Friday, December 13, 2013
By Ken Allen
Bill Woodward, a bass fisherman and retired fisheries biologist from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (DIF&W), recently told me that central Maine produces the state's best bass fishing. This man worked for DIF&W in Franklin County and Down East, the latter a bassing mecca, before settling into Region B in central Maine.
Woodward mentioned fall meetings of Maine bass clubs that listed the best catches across the state each year, and central Maine lakes such as Cobbossee, Annabessacook and China often led the parade.
Woodward also said something else about Maine bassing that perked my ears up. Folks who fish small bass ponds inevitably catch the same fish over and over, and in no time they tangle with a majority of the pond's bass.
In my opinion, bassing in Maine isn't a sport where anglers should practice catch and kill because resource abuse can really decimate small ponds in particular. In our cold, sterile waters, bass do not grow as fast as they do in states south of us.
I have fished two Maine bass ponds that produce awesome sport -- Turner Mill Pond (big largemouths) in Somerville, and Palermo and Stevens Pond (largemouths and smallmouths) in Liberty.
These ponds have deceptive sizes, too, because both stretch for miles and have islands, peninsulas and coves galore as well as light development. In these larger places, anglers are less apt to be catching the same fish over and over. Even though they look really small, these ponds have abundant bass populations.
I love Turner Mill Pond and have fished there since age 7, back when all it had was pickerel and yellow perch. Circa 1980, DIF&W released largemouths there, putting them into an Atlantic-salmon drainage (the Sheepscot). This management decision surprised -- even shocked -- me.
Turner stretches for 31/2 miles, giving it a river feel. It has blackish, soupy-looking water, thick weeds and abundant shoreline fishing, thanks to all the islands, coves and peninsulas. I've guided bass anglers there, and they all fell in love with this bass water and rewarded me with big tips.
Stevens has sphagnum islands growing pitcher plants, a rare Maine habitat. Sphagnum islands look like scenes from the South, and once while I was shooting a photo of Tom Seymour standing on one of these floating islands, he was slowly sinking into the sphagnum over his 10-inch boot tops.
"Hurry up," he cautioned, "before I get my feet wet."
Little bass ponds with wooded shorelines and limited to no development can produce fast, exciting fishing, a classic experience for tourists who appreciate such an experience.
For Maine natives such as myself, these bass ponds often strike us as a ho-hum experience -- good for the tourist industry because we offer little competition.
Small-pond, bassing bets in central Maine include Moose Pond in Mount Vernon, Branch Pond in Palermo, Little Medomak Pond in Waldoboro and Spectacle Pond in Augusta. The latter has a well-deserved reputation for brown trout and brook trout, but also produces excellent smallmouth and largemouth fishing.
When talking about small ponds in central Maine, the question isn't whether the water has bass. Most of them do. Rather the question is whether there is access. Lots of them don't.
Theoretically, the Great Pond Act offers access on any undeveloped land leading to a 10-acre or more pond or lake, but landowners often ignore this law, which causes rows between anglers and the landed gentry. However, many landowners close access after abuses such as litter, blocking access roads and building campfires. Treat these lands with utmost respect.
Small bass ponds cry for fly-casting a floating, deer-hair popper. These lures sit on the water like frogs and attract smashing surface strikes. For day-in and day-out action, though, it's difficult to beat black or chartreuse Wooly Buggers for consistent sport with bass.
n I like the black Bugger to have a body made from 4- to 6-black ostrich herls and a single strand or two of peacock herl for that iridescent sheen that resembles a leech. Gold-wire ribbing a gold cone head for tannin-stained water increases the attraction, and cone head gets the fly deep in a hurry. Silver wire ribbing and cone head produces in crystal-clear water.
n I don't know what there is about a Wooly Bugger with a chartreuse marabou tail, chartreuse ostrich-herl body, chartreuse palmering and chartreuse collar, a fly that rings the dinner bell for bass. The gold-or-silver rule to match the water color applies with the chartreuse Bugger.
Baitfish imitations also work when fly-rodding for bass: A Barnes Special for waters with yellow perch, Jerry's Smelt or red Gray Ghost for smelt waters, Blacknose Dace for blacknose-dace waters, Red Fin Shiner for common-shiner waters, Muddler Minnow for sculpin waters, etc.
Ken Allen of Belgrade Lakes is a writer, editor and photographer. He can be contacted at: