Region A – Sebago Lakes Region
If you haven’t noticed, this is anything but a normal winter throughout the state. Ponds and lakes that are usually frozen and safe throughout are still iffy at best. Before heading out onto the ice on any pond, please check the ice.
“Last weekend, we were out on a small pond that had about five inches of ice,” said IFW fisheries biologist Francis Brautigam. “That’s not a lot of ice for a pond that size in the middle of January.”
The snow earlier this week didn’t help ice conditions either. Ponds and lakes that skimmed over now have an insulating blanket of snow that has slowed ice forming conditions, even with the single digit temperatures that we’ve experienced at night. That’s if there is any ice at all.
“Mousam Lake in York County was pretty much wide open, except for some ice on the very north end,” said Brautigam. “There aren’t too many years when we still have open water this time of year on our moderate-size lakes.”
With ice conditions extremely variable, anglers are targeting smaller ponds in the region, as well as fishing the frozen coves and shorelines of the larger lakes and ponds.
“On Crystal Lake and the Range Ponds, there’s less than a couple of inches of ice in the middle. People were tight to the shore and in coves and catching fish,” said Brautigam.
“On some of our smaller ponds that we manage for catchable brook trout, anglers are having good success at the Otter Ponds, Sand Pond, Barker Pond and Worthley Pond,” said Brautigam, who added the Hinkley Ponds in South Portland are fishing well too. Check your law book for regulations specific to each water you want to fish.
One silver lining for anglers? Ponds with poor ice conditions haven’t received any fishing pressure, and once they freeze up, the fishing should be excellent.
Region B – Central and Midcoast Area
Ice conditions vary throughout the region, so make sure you check the ice before heading out. Anglers fishing some of the smaller ponds in the region are having good success.
“We are seeing a number of people of fishing and doing well on Brettuns and Beals Pond which are both right off of Route 4 in Turner,” said IFW fisheries biologist Jason Seiders. “Both have really good access and are stocked with a variety of different sized brook trout.”
In addition to brook trout, there are also some brown trout stocked in these ponds.
If you are closer to the coast, you may want to try out Maces Pond and Rocky Pond in Rockport. Both were stocked this fall with brook trout that range up to 20 inches. Rocky Pond is a youth and complimentary license only water, but Maces is open to all.
“Anglers are seeing some really good catch rates with brook trout,” said Seiders. “Try fishing with small minnows, worms or nightcrawlers. Jigging is also very productive. Remember to fish shallow, shallow, shallow for trout.”
Region C — Downeast
Downeast, people are fishing, but not in areas that you normally would this time of year.
“Until last week’s rain, the ice was shaping up, even if it was a little later than usual,” said IFW fisheries biologist Greg Burr. “Most had sealed over, even though the larger waters were marginal.”
With the rain last weekend and then the snow, larger lakes are still extremely questionable. Thin ice is blanketed with snow, covering up poor ice conditions, and as well as creating slushy conditions.
“We are seeing people along shore and in the coves,” said Burr. “People are anxious to get out.” Burr is hoping the colder weather will help freeze the slush and solidify the ice. Until then, check the ice before venturing out.
“People who are fishing the smaller ponds are doing really well. Ponds like Round Pond on MDI and Lovejoy in T34 offer some really good fishing,” said Burr.
“Fish the shallower water for brook trout. Brookies tend to hang out in 4-8 feet of water. We found them schooling in some of the coves,” said Burr, who added don’t be afraid to keep moving until you find the fish. Try fishing off of structure, or even downed trees in some of these ponds.
Small bodies of water in the region have 5-8” of ice. Try Keely Lake in Machias or Second or Third Lake Old Stream in Township 31. Splake are stocked into Second Lake Old Stream, and they can also be found in Third Lake. Some anglers are catching 18” splake in these waters.
Other ponds you may want to try include Fitts Pond in Clifton, where there are some splake and retired brood fish; Lowe Hadlock in Northeast Harbor which has brook trout ranging from 8-20”; and Jacob Buck Pond in Bucksport that has brook trout, splake and landlocked salmon.
Region D – Rangeley Lakes
Ice conditions vary up here, and anglers are still staying off the larger, deeper waters like Embden Lake until the ice gets thicker.
