The lake brings me peace and normalcy!

“A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.”  ~ Henry David Thoreau  

How lucky are we to live and play in such a beautiful place?  Not a day goes by that I’m not struck by the beauty of our watershed and especially our prize possession, Messalonskee Lake.  Personally, the lake is a ceaseless reminder of all that’s good, healthy, and normal in the world and that’s very refreshing during this challenging time.  These times are also a reminder of just how fragile we all are and how important it is to protect ourselves and our lakes and lands for future explorers to enjoy.  

The month of March was full of unknowns and compromises, which in turn questioned our priorities and created some confusion about day-to-day life.  Then the ice went out on April 3 and almost immediately there were loons on the lake.  On the evening of April 4, we could hear loons wailing to each other from the Music Camp to Hammond Lumber.  I don’t think there’s ever been a year when their calls were more appreciated than 2020.  The loons always show up right after ice-out – that’s what they do – and this year they provided a sense of peace and normalcy that was just what we all needed!

It wasn’t long after the ice went out and the loons showed up that folks started putting in their docks and the boat launches opened up.   Suddenly people were fishing and kayaking – I even saw someone waterskiing on April 8 … burr!  But that’s normal activity for them.  So just like the loons and the waterskier, let’s all do what we can to enjoy springtime in Maine and cherish the role our watershed plays in our lives.  

Looking ahead, I was thinking about all our friends from out of state who come visit during the summer months.  This year some of them might not be able to make the trip, but you know who will?  The Black Terns!  Once again, Mother Nature will provide consistency and the Black Terns will arrive to nest and mate in the beautiful Sidney grasses of Messalonskee Lake.  Did you know that the 1300-acre Messalonskee Lake Marsh is the largest breeding habitat for Black Terns in Maine?  And, if you are lucky you might spot Sand Hill Cranes and the endangered Least Bittern hiding in the cat-tails.  So I guess Thoreau was right, the closer we look, the more we see, and there’s a LOT to see right here on Messalonskee.  

Thoughts on early spring fishing

As the water temps push 50-degrees on the surface, smallmouth bass are starting to move from their deepwater winter haunts to pre-spawn locations anywhere from 5-feet around rock piles to 15-feet off ledges and points.
These fish will start feeding aggressively in preparation for spawning season next month, but they are still a little sluggish this time of year.   A great way to cover ground and catch them is by slowly twitching stick baits like an original floating Rapala around structure until you find where they are staging.  When the water is this cold, fishing it slowly with a sporadic twitching motion seems to draw the most strikes.   On Saturday I found a pile of smallmouth on a rockpile.  There had to be about 20 of them and they all looked the same.  I caught 4 on 4 consecutive casts using a copper/black Rapala before they caught on and it took about 10 casts to catch 3 more.  But they wanted that bait presented very slow.  I could see them swimming around it and nudging the bait before striking.  Once again, I wish I had my Go-Pro with me, but of course, I didn’t.
Northern Pike are shallow right now too and they are hovering around the mouths of streams and around channels where there’s moving water.  If you can find an old weed bed near a channel or stream, so much the better.  Pike are a lot like smallmouth this time of year – so fish slow.  It’s a great time for fly fishermen to target northern pike using big 3/0 deceivers and clousers or “bunny flies” in red/white, chartreuse/black, or black leach patterns.  For conventional tackle, give large husky jerks or 6-inch plastic swimbaits a try along with traditional red/white spoons.  I love using Williams Lures for pike.  The Trophy I is a heavy lure that gets down there and fishes slow and the 4-inch Warbler is an awesome lure that has a LOT of action.  You can fish it almost at a standstill and it still “warbles”. 
The quality of the lures is as good as it gets.  A good tip for fishing the weedless Johnson Silver Minnow (another classic spoon) is to run a plastic curly tail grub off the back – it adds amazing action to the lure, makes it easy to change colors, and definitely helps catch more pike.

Spring Northern Pike Fishing

As I sit here writing today, I’m watching the rain fall and the wind blow outside my office window. While it’s a dreary day outside, this type of weather does help speed up the ice out process! Yes, we are still frozen here in the Belgrade Lakes Region, but there are signs of spring here and there. Once the snow melts and the lakes clear, spring northern pike fishing will be upon us – and I can wait!

Here is a great article written by Matt Marindeino of RiverSearch.com.    This general resource guide is informative and will help get your blood pumping for the upcoming season!

How to Catch Pike – Fishing Tips

Pike, also known as northern pike or notherns, is a popular fish to catch in northern parts of the world. They are commonly fished across the upper midwest & northeast United States and parts of Canada. Northern pike are known to go large in size, which makes them great for those fishing giant trophy-sized fish. They are one of the largest game fish you can catch in North America.

