We are gearing up for this year’s ice fishing season and I can’t wait. As you may know, our family moved to Bar Harbor this past Fall, and I’ve been having fun exploring the new area and learning as much as I can about the surrounding lands. It is beautiful here on Mount Desert Island, and Acadia National Park is truly amazing. But I’ve found another playground just off the island! There is so much land and woods and waters to explore within a half- hour drive of my home. It’s difficult to pick a desintation to explore because they all look so good.
So for this winter, we’ll be running our usual Ice Fishing trips in the Belgrade Lakes region. I’ll open our cottage on Messalonskee Lake (which is for sale by the way) in January and will keep it open into March.
We still have a few openings for rentals and/or guide services, especially for weekdays in February.
We also work closely with my good friends at Belgrade 4-Season Cottages and we have my in-laws Belgrade Stream Cottage for rent this winter too. So lodging shouldn’t be a problem, however setting your dates early is recommended.
Saying goodbye to both the “Summertime in the Belgrades” and guiding/living here for 20 years is very difficult, but change is good for a human and this is going to be a huge change! While I’m looking forward to exploring the Bar Harbor/Acadia National Park area with my family and experiencing all its beauty, leaving such a wonderful place as the Belgrades is not easy. How do you say goodbye to your home? There’s so much to cherish here: the people, the lakes, the fishing, the hunting, the hiking … it’s a dreamland … its home. Personally I’ll miss the people most. When you do what I do, you make lifelong friends; people you care about even if you only see them once or twice a year. Guides find themselves looking forward to seeing their “sports” when they visit for vacation, and I’m going to miss all my friends very, very much.
Rather than being sad and melancholy, I’d rather say goodbye with a smile on my face and keep the memories that will forever be burned into my mental CD. The best part has been watching youngsters grow up from year to year and seeing them go from “duffer” fishermen to expert casters and fish catching machines! So many examples but one that really sticks into my mind is Andrew Volkers who comes up and stays at Whisperwood Lodge with his dad Russ. These guys are icons at Whisperwood and I’m privileged to be their friend. The first time Andrew and I fished together he was only 13 and just learning modern fishing methods. Now he’s a grown man and out-fishes just about everyone with precision casting and a knack for catching the big one. Fishing is in his blood and it’s been a joy watching him develop into an expert! We got to fish this past week for largemouth and some northern pike. The bite was really good, and he actually caught big largemouth, smallmouth, northern pike and pickerel all in the same day. That’s what the Belgrades offer to anglers, a smorgasbord of fish and a chance at a trophy around every turn. We caught some fish on live bait and some on spinner baits and swim baits too. Russ caught a big largemouth on a 6 inch Senko rigged Texas Style. During the heat of the summer, larger baits seem to work better for big fish. The largemouth don’t want to expend energy unless there’s a meal worth eating – you know the old saying … big bait = big fish.
A few years ago my friend and fellow Belgrader Dr. George Spann was retiring as President of Thomas College (my alma mater). George and I are friends and can talk candidly about any topic. When he was giving his goodbye speech at TC, just before they dedicated a building to him and his wife, George said goodbye but didn’t say thank you to any specific people. There were just too many to thank and the fear of leaving someone out is horrifying. I couldn’t agree more, so in my last article, I leave my friends with this personal thought:
Thank you all so much for making my time in Belgrades so special and memorable. The Belgrade Lakes are an amazing place that can change a person, make them understand how extraordinary their surroundings are. Loons, fish, deer and eagles are only part of the scene. Watching the pollen blow off the pines in the springtime or the lupine bloom in the fields is only part of the beauty. Thunderstorms rolling across the lake or two-foot blizzards are only part of the power. What I will never forget are the people who make the Lakes Region tick. You are the true beauty and I thank you so very much for all the memories. Please, everyone, take care of our lakes. They are so precious and special. I wish you all tight lines, big smiles and everlasting memories. Good Luck this week.
There is something special about fishing with true friends; real people that you know, love and trust. As I realize that my time here in the Belgrades is slowly coming to an end (we are moving away this fall), I realize how much I cherish my friends here and the fishing opportunities in the area. Suddenly I enjoy every eagle, every osprey, and every fish much more. Sunsets are clearer and more vibrant and the smell of the water gets sweeter each day. Well, this past week I had the privilege to fish with a real friend and a legend in the area – someone who I’ve come to know and thank my luck stars to have met. If it wasn’t for the beauty of the Belgrades and the love of fishing, our paths would never have crossed. It may sound corny, but the luxury of my job is to meet some wonderful people from all over the world and Dick Dempster is certainly at the top of the list.
Perhaps the title of this article should read: “Fishing Creates Friendship” or better yet, “Fishing Friends Fish Forever”. Either way, my friend and his son-in-law Gentry went fishing last week. It was a full moon that brought a cold front and a breezy day, so I was concerned the bite would be off. Well those excuses came true because the fish were being stinkers, but we managed to find a few smallies and some pike on the deep edges of weed beds. We caught the fish on live bait and tube jigs, and we were happy to get the bites we got. After about an hour we decided to move into some back waters where there was current and lots of structure. It was technical fishing and the casting target was really small, but we managed to get the right casts into the right areas and caught some big fish. Sometimes it’s better to catch a few big fish rather than catch a bunch of smaller ones.
