Fishing laws change fast enough to keep the public confused, but these days in ponds and lakes in Maine’s bottom two-fifths, general-law fishing runs from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 – straightforward except for special regulations. In the state’s upper three-fifths, the North Country and Down East, general laws have changed less, but seemingly endless special regs (bag limits, terminal tackle, etc.) meant to ensure quality sport can really overwhelm anglers.
Before the first cast, novices in particular must check Page 14 in the fishing law book for a brief, statewide summary, then peruse special regulations on individual waters of special interest to them.
Anglers must know the county in which their chosen water lies, and then look in the law booklet under that county. For example, someone may want to fish Cobbosseecontee Lake in Kennebec County, so he or she looks under that county for Cobbosseecontee, listed in alphabetical order under each county.
In early April, water temperatures hover in the mid to high 30-degree range, so fishing success requires a fly, lure or bait – deep and slow. I cannot emphasize “deep and slow” enough, because fish bottom-hug now. Anglers must put offerings within inches of a fish’s maw to entice a strike.
April fly rodders such as myself cast weighted nymphs and bucktails, and for the latter, Clouser Minnows get to the bottom fast. Spin-casters select lures that imitate baitfish, too, and bait anglers use worms or live or dead baitfish and often outfish the rest of us six or eight fish to one.
On April 1, enough anglers will be at the popular honey holes, so newcomers can watch others to learn where and how to fish each spot. If folks approach seasoned anglers on certain waters without asking too many questions, the newbies will get more information.
This Tuesday, folks will probably flock to Long Pond in the Belgrade Lakes and hit The Spillway in Belgrade Lakes village or the bridge and culvert off the Castle Island Road that crosses the narrows between Long Pond’s two basins. They’ll also hit Belgrade Stream below Long Pond and concentrate efforts in the current downstream of Wings Mills Dam.
Long Pond anglers may find northern pike, brown trout, brook trout or landlocked salmon. In the old days, people went to Long Pond for salmon, but this species has run onto hard times there, according to Scott Davis, an Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologist. Davis and colleagues trap-net this water in the fall, so they have a good handle on the salmonid population. Browns have become more common, particularly around The Spillway.
Another hotspot lies at the outlet of Cobbossee Lake off the Pond Road in Manchester. Browns interest many of the anglers, particularly early fly rodders. Crowds gather there at times, not bad, because newcomers can figure out the hot spots and effective lures by watching veteran anglers.
In the Cobbossee area, Jug Stream between Annabessacook Lake and Cobbossee Lake draws faithfuls for salmonids. People in the know keep telling me about this place, but I keep skipping it each spring. But this year for sure. Access is from Route 135 and Sanborn Road.
In North Windham, the Presumpscot River off Middle Jam Road attracts crowds now, and for good reason. IF&W heavily stocks this river with salmon, brookies or browns from April through mid-November.
When visiting North Windham, though, I cannot drive by the little Pleasant River just east of the Presumpscot. Browns and brookies in this Ernest Schwiebert-like setting keep me interested, and two good access spots on the Pleasant lie off the Windham Center Road and Pope Road. I fish up or downstream from the two bridges and just love this small, merry, stream as it splashes, bounces and swirls from pool to pool.
The Little Ossipee River in Newfield and Shapleigh is a wonderful small stream with artificial-lures-only and catch-and-release regs to ensure that good angling continues. Two access points lie off Route 11 in Newfield and the Mann Road in Shapleigh – a wooded river much of the way.
Folks in the know like to fish April brooks for sea-run brook trout, colloquially called “salters.” Currents in brooks subside and warm quicker now, so action picks up earlier than in rivers and big streams.
My favorite early April salter brooks draw trout that have spent the winter in Penobscot Bay. They run up the tiniest brooks now – an odd sport. One day a rivulet can be dead; the next, anglers can find nonstop action. That’s salter fishing in a proverbial nutshell.
In May, sea-run brookies may run rivers and large streams. The little brooks have a short time frame, when strong enough currents bring salters boiling upstream from the salt each April.
Ken Allen, of Belgrade Lakes, a writer, editor and photographer, may be reached at: