After the early-season Arctic cold, mother nature has apparently mellowed, at least for the moment. While it looked like we might be fishing the big bay on Sebago early this year, this week’s warm-up has us looking elsewhere to wet a line.
With weather in the 40s this past week, instead of heading out in the slush, might it make more sense to look at the open-water fishing opportunities in southern Maine?
Over the past 15 years, more and more waters have opened to year-round open-water fishing, providing anglers with a respite from the ice. While perhaps not heavily fished, these waters possess a dedicated group of anglers who enjoy putting on heavy neoprene waders and casting a fly into waters that most drive past.
One wintertime hot spot is the Mousam River in Kennebunk. For years, the section downriver of the Route 1 bridge in Kennebunk has attracted anglers because of excellent access and fine fishing.
Anglers park at Rogers Park and can walk down this stretch of the Mousam. It has some bends and riffles and is tidally influenced. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife stocks that section with brook trout and brown trout.
“There’s a nice complement of different size trout. The lower stretch of the Mousam offers good size quality with the opportunity to catch a trophy fish that held out in the tidewater,” said Francis Brautigam, a fisheries biologist with the IFW.
Another area of the Mousam that is catching on is part of the upper river in the Sanford/Shapleigh area. The state stocks fish there in the spring and fall, and anglers are catching a variety of fish.
“We stock a variety of age classes for size quality,” said Brautigam, which means anglers can catch fish that are stocked at a year old and 2 years old. Some of the fish are in excess of 16 inches.
“Anglers also get some adult fish that drop over the dam, including landlocked salmon, larger browns and the occasional lake trout,” said Brautigam.
The Ogunquit River also attracts open water anglers in the winter. This tidal section below Route 1 is stocked in the fall with brown trout that range from 14 to 18 inches. They provide a good return for anglers. Access, however, is increasingly becoming an issue on this section of the Ogunquit, which is sandwiched between private property and the Rachel Carson Refuge. Check in with Eldredge Brothers Fly Shop on Route 1 in Cape Neddick for a fishing report and the best way to access the river.
Perhaps the most popular winter stretch of river in Maine flows out of Sebago Lake. The Presumpscot River has long been a destination for winter-weary anglers looking to wet a line in open water.
The river is stocked predominantly with brook trout and salmon, and occasionally with some brown trout.
Access to the river is good and getting better. There is a parking lot that abuts the river at the Route 35 bridge. From there, access upstream and downstream is via well-worn paths to a variety of riffles and runs.
“We stock the river from April through June, then resume in September and continue into December,” said Brautigam. “We’ve tried to distribute fish throughout the river with frequent stockings and a variety of ages to give anglers more opportunities to catch larger fish.”
Brautigam said access has improved in other parts of the river as well, and you may want to include spots such as Dundee, Mallision Falls and Gambo on one of your future outings. Each offers some swift water downstream of dams.
Fishing rivers in the winter can offer a lot of enjoyment but require extra care. Dress warmly and even wear an inflatable life jacket. The water this time of year is in the high 30s, and a simple misstep has the potential to be life-threatening. Also check your lawbook at http://www.eregulations.com/maine/fishing/ for the latest regulations.
Of course, now that I have mentioned fishing the open water, I have all but assured the return of the polar vortex. But at least if it returns, we may finally get ice on the big bay of Sebago.
Mark Latti is a registered Maine guide and the landowner relations/recreational access coordinator for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.