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It's not very often that a unique and unexpected angling opportunity comes along, especially in a state where fishing has been a mainstay of summer tourism and general recreation for centuries. But, thanks to an interesting combination of public assumptions and oversight, thousands of anglers drive right by some of the best spring trout fishing in Maine on their way to heavily-fished waters that, quite honestly, are on the skids or overrated as quality fisheries.
A few weeks ago I happened to be in Indian Township (just two hours up Route 9 - the Airline) on business and had a chance to visit with the Passamaquoddy Tribe's game wardens. A jovial, congenial bunch, the wardens were telling me about their plans for allowing “outsiders” to hunt deer, moose and bear hunting on tribal lands. As we drove the township's many woods roads looking at potential hunting areas, I couldn't help but notice one great-looking trout stream after another with no one fishing them. Many of the streams cross under sturdy bridges with long, deep pools and runs on either side - water you just know has to be full of trout. What I didn't know was that these streams are not stocked (by the tribe, anyway) and they are full of native brook trout (a rarity in Maine anymore), many of them reaching 15 inches or better in the deeper pockets.
The wardens invited me to fish some of the streams we passed and I took them up on it. Now, I am no fly-fisherman and don't claim to be one, but using a Mickey Finn streamer on a 6-weight rod, I waded in knee-deep pools and caught trout after trout on a simple downstream drift, rarely casting more than 20 feet in front of me! Most of the fish I caught were 10-inch native brookies, but there were several fish over 14 inches - and I was never out of sight of the bridge crossing of any stream I fished! In fact, I caught several big trout drifting my fly under the bridge from upstream - it was as if the fish were waiting for me to show up and feed them!
There was a time when trout fishing was that good everywhere in Maine, but experienced anglers will tell you that things have certainly changed in that regard. Finding good roadside fishing is practically impossible now, and even if you wander far away from roads and trails you may never catch trout over a foot long, no matter how much “initiative” you have.
Because I was a guest of the tribe and not really equipped to keep any fish (which the wardens encouraged me to do) I released all the trout I caught. It was after the recent rains and the streams were just a tad high, but I thought the fishing was fantastic. The wardens, however, said I should have been able to do better than that! “Once the water goes down a little more you should be able to catch some 16-inch fish,” Warden “George” told me. That was impressive - here I was enjoying some of the best trout fishing I've seen in decades and they tell me it gets even better! What angler wouldn't love to get in on that kind of action?
Well, here is the amazing news - according to the tribal wardens, anyone is allowed to fish tribal waters as long as they have a valid Maine fishing license and adhere to the general state fishing laws! In fact, tribal ordinances governing fishing take up less than one-half page in the tribe's 40-page hunting and fishing regulations booklet. You'll need a Maine fishing license, follow the Maine fishing laws (under Title 12) and any fish you possess will be considered to be “tribal fish” for enforcement purposes. What could be simpler than that? There are no additional permits or licenses to buy - just hop in the car, drive two hours to Princeton and the Indian Township boundary and start enjoying some of the best trout fishing you've ever had!
It has been the general impression among Mainers that the vast Passamaquoddy tribal lands were off-limits to non-tribal members, and apparently that's the reason so few anglers ply their waters. In fact, I discovered that there was more interest among tribe members in the abundant white perch population in the St. Croix River, and you can't blame them. Night after night (except when the wind was blowing hard out of the west over Lewy Lake), a crowd of anglers fished with lighted bobbers and worms right off the bridge in Princeton and most took home their limit of perch up to 16 inches long using
If you're looking for a fishing adventure that you can do in a day, consider a drive up the Airline to Indian Township. Study Delorme's Maine Atlas and Gazetteer and look at all the township streams that need to be fished! I spent most of my time on Jim Brown Brook and others nearby, and in a week's time did not see one other trout fisherman! Surprisingly, these waters are open to fishing with any tackle (worms, lures or flies). Fly-fishing is known to be the least productive per cast overall, yet I caught fish after fish all day, and I am admittedly no expert at it. I got by fishing downstream and stripping line upstream or roll casting from shore to shore - I'd think a real expert would be able to pick fish out of every run and pool practically at will.
Of course, sooner or later the heat of summer will change the fishing in the shallower streams, but the wardens told me that good trout fishing may be had all summer in the deeper flowages. Bring a canoe or plan to wet wade and enjoy the kind of fishing the whole state of Maine was once renowned for.
For more information about fishing on Passamaquoddy Indian Township waters, contact the tribal game warden's office at (207) 796-2677.
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