It has been a weird year so far as far as the weather is concerned. Finally it has been cold enough long enough up north to provide safe ice for fishing on most of the lakes. Ice fishing is one of those sports that requires a very minimal investment in gear and is fun for the whole family.
The Maine and New Hampshire Fish and Wildlife Departments have, over the past few years, really worked hard to try to provide winter fishermen with a good experience. They have been stocking more and more waters in the late fall specifically to promote ice fishing.
Seth Legere, who works in the fishing department at the Kittery Trading Post tells me that this is especially true of brook trout.
“Some of these ponds, both small and large, could be called marginal waters for brook trout survival,” he said. “ But because of the number of them and the often great access, this ice fishing has taken off and could very well be more popular than the open water-fishing that these ponds experience.
“The question of how to ice fish for brook trout is not an easy one to answer,” he continued. “For one thing, it’s natural for wild brook trout to be very territorial, especially the older and larger fish. They also usually prefer shallow water shorelines with a lot of cover for both baitfish and trout to inhabit. Unlike rainbow trout and salmon, they don’t usually suspend near the surface. Brown trout also will suspend off bottom but their reason is following schools of baitfish to wherever they are.”
Seth feels that in New England “...brookies are not exclusively bottom feeding fish, but they do much of their feeding on bottom dwellers such as crawfish and other bottom living critters such as insect nymphs. But, here comes the rub. Freshly stocked brookies have been taken out of moving water troths at the hatcheries so they are often acclimated to running water. So, until these brook trout adapt to their wild cousin’s choice of staying along the shoreline in cover, these freshly stocked trout will often gather around moving water like streams and brooks that dump into a pond. And to make these places more attractive to brook trout anglers, some of the larger wild trout also share these “stockies” choice of feeding near moving water. Their name, brook trout, has to reveal this tendency.”
The best bait for these fish are small shiners and night crawlers. Try a number six or eight hook with very light line. You will want it heavy enough so it doesn’t break on the lip of the whole, but light enough so it does not scare away the fish. Fluorocarbon line works best.
The best way to fish trout is to “hop-scotch” your rigs along a shoreline. If the closest one doesn’t produce, move it along the shoreline and set it past the former last one in line.
According to Seth “...it’s very hard to pinpoint the time of day that brook trout will hit. The wild ones like early morning when activity on the ice is not as noticeable, while the stocked fish can turn on about any time in the day. We’ve never heard or seen any documentation, but it wouldn’t surprise us if they turn on around their normal feeding times at the fish hatcheries they were raised in!”
The boys are checking in with some pretty good reports of success. My hunting buddy Stu Bristol tells me that “Little Ossipee Lake in Waterboro saw a lot of anglers over the weekend, although most kept close to shore where there is over eight inches of ice. A couple of 3-pound plus brookies and a big rainbow were the bragging fish that were caught. Long Pond in Parsonfield has seen a slowdown in trout action but the smallmouth bass are willing to take up the slack. I saw several that tipped the scales at over three pounds and they went back into the water.”
“Wadley pond in Lyman is still the hotspot for crappies up to 1 1/2 pounds, as is Shaker Pond in Alfred. Loads of anglers on Wilson Lake in Acton, but I had no way of connecting with them to see what they were catching. Stanley Pond, farther north in Hiram, is the place to find really nice Splake (cross between brook and lake trout) They don’t reproduce and grow rapidly. It’s not unusual to catch a 3–4 pound splake out of Stanley.”
“Also on the radar this week is the Saco River just above Skelton Dam in Buxton. Keep to Turtle Island cove and others that are out of the mainstream for some really hot bass action,” Stu ended.
Dave Garcia at Naples Bait on Long Lake in the Sebago Region is very happy about Sebago Lake’s ice starting to form, as well as how well Long Lake is fishing.
“Although there are still quite a few places of open water, there are enough safe places to ice fish, and the togue (lake trout) are responding pretty well. Some of the places where fishing is taking place are Muddy River, the Station, and parts of Jordan Bay. Most of the togue have been caught by jigging, but a lot of these people will still set out one tip-up and they will often produce as well as the jigs. Tip your jig with either cut bait or a small whole shiner.”
Access to smelt fishing areas on the Greenland end of Great Bay have been a controversy for some years and with the Great Bay Estuarine Reserve now holding much of the shoreline there in their hands,anglers were more upset because parking was not available, so it was close to impossible to use the public land for access. But things have changed. A parcel of land that is used for corn crops in the warm season has been opened up for the public for parking, something that seemed out of reach for many years. We were told recently that outdoorsman Chuck Becker, from Greenland, an avid waterfowler and smelt fisherman was instrumental in negotiating the deal. Also, well-known sportsman Don Pearl, who also hails from Greenland, has offered to keep the parking area plowed. This is the answer to the prayers of literally hundreds of smelt fishing enthusiasts.
New England Fishing
and Outdoor Expo
The New England Fishing an Outdoor Expo returns to the DCU Center in Worcester, Ma. February 8-10. This is the largest outdoor show in New England bringing together in one place hundreds of exhibitors of outdoor related products including boats and fishing gear, guns and associated apparel and exhibits by all of the Fish and Wildlife departments around New England.
See the huge bass in the Hawg Trough, try out the new rods in the casting pool, see the latest archery equipment at the archery range, or let the kids work out on a climbing wall.
There will be a wide variety of lectures from folks like the Mad Fisherman Charlie Moore, Dan Kenney, Dave Hite, Hal Blood, Roy Leyva, and Rebecca Wolfe. For more information go to their web site: newenglandfishingexpo.com.
New England’s premier winter boating event will take place Feb. 14-24 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. The 300,000 square foot show will feature hundreds of the newest boats, a wide selection of marine accessories and many special features from the region’s topdealers.
Have a need for speed? See powerboats of all makes and models for cruising, fishing, wakeboarding and all the watersports! Do you like to ride with the wind? There will be dozens of sailboats from skiffs and one design dinghy racers to coastal cruisers all rigged and ready for your inspection! In addition, there will be over 250 accessory exhibitors and a whole host of seminars and informational clinics on a wide variety of subjects.
For more information, visit newenglandboatshow.com.