What follows was found on Page 5 of the May 7, 1896 edition of the RANGELY LAKES. It appeared in the weekly column entitled “With Sportsman”. It shares the early results of an annual rite of spring in the region, Ice Out Fishing. I especially enjoyed the reported successes of the lady anglers of the day. These ladies may not have had the right to vote yet, but it seems they were showing up the menfolk. It also reveals that the average size of the trout and salmon was beginning to diminish when, just 10 years prior, the news of a 3 lb. trout would have never even made the paper. The resource, once deemed as inexhaustible and THE finest in America, was starting to exhibit the combined effects of overfishing, poor fisheries management, as well as unregulated forestry practices. Landlocked salmon and smelt had been introduced 20 years before and the native Blueback Trout were almost nonexistent by this time. The once epic fishery would continue to decline right through the 1940’s. According to the now retired longtime and highly respected regional fisheries biologist Forrest Bonney, the average brook trout size in Franklin Roosevelt’s time was far smaller than it is today. Anecdotally, judging by this report below, the size of trout and salmon today are still actually better than in the Spring 1896. Keep in mind, that despite the armada of boats that can be seen on Greenvale Cove at ice out today, far more anglers were chasing trout and salmon on the region’s waters back then.

(Pierce’s commentary shared in italics, otherwise the copy has been reprinted here just as it was in 1896).

With Sportsmen

Pack your tackle! The ice left Dead River Pond Sunday. John Rufus Wilbur caught a 3-pound trout Wednesday forenoon. Several parties are booked for “just as soon as the ice goes out.” A number of trout were caught from the dam back of the Haley Pond mill, Tuesday evening. Many of the guides are waiting to wire their early parties as soon as the ice disappears. Ned Churchill and George Wilber caught a handsome string of trout at Hunter’s Cove, on Sunday. There were 18 fish weighing 20 pounds, five of them averaging 1-1/2 pounds apiece. Redington claims the first out-of-town sportsmen of the season— Mr. H. M. Sewell of Bath who arrived Monday night. While in Washington, D. C., recently, Col. Boothby made his home with Theo L. Page, at Page’s hotel. He informs us that Mr. Page is bemoaning his inability to visit the Rangeleys as in former years. A regret in which all his old friends join. Natt Carr brought the first salmon of the season into the Rangeley Lakes office Tuesday. He and Frank Harris caught it in the cove near the steam mill. Six of those present guessed on its weight, one chancing on the right figures— 3- 1/2 lbs. The shoreline, from the boathouse back of Dana Hinkley’s, to the steam mill, was lined with men, women, and children Tuesday night, all trying for an early spring trout. We understand that the ladies had the best of it and that their combined catch far exceeded that of the men.

Phillips opened the fishing season in due form Friday. Geo. A. Staples caught 30 fish on Warm Stream. Walter M. Sawyer and Elliott C. Dill got 30 on Black brook Friday, but those who tackled Meadow brook found the water too red. Joe Boston caught one on the river below the bridge.

Vintage drawing of early season fishing in a classic Rangeley Boat, Circa 1895

Master Raymond H. Merrow, 9-year-old son of R. A. Merrow, was the successful fisher that took the first trout caught in Rangeley Lake this season. It weighed about 1-1/2 lbs., and was caught off the Marble Point wharf, in City Cove May 1. This trout graced the tables of the new Rangeley Lake House Saturday morning, May 2, and it can truthfully be claimed that Master Raymond H. Merrow successfully opened this season’s catch of trout in Rangeley (Oquossoc) Lake. There seems to be “blood on the face of the moon,” where violations of the fish and game laws are suspected. Under the new organization of the State commissioners, the wardens are showing more starch in their vertebrae. It seems generally understood that Commissioner Carlton means business, and the more that idea becomes incorporated in the minds of those who occasionally take chances, the less violation there will be. A person had much rather saw wood, than pay the price, “assessed” for illegal fishing, with the possibility of “30 days” retirement in addition.


Below is an advertisement for cheap land available in California, found on page 6.


I can sell parties who are desirous of locating in California, Real Estate in any quantity from 5 to 1000 or more acres, situated in, what I consider the best part of California, from 20 to 50 miles from the ocean, just brought into the market by the Coast Line R. R. from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I do not urge people to leave Maine, but if any are coming here, I can help them to land at from $5 to $50 per acre, as good as can be bought in other parts of the state for $400 per acre. Climate fine. Well wooded, pine and oak. Good water. This is the best chance for a poor man to get land and make a start of any place I have seen in this state. For particulars write or call on me. Address: SEWARD DILL, Soquel, Santa Cruz Co.

Given that the transcontinental railroad had been in operation for 27 years at this point, one could travel 3rd class to San Francisco in about 10 days at a cost of around $45 dollars. There were probably more than a few who took Mr. Dill up on this opportunity.

Have a great week and be sure to make some great Rangeley history of your own!

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