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Maine Landlocked tomsalm.gif (18137 bytes)
Salmon Fishing

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 salmon.

Salmon Tips Top  

   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 lowerecholake.gif (9376 bytes) 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 salmon).
  • 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 wake.
  • 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 often.
  • 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 hooks.
  • 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 dawn.
Spring Salmon Fishing Top  

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 Top  

  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 lakes.

   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.

Fall Salmon Fishing Top  

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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