Things are going to be heating up, both literally and figuratively, during the month of May.
As the state’s waters begin to warm and the insects start hatching in large numbers, anglers have the opportunity this month to take advantage of some of the best fishing days of the entire year.
Unfortunately, it also is the time of year when cold water temperatures pose a life-threatening risk to anglers, paddlers and recreational boaters. If you’re out on the water, wear a lifejacket — and take a friend along to share the experience.
And always let a family member or friend know where you’re going and when you plan to return.
If you want to find some spots that have been recently boosted with hatchery fish, you can check out the most recent Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife stocking reports here.
Here are some of the DIF&W regional fishing reports for May:
From Fisheries Resource Supervisor Kevin Dunham
Where to fish: Many larger lakes and ponds of the Penobscot Region were ice free by the end of April, giving a full month of May fishing opportunities for open-water anglers, which isn’t a guarantee in any given year. Whether you are an avid early season brook and stream angler or a fan of trolling cold, newly ice-free lakes and ponds, the Penobscot region offers many great destinations for springtime brook trout fishing.
Most brooks, streams and rivers in our region offer the opportunity to catch a brook trout. Some suggestions for river, brook and stream fishing during the month of May include these waters which are stocked with brook trout each spring: the Mattawamkeag River in Haynesville; East Branch of the Mattawamkeag River in Oakfield and Forkstown Twp.; Stillwater River in Old Town and Orono; and the Sebec River in Milo.
Lake fishing more your style? May is a great time to check out Nicatous Lake (T40 MD) for splake, particularly before the water temperature warms; Spring Lake in T3 ND for brook trout and landlocked salmon; or Upper Jo-Mary Lake (TA R10 WELS) for brook trout as well as landlocked salmon.
From Fisheries Resource Biologist Jeff Bagley
Most waters in the northern portion of the Moosehead Lake Region still have some ice cover (as of April 21) but don’t worry, open water is slowly creeping its way north. Most rivers and streams are running a bit high but with the snowpack either gone or dwindling, flows are receding to levels that will provide some better fishing flows. You can expect to see our Hatchery Staff busy stocking the many put and take waters we have throughout the Region. Some waters to try your luck on in the coming weeks include:
Chesuncook, Caribou and Ripogenus lakes, in T3 R12, where wild landlocked salmon are the predominant species and are abundant along with wild brook trout and white perch; Piscataquis River in Guilford and Dover-Foxcroft, stocked brook trout; Kennebec River, West Outlet, in Taunton and Raynham Academy Grant, stocked brook trout and landlocked salmon; Secret Pond in Greenville wild brook trout>
Fishing tip: Early ice out fishing on some of our trout waters can produce some fun and memorable fishing. Trolling streamers (Mickey Finn or Gray Ghost) and lures (Weeping Willow or Super Duper) are always good bets for enticing brook trout and salmon. As water temperatures start to warm during May, insect activity will also start to pick up.
Fish River Lakes Region
From Fisheries Resource Supervisor Frank Frost
In northern Maine all southern Aroostook waters are free of ice and by May 1 most waters will be ice free as well. There is still a small snowpack left to melt so lakes, ponds, and flowing waters are high and cold. Smelt runs are about normal timing so far and we have already seen some runs start in the southern part of the region. This spring would be a great time to plan a trip to northern Maine. We are expecting an excellent open water season based on results of the ice fishing season just completed.
Where to fish — Eagle Lake, Eagle Lake: One of our best-known lakes in northern Maine, Eagle supports wild populations of brook trout, salmon, lake trout, and cusk. We think the smelt runs will be strong this spring which make those inlet areas true hotspots. Portage Lake, Portage: One water that is fished early due to the large, shallow area where the Fish River flows into the lake, Portage is not well known as a destination water. Anglers will find salmon and brook trout congregating near the river inlet. There is a public launch at the end of the West Road that offers easy access to this great fishing spot.
Aroostook River, Washburn to Fort Fairfield: As water levels drop and the spring warming trend continues, this large river is a great spot to catch wild brook trout. Timing is everything but early May is a great time to start planning a trip for later in the month. Some anglers launch small boats and troll while others wade to rising fish during some intense hatches. There are numerous boat launches in this stretch.
Fishing tips: May is a great time to get on the water to fish but cold temperatures can make finding feeding fish difficult. Focus on shallow areas near inlets and outlets. Trout and salmon often use these areas that may be a degree or two warmer than deeper areas and oftentimes provide better food sources.
Grand Lake Region
From Fisheries Resource Biologist Colin Shankland
While April 1 may be the official start of open water fishing in Maine, May is when things really heat up Down East. All of the area’s lakes are now ice-free and temperatures are starting to increase. As the month moves on increasing water temperatures in the lakes and streams will get fish moving and provide endless opportunities for anglers looking to shake winter off and wet a line.
As sunny days and warmer nights take over increasing surface temperatures on lakes will provide fast action for anglers looking to troll for salmon. The generally poor ice conditions last winter led to reduced use by ice fishermen. While disappointing at the time, this means that there will be a higher-than-average number of fish available to springtime anglers this year. Streamer flies and spoons as well as live smelts (where allowed) trolled slowly along shorelines and near the mouths of brooks will lead to successful days on the water this month.
Some waters to try trolling for salmon are West Grand Lake in Grand Lake Stream, Cathance Lake in Cooper, Tunk Lake in T-10, Green Lake in Ellsworth, Beech Hill Pond in Otis, and Long Pond in Southwest Harbor on Mount Desert Island.
May is also the month when stream fishing for brook trout hits its stride Down East. Once we get into the second week of the month and stream temperatures are getting close to 60 degrees there ought to be insect hatches occurring on local streams and lots of hungry trout actively feeding. A juicy worm or your favorite small lure or fly on a local stream is all you’ll need for success — along with a bottle of insect repellent! Before the water warms too much, trout will be widely distributed and your local river or tributary is worth a try; we are constantly surprised by the places we find brook trout, so if it’s accessible and has moving water, grab a rod and give it a shot — you may just find a new favorite spot.
Fishing tip: Don’t be afraid to change it up if things are slow. The fish are in the lakes. If they aren’t responding to your tactics, try something different. Speed up, slow down, make lots of turns. While there some very proven lures and tactics, you’ll never know if something works until you try. Last spring on a particularly slow evening of trolling I tied on a red and white Mepps spinner while trolling for salmon and within 20 minutes had caught two fish! Strange, but effective.