A shore-spawning brook trout cruises in shallow water at Moosehead Lake. After years of speculation and second-hand reports, biologists in the region have confirmed that brook trout -- often very large ones -- spawn along the lake's shores, rather than in tributary streams. Credit: Courtesy of Maine Department of Inland Fisheries

For years, I’ve fielded questions from new anglers looking for some tips on the right place to wet a line. And for years, I’ve been a bit coy about suggesting any hotspots to try.

My reason for remaining mum is pretty simple: Some of the best fishing spots you’ll find here in Maine are among the most sensitive, and an overabundance of fishing pressure could have adverse effects on the native fish populations.

I’ve shared details about well-known spots, of course, but most times, those endorsements have come as no surprise, or have been suggested by fisheries biologists who know the particular lake, pond or river can take a bit of additional pressure.

Today, after yet another report of a monster brook trout coming from the state’s largest lake, I’m changing my stance a bit and offering up some enthusiastic advice. If you want to catch the fish of a lifetime, you might want to consider Moosehead Lake.

Jim Young recently caught a 6 pound, 13 ounce brook trout out of Moosehead, and that report came on the heels of last week’s report from Gage Poulin, who caught a 5.6-pound brookie of his own at Moosehead, and a report from Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologist Tim Obrey about the huge shore-spawning brook trout that he and colleagues have discovered in the lake.

Some may criticize my suggestion. But if we exercise some caution and a conservation-based mindset, I think the lake can withstand a few more anglers.

Moosehead is already fished hard, and it’s big enough to support more anglers over its nearly 75,000-acre surface. Also, there are some pretty strict fishing regulations that don’t allow fishing in some coves in order to protect post-spawn brookies. Make sure to check your fishing rulebook for closed areas and bag limits before you go.

But here’s a point worth making: If you end up catching one of these huge trout, you don’t have to kill it in order to hang it — or a version of it — on your wall.

These big fish are, after all, wild brookies, and were not stocked into Moosehead. And while there’s apparently an abundance of them, that won’t remain the case if we keep killing all the big fish we catch.

Jeff Reardon, Trout Unlimited’s Maine Brook Trout Project director, reached out to comment on the BDN story that featured Young’s recent catch.

The conservationist urged a bit of caution that makes good sense.

“There is clearly a recently recovered or just recently discovered population of larger, older, shore-spawning brook trout in Moosehead. It’s clearly something special. Anglers have figured out how to target it,” Reardon said. “I hope it doesn’t disappear before we discover how to protect it.”

After catching such an impressive specimen, it’s understandable that an angler might consider having a taxidermist create a mount of the fish. But as Reardon points out, anglers don’t have to kill a fish in order to turn it into a keepsake wall-hanger.

“Those fish can be weighed, photographed and released rather than harvested,” Reardon said.

Wildlife artists, including carvers and taxidermists, can then create stunning reproductions of those special fish that any angler would be proud to display on their wall.

In an accompanying blog post for TU, Reardon points out that according to his own social media stream, it appears that many of his friends are already planning winter or early spring trips to Moosehead so that they can find one of those special fish.

I’ve heard from friends of my own who also think a trip to the Greenville area is in order.

The best news: The fewer fish we kill, the more of those monster brookies will live to swim another day.

Yes, we can keep fish if we want to. But do we need to do in order to have a trophy hanging on our wall?

No, we don’t.

Catch and release?

There’s no better time to give it a try.

John Holyoke can be reached at jholyoke@bangordailynews.com or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke. His first book, “Evergreens,” a collection of his favorite BDN columns and features, is published by Islandport Press and is available wherever books are sold.

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John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...