| May is the equivalent of October for Maine outdoorsmen. There’s more to do than can be squeezed into a single day. Everything seems to happen at once and there are only a few short weeks of peak activity before things wind down as another sultry summer begins.
The best of Maine’s freshwater fishing opportunities begin this month. What will it be? Bass are on their spawning beds providing cast-after-cast action into late June. Trout fishing in small streams, rivers, lakes and ponds eagerly take worms, flies, lures and minnows with abandon, and landlocked salmon may be found in swift, cold rivers and streams as well as lake and pond outlets. Pickerel, pike and even muskies are available in central Maine’s shallower lakes and ponds, and panfishermen seeking bluegills, perch and horned pout can catch all they want in just about any water slow, warm and deep enough to grow the weeds these species depend upon for survival.
From the first call of “ice out” most anglers will focus on trout and salmon, Maine’s traditional top-end game fish. For over 100 years anglers from around the world flocked to Maine to sample the Pine Tree State’s world-class brook trout and landlocked salmon fishing. Perhaps it was the steady nibbling of anglers on those species that created the precipitous decline in the state’s salmonid fishery, which began back in the 1970s; maybe it was global warming, or maybe Bob Dylan was right and the times are simply a-changin’. Fortunately, nature has a way of compensating for Man’s gluttony. As Maine’s trout fishery began to fizzle anglers’ focus turned to bass, to the point that we have special regulations protecting the species as well as bass clubs and tournaments that bring anglers from . . . all over the world! Not bad for a fish that was considered “trash” just a generation ago. And, thanks to bass anglers’ ingrained catch-and-release ethic, there are plenty of fish to go around, year after year. I suspect that some folks’ aversion to eating bass carries as much weight as ethics in keeping the bass population going strong, but for now central Maine continues to offer some of the best bass fishing in the country. You can catch bigger smallmouths in Lake Erie and much bigger largemouths in Florida, but Maine is one of the few states where you don’t need a $35,000 bass boat to accomplish your goals. I have fished from the banks of the Piscataquis, Sebec, Pleasant, St. Croix Kennebec and Penobscot rivers for over 50 years and still catch as many bass now as I did when I wasn’t yet old enough to be required to purchase a fishing license.
The challenge, of course, is deciding which species to target. On a good day it’s possible to go for small stream trout at dawn, paddle the shoreline for bass through the day and then head for one of the local rivers for salmon at the end of the day. I’ve done just that many times in the past and have filled my limit of all three species on innumerable occasions, in the “olden days” and as recently as last spring. It’s not rocket science just go, fish, catch. Experienced anglers who know their spots will have no trouble catching all three species in one day sometimes in one body of water!
The ringer in May, of course, is that the wild turkey hunting season is also open this month, with just enough changes in regulations to put a serious dent in an avid angler’s plans. For the first time Maine turkey hunters can hunt all day (sunrise to sunset). They may also take two bearded turkeys (so it’s always one down, one to go) and they may even use crossbows to down their spring gobbler. Extremely lucky turkey hunters can bring their bird to the tagging station by 7 a.m., catch a few trout in a local brook after breakfast, head for the bass pond for some midday action and then wade into their favorite salmon pool for a few casts in time for the evening insect hatch.
Truth be told, I carry a four-piece spinning rod in my turkey vest when I head out to chase longbeards in the morning. Where I hunt there are alternating hardwood ridges and swampy creek bottoms that provide good turkey hunting and great trout fishing at the same time. I focus on turkeys in the early morning, and when things slow down around 10 a.m. I rig up my fishing rod, scratch a few garden worms from under the streamside rocks and fish for trout till I hear the turkeys start gobbling again. On the best of days I’ll tag a big tom turkey for Sunday dinner and enough trout for lunch, which means I’m free to go bass fishing in mid-afternoon and then off to the salmon pool for a few casts at sunset.
Accomplishing all of this can make for some busy days, for sure. It’s not always possible to spend an entire day hunting or fishing, but now that it’s legal to chase turkeys from dawn till dark there’s no reason not to get out there and try when the opportunity arises. In fact, with sunrise coming so early these days it’s entirely possible to harvest a gobbler or catch a few trout before it’s time to face reality and head to work.
For a complete update on the rules and regulations governing May hunting and fishing in Maine, log onto the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Web site at www.mefishwildlife.com. Hunting and fishing license fees, turkey permits and tagging information are also available on the site, along with details on access, fishing tackle restrictions and other pertinent information. It’s always best to read and understand the rules before heading afield. Having a game warden explain them to you can be a costly proposition!