Ice fishing is a great sport that can be enjoyed by young and old alike. All you need is a willingness to get outside and some basic ice fishing equipment.
The first thing you will need is a tool for making a hole in the ice. Most seasoned ice fishermen own a power auger but, if you’re just getting started, a hand auger or chisel will do the trick just fine. During the first few weeks of January, the ice usually isn’t too thick yet and, with a good chisel, you can chop a hole in no time.
A skimmer to clear the hole of ice and snow is also necessary. A set of five good tip-ups or traps are the most important items that you will need. I prefer wooden traps with a large reel and simple trigger mechanism.
Rig the traps up with about 200 feet of 20 pound-test cloth line. Slide a small barrel sinker onto the cloth line before you tie on a swivel. After the swivel, tie on about four feet of eight-pound test leader material. Then tie on a good quality, sharp hook. I use No. 4 Eagle Claw laser point hooks.
For bait, I like nightcrawlers when fishing for brook trout in shallow water. I prefer fishing along a rocky shoreline with anywhere from two to four feet of water under the ice. The bait should be about six inches off bottom when the trap is set and in place. For lake trout or togue, I prefer to fish in 30 to 35 feet of water with live bait — shiner or smelt — about a foot off bottom. You will also need a sounder to determine where bottom is.
If you’re fishing on one of the Allagash headwater lakes, it won’t be long before a flag goes up indicating you have a bite.
The dilemma in ice fishing is determining when to set the hook. If you try to set the hook too soon, you might pull the bait out of the fish’s mouth. If you wait too long, the fish might drop the bait or the line could get tangled on the bottom. Either of these scenarios can happen easily when fishing in shallow water. Trial and error is probably the best teacher for knowing when to set the hook, but you need to give the line a solid jerk to ensure that the fish doesn’t get away. If you just start pulling the line in, there is a good chance that the fish will just let go of the bait.
When fishing in shallow water for brook trout, I usually don’t waste much time in setting the hook. If the reel is spinning, I reach down, pull the trap up and set the hook all in one motion. When fishing in deep water for lake trout or togue, I usually wait for the reel to stop spinning before setting the hook. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut feeling to determine when the time is right to give the line a yank.
The brook trout fishing on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway headwater lakes is usually the best during the first few weeks of the ice fishing season, Jan. 1-20. I am always amazed at the number and size of the trout caught at the beginning of the season.
With cold weather approaching, now is the time to plan an ice fishing trip to the waterway.
The AWW operates a winter campground at the Chamberlain Bridge parking lot and Kellogg Brook campsite. There are 48 sites available for a rental fee of $50 per month, plus the 8 percent meal and lodging tax. Eight sites are reserved in the parking lot for transient use at our regular camping fee of $4 per person per night for Maine residents and $8 for nonresidents. The water access campsites on the lakes are available for use in the winter as well as summer; the same fees apply to these sites.
The AWW provides: public drinking water, vault toilets and snow plowing at the Chamberlain Bridge winter campground. A groomed snowmobile trail is marked from the parking lot to the south end of Chamberlain Lake and to Round Pond/Telos lakes.
If you would like more comfortable accommodations, such as a lakeside log cabin with beds, woodstove and gas lights, contact Nugent’s Camps at 944-5991 or www.nugentscamps.com .
Check with the waterway ranger stationed at the Chamberlain Bridge for current ice conditions and some local advice on where to fish and what methods to use.
Don’t forget to purchase your 2014 Maine fishing license and check the law book because special fishing regulations apply to the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.
Please help us keep the native fisheries of the Allagash unspoiled by not dumping your unused baitfish down your fishing hole.
If you have never been ice fishing on the waterway before, give me a call at 695-3721, ext. 4. I would be more than happy to give you a few tips on where to go and what to use for bait.
The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is managed by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Bureau of Parks and Lands.
For general information on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, go to: www.maine.gov/allagashwildernesswaterway or call 207-941-4014; email email@example.com or write to the Bureau of Parks and Public Lands, 106 Hogan Road, Bangor, 04401.
Matthew LaRoche is superintendent of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.