Fishing In Maine:
The following links will give you a short description of the types of lakes and fish you will find in the Moosehead Area of Maine.
Information below was provided by A Fisherman's Guide to Maine.
The Mt. Kineo House was the most famous of all the Moosehead sporting camps and began as a one-room log tavern in 1845. By the turn of the century, it had grown into a sprawling 5-story hotel that could accommodate over 500 guests. Located on a scenic point across the lake from Rockwood, this wilderness hotel had electric lights, hot running water and two elevators. It also had many recreational amenities such as a bowling alley, croquet and tennis courts, a baseball diamond, a 9-hole golf course and an orchestra that performed two concerts daily.
There were several reasons why the Mt. Kineo House went to such extremes to provide for the needs of it’s guests: (1) Moosehead attracted some of the richest and most influential people of the time (2) Visiting anglers were almost always accompanied by their families, who needed to be entertained while they were out fishing (3) Because of the effort required to reach this remote area, the length of the typical stay was much longer than it is today. By the late 1920’s however, the proliferation of automobile travel allowed many people to drive to Greenville on their own or to make day-trips to the lake. This caused the railroad to eliminate service to Moosehead in 1933 and significantly cut down on the need for many other services. The demolition of the Mt. Kineo House in 1939 marked the end of a golden-era on Moosehead Lake.
The Moosehead Lake region lies in the headwaters of the Kennebec River watershed. Historically the lake was isolated from sea-run fish by Caratunk Falls, located near the present-day town of Solon, and by the falls at the outlet of Indian Pond. Consequently, brook trout and togue were the only two species of gamefish that naturally occurred in the lake. Fish culture and hatcheries become popular around 1885. This led to the introduction of salmon and smelt to the lake around that time. These species didn’t become firmly established in Moosehead until nearly 25 years later.
There are numerous early reports of outstanding fishing on Moosehead Lake. One of my favorites was written in 1894 by W.H Gannett of Augusta in the Maine Sportsman magazine, “From a day’s fishing on Moosehead with wife and daughter, caught 21 trout weighing 52 ¾ pounds. Of these, 13 were squaretails weighing 34 ¾ pounds. One of mine weighed 5 ¼ pounds, the largest taken from the lake this season. Mrs. Gannett caught a 4 ¼ pounder.” At that time, the legal weight limit was 50 pounds of trout per person per day, and when conditions were right, it wasn’t unusual for an angler to reach it. Increasing fishing pressure caused this limit to be reduced several times during the next ten years. Ultimately, the weight limit was set at 15 pounds per person in 1908 and remained there until around 1940. Fishing was good on Moosehead Lake throughout this period, and many guides stated that there were few days when this limit was not reached. They also noted that it was unusual to catch fish that were less than the legal length, and that many good-sized fish (particularly salmon and togue) were released by their sports.
Almost all of the fishing in the early days was done from canoes. Sports typically held rods baited with minnows or streamer flies while their guides slowly paddled them around the shore. Steamboats were often used to shuttle parties to various bays and islands around the lake. Given the number of guests that could be accommodated by the area’s hotels and sporting camps, former Moosehead area biologist Roger AuClair stated that “there could have been up to 1000 anglers fishing the lake at times from ice-out through June.” As a result of this intensive spring fishery, he said that, “it was quite probable that more than 50,000 pounds of brook trout and lake trout were harvested from Moosehead Lake annually in the late 1800’s.” This is comparable to the harvest of salmonoids that occurs on the lake today.
Fishing on Moosehead Lake began to decline in the late 1930’s, when improved roads and more widespread use of automobiles made travelling to Greenville easier. This brought more fishermen to the lake and necessitated a reduction in the weight limit to 7 ½ pounds in 1942. Shortly thereafter, World War II provided Moosehead with a brief reprieve from angling pressure. But when fishermen armed with outboard motors and improved tackle returned in force during the late 1940’s, catch rates soon dropped to around 2 fish per day. Since that time, fishing on the lake has been cyclical, with several years of good fishing and large fish, alternating with periods of reduced abundance. That doesn’t mean that fishing on Moosehead today is poor, just that the days when you could catch 50 pounds of trout by simply trailing a fly from a canoe being paddled around the shoreline are probably gone forever.
Popular fishing locations on the south end of the lake include Harford’s Point, Bolton Cove, Burnt Jacket Point and the gut between the Black Sand and Moose Islands. The string of small islands running from Cove Point up toward Sandy Bay can also provide good fishing when salmon are cruising near the surface in the spring. Productive areas on the east-side of the lake such as Black Point, Beaver Cove, Sugar Island and the narrows at the entrance into Spencer Bay are best reached from Lily Bay State Park. The east shore of Deer Island is another good spring fishing spot that isn’t too far from here.
Moosehead Lake’s most popular fishing hole is nearly within sight of the boat launch in Rockwood and lies between Mt. Kineo and the mouth of the Moose River. When smelts are running in the river, salmon and togue sometimes congregate here in tremendous numbers. In fact, there are times when so many fish show up on my fish finder, that it seems almost impossible for me not to be hooking any. A number of other hotspots including Hardscrabble Point, Farm Island and the Toe of the Boot can also be found on the west-side of the lake.
In addition to these well-known locations are dozens of other places that can provide good fishing on Moosehead Lake. Experienced guides say that if you investigate around just about any inlet that is dumping a decent volume of water into the lake, you’re likely to find fish. Three such places in reasonable proximity to Rockwood are Baker Brook, Tomhegan Stream and Socatean Stream. Using a copy of DeLorme’s Map and Guide to Moosehead Lake, you can find many more.
Specialized tactics aren’t required to catch any of the three major sportfish when spring trolling on Moosehead. But you can greatly increase your chances of catching one given species by following some simple guidelines. If you want to catch brook trout, fish close to shore. When water temperatures are below 60o F, most brookies feed on baitfish and insects that are found in less than 10 feet of water. Places with large boulders or other structure are often best, but depending on wind conditions and time of day, they can be found just about anywhere. According to veteran guide Dan LeGere, “You want to troll the edge of the dropoff, where you can see bottom on one side of the boat, but not the other. If you’re fishing spring brookies and don’t need a new prop at the end of a week, you aren’t fishing where they live.”
Salmon can also be caught in close, especially along shorelines that quickly drop off into deep water. They are more frequently taken a bit farther offshore though, so when I am targeting salmon, I often troll in a zig-zag pattern that starts in close and extends about 200 yards out. If this method isn’t producing much action, sometimes trolling across the mouth of a large bay or in the gut between the shore and an island will help you locate fish. Frequently, fish will hold well below the surface in these locations, so it’s helpful to have a fish finder and downrigger. Most togue are also caught offshore and down in the water column.
The methods used to catch fish on Moosehead are as varied as the people who fish here. Live smelts and fresh sewn bait are popular when the smelts are running in the early spring. And plugs such as Rapalas and Yo-Zuri’s, along with spoons like Mooselook Wobblers, Harry Lures and Sutton Spoons can be effective throughout the season. Streamer flies are the choice of most serious anglers on the lake however, and over the years, nearly 100 different patterns have been created. Most are tied tandem-style and are designed to imitate a smelt.
The Gray Ghost, Black Ghost, Pink Lady, Megog Smelt and Joe’s Smelt are among the most popular flies on the lake. But getting any two seasoned Moosehead anglers to agree on the best pattern is nearly impossible. Dan LeGere once told me, “Considering how fast conditions change out on the lake, there really isn’t one fly that will work all the time. I approach each day as experiment, and present fish with a series of different patterns until I find one that works. Along with boat speed and location, the most important element to successful trolling is to vary the form, flash and color of your flies.” This advice has served me well for nearly 20 years and led me to the realization that catching fish on Moosehead is determined more by the fish than the fisherman.
OTHER AREA LAKES
Lower Wilson is a deep, crystal-clear lake that offers good salmon and togue fishing to anglers who troll sewn-smelts or streamer flies around the mouth of the narrows in the springtime. My most memorable catch here however, was an eel that my friend David Saucier and I landed one evening during a family campout when our kids were young. I’ll never forget how excited all five of them were as the unseen fish pulled hard on the end of the line, or how fast they all ran away when we slid the 3-foot long, snake-like fish onto the shore.
Upper Wilson is a brook trout fishery that has a reputation for producing good numbers of thick-bodied fish. Dry fly fishing can be exciting during the insect hatches that occur here from June through mid-July. The most popular way to catch trout here though is with a worm that is either cast or slowly trolled behind a gold spinner, or simply fished beneath a bobber or on the bottom.
Best access to Third Roach is from a gravel road that passes within 100 yards of its north shore. This pond contains brook trout and a few salmon, and provides anglers with a good chance of seeing a moose feeding in the shallows along the shoreline. Fourth Roach has been stocked with splake several times during the past decade and reports indicate that they are thriving. Sixth and Seventh Roach are remote trout ponds that can only be reached on foot.
The seasonal angling calendar on all these rivers is quite similar because most of their large fish are seasonal migrants from Moosehead Lake. Early in the year, most fishing is done with streamer flies and is closely linked to runs of spawning smelts. As the waters begins to drop and warm, there is a fairly intense period of insect activity when many fish seem eager to develop a close relationship with a dry fly or dead-drifted nymph. Then, after a time during mid-summer when most fish migrate back to the cool depths of the lake, action picks up again in the fall when fish return to the rivers to spawn.
Lower Moose River
The lower Moose River only flows about 4 miles before dumping into Moosehead Lake near the village of Rockwood. But this short stretch gets lots of attention from anglers because of its large seasonal runs of smelts and salmoniods. Powerhouse Pool is located along the south bank of the river directly in the outflow of the Brassau Dam. It is the most productive pool on the river and over the years I’ve seen people with everything from surf-casting rods to bamboo poles catch fish here. One reason why this pool is so good is that there is no fish ladder in the dam, so fish attempting to move up river often accumulate in large numbers. Another thing that holds fish here is the cold water and steady supply of smelts that are killed as they get drawn through the turbines.
Most fish are caught by anglers standing on the large rocks along the south shore. Early in the season, Rapalas and smelt-imitating streamer flies are lures of choice here. But from June through late summer, nymphs and dry flies also account for a surprising large number of salmon and brook trout. Access is easy here and casting space is quite limited, so it’s not unusual for this pool to get fairly crowded.
The Pasture is a smooth-flowing pool located several hundred yards below the spillway on the north bank of the river. Historically, it had been a favorite holding spot for large fish, and one day many years ago, I caught three salmon over 20 inches in a couple of hours here. When a new powerhouse was added to the dam in 1992 however, the flow of the river was altered, and fishing in this pool dropped off some.
Three other named pools can be found within a mile of the dam. But when water levels are good, fish can be taken almost anywhere from The Fingers to below the Cribworks. This section of river is classic freestone pocketwater whose fish-holding ability benefits greatly from the cold water that is drawn from the bottom of Brassau Lake. Healthy populations of stoneflies, mayflies and sculpins occur here, so fishing a marabou muddler with a nymph as a dropper can be productive. Trails exist on both sides of the river, but I prefer the south shore because it’s easier to fish the runs between the pools from this side.
The gradient of the river flattens-out beyond the Cribworks, so from here down to Moosehead Lake, most fishing is done from small boats and canoes. Scott, Gilbert and Rockpile are popular pools that can be fished by either trolling or casting. Lures like the Weeping Willow, or smelt-imitating streamers like the Governor Aiken or Nine-Three, are all you need to catch early-season fish here. And even though the water is usually swift and cold, I find that offerings fished quickly near the surface of these pools usually produce more strikes than those presented in a more typical (deep and slow) early-season fashion. Once the insects become active, many of the fish and fishermen shift their attention to the hatches. Standard dry flies like the Hendrickson, Adams and Elk-Hair Caddis will all work here. Small nymphs like Zug-Bugs and Prince Nymphs, along with soft-hackle flies and Hornbergs are also worth a try when nothing is showing on the surface.
The lower two miles of the Moose River are mainly fished by people who troll up from the lake. Most boats are launched at the public landing in Rockwood and travel to just beyond the Moose River Bridge. When the water is high, it’s not unusual to see up to 20 boats in this fairly limited area. Despite the congestion and occasional tangled line, everyone seems to do quite well here. Many people fish with tandem streamers on a sink-tip line, but Rapalas, Flash Kings, or just about anything else that imitates a smelt seems to work when the fish are in.
Upper Kennebec River
The East Outlet is only about 4-miles long, but since it has a much larger volume of water and better flow than the West Outlet, it generally holds many more salmon and trout. This river contains many sets of brawling rapids, so other than people on guided driftboat trips or boaters down at the mouth, almost all the fishing here is done by wading. 1200 cubic feet/second is an ideal water level for wading the East Outlet. At around 2000 CFS, the bowling-ball sized rocks found throughout much of the streambed can get quite slick and dangerous. Flows over 3000 CFS makes the river totally unwadeable. Traditionally, a big problem for anglers has been that the flow here fluctuated drastically on almost a daily basis. Recently however, the power company has made an effort to operate the dam so that more constant flows are maintained. If you are travelling to the Moosehead area specifically to fish the East Outlet though, it’s wise to call the water-flow hotline (800-557-3569) to get current and projected flow rates.
The upper section of the East Outlet has easy access from Rt. 15 and fishing is often good right below the dam. This pool is nearly 100 yards across and consists of two huge back eddies that wash back against the face of the dam. Fishing from the deck of the dam is legal and frequently a number of anglers can be found here or on the rip-rap boulders along the north side of the pool. Gauge Pool is found just above the railroad bridge located ¼ mile downstream. This pool is fairly small and can be tough to wade, but often produces fish for anglers who can get a good drift in its tricky currents. Many people also fish the pocketwater between the Rt. 15 bridge and the dam.
Because of the heavy fishing pressure, the key to success on this stretch of river is being different. Small, dark-colored flies, especially soft hackles and nymphs with peacock herl bodies seem to work well here. I have also had good luck with small Muddlers and western-style dry flies like the Renegade and various Wulffs. At certain times of year, there can be large numbers of fish in this short section of river. So just because you see another angler or two fishing here doesn’t mean you should pass this area up. Just remember that the fish have probably seen lots of flies (especially streamers) and it might take a little extra effort to catch them.
Below the Rt. 15 bridge, a gravel road follows the north bank of the river downstream for more than a mile. Several vehicle turnouts and short trails lead to riffles and runs that will provide you with a much more private fishing experience than you are apt to get on the upper river. Beach Pool is a beautiful 150-yard long glide found just about where the road breaks away from the river. This deep, smooth-flowing pool is most productive at its head and tail, especially when fish are rising in the evening. It also provides access to several other lightly-fished spots that can be reached by walking downstream from here.
Swimmer’s Hole is the name given to the last ¼ mile run of moving water on the East Outlet before the river gets backed up by Indian Pond. The easiest way to access this spot is to drive down the Burnham Pond Road to the boat launch on Indian Pond and then use a canoe or small boat to motor back up to the pool. You can also reach this area by walking down a rough trail from the Beach Pool. The river is swift and wide here, so although wading is possible in some places, many anglers use a small boat to fish the various lies that can be found from the ledges down to where the current ends.
Early in the season, trolling hardware and tandem streamers is probably the most popular way to fish the lower section of this long pool. The East Outlet is a fly-fishing only river however, which means that no trolling is allowed above the red posts. Many early-season fly fishermen use bright streamers like the Barnes Special or Pink Lady, along with Hornbergs and various floating smelt patterns to fish right along the edge of the fast water. Once insects become active in June, pods of salmon will sometimes position themselves in the tailouts of the deeper lies and lazily pick off helpless emergers and duns as they float by. This can produce great dry-fly fishing for people who happen to time their visit just right. Crayfish and large black stonefly nymphs are good patterns to try here when no fish are showing.
You will find four good pools in the upper mile of river. Dam Pool is a deep, well-oxygenated pool that is located almost directly under the bridge at Kokadjo. The dam causes fish coming from Moosehead Lake to stack up, so despite almost constant angling pressure, many fish are caught here. Dump, Corner and Warden’s are three other excellent pools that can be reached by a well-worn, ½ mile trail along the north bank of the river. The trail begins near a store on private property and permission should be sought before using it. Vehicles should be parked in the public lot near the dam. Because of their easy access, and the fact that they all usually hold good fish, these three pools are also heavily fished. Despite the pressure however, many large brook trout and salmon are taken here both in the spring and fall.
The upper trail deteriorates a short distance beyond the Warden’s Pool, so to reach the middle and lower pools, I usually drive the gravel road that runs along the north side of the river and park at other vehicle turnouts. Good mid-river pools include Flatlander, Highlander, Corner, Spring and Slaughter. These pools are all connected by a rough riverside trail that takes me nearly an hour to cover in waders. Individual pools can also be accessed from several different trails that lead down from the road. Lower pools include Ledge, Flat Rock and the Moose Hole, and are separated from the upriver pools by a long stretch of bony pocketwater. Lake Pool is formed where the Roach River dumps into Moosehead Lake and is most easily reached by boat.
Spring fishing on the Roach usually gets good a couple of weeks after it opens on May 1. At this time of year, spawning smelts draw salmon and brook trout into the river, and many stay here until the water warms up in July. During wet springs, high water can sometimes make the river difficult to fish. Look for flows under 400 cubic feet/second for best results. Early in the season, bucktail and marabou streamers like the Black Ghost and Thunder Creek are popular flies. Hornbergs and Muddlers also account for many fish. Once the smelts have left the river, nymphs, wet flies and dry flies become most effective. I’ve had good luck with a variety of simple, impressionistic soft-hackle and wet-fly patterns fished with a dry line through the tailouts of pools. Fish get wary as the season progresses however, so more sophisticated emergers and comparaduns are often required for consistent success.
Since the Roach is an important spawning tributary for a large number of Moosehead Lake’s salmon and brook trout, fall is also a great time to be here. Depending on rainfall and the amount of water being released from the dam, fish sometimes begin their upstream migration as early as the last week in August. By mid-September however, it’s almost certain that trout and salmon will be found in nearly every pool. Over the years, I’ve had somewhat of a love-hate relationship with the Roach River in the fall. On good days, this river’s small pools and intimate surroundings provide me with a sense of peacefulness that I don’t normally get in other places. On bad days however, crowds of people can sometimes make simply finding a place where you can fish into a frustrating experience.
The Roach is the only major river in Maine that is fly-fishing only and completely catch and release. Because of its remoteness and importance as a spawning ground for Moosehead salmoniods, the State recently purchased a 1000 foot wide corridor along the river to insure public access and freedom from development. To help maintain the wilderness character of the area, and hold down on angling pressure, the current plan is to leave the access road and trails in an unimproved condition. So even though it might be a little difficult to reach your favorite pool on Roach, it is usually well worth the effort.
Katahdin Iron Works Road
The Little Lyfords and Horseshoe are other area ponds that are great for novice fly fishermen because they contains lots of smaller trout that rise readily and are usually easy to catch. Small Hornbergs, Devil Bugs, Adams and grasshoppers are all good flies to use here. Mountain Brook and several other small fly-fishing only ponds can also be found nearby. Anglers who want to get farther off the beaten path can follow the Appalachian Trail 1 ½ miles to East Chairback Pond or continue another 3-miles to West Chairback.
Above the ‘Bow’, the upper Moose River ranges from meandering deadwater on its lower end to a small freestone stream up above. Miles of native brook trout water can be reached by driving the Spencer Lake Road to Skinner, and then using the railroad tracks to follow along the river. An old Department of Inland Fisheries survey indicated that most fish in this area were less than 10 inches. But Regional Biologist Scott Roy said that, “bigger trout could be found in places where beavers dammed the river, and in some of the area’s local ponds.”
The Moose River Bow trip is a 40-mile canoe excursion that begins and ends at Attean Pond. It starts with a long paddle across two lakes that is separated by a 1.5 mile portage. Once on the river, the first 10-miles of travel is through swampy lowlands that aren’t particularly good brook trout habitat. The fishing and scenery change abruptly at Holeb Falls, where some nice rips usually produce pan-sized brookies. Several other sets of rips in the last 10-miles of the trip also hold fish. The best chance for larger trout, along with salmon and splake, is in the Attean Falls area, which is only a couple of miles up from the lake. Fishing is usually best shortly after ice-out and many people motor up to this area when the water is high. Early-season tactics range from fly casting to trolling smelts, but most of the fish I have seen taken here have been on bait.
