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We are what may well be called the peak of Maine’s spring fishing season. Aside from being the first day of summer, it’s also prime time for bass, trout and salmon, all of the top-rated species in the state. Until June 30, the bag limit on bass is one fish over 10 inches and only artificial lures may be used. Trout and salmon may be fished with flies, lures or bait as noted in the 2010 fishing regulations summary, which may be viewed and downloaded at http://www.maine.gov after a little link-clicking.
Ruminate a while on the most recent changes in the fishing regulations (which are now good for two years) with special focus on the waters you want to target this year and then . . . . go fishing!
The cooler weather of the last few weeks has made fishing a great choice over such things as wallpapering, yard work or paying bills. If you get out there at dawn, it’s actually quite balmy on the water, and you can put in several hours of productive fishing before you have to get back to the grinding reality of making a living.
The real quandary now is which species to target. Until the spring spawning season is over (in mid-July), I’d focus on bass. They are in the shoreline shallows now, often visible in their nests, and a clever wader or small craft paddler can have a great day casting to these belligerent guardians of the future of bass fishing. I fished a small pond recently with five other anglers of all ages and every one of them caught a 3-pound or better fish on a wide variety of lures. It was actually funny to see these guys fishing hard with their own pet lures, yet all caught fish no matter what they used.
I let my best friend use my old Rebel silver minnow (which I bought from saved lunch money back when I was in middle school!) and he caught the biggest fish of the trip, a fat 5-pound largemouth. I let one of the younger kids there use my beloved Mr. Twister yellow spinnerbait, and he refused to give it back! He caught several bass, perch, pickerel and bluegills on the thing, and since I had a whole bag of them in my tackle box, I let him think he’d gotten the best of me by keeping the lure.
Come to think of it, the same went with Danny, our retired host who prefers to fish in the weeds. I let him “borrow” a small, weedless Jitterbug designed for fly-fishing, and he had a ball teasing big largemouths and smallmouths out of the newly-emerging lily pads.
Once the sun hits the water and the wind comes up, it’s often best to call it a half-day (because equally good fishing will occur later in the afternoon and at dusk). That doesn’t mean we go home and take a nap (or worse, start some yard work). Instead, the best thing to do at midday is grab a little trout rod and a can of garden worms, because this is prime time for small stream trout fishing.
Trout are active all day in the secluded, shaded stretches of water away from the roads and crowds. It often takes a bit of ambition to park at a bridge crossing and then hike back into the woods till the last vestige of human presence has been bypassed. The best fishing will be just beyond the last footprint, the last drink can, the last empty package of fish hooks or freeze-dried bait. Sometimes the water here will be just inches deep and easy to jump across, but there are trout in there if you are patient, persistent and light of foot. You don’t want to go stomping and clomping around these waters, because the delicate shoreline (mostly moss and fine dirt) telegraphs the movements of any predator to the fish, which then scurry upstream and down in a panic – in no mood to take a bait, that’s for sure!
Be quiet, be patient, and learn to fish these small streams by simply dropping your bait down through the maze of alders that overhangs them. It often takes a jeweler’s touch to reach the water, but as soon as your worm hits the surface a fat trout is likely to take it.
Don’t expect a great fight from these fish. Most will be barely over 6 inches long, more head than body due to a lack of food availability, but they have all the spirit and color of North Country brookies that weigh three or four pounds.
Because most small-stream fisheries are self-sustaining (meaning not stocked with hatchery fish), most anglers will fish the same stretch of stream only once per season. This gives the fish time to replenish themselves, providing great fishing for years to come.
For example, there’s a small tributary to Alder Stream in Orneville that I fish only once per year. It always has a good supply of trout up to 10 inches, but if I fish it more than once a year I can see that the quality of the fish declines with each trip. By the third trip there are no more 10-inchers, and if I go a fourth time I’m lucky to find any legal-sized trout (over 6 inches) in the whole mile-long stretch.
If you want to have the best luck on salmon this month, go early or late in the day. I’ve caught them on flies, lures and bait, so getting them to bite isn’t a problem. In any case, set your hook immediately because a deep-hooked salmon is doomed to die. And, since most landlocks we catch these days are under the 14-inch length limit, it makes no sense to kill what amounts to next year’s keepers.
Salmon are hard fighters and won’t quit till they are exhausted, so use barbless hooks and gently release unwanted fish as soon as possible. Let them recover for a few seconds in a protected shoreline pool, then let them go under their own power as soon as they are ready.
You can literally spend all day fishing for your favorite species in Maine right now, so get out there and enjoy it. I saw a few colored leaves in the woods around my favorite bass pond just a week ago, and you know what that means!
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