entire trap-net season is 78, so they’re on track to shatter that mark.
And the pike they’re collecting are small, 10 to 12 inches in size, which could mean many future predators for brook trout in the watershed.
“It’s discouraging. The population is really starting to take off. It’s good information but we aren’t kidding ourselves. We are not controlling the population, it’s controlling us,” Kramer said.
Moosehead Lake has a full 2 to 3 feet of ice, so this year it’s looking like a traditional ice-out, around the third or fourth week of April.
Biologist Tim Obrey said anglers in the region do best to hit the East Outlet of Moosehead Lake for open-water fishing now.
Considering Kramer is heading north with his ice traps, that tells you all you need to know about The County.
The statewide open-water fishing report covers all seven regions of the state. It runs semimonthly from April through September in the Maine Sunday Telegram Outdoors section.
Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: