Fishing in Maine :
The following links will give you a short
description of the types of lakes and fish you will find in Aroostook County, Maine.
Aroostook County has a rich French heritage that
dates back to the arrival of the first white settlers around 1750.
Driven by the British from their homes in Port Royal Nova Scotia, these
Acadian refugees traveled up the St. John river and settled in an area
near the present-day towns of Madawaska and Fort Kent. Located on
fertile soil, and at the intersection of several major trade routes,
their villages prospered and quickly swelled the number of Acadians
living in the region to several thousand. These French settlements were
so isolated from the rest of the world however, that when the first
English speaking pioneers lead by Joseph Nadeau ventured into the St.
John Valley more than 30-years later, they did not even know that these
outposts existed. Following the English, large numbers of Scandinavian
and Scotch immigrants also moved into the County. Yet despite the
influence of these other cultures, much of this area has retained the
French-Acadian flavor that was established by the earliest settlers.
Lumbering came to Aroostook around 1820 when Shepard Cary and John
Goddard built logging camps near Houlton. Large pine logs were their
principle target, and since there were virtually no roads in this area,
all were transported via local rivers during the spring runoff. Most of
the wood was floated north into the St. John through tributaries such as
the Fish, Aroostook and Meduxnekeag Rivers. Some also went south into
the Penobscot via the Mattawamkeag and several other smaller rivers. In
1838, a border dispute between Maine and New Brunswick arose over timber
rights and resulted in armed militia being deployed in the area for
several years. Since this issue was resolved 4-years later without a
single shot being fired, it might seem like this was a minor event in
the overall history of the County. This bloodless ‘Aroostook War’ was
actually very significant to the development of the region however,
because it lead to the construction of several roads and encampments,
which in turn encouraged people to move here.
During the next 40-years, the population of Aroostook swelled from
around 3,000 to over 50,000 people. Most lived on farmsteads that they
carved out of the wilderness several acres at a time. During these early
years, the economy was quite diverse and included woodsmen working in
lumber and cedar shingle mills, along with farmers that produced grass
seed, wool, honey and potatoes. Over time though, an ever-increasing
number of people shifted their efforts to potatoes because the County’s
cool, wet climate and rich Caribou loam soil favored the production of
Since potatoes couldn’t be floated down rivers like logs or effectively
transported over Aroostook’s rough roads, the industry didn’t really
boom until the arrival of the railroads. This began when the
Canadian-Pacific extended a short spur into Maine from Woodstock, New
Brunswick in 1862 and culminated with the completion of the Bangor to
Aroostook line in 1894. In the 25 years that followed, more than 1000
new potato farms were started, and potato acreage rose from less than
15,000 to more than 125,000 acres. This made Aroostook County the potato
capital of the world throughout most of the 1920’s.
Unfortunately, things like bad weather, pests and competition from other
producers can sometimes wreak havoc on a region with a one-crop economy.
And over the years, growers in Aroostook have had their share of
heartaches. Despite the ups and downs however, most people maintain the
type of up-beat attitude that was espoused by potato grower Charley
Fisher after a couple of particularly tough years in the 1930’s when he
said, “I’ve been poorer than any beggar, and I got no sure guarantee
that I won’t be again. But I like poor folks—like to help ‘em when I got
money, and like to be amongst ‘em when I don’t. When folks live from the
ground, poverty and riches just seem to go hand in hand.” Seventy years
later, potato farming is still the principle industry in Aroostook. And
I think it’s importance is best evidenced by the fact that local high
school kids still get a 3-week break from school in September to work on
The Fish River watershed dominates the northern Maine landscape with a
drainage area that covers more than 1,000 square miles. Its 8 major
lakes and nearly 50 miles of river make this area a prime destination
for many trout and salmon anglers. The developing muskellunge fishery on
the St. Francis and St. John Rivers, along with the trout ponds in and
around the Deboullie Preserve will also be discussed in this section.
UPPER FISH RIVER DRAINAGE
Prior to 1900, the Fish River chain was known for producing excellent
catches of brook trout, togue and whitefish. Salmon and smelts were
introduced here in 1895 and increased in numbers during the next 25
years. Large salmon and brook trout were abundant in these waters until
the early 1960’s, when the construction of many new roads and lakeside
homes significantly increased the fishing pressure. The spraying of DDT
for Spruce Budworm and poor logging practices also took a fairly heavy
toll on this fishery. Fortunately, many of these problems have been
resolved, and the prospects for the future of this fishery look bright.
Fish Lake is the first major lake in the Upper Fish River drainage. It
arises from a handful of tributaries that flow from the small ponds
located to its south and west and is sparsely developed. This is the
only lake in the chain that is located on private paper company land.
Good access is available via a boat launch located on the northwest
corner of the lake. Brook trout are the primary target at Fish Lake, and
since it is closed to ice fishing, people like to come here early in the
season. As a result, many of the largest trout of the year are taken
shortly after ice out.
I prefer to visit this area in early June, after things have warmed up a
bit, and the water in the outlet stream has dropped to a wadable level.
A couple of years ago, I hit it just right and had a great time catching
dozens of feisty brookies on Wulffs and other easy-to-fish dry flies.
During summer, most trout move into the deep hole on the south end of
the lake, and trolling with lead line, or still fishing with smelts or
night crawlers becomes the best way to catch them.
Good numbers of salmon can also be found in Fish Lake and the outlet
stream. And depending on the status of the smelt population, their body
form can vary from fairly fat to ax-handle thin. Generally, these fish
are in good shape though and well worth pursuing with a streamer fly
trolled briskly along the shoreline or cast out front of inlets such as
Clayton Stream or Smith Brook. Togue are also caught here occasionally,
but since this lake doesn’t have much deep water, it isn’t specifically
managed for them.
Portage Lake is located on Route 11 and is fairly heavily developed
along both its east and west shores. Despite easy access, it only
experiences light angling pressure though, primarily because the fishing
here isn’t very good. With a maximum depth of only 25 feet, Portage
represents marginal cold water habitat for salmonids. Brook trout also
suffer considerably from competition with perch and chubs. Despite these
problems, people who fish the springholes catch some nice brook trout
from this lake. Regional Biologist Dave Baisley told me that changes in
regulations that increased the size and reduced the bag limit on brook
trout has also helped out this fishery.
St. Froid Lake
St. Froid is a deep, narrow lake that has many camps along its east and
northwest shores. Because it contains lots of deep, cold water and
usually supports a good population of large smelts, St. Froid is the
best place in the Fish River chain to catch togue. A couple of good
spots to fish are the deep trough near the boat launch at foot of the
Quimby Road and on the south end of the lake around Togue Point. Many
people also like to troll streamers or sewn smelt on the west-side of
the lake in the vicinity of where the Red and Birch rivers flow in.
The Aroostook River is the most prominent geographical feature in the mid-County. It originates at the confluence of Millinocket and Munsungan Streams and flows in a northeasterly direction for about 100 miles before joining the St. John River just beyond the New Brunswick border. The western half of this waterway travels through miles of remote timberland and was covered in the North Maine Woods chapter. Here, we will focus on the section of the Aroostook that drains the forests and farmland located east of the village of Masardis. Trout fishing on several other smaller streams like the St. Croix, Prestile and Meduxnekeag will also be discussed.
Most trout fishing on the Aroostook River takes place as the high water recedes from mid-May through June. During this time of year, fish are spread throughout the river and feed actively on baitfish, crayfish and assorted invertebrates. Trolling is the method of choice for most anglers and everything from worms to tandem streamers can be used effectively. Bright colored lures like Daredevils, Al's Goldfish and Rapalas are popular, but Cecil's Smelts and Flash Kings. also catch their share of fish. Early in the season, trolling slowly along backeddies found near large boulders and islands is the best way to entice trout to bite. As the river begins to warm and clear however, imitations fished near the tailouts of rips and around inlet brooks also produce well.
Ten maintained boat launches, along with numerous other turnouts off farm roads, offer Aroostook River anglers a wide variety of options. Trips can range from a short in-town jaunt around Caribou or Presque Isle, to an all day float between Masardis and Ashland. A couple of popular spots are the islands in the Castle Hill section of the river and the run between Parkhurst and Maysville. When conditions are good however, many places on this river can be productive. I became convinced of this recently when I put my boat in at the launch located just off Route 11 behind the Aroostook Fish and Game Club in Ashland and began the day trolling a Black Ghost and Hornberg upstream past the mouth of the Machais River. Although I caught a number of trout up to 12 inches, to prove a point, I abandoned this spot and headed downstream to try my luck near where the Little Machais River dumps in. And in fairly short order, I began to catch trout here as well. Although most of the fish I caught that day were fairly small, reports from local anglers indicate that trout up to 16 inches and an occasional salmon are taken here.