The middle section of the Moose River begins at the outlet of Wood Pond and moving water here provides people with an opportunity to catch salmon from the Rt. 201 bridge in downtown Jackman. The majority of anglers fish this mostly flat section of river from small boats or canoes, especially around inlets and near where it dumps into Long Pond. I usually fish the middle section of the Moose River below Demo Bridge or in the Mackamp area. Both of these stretches have large wadeable pools and riffles that can produce both trout and salmon. Fall is a prime time to visit because lower water levels makes wading here easier. Railroad tracks near the south bank can be used to move up or down stream.
Attean Pond is a popular place at ice-out because it is the only local water that is closed to ice fishing. Most early season anglers concentrate their efforts in the southeast corner of the pond near where the Moose River dumps in. Salmon are the primary target, but good-sized brook trout and splake are also caught here. Later in the season, most of these fish move into the deep, narrow basin on the west-side of the pond. Much of water in the rest of the pond is less than 20 feet deep and not worth fishing during summer. Dozen of scenic islands however, provide many nice, sheltered spots to kayak or swim.
Holeb is another fairly shallow pond that mainly produces brook trout and splake. When the water is cool, numerous rock piles, points and islands can provide countless places for fish to hold, so some searching is often required to locate them. Many people troll to start the day and then switch to casting small spoons or flies around productive areas. Worm and spinner rigs are also popular here. It’s a long way on a gravel road to the boat launch, so access can be ‘iffy’ during mud season. Holeb has experienced an increasing amount of ice fishing pressure recently.
Three other good fishing spots in the Jackman area are Parlin Pond, Long Pond and Spencer Lake. Parlin Pond is located right along Rt. 201 and has a boat launch on its south end. Brook trout are the main attraction, but some wild salmon are also present. Although this pond is fly fishing only, it has a special regulation that allows trolling, which is popular early in the season with flies like the Black Ghost, Hornberg and Wood Special. Once the hatches begin, dry fly fishing can be good on calm evenings. Trout here are chunky, but don’t seem to get much over 12 inches.
Long Pond is an 8-mile long flow-through waterway on the Moose River east of Jackman. It provides good fishing for brook trout around inlets such as Parlin Stream and in areas with some current like the Upper and Lower Narrows. Spencer Lake is a deep, 5-mile long lake south of Jackman that provides the best togue fishery in the area. Fat, hard-fighting salmon are also a prime attraction. Trolling hardware or sewn-bait along the shorelines with a few colors of lead-core line is a proven method for catching early-season fish. Streamers are also good here later in the season, especially when trolled in early morning or late evening. The land surrounding Spencer Lake went into private ownership in 2000 and currently there are questions about public access, so anglers should check locally before attempting to launch a boat here. Ice fishing is popular on both Long Pond and Spencer Lake.
For example, I frequently stay at a camp in Jackman with a group of friends who like to fish for a few hours each morning before breakfast. Local ponds with good access such as Rancourt, Smith and Daymond contain lots of pan-sized trout that provide a perfect opportunity to enjoy some easy, early-morning fishing. Then around noon, we usually pair-up and select a more remote pond to fish for the remainder of the day. A couple of early season favorites are found in the Benjamin Valley and can be reached by walking on a gated road that runs behind Sally Mountain. A number of good ponds such as Enchanted, Rock and Snake can also be found south of Jackman off Rt. 201.
Over the years, I have enjoyed many memorable evenings fly fishing on ponds throughout this area. I’ve also had a number of trips when an eagerly awaited hatch did not materialize. With time, I’ve come to appreciate that these wild trout ponds are enchanting places even when the trout do not cooperate. And sometimes, just after the sun drops behind the trees and the sky turns a brilliant orange, it seems like catching fish is just an added bonus that an ordinary person like me might not really deserve.
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