Monday, March 5, 2012

March Ice Fishing

March is undoubtedly one of the best times to ice fish as far as the weather goes, and last week that was clearly evidenced by our day on the ice.  I managed to get a sunburn in March!  We planned a long overdue fishing trip last week to coincide with my sister-in-law Amelia and her boyfriend Brent being home from college.  We were very fortunate that the weather was sunny and the wind was minimal.  To top it off we caught fish!  Brent and I arrived at the lake and there was not another person visible on the white expanse.  We quickly found what I think discouraged most of the would-be anglers when we stepped on the lake and went almost to our knees in a slush/snow mix.  Slogging out to our desired location proved to be no small feat, but we quickly got an area packed down and formed our "base camp".  From there we spread out and drilled our holes.  We hadn't waited long before a flag signaled that the fish were there!  My wife Heather and sister-in-law Amelia showed up a little later and braved the slush with us.  We had a great day landing 9 brook trout with two of them topping the 14" mark, the rest ranging from 9-12 inches.  We released most of them, but were able to catch our limit of two trout each for Brent and I.  This was the first day I have limited out this year ice fishing, and in quite a few years to be honest!

Lake Empty of Anglers

"Base Camp"
Tidy Cats Buckets Work Great for Bait
Baiting Up
Setting the "Flags"
Battling the Slush

Flag! - The Beloved Exclamation

Small Trout in the Hole
Brent Pulling in a Trout

Brent With His Limit
Heather Fighting Slush Back to Base Camp
A Nice 14 Inch "Brookie"

My Limit
Heather and I
Brent and Amelia
Both Limits

The Invasive Threat of Northern Maine

There has been a rumor flying around Fort Kent lately about a muskellunge (Musky or Muskie) being caught in Eagle Lake (the one in the Fish River Chain).  This is not the first of such a story to come out; in fact I have heard of a couple of others in the last couple of years.  Everyone has their own speculation on their origin and I have heard every kind of idea from they swam over the Fish River Falls during the flood of 2008 to someone stocked them illegally.  I have listened to all of these ideas and read countless biologists reports and in turn have formulated yet another idea to put into the countless theories out there.  In the following I am not trying to upset anyone or flat out tell them they are wrong because in all actuality no one knows.  I am just trying to encourage people to think about another possible scenario.  For anyone who has ever hiked the short trail down to the popular Fish River Falls you may have noticed that below the falls is a nice deep hole cut into the river.  It would stand to reason that there are years when a musky would over winter in this nice deep hole.  In the spring of the year, after ice out, this musky would then make an attempt to spawn.  In this attempt, a musky could (in my own opinion) swim up and over the falls on years with sufficient flow and continue it's search for a suitable spawning area.  It would cruise through the Fish River and Soldier Pond areas, without finding a mate and continue it's journey to Eagle Lake.  Without a sufficient population of musky to breed, this fish would resign itself that the spawn is over, and would enjoy this new found location without need to defend a home range from other musky.  Content with a well-stocked food supply, and no fishing pressure, this fish would have the ability to grow to a large size.  Again this is a just another possible scenario, but I want to touch on a couple of other factors that in my mind weigh against the other arguments.  If this was a typical spread of invasive species, people should be seeing all age classes of fish, and one would think that you should see more of the younger fish, since they typically make up the majority of a fish population.  The only reports that I have heard of, were of very large fish estimated to be over 20 pounds, which goes against the traditional thinking of seeing the younger fish first.  Another popular belief is that someone illegally stocked the fish.  When it comes to that argument, I would like to remind people that in order for a fish to reach the reported sizes of 20+ pounds this has to be a fairly old fish most likely over 8-10 years of age.  Transporting a fish of that size would be extremely difficult, considering you would have to keep the fish healthy enough to release after getting to a desired location.  A smaller fish would be much easier to transport, but would have had to be released over 7 years ago to even have a chance at reaching the 25+ pound fish that was last reported.  As far as the statement issued by the State of Maine that musky couldn't possibly navigate over the falls early in the year because their metabolism is too slow, I would encourage people to think about when they hook a musky in that early spring fishing.  My experience has been that they fight valiantly for the first few minutes and then tire rapidly.  In those first few minutes after hooking a fish, the acrobatic displays and hard pulling they put forth, in my mind could easily navigate the couple hundred yard stretch of "rough water" at the falls.  Again, my only objective for this post was to get people thinking.  I am an avid musky fisherman, but I also greatly enjoy ice out fishing for togue on Eagle Lake or chasing "brookies" on Square Lake, as well as my hardwater excursions after the giant landlocks of Long Lake, so I don't feel that I am overly biased one way or the other.  Another thought, does anything in nature ever stay the same forever?
Small Musky - Traditional Thinking These Should Show Up First?