|With luck and good calling you may have already tagged your 2008 Maine wild turkey, in which case it’s time to hit the water with hook and line.
It can be quite a shock to be able to sleep in for an extra hour or two after getting into the woods before dawn in hopes of fooling a big gobbler. For many years I hunted turkeys in several states all through the month of May, and I can say with assurance that 30 days of 3:30 a.m. wake-ups can put a serious dent in your metabolic clock!
Now, however, is the time to enjoy what’s fast becoming one of the most popular angling sports in the U.S. From now through the end of June, the smallmouth bass fishing in Maine is world-class, to the point that many die-hard trout fishermen have traded in their waders and fly rods for a bass boat and a suitcase full of lures.
The attraction of smallmouths is easy to figure out the first time you catch one. Not only are bass aggressive and eager to strike a lure, they do not “nibble.” When a bass hits, your rod will bend double and you will know you have something on the line. These fish fight long and hard, jumping and splashing as they go, and when they come to the net they show an attitude that would put a World Boxing Federation champ to shame.
In spring, bass are found primarily along the shoreline of lakes and ponds. This is their annual spawning season, and in clear water you can easily see their circular nests, cleared of debris and packed with eggs, just a few feet from shore.
This is prime time for bass fishing because the fish are concentrated in shallow water and are in no mood for trespassers. The fish are in a major defense mode as they hover near their nests, and spend most of their time driving intruders away from their developing young. Of course, should you happen to reel a fluttering spinner or crankbait through their nests, they’ll hit it with authority. In fact, at this time of year bass will hit anything you throw. Once, many years ago, I was fishing Branns Mill Pond in Dover-Foxcroft with Dwight Smart of East Corinth, and the challenge was to find a lure the fish would not hit. We paddled around the entire pond and only changed lures when a fish hit. I literally tried everything in my tackle box (a two-tiered, three-shelved model) and caught a bass on everything in it!
In those days I was a lure collector of sorts, but one does not need a wide variety of lures in order to catch fish with regularity. Over the years I narrowed my selection down to just four lure types: A gold Mepps bucktail spinner, a 1/8-ounce yellow Twistertail spinner, a Rebel imitation minnow and a fly-rod sized green frog Jitterbug. If you don’t have anything else in your tackle box, don’t worry you won’t need anything else.
In fact, I have spent full days on most of our local rivers and lakes and rarely switched from the lure I snapped on for the first cast. I have fished Branns Mill add day with just a Twistertail, and have camped on the Piscataquis River for a weekend and never used anything but a gold Mepps spinner and caught upwards of 100 fish a day! This is not because I am a great fisherman, but because bass are aggressive, feisty fish that do not require a great deal of finesse to fool. They see, they attack, they eat that’s about the extent of their thought process.
If you are into trophy-class fish, now is the time to be out there. I have taken some of my biggest bass in mid-May and June, and in some places you wouldn’t think twice about. For example, one of my biggest bass ever (a 4-pounder) was taken in Nokomis Pond not 10 feet off shore. I lost two others that were even bigger (from the looks of their tail fins as they shucked the lure back to me!), and I have no doubt that fish over 5 pounds are in there as well.
One year I lost a fish in the Sebec River that was easily 6 pounds. It left the water with a great leap and splashed down like a sack of bricks a really great fish, and all I had to show for it was a scratched Rebel with bent treble hooks the fish simply tore itself off the hooks!
If you want to fish some of the deeper lakes in our area, try the Lakeview side of Schoodic Lake. Those in the know remember several submerged piers in the water a bit offshore, all that remain of an old dock that used to be there. The water is deep and cold, but some really big bass can be caught there, ideally by vertical jigging using a 1/4-ounce black or yellow jig. The last time I was out there (at dusk in a light rain) I caught a bass on every cast, and the smallest fish was a shade under 3 pounds.
There was a time when any Maine angler worth his salt would catch a bass and toss it onto shore for the raccoons to eat, but things have changed over the last few decades. Trout fishing has diminished in quality (despite valiant efforts by fisheries managers) and more people are turning to bass and other species for their fun. Catch a 3-pound bass on your standard trout-fishing tackle and you’ll quickly find out what all the excitement is about!
For details on all the great places to fish for bass in Maine, log onto the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Web site at www.state.me.us/ifw/fishing/index.htm.