For many people, the fishing season on the Aroostook River ends when the water level drops below the point that allows them to troll. This is unfortunate, because during the summer, trout here become concentrated near the mouths of cool inlets and springholes, and can provide fast action for wading anglers. Sporadic hatches of mayflies and caddis occur on many evenings. And even when the fish aren't rising, fly fishermen can still do well with nymphs, wet flies and small streamers like the Little Brook Trout and Banded-leg Muddler. The key to summertime success on this river is finding areas where significant numbers of fish are concentrated. In the Caribou area, a couple of worthwhile places to explore are rips and runs located just north of the city, and the mouths of local tributaries such as Spring and Gray Brooks. Hotspots on other sections of the river can be uncovered by using a map and thermometer to survey other promising-looking locations.
St. Croix Stream
The mid-County area contains three other moving water fisheries that are worth mentioning. The St. Croix is a rather small, lightly-fished stream that flows into the Aroostook River near the village of Masardis. Aside from a few rough 4x4 roads, the only vehicular access to this 20-mile long waterway is just above the mouth at the Route 11 bridge, and 12-miles upstream at St. Croix crossing. Because of this limited access, the most people fish here is by using a small boat or canoe to either motor up from Masardis, or float down from the upper bridge.
Prior to Memorial Day, the best fishing usually occurs in the deadwater areas found in the middle section of the stream between Cranberry and Matherson Brooks, and in the upper reaches near St. Croix Lake. Trolling with small spoons and flies, or casting worm and spinner rigs into pockets behind rocks will usually produce enough pan-sized brookies to complement a meal of fresh fiddleheads, which are also abundant in this area. As the water warms up, most trout will move from the deadwaters into the more highly oxygenated, riffle areas. The lower rips in the vicinity of Blackwater Stream and the broken water near St. Croix crossing generally produce best at this time of year.
Anglers who enjoy catching pan-sized brookies in a remote setting will become fond of this off-the-beaten-path stream. Local guide Dan LaPointe says that trout in the 14-inch range are also occasionally taken here. On my last visit though, I averaged at least 10 chubs for every trout that I caught. So for maximum enjoyment, be sure to bring realistic expectations with you to this delightful little stream.
The Prestile is another relatively small stream that begins near Easton and flows for about 25-miles before crossing the Canadian border. It is a popular spot for many local fishermen because trout can be taken here from opening day until the end of the season. Early in the year, most fishing is centered around easy-to-reach places where overwintering trout are concentrated. The pools below the dams in Mars Hill and Robinsons are a couple of places where Aroostook anglers go catch trout on opening day. Water temperatures in the 30’s cause fish to be sluggish though, so worms bounced along bottom, or plunked into a back eddy, are the best way to catch them at this time of year. A bit later, Buckley’s Deadwater and the small headponds behind the dams can also provide some good fishing.
The trout spread out when the insects get active, and wading anglers can find fish in nearly every run and riffle when the conditions are prime in June. Numerous farm roads, bridges and an abandoned right-of-way from the Bangor and Aroostook railroad provide many places to access the Prestile. A couple of popular spots are the riffles and pools found between Westfield and Mars Hill, and the deep hole where Whitney Brook dumps into the stream. When I fish here though, I like get off on my own. So I usually just pull on a pair of hip boots and wade right down the middle of the stream, using a grasshopper or Slim Jim to pull trout from likely-looking pockets as I go.
The Prestile is a biologically productive river because of the limestone substrate that underlies it. Therefore, good hatches of Hendricksons, Blue-winged olives and assorted other mayflies and caddis are often encountered here. Trout only average around 9 inches though, but this is because most of the fish caught here are killed, rather than a shortcoming of the stream itself. A few trout up to 16 inches are available here, but there aren’t many, and your best chance to catch them is at dawn or dusk.
The Meduxnekeag is another river that benefits from the limestone substrates found in this area. Brook trout and browns both grow to respectable sizes in these fertile waters, and decent hatches make this a good spot for dry fly fishermen to practice their craft in the evening. This waterway is comprised of several distinct sections whose character and fishability vary considerably.
The North Branch flows through the village of Monticello and good fishing can be found a few miles northwest of town near where the West Road crosses the river. The best opportunities for fly casting are available above the bridge, so that’s the direction I usually go. Pan-sized brookies are found throughout this area however, and an ambitious angler can follow the river in either direction for miles. The South Branch has better access and contains a mixture of brookies and browns. Fish tend to run larger here, so fishing pressure is a bit heavier. The South Branch is divided in half by a small flow-through lake near Hodgdon that provides good fishing in the spring. Most trout move to springholes or the mouths of cool brooks when the water here warms up in the summer.
