Outdoors in Maine: Open-water fishing opening up where ice has melted

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Early April fishing has never held much appeal for me.

Oh, I have done it. Opening day recollections are of casting a fly line against a snow squall, of frozen fingers and ice-covered rod guides. Of fishless days amid razor-edged winds pushing up whitecaps on frigid lakes whose shorelines were still shrouded with naked, gray hardwoods.

Yep, when it comes to early open-water fishing, I have in later life tended to be of faint heart.

Still, after a long Maine winter, there can be some solace, some psychic warmth, in merely knowing that you can wet a line if you’ve a mind to. If you can find open water in and around snow-laden, ice-choked ponds, lake and streams, you can dunk a Bead Head Nymph, fast-strip a Barne’s Special, or take a nap near a bobber and a glob of worms.

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From the Maine fisheries biologists, who candidly concede that early April fishing can be an angling challenge, here are some early fishing spot ideas released by IF&W the last week in April.:

Sebago Lake Region

In most of the lakes in the Sebago Lakes region, the smelt runs have just ended or are about to end. As a result, the salmon are feasting, according to regional fisheries biologist Jim Pellerin.

“The ice is out on nearly all our lakes, except for Kezar Lake in the northwest corner of our region,” Pellerin said.

Anglers have been out and are reporting good catches of landlocks on Thompson and Sebago, and a few on Auburn Lake.

Central and Midcoast Area

In the central part of the state, coastal waters are free and clear of ice, and inland waters are getting close.

“Ice on the Belgrades will probably be out in the next week,” said IFW fisheries biologist Jason Seiders. “Messalonskee is open on the north end, and some warm weather and wind should take the rest out.”

Out on Long Pond, anglers are fishing where they can find open water, and they are catching some nice rainbow trout.

Up on the Kennebec, below Wyman Dam, reports are excellent on early season salmon and rainbow fishing.

Downeast

“Lots of our waters, especially waters south of Route 9, are now ice free,” reports IFW fisheries biologist Greg Burr.

“I talked with the game warden in Princeton, and Big Lake should go out any day,” Burr said. “And West Grand Lake is usually six days after that.”

Anglers may want to try the narrows at the outlet of Big Lake, which is always a good spot for early season salmon.

On Grand Lake Stream, anglers had an excellent opening day, and high flows have pushed salmon out of the dam pool down into the hatchery pool and below. Anglers have been enjoying the rainbow trout fishing on Jones Pond, with reports of some rainbows larger than 21 inches.

Rangeley Lakes

Up in the Rangeley region, fishing season may be open, but there are not many open waters. Most lakes are still ice-covered. Some spots are fishable, but it is limited. There are some reports of anglers fishing the Wilson Lake outlet by the boat launch, but not a lot of other spots.

“Rivers are high, lakes still have ice; I’d look for some of the smaller ponds that may be free of ice,” said IFW fisheries biologist Bobby Van Riper.

If you are looking to fish some streams, Van Riper suggested Temple Stream in Farmington.

“Ice out on Rangeley is usually the first week of May, but it looks like it could be a little later this year,” Van Riper said.

Moosehead Region

In the Moosehead Region, there is still plenty of snow and ice.

“There’s not much going on,” said IFW fisheries biologist Tim Obrey. “There is some open water right at the mouth of the Moose River, and anglers are fishing there.”

Penobscot Region

Not a lot of open water in the Penobscot region, but there is some.

“I just heard from one angler that made it in to West Lake, but there is not much open in our region,” said Nels Kramer, an IFW fisheries biologist.

Rivers are open, but water flows are mostly unfishable. However, once some seasonal weather returns, waters should begin to open up.

“Cold Stream Pond should go out sometime between April 22 and 28. Anglers had a good ice fishing season on Cold Stream, and it is always a very popular early season fishery,” Kramer said.

Aroostook Region

Up in the Fish River region of Aroostook County, not much to report other than it snowed earlier in the week, and there were snowmobilers out on Long Lake last weekend.

“There’s really not much fishing, other than a handful of small ponds. There’s still a fair amount of snow in the woods,” Frank Frost said. “In the eastern part of the county, there’s very little snow in the fields, but there is still a good 20 inches of ice.”

Ice outs in the Fish River chain of lakes is generally somewhere in the range of May 6 to May 10.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide and host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors,” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books. Online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com.

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