For some anglers, fishing season “ends” in early summer, as the water warms up and trout and landlocked salmon seek thermal refuge in colder, deeper and harder-to-access water. But for others, that’s time to begin to target warm-water species like smallmouth bass, or head to saltwater to chase striped bass.
Still others just take a short hiatus, planning to fish again shortly before the leaves begin turning colors. Those anglers will tell you that fall fishing can be Maine’s best season. Part of the attraction is that summer crowds on local lakes have disappeared. You’re not as apt to find jet skis and recreational boaters buzzing back and forth as you’re trying to enjoy leisurely troll.
And even in the most popular spots, at this time of year it’s still possible to find a place of your own to wet a line and catch a few fish.
Ready to give fall fishing a try? Need a few tips? The fisheries biologists from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife have you covered. Here are some of the suggestions they offered up in the department’s latest fishing report.
First, a quick reminder from the state: From Aug. 16 to Sept. 30, the general law for fishing in rivers, streams and brooks is restricted to the use of artificial lures and flies only. General law length and bag limits apply, except there is a daily bag limit of one landlocked salmon and one brook trout. Click here to review Maine’s fishing laws.
From Tim Obrey, fisheries resource supervisor: The lack of rain has likely had an impact on our small shallow trout ponds this summer and it will definitely have a negative impact on the fall river fishing. Free-flowing rivers, like the upper Moose River and the Piscataquis, are exceptionally dry. There will be marginal fishing opportunities in these types of flowing water until we get significant rain. Rivers below dams usually fare better in a dry fall because upstream impoundments have stored water and can provide flows to improve fishing. This year’s drought is severe, and some impoundments have little to give.
Places to go and fishing tips: [Water is low in the] Moose River below Brassua Lake and the West Branch below Seboomook Lake. The lakes are very low and approaching their minimum elevations as allowed in their [dam] licenses. We hope to get additional flow in both rivers around the middle of September, but we need some rain. You can expect very low flows until then. This means about 200 cubic feet per second on the West Branch of the Penobscot, which is too low for most boats and canoes. It might be better to save your prop if you were planning a trip to the Foxhole in early September.
The East and West Outlets will have some water, thankfully. Moosehead Lake must be drawn down over the fall months to protect lake trout spawning and this translates to good flows in the East Outlet for fishing in September and October. Wet flies and nymphs will be the ticket early in the month. Many anglers switch to gaudy streamers as the spawning urge for salmon and trout increases.
Grand Lake Region
From Gregory Burr, fisheries resource supervisor: September is a terrific month to start fishing for brook trout and landlocked salmon again. In the beginning of the month anglers will still need to go deep. For trout in the small ponds, anglers will find fish in the middle layer, also called the thermocline, which is usually located between 13 and 18 feet down. In the larger lakes, anglers trolling for salmon will need to go down between 25 and 35 feet. But in the later part of the month the days and nights will get cooler and so will the surface waters of area lakes and ponds.This means that trout and salmon will start prowling along the shorelines as well as the top layers of the water column. I find when the water temperatures reach down into the lower 60s you can shallow troll or cast with bright colored lures such as orange or chartreuse Rapalas or colorful flies like the Woods special or the Montreal and have great trout action. For salmon you can use the standard salmon rigging like copper Mooselook Wobblers or DB Smelts. With lakes that have young alewives schooling in the shallows, lures like a small silver Rapala will work, as will small gray ghost streamer flies.
Remember many trout and salmon waters close to fishing at the end of September so this may be your last chance to fish them in the 2020 open-water season.
From Kevin Dunhm, fisheries resource supervisor: East Grand Lake in Danforth, Forest City Township., Orient, and Weston has historically been a destination for fall salmon fishing in the region. Many a fine, feisty salmon have been boated on this 16,000-acre lake in Septembers past. Pleasant Lake in Island Falls is another historically fast-action salmon water come September. Both East Grand Lake and Pleasant Lake have very good boat access, though caution is warranted while motoring through the shallow section from the launch into the main lake at Pleasant. A recent fishery survey we conducted at Upper Togue Pond in T2 R9 WELS, at the entrance to Baxter State Park, yielded some hefty white perch in the 14-inch range. Across the road is Lower Togue Pond which has been producing some good splake fishing this summer with several being caught in the 17- to 18-inch range. Both Upper and Lower Togue Ponds have hand-carry, small boat access, and a 10-horsepower limit on outboard motors.
Outlook on the season and fall fishing tips: Cooler water temperatures of September trigger many fish, especially salmonids such as trout and salmon, to increase activity and expand their range in preparation for spawning. Not only are the decreasing water temperatures bringing fish closer to the surface, but fish readying for spawning will begin moving into shallower water as well. For salmonids try fishing in shallower than normal water as well as closer to shore than usual during sunrise and sunset and you may just catch more fish.
Fish River Lakes Region
From Frank Frost, fisheries resource supervisor: After a hot, dry summer, northern Maine is getting some reprieve now with cool temperatures and some rain that might bring waterways up to normal levels. This bodes well for late season brook fishing. Our region in northern Maine has an estimated 7,000 miles of flowing water with abundant brook trout in much of this resource.
Places to go: Captain Ambrose Bear Stream (formerly B Stream) in Houlton, Littleton and Hammond; Presque Isle Stream in Presque Isle, Chapman, and T10R3 WELS; and Rocky Brook in T19R12 WELS and T18R12 WELS.
Fishing tip: North Maine Woods has an abundance of flowing water to fish late season. I mentioned one above, Rocky Brook, but throughout the 3.5 million acres there are thousands of miles of rivers, brooks and streams to fish. After a brutally hot and dry summer, some trout populations have certainly declined. The waters that fared the best through this tough time are those with good groundwater sources that would have kept water temperatures low enough for trout survival until cooler fall weather arrived. Also, do some research by looking at aerial photos before venturing out; those waterways with good buffering from nearby forest management activity likely did well. Avoid waters where recent cutting activity has removed vegetation up to or very close to the water.