KEVIN THOMPSON and his son, Crennan, check their fishing lines to see if they’ve caught any smelt on Monday.

KEVIN THOMPSON and his son, Crennan, check their fishing lines to see if they’ve caught any smelt on Monday.

BOWDOINHAM

With the onset of frigid temperatures this past week, local smelt camps have been reopening and filling up fast.

“It’s been pretty good. Everyone has had a slow start this year and people are wanting to get out,” said Jim McPherson, owner of Jim’s Smelt Camps in Bowdoinham.

After closing for about a week earlier this month, McPherson said he reopened his camps last Wednesday to eager fishermen.

SMOKE BILLOWS from smelt shacks at Jim’s Smelt Camps in Bowdoinham.

SMOKE BILLOWS from smelt shacks at Jim’s Smelt Camps in Bowdoinham.

Depending on weather, a typical season will begin the first week of January and last until the end of February, he said. And despite a fairly warm winter, things have been picking up for McPherson.

“Even during the week, I’m seeing quite a jump in business,” he said. “We’ve also had a fair amount of fish this year. In the last few years, we’ve seen fewer, but the fish have been biting more this year.”

McPherson’s camps have been filling up steadily, and sometimes even booking out, though he worried whether warm weather and potential rain would affect the ice.

“I take whatever Mother Nature gives me,” he said with a chuckle. Though sometimes he has to take matters into his own hands.

On colder days this year, McPherson said he flooded some of the ice near the Cathance River, where his camp is located, to make more ice.

“It’s a lot of extra work, but I was able to get back on,” he said. “I do whatever it takes.”

While some take up smelt fishing to wind down and relax, McPherson, who has been running smelt camps for 40 years, said others take the opportunity to spend time with their family.

Ray Wilbur and Kevin Thompson of Eliot had been fishing for about an hour on Monday afternoon without a catch.

“It’s more just hanging out and talking, and enjoying the day, that’s it,” Thompson said. His two sons, Kevin and Crennan, had also tagged along for the day.

A wood stove kept the shack toasty as they peered over the rectangular gaps of water to see if their fishing lines would jiggle.

“It’s a very affordable thing to do. We like to go skiing and stuff, but that’s quite a bit more money,” Thompson said.

“If we catch something, we do. If not, we still have fun,” Wilbur said.

Not familiar with smelt fishing? Newcomers should have no trouble picking it up.

“They usually bring whatever they want to eat and drink, and I supply everything else,” McPherson said. “If they have never been before, I usually give them a quick lesson.”

Rates are $15 per person from Sunday through Thursday. On Fridays and Saturdays, a four-person shack costs $60. Children ages 12 and under can fish for free Sunday through Thursday.

Jim’s Smelt Camps is located on 4 Bay Road in Bowdoinham on Route 24. For more information, call (207) 666-3049.

Other camps

OTHER SMELT CAMPS
in the area include:
• James Eddy Smelt Camp
426 Middle Road, Dresden
(207) 737-2596
• Leighton’s Smelt Camp
Brown’s Point Road, Bowdoinham (207) 666-5551
• River Bend Smelt Camp
122 Wallentine Road, Bowdoinham (207) 666-5945


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