At the time of this writing, the prevalence of unseasonably warm weather suggests the traditional start of the ice fishing season (Jan. 1) may offer rather tenuous ice conditions in southern Maine. Unfortunately, these conditions will not embrace new ice fishing regulations in effect this year that allow for the taking of catchable brook trout in Class “A” designated waters from the time ice forms in December. Anglers should also take note of the other new statewide regulation changes highlighted on Page 9 of the 2006/2007-ice fishing law book.

The ice fishing forecast for southern Maine is excellent! Fall-stocked ponds received little fall fishing pressure due to unusually rainy conditions. Similar conditions in the spring of the year also limited angler participation during the early part of the season. Furthermore, significant stocking increases this fall including adult retired hatchery brood, and 12 to 14 inch fall yearling brook trout will provide bigger and more fish in many of our stocked waters. In fact, our fall yearling brook trout stocking program has expanded from a program of just 2000 fish in 2001 to about 9,000 fish in 2006. Approximately 353 brood brook trout (2.5 lbs), 410 brood landlocked salmon (2-3 lbs), and 460 brood brown trout (3 lbs) were retired from Maine’s hatchery system and stocked in southern Maine. These large fish are always well received by anglers. For a complete list of stockings check out the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Web site (www.mefishwildlife.com).

Expanded hatchery production has certainly increased winter brook trout angling opportunities by growing more and larger, legal-size fall yearling brook trout. Most waters that received fall yearling brook trout in the past were again stocked in 2006, but at much higher rates due to increased production. Significant additional increases in this popular fall stocking program are also planned for the future, made possible by the renovation of the Emden State Hatchery using funds provided by a bond referendum several years ago. Some of the more heavily stocked brook trout waters, where larger brook trout (brood and fall yearlings) were planted include: Little Ossipee Lake (Waterboro), Middle and Upper Range ponds (Poland), Wilson Lake (Acton), Thomas Pond (Casco), Worthley Pond (Peru), Keoka Lake (Waterford), Mousam Lake (Acton), Presumpscot River (Windham), and Kennebunk Pond (Lyman). A number of winter brook trout fisheries also occur where habitat is not suitable to sustain a year round trout fishery, but where fall and winter temperatures support stocking of legal size fish to create winter/spring fisheries. Examples of very successful winter/spring brook trout fisheries include Worthley Pond (Poland), Barker Pond (Lyman), Otter Pond #2 (Standish), Littlefield Pond (Sanford), and Hobbs Pond (Norway), Knights Pond (S. Berwick), Cold Rain (Naples), Halls Pond (Paris), and Silver Lake (Phippsburg), and Sprague Pond (Phippsburg). These waters are fished hard the first few weeks of the season, but often boast high catch rates. Some of these waters continue to offer good fishing throughout the entire winter season. Some additional fall stocking programs that are new for 2006/2007 include: Parker Pond (Casco), Moose Pond (Acton), Horne Pond (Limington), Round Pond (Lyman – open to youth only during the winter), Wilson Lake (Acton), Thomas Pond (Casco), Hutchinson (Albany), South Pond (Greenwood). Expanded fall stocking of legal size brook trout has helped spread out winter angling pressure away from some of the more popular regional trout waters.

The first southern Maine winter brook trout fishery created exclusively for kids under the age of 16 will open on Round Pond in Lyman this winter. Round Pond is owned by York County Fish and Game, who have partnered with the Department to create the only exclusively youth winter fishing opportunity in southern Maine. Beefed-up Department fall stocking should offer some exciting youth angling and help promote youth fishing.

The top picks for great lake trout action remain consistent over the last few years, including Great East Lake (Acton), Sebago Lake (Naples), and Thompson Lake (Otisfield). All three waters will offer good catches of 16- to 22-inch togue, with Sebago being the most consistent producer of wall hangers each year. The lake trout found in Sebago are exceptionally fat this year, with reported increases in average size quality. 2006 open water catch rates for togue on Thompson were excellent and there seems to be an abundance of lake trout that should be welcome news to winter anglers. The largest catches of lake trout are usually taken by jigging, and this technique is particularly effective on Sebago and Thompson lakes.

The best winter prospects for large salmon (over four pounds) are Trickey Pond (Naples), Bryant Pond (Woodstock), South Pond (Greenwood), but the fishing for salmon is generally very slow on these waters. Most other regional waters open to winter salmon fishing offer higher catch rates, including some of the less fished waters like Long Lake (Naples/Harrison), Panther Pond (Raymond), Crescent Lake (Casco), and Kezar Lake (Lovell). Increased availability of brood salmon have also allowed for the creation of some new salmon fishing opportunities in waters marginally suited for salmon. Most of the retired salmon brood was stocked in Little Ossipee Lake (Waterboro), Thomas Pond (Casco), Tripp Lake (Poland), Mousam Lake (Acton), Presumpscot River (Windham), Pennesseewassee Lake (Norway), Songo Pond (Albany), and Highland Lake (Windham).

Splake enthusiasts will find fast action, but heavy fishing pressure on Bryant Pond (Woodstock) and Trickey Pond (Naples). However, it is likely to be standing room only on both these popular and productive waters, providing providing favorable ice conditions prevail on Jan. 1.

Brown trout anglers have no shortage of waters to fish. With the exception of the more popular fisheries, like Sabbathday Lake (New Gloucester), Middle/Upper Range Ponds (Poland), Worthley Pond (Peru), and Hancock Pond (Denmark), Square Pond (Shapleigh), many of the approximately 35 regional brown trout waters will receive very little fishing pressure, yet these waters offer quality fish. Sampling undertaken the past few years has indicated that a high percentage of our brown trout waters support fish between 3 and 6 pounds. So get away from the crowds and check out some of the those ponds you don’t hear about, but be patient, brown trout do not generally offer brisk action, but they do offer some of the largest fish caught in the region each year. As a bonus, many of the retired brood brown trout brood were stocked in southern Maine, including Horne Pond (Limington), Long Lake (Harrison), Presumpscot River (Windham), and Woods Pond (Bridgton).

For those that still like to open water fish throughout the winter, there are several year round river-fishing opportunities in the region, which have been enhanced under beefed up fall stocking programs. These waters include the entire Presumpscot River, the Saco River (particularly below Skelton Dam, Hiram Dam) and the lower Royal River (below Elm Street). Additional open water trout fishing opportunities continue to increase in popularity on some tidewater rivers, including the Mousam (Kennebunk) and the Ogunquit (Wells), and more recently the salmon Falls River (S. Berwick).

Last year, ice never set up on Big Sebago. Will this year be the same?


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