Freshwater fishing is a safe way to recreate

By Mike Mandell

The coronavirus pandemic forced Mainers to miss out on quite a few rites of passage last year, but fishing season was not been one of them.

With other recreation options restricted, anglers from all corners of the state flocked to their local lakes, ponds, rivers and streams in hopes of landing their favorite fish. With fishing designated an essential activity that can be performed at a distance from others, local landings and fishing holes have seen an abundance of activity now that open water has arrived.

No matter your experience level, the coming months should satisfy those looking to reel in some fun times on the water. With the weather growing warmer, fishing is a great way to keep yourself and others mentally and physically healthy this summer.

“It’s a great time to get out and fish,” said Brett Ciccotelli, a fisheries biologist for the Downeast Salmon Federation. “It’s the type of activity that people can still do right now, and it’s been good to see people engaging in it and taking advantage of that.”

The summer months are some of the best of the year to fish for one of America’s most prized game fish, the black bass. Smallmouth and largemouth bass have higher metabolisms as the weather warms, which means feeding frenzies in rivers and streams all throughout Hancock County and Maine as a whole.

Smallmouth bass anglers can find good shorefishing options at Goodwin Bridge in (accessed via Route 181 in northern Mariaville), and the Graham Lake dam (accessed via Patriot Road off Route 179) in Ellsworth. For those looking to catch largemouth bass from the shore, the weedy shallows of Hamilton Pond (access via Norway Road off Route 3 in Bar Harbor) are always reliable spots.

Bass fishermen with access to kayaks or boats, though, have far more options. Leonard Lake in Ellsworth (smallmouth bass) and Hothole Pond in Orland (largemouth bass) are popular spots among kayakers, and boaters who can access big bodies of water such as Alamoosook Lake, Branch Lake, Green Lake, Nicatous Lake and Phillips Lake for smallmouth fishing and Toddy Pond for largemouth fishing.

Although trout season tapers off a bit in July and August, late May and early June are still excellent times to catch brook trout. Molasses Pond in Eastbrook and Simmons Pond in Hancock are two very reliable spots to find brook trout, though anglers can find these fish in the vast majority of brooks and streams throughout Hancock County.

Although lake trout retreat from the shorelines in search of deeper, oxygen-richer waters during the summer, anglers willing to fish Hancock County’s deeper lakes and ponds are often rewarded for their patience. In fact, it was on Aug. 4, 1958, that Ellsworth native Hollis Grindle caught a state-record 31-pound, 8-ounce fish on Beech Hill Pond in Otis.

“Because lake trout require good water quality, they are most abundant in lakes with large volumes of deep water where temperatures remain 60 [degrees F] or less throughout the year,” Paul Johnson of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife wrote in a 2001 management plan. “Advances in fishing technology, especially depth finders and downriggers, have improved chances for successful summer lake trout fishing.”

Not to be forgotten is Hancock County’s white perch fishery, which has been remarkably strong on Branch Lake, Lower Patten Pond and other local waters in recent years. Those looking to take the kids for a fun day of panfishing can find plenty of pumpkinseed sunfish and yellow perch in the shallows of Pierce Pond and Bucksport’s Silver Lake.

Regardless of your fish of choice, you’ll have no shortage of options as you head to your favorite body of water in the coming months. Thanks to dedicated management and cooperation efforts, the state’s overall freshwater fishery is as healthy as ever.

“Regionally, we’re at a point where we have more biomass in our rivers and lakes than we’ve had in 200 years,” Ciccotelli said. “We still have work to do, but our native fish are as good as they’ve been in a long time.”