If you’re fishing for pike, we created this guide for you. Here we will cover how to identify northerns, where to catch them, the equipment you will need to catch them and give you a few bonus tips to help you catch more pike.

Northern Pike Identification

Northerns have a long somewhat torpedo-shaped body. They are generally muscular and have green colored tops and sides with a lighter colored bottom side. They have large mouths with duck-shaped snouts and are known to be quite slimy..

 

 

The average pike that you will catch in North America will weigh between 2 to 5 pounds. Though on a good day you may catch ones that weigh upwards of 15 pounds. European pike tend to grow larger than the fish in North America. The world record pike weighed a massive 55lbs.

Where to Catch Pike
Pike are found in slower-moving streams and shallow weedy lakes, reservoirs, and ponds. They can also be fished in rocky areas with cold and clear water. They like aquatic vegetation and prefer to stay in water around 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Northern pike are an ambush predator. Look for them near weed beds and rocky areas with structure where they will be waiting to ambush their food. Most often you will find them in 2 to 15 feet of water.

What Do Pike Eat?
Pike aren’t very picky when it comes to eating. They mostly feed on smaller fish in the waters they inhabit. They commonly eat perch, sucker, and other smaller fish but will also eat frogs and any other creatures they can get their mouths on.

Seasonal Patterns
Fall
When the temperature starts to cool aquatic vegetation will start to turn brown and die. As the vegetation dies, it becomes a less likely spot for smaller baitfish, which means pike won’t be hunting there. The key to finding pike is finding spots where the vegetation stays green and healthy into the colder months. Some patches of water are directly in the sun, so they stay healthier longer.

You can also use a fish finder to search for fish activity near weeds, rocks, and ledges. If you can find baitfish in shallow water near structure where pike can wait to ambush, there is a good chance of hungry pike nearby.

Winter
Ice fishing for pike can be very productive if you have a little bit of knowledge about the lake you are fishing in. Depending on the area, pike can be found in almost any section of the water column. That is why some anglers will throw in as many lines as they are allowed at various depths when fishing winter northerns.

But you can greatly increase your success if you understand what the pike are feeding on in the water you are fishing. If the lake you are fishing has a lot of whitefish or tubilee, then you should be fishing open water areas for pike, because this is where they will be feeding at. If you are fishing a lake where the pike are feeding suckers or crappies, then fish deep weed beds and shoreline breaks.

The key is to find the forage, you find the fish. It’s true for most species, and definitely holds true for pike.

Spring
In early spring your best chance is to look for bays that warm quicker than the surrounding water. Pike feeding activity tends to increase when the temperature reaches between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. By mid-spring when the waters are teeming with life you can find pike near their usual hangouts. Aquatic vegetation is your best bet, so look near the weeds.

Summer
When temperatures reach 70 degrees F in the shallows the pike will move into deeper waters where it stays cooler. Fish for them in waters ranging from 30 to 50 feet in depth where they will be escaping the heat. Look for rocky points and deep basins that are teeming with smaller baitfish. Trolling with crankbaits will be your most productive method for fishing large pike in the deep.

Best Time to Catch Pike
Pike are most actively feeding when the water temperature reaches around 65 degrees F. Early mornings to mid-mornings are the best, but about 1 hour after the sunsets you can also have a productive day.

Pike Fishing Equipment
Rods and Reels
A fishing rod around 7 feet in length with a medium-heavy action is a good baseline for pike fishing. Usually, you will be throwing heavier tackle, so you need a rod that can handle this. You can also opt for a heavy action rod if you know you are after huge fish and will be throwing heavy baits.

For pike fishing, you can use either a spinning rod or a baitcaster depending on what your preference is. Spinning rods are easier to use and work well for a variety of situations. Baitcasting rods and reels give you more control over casting distance and accuracy, and usually, generate more drag which can help you pull your lures out of the water much quicker.

Baits and Lures
Spoons
The wobble and flash of a good spoon lure can be irresistible to hungry pike. These lures have been used by anglers to slay pike for years and years because they work. Use one around 4 to 5 inches in size. Typically slower retrieves work best. Pause and allow the lure to flutter and wobble to get the pike to follow.

Spinnerbaits
A spinnerbait can also be irresistible to pike in shallower waters. They work well even when the pike are in cover near weeds because most have a weedless design. Many anglers use large bass spinners for their pike fishing. Try chartreuse or white-colored spinners to get the most bites.

Topwaters
If you’re really after a thrill, try throwing topwater to catch your monster pike. Toss walk the dog topwater in the shallows near weed beds and rocks where the pike may be lurking. Slower retrieves tend to work best.

Jerkbaits
Jerkbaits can be another powerful lure option that you might want to include in your pike arsenal. Try to keep your bait suspended in the water column just above the level of the fish.

Crankbaits
If you’re after a larger pike, trolling deeper waters with a crankbait is probably your best option. These tend to work well in summer when the larger pike head to waters 30 to 50 feet deep to escape the heat.

