Kay Brown, of Auburn, fishes in the Little Androscoggin River in Minot, Maine Thursday, April 8, 2021 with her family. Credit: Russ Dillingham / Sun Journal via AP

It’s April and things are slowly warming up across the state, but fishing won’t swing into full gear until Mother Nature relinquishes her winter grip on inland lakes and ponds.

Ice-out is a popular time for anglers who want to target landlocked salmon and lake trout, but there is still significant ice on most of Maine’s waters. You can check out the state’s ice-out reports on its website to see whether your favorite lake or pond is navigable in a boat.

However, as of Friday afternoon, there were only 13 waters that were reported to be free of ice. Most of them are on or near the coast.

That said, there are some places where anglers are already testing the waters and you can find them — along with some sage advice from Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologists — by checking out the department’s April fishing report.

Of course, anglers should use extreme caution at this time of year because of frigid water temperatures. A lifejacket can save your life.

Also, even though there is a lot of ice in many places, conditions can change drastically in a short time when temperatures begin to warm and the wind blows. Be careful on the ice and always do a thorough check before heading onto hardwater.

Penobscot Region

From Fisheries Resource Supervisor Kevin Dunham

Now that spring has (theoretically) arrived, anglers have begun shifting their focus to open water fishing. The majority of the smaller brooks and streams throughout the region offer wild brook trout, often only seasonally in the spring while water temperatures remain cold, and tend to get targeted early since water levels and flows are generally advantageous.

As for larger waters, historically, the West Branch of the Penobscot River has been an opening day destination for many anglers.  The stretch of river between the Telos Road bridge (T3 R11 WELS) and the Abol bridge (T2 R10 WELS) in the vicinity of Nesowadnehunk Deadwater and Abol Deadwater, just off the Golden Road, is a popular spot for those itching to begin their open water season.

Those looking for early season ice-out trolling action may have to be patient until some waters lose their winter ice coat, but anglers will want to head to Schoodic Lake (Brownville, Lake View Plt., T4 R9 NWP) for landlocked salmon and lake trout; Seboeis Lake (T4 R9 NWP) and Endless Lake (T3 R9 NWP) for splake; or perhaps try your luck at Perch Pond (Old Town) or Upper Pond (Lincoln) for brook trout.

Please remember to check the Maine Inland Fishing Laws at mefishwildlife.com/fishinglaws or download the Maine Fishing Laws Online Angling Tool as some of the waters mentioned above have special regulations in effect.

Fishing tip: Success rates for early season coldwater fishing can often be increased by fishing near inlets, particularly if the waterbody you’re on has a smelt population. Smelt spawn in late winter/early spring using inlets and the newly hatched smelt fry drift into lakes creating a feeding opportunity for hungry salmonids. This food source can boost the amount of fish congregating near the mouth of the inlet.

Grand Lake Region

From Fisheries Resource Supervisor Greg Burr

Where to fish: Most lakes and ponds in Down East Maine will not be ice free come opening day on April 1 but there are a few that will have shed their winter coats for anglers to try.

These are: Simpson Pond in Roque Bluffs will have eager brown trout and brook trout waiting for anglers to cast for them from shore or from a canoe, kayak, or float tube. Lily Pond in Trescott will also be ice free and will have fast fishing for brook trout with easy casting from shore or from a small boat.

Ackley Pond in Cutler will be free of ice and ready for trout fishermen to try their luck. Eager anglers will also want to try their luck stream fishing on Grand Lake Stream in the town of Grand Lake Stream and fly fish for salmon in the dam pool. Spawned-out salmon overwinter in the famed pool and can be caught using smelt imitation streamer flies. Another flowing water for anglers to try is the Pennamaquan River in Pembroke. Anglers here can try their luck in the river below Route 1 for stocked brown trout that drop down from the above lakes. Some of these brown trout move back and forth in the estuary and get large in the process. Anglers who want the fight of the life should be there when the tide brings in these large browns.

Later on, toward the middle of the month, many lakes and ponds will become ice free and provide some excellent fishing opportunities. Here are some waters that I recommend:

Beech Hill Pond in Otis for salmon, Green Lake in Ellsworth for salmon and lake trout, Tunk Lake in T10 SD for salmon, brook trout and lake trout;

Echo Lake in Mount Desert for brook trout and salmon, Long Pond in Mount Desert for salmon and brook trout, Jordan Pond in Seal Harbor for salmon and lake trout, Cathance Lake in Cooper for salmon, Big Lake in Greenlaw Chopping Township for salmon, and West Grand Lake in Grand Lake Stream for salmon and lake trout.

For brook trout in small ponds anglers will want to try these waters: Spectacle Ponds in Deblois, West & East Pike Brook Ponds in Deblois, Salmon Pond in T 10 SD, Lakewood Pond in Bar Harbor, Witch Hole Pond in Bar Harbor, Upper Hadlock Pond in Northeast Harbor.

Fishing tip: When fly fishing for brook trout in the small ponds a Mickey Finn streamer fly is hard to beat.

Reminder: Remember, based on the definitions of “Ice Fishing” and “Open Water Fishing” found on page 4 of the fishing lawbook, it is illegal to open water fish in inland waters while positioned on the ice.

Moosehead Region

From Fisheries Resource Supervisor Tim Obrey

April is upon us, but as usual, ice out is not in sight in the Moosehead Lake Region. It was a mild winter and there isn’t a lot of ice to melt, but these cold nights will string out winter conditions for another week or two. So, if you still haven’t had enough ice fishing, then there is still a little time. Moosehead can still be fished for lake trout. A couple sunny days jigging on the big lake would be pretty nice right about now. Chesuncook might be a good bet as well. Just remember the dirt roads are getting a little sloppy this time of year, so use good judgment and respect private property owners.

There really isn’t much for open water opportunities up in this neck of the woods in early April. We anticipate ice out sometime around the third week of April this year. Until then, the East Outlet or West Outlet would be good places to wet a line as long as the flows are manageable. Of course, we typically see some of the best fishing days and biggest fish right at ice out when smelts are running. There won’t be much for insect activity on the trout ponds, but streamer and nymph fishing will be excellent. These are the best times to fish. Don’t pass up a chance to be on the water!

Fish River Lakes Region

From Fisheries Resource Supervisor Frank Frost

Northern Maine still has a significant snowpack and great ice conditions on most waters allowing for at least several more days of ice fishing. We have no ice outs at this time.  However, weather changes can quickly erode ice creating dangerous conditions so check the water you plan to fish prior to venturing out. Some waters with significant flows do provide some opportunity for early season, open water fishing.

Some typical spots in far northern Maine are: Allagash River, at Churchill Dam. Wild brook trout are the predominant species here but lake trout may also be caught in early spring, cold conditions; Prestile Stream, at Mars Hill Dam, wild brook trout; Soldier Pond, at Wallagrass, wild brook trout and landlocked salmon.

Fishing tip: Under such high, cold water conditions that we will have for the next month, prior to the insect hatches that begin in May, baits and lures should be fished low in the water and very slow. Sport fish are not very active under such conditions so the “low and slow” approach is needed for any chance of success.

Reminder: We are always looking for anglers who are willing to be volunteers to record their fishing activity. If you fish a lot and don’t mind carrying a book to record your trips (provided by DIF&W), please contact us.  Alternatively, electronic information is accepted, via email or any of the common messenger apps. We are particularly interested in recruiting anglers who fish Arctic charr waters across the state. The information you provide can be highly valuable in managing our fisheries.

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...