Boat position is key when fishing technical waters, and we managed to position just right in front a fallen tree. After the boat was set up, my friend Dempster told me that he thought the fish would be on the leeward side of a fallen tree. I positioned the boat and chucked a shiner into the spot he had called. It wasn’t more than 10 seconds and he landed a HUGE largemouth. High Fives and the clicking of cameras followed, but the best part was a few seconds of silence when we all realized how special the moment was. Three friends brought together by the love of fishing had just shared in the sweet success of the catch. A few minutes later the big female was released and we all went back to fishing. Silence ensued for a while, but the memory of that fish, and that moment will be burned in my mental CD for the rest of my life.
Welcome back to another fun filled year of playing in the Belgrade Lakes Region. As I sit here typing away, my mind is full of daydreams and wonders what adventures are in store this summer. I wonder what giant fish will be caught this year and by whom. It’s always hard to predict but brown trout is definitely a species that will produce a few monsters this summer, and of course there will be lots of giant pike caught too. I wonder if the state record pike will be caught this year. It’s certainly possible someone will catch one bigger than the current 31.2 pound record. That record has stood since 1998. Rumor has it that the black crappie record was broken this past winter on one of the Belgrade Lakes. That’s not surprising because crappie numbers are exploding along with white and yellow perch. The ice fishing for white perch this winter was the best we’ve ever experienced, so get the chowder pots ready because the perch fishing is going to be awesome this spring.
Wild turkeys and smallmouth bass have been dominating the local outdoor scene during the last few weeks. Turkey hunters have reported seeing birds on a daily basis and the birds are decoying and coming to call with regularity. As the season winds down (the last day is June 1), hunters will see more bachelor groups of mature Toms together. The later part of the season can be difficult because the birds are educated, but this is a great time of year to find the biggest Toms. On one of our successful hunts this spring, Darrell had four jakes come into our decoy spread. I was doing the calling and he was set up in a blind overlooking the back end of a field. I called the birds into the decoys, but Darrell couldn’t shoot because the birds were so close together. They put on quite a show, gobbling like crazy and fighting with the decoy and each other. Finally they separated enough and one shot later it was time to fire up the grill. Darrell was fortunate this year because he got two birds on back to back trips. The State of Maine allows hunters to purchase a bonus turkey tag so you can take two male birds in the spring.
In addition to the sweet sound of gobbling birds and falling asleep to a chorus of singing peepers, there’s one more sure sign of spring – bedded smallmouth bass! The smallies started making their nests about 3 weeks ago, which is a little bit earlier than usual. The water warmed up quickly because we had very little rain in late April and early May. It’s so much fun watching the bass work their nests and protect them from predators like bluegills and crayfish. We’ve been catching quite a few female bass off the deeper sides of the beds and for the most part we try and leave the bedded fish alone (although it’s hard to pass up sight fishing for bedded smallies). One fun way to catch bedded fish is on a fly rod rigged with a small popper. Because this is visual fishing, it’s great practice for a beginner and a fun way to shake off the winter rust for avid fly casters. During this time of year, it’s vital that anglers diligently practice catch and release and put the bass back on their beds to protect the future of the fishery. This is a stressful time of year for the bass and they need us to be as gentle as possible. It’s important that we try not to drop the fish on the deck of the boat and try to avoid “over-fighting” the fish. Have fun catching them, but try and get them back into the water in a timely manner so the fish doesn’t get too stressed out.
As another season begins, don’t forget to send in your photos and I’ll try and get them in the paper. We all love seeing those big fish! I’m really hoping to find some time to perch fish this week. I have a craving for a fish fry! Tight lines.
May has to be my favorite month in Maine, although I do love the fall too! For anyone that enjoys the outdoors, May has something for everyone. Activities range from hunting wild turkeys and coyotes to fly fishing for brook trout to lake fishing for monster pike, bass and crappie. There’s so much to do that I often become sleep deprived!
This past week was the opening of wild turkey season. It started with a “bang” when Darrell shot a nice bird at 5:40 in the morning! That turkey put on quite a show and will be delicious on the plate too. Since then it’s been bow hunting for turkeys and fishing for smallies. Oh, and the weather has been absolutely fabulous. We actually could use a little rain because the lake water is starting to warm up too fast. Although I won’t be complaining this Saturday when I put the docks in. Usually I already have them in by now, but I’m a bit behind schedule because of all the turkey hunting. Speaking of turkey hunting, my friend Dr. Whitney King put an arrow in a turkey this morning. We had birds all around us so it was just a matter of time. He really is a great shot with his bow.
A quick story – this morning after Whitney shot his bird, I took a walk down an old snowmobile trail. The trail is surrounded by alder trees and wouldn’t you know – I stepped on a woodcock. I didn’t hurt the bird, but she darn near flew up my pant leg, and I let a little scream of surprise and shock when she took flight. Those little buggers are like mini-helicopters when they take off! Not to mention they are perfectly camouflaged, so you never see them until it’s too late. Just seeing them nesting makes me realize that spring is here.
One last nugget – the fiddleheads are just starting to come out right now. A little rain would help, but they seem to love this extra sunshine. My kids and I will be picking them this week – can’t wait!!