Baitfish
You can use most smaller fish to catch pike, but what will work best is the fish they already used to eating in the waters you are fishing. Sucker, small whitefish, perch, and other baitfish tend to work well.

Fishing Line
You can use both monofilament or braided line for pike fishing. If you go with mono try to have at least a twenty-pound test line. For braided use a fifty-pound test. No matter which you choose, you need to have a leader. Wire leader or fluorocarbon will work fine, just make sure if you are using fluorocarbon it is at least an 30-pound test line. 12 to 18 inches of leader should get the job done.

Hooks
Treble hooks are popular because they do a good job of hooking and holding the pike. Use a treble hook around 2/0 or 3/0 in size.

Tips on Catching Pike
Fish the Weeds
Pike tend to stay near aquatic vegetation so fishing near shallow weedy areas with a lot of smaller fish for them to feed on is your best bet. If it has a lot of aquatic vegetation, is in shallower waters, and is teeming with baitfish, there’s a good chance you’re gonna land pike.

Use a Leader
As we discussed earlier, you will definitely want to use a wire or fluorocarbon leader for pike fishing. They have very sharp teeth and are known to cut through lines pretty easily. 12 to 18 inches is all you really need.

Bright Colors
Pike are sight feeders so using brighter lures like white, orange, and chartreuse will make your lure standout in the waters better. Using larger and brighter tackle will help the pike see your presentation from further away and they will be more likely to give chase.

This article can be read in its entirety here:
How to Catch Pike

Beautiful Belgrades

Fishing and Recreating in the Belgrade Lakes Region

The Belgrade Lakes chain is comprised of seven very different and distinct waters, each with their own sense of peace and ambiance — East Pond (1823 acres), North Pond (2115 acres), Great Pond (8239), McGrath Pond (486 acres), Salmon Lake (562 acres), Long Pond (2714 acres) and Messalonskee Lake (3510).  All of the lakes have public boat launches providing easy access with the exception of McGrath, which is accessible via the Salmon Lake launch. There are also a number of streams and backwaters popular with fishermen including the Belgrade Stream which connects Long Pond to Messalonskee, Mill Stream which connects Great Pond to Long Pond and Ingham Stream & Pond, a backwater offshoot of Long Pond.

The Belgrade’s have a long and fabled angling history going back to the mid-1800s when the Maine Central Railroad added a stop in Belgrade Depot.  As the access to the region became easier, more sporting camps were built on the lakes and they quickly became a popular destination for fishermen. Back then, the Belgrade’s were famous for their landlocked salmon and brook trout.  Anglers stayed in rustic and remote camps, fished with Maine Guides who were often of Abenaki descent, and enjoyed traditional shore lunches of trout, fried potatoes, and beans. To this day the Belgrade’s are still a popular destination for trout & salmon anglers.  Most of the lakes hold good populations of brown trout and brook trout along with rainbow trout in Long Pond and Splake in Messalonskee (a splake is a cross between a lake trout and brook trout). Over the past 20+ years, smallmouth & largemouth bass have dominated the fishing scene.  The fish thrive in the clear, clean water and gorge themselves on a healthy population of crawfish and baitfish. The Belgrade’s are so popular with bass fishermen that Major League Fishing has held two professional tournaments here in the last 4 years.

The Belgrade’s have seen much change over the last 150-years, but much has stayed the same, too. Travelers and locals alike still enjoy the tranquil quality of life and often fall asleep to the lonely call of the loon.  Sporting camps and summer camps continue to dot the shorelines where laughter and the sounds of splashing kids fill the air. And of course, the Belgrade’s still draw anglers from all over the world and offer a chance to catch the fish of a lifetime.

Spring Fishing Update

It’s a celebration day!  When we first put the boat in the water at 6:30 a.m. the surface temperature was 58 but it rose up over 60-degrees and held onto that temp during the day.   It’s the first time this year we held onto slightly warmer water.  I’m not going swimming yet, but after this long, cold and wet spring it was comforting to know there’s hope for a summer.

The pike fishing was a little odd today but the smallmouth fishing more than made up for it.  The guys caught some pike but they were small ones and the bigger fish that followed didn’t want to cooperate.  The pike caught were on swimbaits and hard stick baits and the bass were on plastic worms rigged both wacky and Texas along with some jigs and Ned Rigs.  Oddly enough, we only caught one fish in the morning on topwater.    Lots of bass on their beds, although we tried to leave them along for the most part.

I’ve been trolling the Belgrade’s a few evenings this week and the trout are active.  Rainbows in Long Pond, browns in Great Pond and splake in Snow Pond have all been hitting on Mooseleuk Wobblers and DB Smelts.  The next few weeks should be some of the best fishing of the year.