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Mid-June is probably the best time of year from a fisherman’s point of view. Every waterway in the state is open to fishing from shore or boat, every species is biting and the challenges range from every-cast perch fishing to the “1,000 cast” species such as salmon, muskies and tuna. It is easy to see which species are least popular (at least among fisheries managers) because they enjoy the same status as coyotes, ground hogs and dump rats – no closed season, no bag limit. Piscatorially speaking, only muskellunge (basically a giant pickerel) and northern pike (a slightly smaller version of the muskie) are free and legal game year-round with no restrictions. Oddly, the chain pickerel actually features a bag limit of 10 fish per day, which seems odd because pickerel are much more abundant than pike or muskies and, in those numbers, likely devour as many “desirable” species as all the pike and muskies in the state combined.
I’ll leave these quandaries to those who know more about them, but at this time of year we can fish for any species we like and we can keep at least enough of any of them to make a fine shore dinner. Trout and salmon limits are minimal these days, two per day in most waters for all species except brook trout, five of which may be creeled daily. There’s another quandary for you because there is a move afoot to “save” our native strains of Eastern brook trout and yet most states in the East (including Maine) allow anglers to take five (or more in some cases) per day, while the easily-stocked salmon, lake trout, browns and rainbows are limited to two fish per day. I fiddle with trout occasionally and only when I am in the mood for a pocket-stove meal of brookies and fiddleheads, never taking my legal limit of five fish because they won’t fit in my pack-in frying pan with the potatoes, onions and fiddleheads anyway.
I try to avoid fishing for small-stream brookies “for fun” because it’s inevitable that some of the fish I hook will die even if I release them (some studies say 3 percent mortality, even on a fly) and I don’t think it’s worth the risk to them.
Fortunately, I am an all-season angler and when I have a rod in my hand I really don’t care what I catch. Small fish are fun on small tackle (ultra-light, they call it) and big fish are actually not much fun if you catch too many of them! For example, I recently went bluefishing on the coast with a boatload of anglers who, halfway through a day of constantly battling 15-pound fish one after the other, all sat down and started telling fishing stories! When sport becomes work the participants usually find other ways to amuse themselves, and the really big fish, taken in numbers, can quickly take the “fun” out of fishing. Some people love to battle a single shark or tuna all day before releasing it and more power to them. I’ve done the saltwater thing and had a fine time but I’m more inclined to head for the nearest bass or trout water for an intimate day of tempting smaller, abundant and more aggressive fish.
June is the perfect month to fish for a number of reasons other than that all waters and species are legal. Water conditions are usually perfect, weather conditions are nearly so and most of the freshwater species we commonly target are quick to take whatever we throw at them.
If I had to pick the perfect time and place for a June angling outing it would have to be a small, secluded pond where fat brook trout rise at dawn and dusk and take dry flies and nymphs off the top. At their busiest the fish dimple the surface of the water like raindrops, and even an inept fly-caster (such as I am) can fool enough trout to make the effort worthwhile. I’ve learned that a good way to beat these fish is to hunt them, paddling slowly along the shoreline with a long cast’s worth of line trailing in the water till I see a fish busily rising 20 feet away. I’ll drop the paddle, flick the rod forward and drop my fly (nymphs or wet flies work great!) right into the center of the rise.
Unless I totally botch the presentation a fish will take the fly and give me a nice little battle before I flick him off the barbless hook and go hunt for another rise. Fine wire barbless hooks make it easy to release sensitive trout and salmon caught this way. They are invariably hooked in the outer jaw and can be turned loose quickly and easily with no damage. Should a fish take the hook too deep I just cut the leader close to the hook and let the fish go. If there’s blood, I put the trout on ice and have him for breakfast, but after two or three such encounters I pack up and go home – or simply head for the nearest bass pond, where the fish are stronger tougher and more resilient!
I don’t know that anyone’s ever conducted a study on the mortality of bass that are hooked and released while using flies or lures, but I know from experience that a lot of bass can be hooked, lost and re-hooked later using another lure, and the first lure (or two!) will still be imbedded in their jaws. I do my best to recover both lures and return the fish to the water unharmed, and most often the go into the tea-colored depths with a derisive splash. If I happen to deep-hook a bass and bleeding ensues, I do the sensible thing and bring it home to make chowder or fish salad out of him. This may occur once or twice per season so it’s not likely that I will be wiping out the local bass population any time soon. It is legal to keep a bass now and then and, truthfully, they taste as good as any other I’ve had, but of course there’s not much I don’t like in the way of wild game or fish, and if I have to eat something I’ve caught or killed it’s cause for celebration.
If you are receiving the Rolling Thunder Express you likely live near water, and every lake, pond, river or stream in our area has some kind of fish you can pursue. You’re in the right place and now’s the time – what other incentive do you need?
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