Sunday’s first day of open-water fishing brought abundant sunshine and temperatures warm enough to leave the windbreaker draped over your tackle box.

It will take another consecutive week of those Chamber of Commerce conditions, maybe two, before there is competition for prime real estate aside that favorite fishing hole.

“I thought this place would be lined with people,” said Brenda Skerlick of Leeds.

At around 11:30 a.m., Skerlick and her husband, Frank, chose an optimum outlet of Lake Cobbosseecontee, just off Route 135 in Monmouth.

Within five minutes, Frank cast his line off a walkway overlooking a dam. Brenda found a nook along the rocks and christened her season upon stiller waters.

Less than a half-mile downstream, three more fishermen tested their luck from the seated comfort of their canoes. The new arrivals enjoyed the walk-in area to themselves.

“Usually we don’t go out opening day, because usually it’s all frozen,” Brenda Skerlick said. “This is nice, nice weather.”

You didn’t have to be an April fool to weather the peaceful conditions. As is the general opening-day rule, however, patience and selectiveness were virtues.

Thanks to the sub-freezing temperatures that dominated February and March, many lakes and ponds in Androscoggin, Franklin, Oxford and Kennebec counties remain under a blanket of ice.

The best bets for open water are in the shadow of running water. With the dam navigating Cobbossee’s flow, there was no ice as far as the Skerlicks’ eyes could see.

Shane Brayley, 23, of West Gardiner, enjoyed the solitude of a similar, shaded spot next to a dam on Tacoma Lake in Litchfield.

“I thought there would be more people out here,” said Brayley. “I’m a diehard. What can I say? Fishing relieves tension from the brain.”

Like golfers awaiting the first opportunity to drive the ball into saturated fairways or skiers scurrying to the mountains at the first sign of blazing snow guns, the Skerlicks were giddy to see March go out like a lamb.

Grandparents of two (“They’re seven and five, and they love to fish, also,” Frank beamed), they’re gearing up for a fishing trip to Millinocket next month.

The couple bought a camper last year. They’re hoping to fish and tent their way across country before long.

“We like to fish at the end of May, when the black flies are at their worst,” Brenda said. “When they’re so heavy you almost can’t stand it, that’s when it’s the best fishing.”

Closer to home, the pair considers Cobbossee a lucky spot.

“(Brenda) had a leg operation a few years ago. I brought her down here with crutches and a lawn chair,” Frank said. “She started casting from those rocks and she was catching bass like crazy.

“I always say I like fishing, but she loves fishing,” he added. “Two or three hours, that’s good for me. Then she’ll go, ‘One more cast.’ That’s another hour. She knows what she’s doing.”

The camaraderie and celebration of opening day are considered more important than the catch.

Brown trout and occasional salmon are said to bite when the chill is in the air. The lengthier bass and pickerel start nibbling later in the spring.

“It’s something to do. It beats sitting at the house waiting to go to work the next day,” Brayley said. “A lot of people give up quickly. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re going to fish a place, you fish it. You’ve got to have patience. That’s the key to fishing.”

And when you don’t catch a fish, you’re bound to catch a glimpse of some other creature.

Frank Skerlick and his wife have seen eagles, osprey and beavers along the shores of Cobbossee.

“I like to sit on a rock and take it easy,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll stop fishing and take a look at the scenery.”

With Frank’s first cast, one annual tradition continued another. His hands clutched a well-traveled rod that you won’t find lurking in any pro shop or big-box store’s outdoor department.

“It belonged to my father, so it’s being handed through the generations. It’s a little Johnson 150. It has simple gears to it,” said Skerlick. “It’s probably 40 years old, but it works beautifully.”


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