Bangor Daily News outdoors contributor Nolan Raymond shows off the lake trout he caught while jigging last week at a pond in Clifton.

Nolan Raymond, a junior at Hermon High School, enjoys Maine’s hunting, fishing and trapping opportunities. He is involved in Dirigo Search and Rescue as well as Boy Scouts of America. He also plays the drums and competes in track and field.

It was an eventful weekend. I had Friday off from school because of a teacher in-service day, and a friend and I made plans to fish a local spot that morning.

The pond we chose, off Route 9 in Clifton, has a reputation for nice togue and is part of a good salmon and brookie stocking program. Plus, being only around 45 minutes from home, we could get a few extra minutes of sleep before hitting the road.

I picked up my fishing partner around 6:45 a.m. and we made it to the landing around 7:30. The warm weather we’d been having had us skeptical of conditions, but a quick assessment showed no shortage of ice; around 18 inches at the ramp.

We unloaded our tote sled off the roof of my car and packed it up. A hike of just over a half-mile got us to the spot I had picked out. Given a two-trap limit, we decided to spread our operation out as wide as we could.

I set a trap in about 55 feet of water, with a large silver shiner, right off bottom. Josh Sullivan of Hermon, my fishing partner, opted to set his in similar fashion, in pursuit of togue.

Then we grabbed some jig rods. After popping holes about 100 feet from each other, we tipped our jigs with some dead shiner and began bouncing them off bottom — often a killer tactic. I opted for a heavy jig, while Sullivan chose a large orange spoon.

After about five hours with no action on the tip-ups, we began to get discouraged. Then, as if the fishing gods could read our minds, my jig rod doubled over.

The cool thing about jigging togue is that the strike oftentimes doesn’t feel like a strike at all. The best way I can describe it is this: it almost feels like you’ve snagged a log on the bottom. They usually don’t hit and run, the way a salmon would.

This one was no exception. After a few runs, the laker showed itself to the hole. Measurements provided that it was a 22-incher, around five pounds.

A while later, I hooked into another one, which was much more aggressive and took more runs.

I ended up losing it as its head came into the hole: a real hazard with the small 6-inch augers. We packed up shortly after lunch and hiked back off the ice.

 I was greeted by a surprise when I got back home. My dad and older brother had loaded up the snowmobile trailer and all the ice fishing gear into the truck, which was idling in the driveway. I determined that they had been waiting for me to return.

The plan was a trip to Chamberlain Lake, a 3 1/2-hour drive from Hermon, more than two hours of which is on unpaved woods roads. We would head up that night, fish for cusk till dawn, then spend Saturday fishing for brookies, whitefish and togue.

After quickly cleaning up from the morning’s trip, we hit the road and made it to the lake around 10:30 pm. The moon was full and clear, and you could see the entire shoreline of the pristine water.

We rode along the shore to our spot and had pitched camp and set out some cusk traps before midnight. Checking my traps hourly, I landed about 15 or 20 cusk, but none of noteworthy size. I usually use a 1/0 circle hook with a dead shiner or similar bait, resting right on bottom for cusk.

As sunrise approached, we each ventured out to switch our traps over to accommodate daytime species.

The sun begins to peek over the horizon in hues of pink during a recent ice fishing excursion to Chamberlain Lake by Bangor Daily News outdoors contributor Nolan Raymond. (Courtesy of Nolan Raymond)

Unfortunately, we had a slow day on Chamberlain. We packed up to head home around 4:30 p.m., having only caught one fallfish. After loading up the gear, we began beating our way down Telos Road, empty handed but laden with good stories to tell.

It just goes to show that sometimes the fish don’t cooperate, but you can still have a good time on the ice. I find that it’s a great way to catch up with friends and bond with family, in a way like no other.