Anglers Hooked on Maine Smallmouth Bass
At the northern limit of their spawning territory, in water that would make their southern cousins shiver, the smallmouth bass thrives in Maine lakes, ponds and rivers.
Fishery grows naturally to become one of nation's best.
Smallmouths have been overshadowed by native, iconic Maine species like lake trout and landlocked salmon during their 140-year existence in the state. But, like a hard working supporting actor who finally lands a starring role, smallies have quietly developed a reputation as Maine's favorite sportfish.
The state's bass waters have all the essential ingredients for a strong fishery, according to Regional Fisheries Biologist Rick Jordan of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.
"Maine has many bodies of water with numerous rocks and boulders used by bass for cover, safety, and to ambush prey," says Jordan. "And most Maine bass waters have a lot of good, clean gravel on the bottom, representing ideal spawning habitat."
Smallmouths can now be caught in more than 430 Maine lakes covering nearly half a million acres throughout the state. More than a dozen rivers and streams are also home to the fish which eats very well wherever it resides.
"Bass use aquatic vegetation as a prime feeding location where juvenile sunfish and yellow perch are numerous," says Jordan. "Our lakes have a wide variety of forage items used by bass, ranging from insects, crayfish, leeches, frogs and salamanders, to numerous bait fish."
Lots of happy fish in lots of places make the smallmouth one of the easiest and most fun species for adults and children to hook in Maine. Boating 20 or more fish in a day is common with a guide. Mature adults measure 12 to 18 inches long, and average 2-3 pounds with 4-6 pounders being landed occasionally. The state's largest smallmouth on record is 8 pounds.
A large population means smallmouth waters are also easy to find. Lakes and ponds in the Sebago Lakes region, Rangeley, Greenville, Lincoln, Belgrade, Grand Lake Stream and Houlton regions, and western York County are dependable destinations for anglers.
The portion of the Penobscot River between Old Town and Millinocket and its East Branch are regarded as having the best smallmouth fishery in the northeast. The northern reaches of the Androscoggin and Kennebec Rivers and the Piscataquis River, Sandy River and Sebec River are also popular spots.
Fishing legend Lefty Kreh is a fan of the smallmouth action on Maine rivers.
"I love river smallmouth fishing, and Maine offers it in spades," says Kreh. "The state has some of the best smallmouth bass fishing in our country on lightly fished, pristine rivers."
Fly casting for smallmouths is popular in Maine from a drift boat, canoe, kayak or the shoreline. The fish become active as early as late April and are most sought after during spawning periods from late May through early June. Good action continues into late summer and fall at smaller, shallower bodies of water.
The wide practice of catch and release among Registered Maine Guides, daily bag limits, and minimum length limits help keep prime fish in the water and maintain the health of the smallmouth population. The species has never had a stocking program since being introduced to the state.
The quantity and quality of Maine smallmouths, and the value of a fishing experience draws anglers from across the country.
"Many anglers from southern states tell us that Maine provides some of the best smallmouth bass fishing available anywhere in the United States," says Jordan.
The Web site of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has a wealth of information for anglers visiting Maine. The department's new Maine Fishing Guide Google Earth application allows users to view lake depths, boat launches, sporting camps, fishing shops and guides near their intended destination.
The Maine Professional Guides Association has information on Registered Maine Fishing Guides throughout the state, and the Maine Sporting Camp Association assists visitors with traditional fishing vacations.
For more information about fishing destinations or help planning a trip to Maine, call 1-888-956-2463 or log on to http://www.visitmaine.com