The mainstem of the Meduxnekeag begins at the outlet of Drews Lake and travels for about 20-miles before crossing into New Brunswick. The river is divided into two distinct sections by the city of Houlton. The upper river has some beautiful deep pools that can hold fish over 2 pounds. Spin-fishing is the method of choice for many people here because much of the river is fairly narrow and lined with trees. A number of farm roads provide good access. A productive, easy-to-reach pool can be found just below the mouth of the South Branch near Carys Mills. Drews and Nickerson are two lakes in the area that can also produce some excellent fishing. Brookies, browns and togue, along with a variety of warm water species usually provide fast action during both the open-water and ice fishing seasons. My interest in these lakes center around the large brown trout that they can produce.
Below Houlton, the Meduxnekeag widens and flows through a broad agricultural valley. Road access to some pools is possible, but often involves the difficult task of picking your way along a series of private, unmarked roads through potato fields. For this reason, some people like to float this river in a canoe. Many of the pools on the lower Meduxnekeag are long, slow glides that provide fish with an ample opportunity to compare your artificial fly to naturals that are floating by. This type of fishing is challenging for some and frustrating for others. During the summer months, browns can get so difficult to catch here, that many people only fish them at night. Favored local methods involve skittering large flies like Wulffs and Muddlers across the surface of deep pools in the moonlight. There are a number of stocked trout ponds in the area such as Conroy, Carry, Number Nine and Timoney that also provide better than average fisheries.
The southern zone is composed of waters in the Mattawamkeag watershed. Coldwater fisheries in this part of the County are largely confined to the East and West Branches of the Mattawamkeag River, Pleasant and Mattawamkeag Lakes, and a number of smaller brooks and beaver flowages. Smallmouth bass are more widely distributed and available in these same waters, along with a number of other lakes and the mainstem of the Mattawamkeag River.
Upstream of Interstate 95, both the East and West Branches of the Mattawamkeag River are relatively small streams that flow through remote country. Road access is better along the upper West Branch, and fishing can be good in areas such as Warren Falls, Stair Falls and Jackson Sluice. I like to visit these places as soon as the spring runoff recedes because flows can get very low here during the dog days of summer. Some brook trout are present throughout July and August though, and I have had reasonable success by casting worms or weighted nymphs directly into the frothing pools found beneath small waterfalls, or by exploring spring-fed tributaries that contain some relatively deep holes.
Below Interstate 95, the East Branch widens and becomes navigable with a canoe or small boat. Early in the year, the area around Red Bridge is a popular place to either troll
or cast a worm and spinner into a foaming back eddy or corner pool. Later in the season, this spot also produces some good hatches and fly fishing. The West Branch provides an opportunity to catch both brook trout and salmon, and there are several pools right in the town of Island Falls where you can catch fish. Some West Branch anglers focus their attention on the 10-mile stretch of river that flows from the outlet of Mattawamkeag Lake to Haynesville. When you hit it right, fishing here with flies or spinning gear can provide steady action for decent-sized salmon and trout that average 10 inches. The river in this area alternates between rocky pools and riffles and can be tough to wade when the water is up. Access here is difficult, but shore anglers can find some good fishing in the middle section of the river by following a gravel road off Route 2A north of Haynesville. Driving to most other areas on the lower West Branch is very difficult though, so I usually bring my canoe when I fish here. The East and West Branches merge to form the mainstem of the Mattawamkeag at Haynesville. Aside from a few cold water pools in the vicinity of the Mattawamkeag Wilderness Park that hold trout, fishing here is primarily for smallmouth bass, pickerel and perch.
Pleasant Lake is a scenic spot that provides patient anglers with a chance to catch nice salmon and brook trout during both the open water and ice fishing seasons. A healthy population of large smelts allows these salmonids to grow fat and sassy, and also provides a popular local sport fishery. Because of the abundance of baitfish though, salmon here often get quite finicky and difficult to catch. Fortunately, a thriving population of smallmouth bass also inhabit the rocky shelves and shorelines of this lake, and they are usually much more cooperative. These hard-fighting bronzebacks represent a favorite target for fly fishermen with popping bugs in June.
Nearby Mattawamkeag Lake provides even better warm water fishing, and people with camps on the lake say that catching 20 bass per day is a regular occurrence throughout the summer. Heavy weed growth on the shallow flats found throughout the upper basin provides good cover for baitfish and leeches, and allows anglers fishing everything from bucktail jigs to soft plastic baits to do well here. Many of the islands, points and submerged rock piles in the lower basin are also favorite targets for local bass fishermen. The lower basin also supports a limited salmonid fishery in the deep hole found between Big Island and Black Point. Macwahoc, Wytopitlock and Molunkus are other lakes in the area that also provide good fishing for warm water species.