By Mike Christy
Maine's clear and cold glacial lakes provide superb landlocked
salmon fishing throughout the entire year. Spring time salmon are often taken by simply
trolling steamer flies on top. As warmer months warm and stratify the water, anglers are
forced to fish deeper with hardware like spoons and wobblers on down-riggers or lead core
line. Depending on the lakes' stratification and time of day, bait and gamefish can
generally be found 20 to 40 feet down.
Maine hosts many other coldwater gamefish including lake trout.
Summertime lakers are usually found deeper and closer to the bottom. Togue can be boated
by drifting live and cut bait, by jigging or trolling lures such as the flatfish.. Sebago
Lake which lies just 30 minutes northwest of the city of Portland is southern Maine's
premier water for togue.
My guess is most every lake and pond in the area contain a
small or large mouth bass fishery. These fish are great fighters on light tackle or fly
rods and are relatively easy to catch. Many waters provide superb rainbow and brook trout
fishing, especially in the spring after water levels normalize. The Moosehead Lake region
cant be beat for brook trout fishing after ice out.
Despite all the fabulous species of fish to angle for in the state of
Maine, there is only one fish that is regarded as the king, it's the landlocked
Landlocked Salmon are Maine's primary freshwater gamefish. B.A.S.S.
members may wish to debate this point, so lets say cold water gamefish, since
salmon prefer water temperatures in the lower
fifties. This means that salmon move throughout a lake's water column depending on the
four seasons which affect water temperature, dissolved oxygen, light and most importantly,
food. Smelt make up the salmon's primary diet, with insects becoming the
second choice on the menu. Generally a lake which has a substantial supply of forage fish
such as smelt or alewives, will most probably have a population of landlocked salmon.
Many of Maine's fresh water lakes were formed long ago by ice age glaciers
scouring the land on their way to the ocean.These deep and clear watersheds provide the
ideal habitat required by smelt, and their archenemy the salmon.
Post Ice Age, when global water levels receded, salmon became trapped in these
bodies of water, thus became landlocked.
Each season forces the angler to use different techniques on our
northeastern lakes. Check below for some seasonal tips and techniques which can be helpful
when chasing landlocked salmon.
Tips to Help
Boat Mr. Salmon
- Search for water temperatures near 55 degrees (ideal for
- Fish overcast and cloudy days.
- Troll choppy water on top (Called Salmon Chop).
- Always check lure action beside the boat.
- Use your fish finder to locate schools of smelt, salmon
won't be far away.
- Salmon like the prop wash, place a lure right in the boat's
- Troll in various patterns like S or zig-zag, this will vary
lure speed and action.
- Vary trolling speeds, take the engine out of gear every so
- Vary lure distance behind the downrigger, line length can
affect lure action.
- On bright days use light colored lures.
- On dark days, use dark colored lures.
- Troll away from the sun when you can.
- Match your lures to the size (and color) of the forage fish
in the lake.
- Placing your line in a release attached to the transom gets
your line in the water quicker.
- Sharpen hooks and bend down barbs, especially on treble
- Bow to a jumping salmon so not to tear it's delicate mouth.
- When in doubt, troll deeper during mid day then at dusk and
|Spring Salmon Fishing
Spring is the easiest time of year to catch a landlocked salmon. Simply
dragging a streamer fly on a fly rod behind a canoe can catch fish. After ice-out the
water temperature throughout the lake is the same and the fish can be scattered throughout
the depths, but they are also swimming right on top!
At this time of year the brightness of sunlight affect the salmon
more than anything else. Salmon do not dilate their eyes, so a bright day may send them
swimming for dimmer waters.
There is one factor which will congregate salmon in a localized area
during the spring: Smelt . Spring brings migratory runs of smelt into the
tributaries of lakes to spawn. Salmon will follow smelt into coves and streams where they
will readily feed and make themselves available to the angler.
There are two popular methods for taking salmon in the
spring; live or sewed on bait and trolling streamer flies.
Streamers imitate baitfish and are generally trolled quickly.
Intermittent pulls on the rod by the angler will speed up the fly then allow it to flush
open its' feathers as it settles back. Streamers can be fished on spinning gear or fly
rods with sinking line.
|Summer Salmon Fishing
The warm summer weather causes lake water to stratify
and force salmon into deeper water where it is cool. Stratification takes place when lake water separates into warm water on top and and cold dense water
on the bottom. This sometimes makes the fish difficult to find and catch.
The thermocline is the narrow band of water that separates the warm and cold
water. Locating the thermocline is key to finding bait fish and eventually salmon. This
area in the water column has required oxygen, temperature and food for predator fish. To
summarize, a lakes' thermocline is a very active area full of life. Depending on the size
of the lake and weather patterns, thermoclines and be found from 20 to 50 feet in most
Two tools available for summertime salmon fishing are lead core line and
downriggers. Lead core line is usually used on a conventional reel with a relatively heavy action rod. The line is color coded
every 10 yards to assist in gauging the depth of the lure. A check with local fishermen
can be helpful to find out how many "colors" the fish are being caught at.
Typically it is 10 feet of depth for every color paid out. A mono leader and swivel are
generally used used in front of the lure.
Downriggers are more sporting than lead core line since they allow the
angler to use light to medium weight tackle. They are also much more accurate at placement
of lure depth since you can set the downrigger weight, or cannonball as it's called, at
the exact depth you wish. I find that one of the challenges using a downrigger is setting
the release properly so that a strike will allow you to play the fish immediately. I
strongly suggest purchasing high quality releases. Some anglers use small rubber bands in
place of expensive releases, but I find that striking fish don't always break them, so
your left constantly staring at your rod tip looking for signs of a strike.
A depth finder is mandatory for use with downriggers.
One last tip for downrigger users: Try attaching a Dave Davis Spinner on
10 yards of 40lb test mono behind your downrigger weight to simulate a school of smelt.
Attach an additional release to the cable about a foot above the ball for your line. Let
your lure trail the end of the spinner by a few yards.
Autumn is when the thermocline breaks up and the
lakes' water actually turns over. Salmon often return to the top under the right
conditions and surface techniques can be used again.
Landlocked Salmon spawn in fall New England, and its not unusual to catch some trophy size landlocks which are ready to breed. Often you can
find landlocks near mouths of streams which empty into lakes as early as September waiting
for the annual ritual. Please be conscientious of the future of the fishery and follow
catch and release practices at this time.
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