“Overall, the bigger lakes don’t have ice, the smaller, shallower ones do, and people have been catching fish on the smaller ponds,” said IFW fisheries biologist Dave Howatt. “Spring Lake (T3 R4) is not real safe and one angler who went up to Chain of Ponds and saw the ice said he has never seen such a scary place in his life.”
Lufkin Pond in Phillips has been a popular destination with a good population of splake and brown trout, as well as a number of bass. Crowell Pond in Chesterville is also fishing well. If you’ve got children under the age 16, you will want to try Harvey Pond in Madrid. This was stocked this fall with fish 13-17” in length.
Mount Blue Pond in Avon is open to ice fishing this year, and is stocked with splake and brown trout, and is also loaded with bass. Fishing has started a little slow there, but Howatt thinks it’s just a matter of time until people learn where to go on the pond.
If you want to fish Wilson Pond or Porter Lake, stay near the shore. Anglers near the shore are catching some nice fish, particularly on Porter where they are getting some nice salmon, but the ice is iffy as you head out deeper. There have been several reports of shacks and anglers breaking through the ice.
Region E – Moosehead Region
There’s not much ice, even in the Moosehead area.
“The ice just caught up in Rockwood earlier this week, but it’s not safe,” said IFW fisheries biologist Tim Obrey.
Obrey said he has heard of some anglers fishing close to shore, but has also heard that even on the smaller ponds such as Moutain View, there have been some people who went through the ice.
With ice conditions so poor, organizers for the 9th annual Moosehead Lake Togue Derby have modified the event. The event was originally scheduled for the weekend of January 29th, but organizers have added three more days to the event, the weekend of February 19-21. The banquet, silent auction, and the door prize drawings will occur on Saturday, February 20th at the Masonic Hall in Greenville..
Organizers will also operate the weigh-in stations during the originally planned dates of January 29th -31 since many anglers have already booked camp and hotel reservations a year in advance. They do caution anyone fishing that weekend to be extremely cautious and check ice conditions before heading out on the lake.
Region F – Penobscot Region
It’s been on again off again in the Penobscot region.
Last Friday, Cold Stream Pond finally buttoned up. After all the rain and wind on Sunday, it was wide open again on Monday. On Tuesday, it had frozen once again.
“Schoodic Lake was the same story, with it freezing, opening up again, then buttoning up in some places just enough to give some people some false confidence,” said Nels Kramer, IFW fisheries biologist. “The truth is, I have a longer list of what is not fishable than of what is fishable.”
Anglers have been having some success at the north end of Pleasant Lake in Island Falls where there is 4-6” of ice with reports that anglers are catching salmon. Kramer says do not attempt to go across the lake.
The upper basin of Mattawamkeag is producing with salmon, perch and pickerel. Anglers are also fishing the Shin Ponds, but watch out as this snow will hide some of the thin ice on the ponds.
Anglers are fishing East Grand and Spednic near to the shore as the main body of those waters remains iffy. Locals up at Matagammon say that lake was unfishable earlier this week, but that should change quickly.
Molunkus Lake had 7” of ice and was producing some “nice, fat brook trout.” On Mud (Perch) Pond in Old Town, anglers are catching 13-17” brook trout. Smaller water bodies generally are safer, and anglers have cautiously getting out on the ice to fish them.
On Pushaw Lake and Little Pushaw Lake, there are some anglers but they are staying near shore and are targeting perch and pickerel.
“This is the worst year for ice that I can remember,” said Kramer.
Region G – Aroostook Region
Even up north in Aroostook County, ice conditions are less than ideal.
“The ice is not good. The snow we got this week has created some treacherous conditions,” said IFW fisheries biologist Frank Frost. Fisheries biologists do a lot of creel survey work during the winter on a number of ponds and lakes, and for now, biologists have suspended their work.
“The ice is really variable. In shore you may have 5-7 inches of ice and out in the middle there is 1-2 inches. Now with the snow, there is slush as well. Several sleds have gone through the ice on area lakes,” said Frost.
“What little fishing there is happens very, very, close to shore. Right now, that’s the extent of the fishing. It’s a very atypical year,” said Frost.
Frost did mention that he has received several reports of anglers fishing the Fish River below the Fish River Falls. That area is open to fishing during the winter, and some anglers are taking advantage and going open water fishing.
“It can be tough conditions with ice forming in the guides of your rod, but the fish are there,” said Frost, who recommended trying it on a sunny day so ice is not as much of an issue.
Courtesy of Maine IFG on January 15, 2016