Late May into early June can be one of the best times to go river fishing here in Maine. Water temps are cool but warming. Black flies and mosquitoes may be fierce, but that means bugs are often hatching on the water, with feasting fish nearby.
Maine has a number of rivers that are renowned not only through the Northeast but beyond as well. They are usually referred to by one word, such as “The Rapid” or the “The Roche,” or the river is synonymous with its location such as “Grand Lake Stream” or the “Aroostook River.”
But what if you don’t have two days to chase the caddis hatch on the West Branch or East Outlet? Don’t worry, there are plenty of options within a two-hour drive of Portland.
The Big Ossipee River has a nice stretch of wadeable water below the Kezar Falls Dam. The Ossipee has some outstanding trout habitat, is well-stocked with brown and brook trout and always has some holdover fish larger than 16 inches. While there are areas where you can wade, some anglers like to float it with a canoe. Head to the river now, though, as the water can warm up quickly.
While the Presumpscot has its devotees, why not try the nearby Pleasant River? It’s very accessible at a number of road crossings, including Route 302, Pope Road and River Road.
The Pleasant has quiet flatwaters and short sections of riffle pools. It’s wadeable, and during higher water you can float it with a canoe. Many anglers like to float through the quiet waters, then pull up on a gravel bar to fish the riffles. A canoe can help you get away from some of the crowds.
While many anglers will take their boat onto Sebago to battle landlocks and lake trout during the smelt run, if you don’t have a boat, try fishing off the beach at the mouth of the Songo. It’s an opportunity to catch lake-size salmon and even a few lake trout. It’s not uncommon to see 22-inch salmon and 25-inch togue busting smelts at the surface. If you like sight fishing, it’s one of the few freshwater locations where this can be done.
The Crooked River can be hit or miss this time of year, as the Crooked gets a large influx of spawning salmon in the fall. Still, there are some good fish in the Crooked as they head up the river from Sebago chasing smelts.
Many anglers this time of year will target brook trout on the Crooked. Along with the brookies, there’s always the chance of catching a larger salmon that traveled its way up the river.
The Little Androscoggin in the Minot area does not have a lot of wadeable sections, but there are some sections below the dam at Hackett’s and also at the Empire Road and Jordan Road crossings. The river is stocked with both browns and rainbows, and an added bonus is that you do get some salmon that drop down from Thompson Lake.
If you’re willing to travel a little further, try the Androscoggin and Kennebec. The upper Andro has some great locations to wade, from the New Hampshire border to West Bethel. There are numerous access points along North Road. Many anglers target rainbows, browns and brookies at the confluence of the Wild, but take your time to find smaller tributaries. The influx of cool water from the tributaries often hold a number of fish.
The best fishing doesn’t last much longer, so get out there soon — and don’t forget your bug spray.
Mark Latti is a registered Maine guide and the landowner relations/recreational access coordinator for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.