Sunday, February 24, 2013

Brook Trout ... Lots of em'

February 15.  The date doesn't mean much to most people, but here in Northern Maine that signals "opening day" on a favored locale in these parts.  Tim Cyr, Josh Caron, Nick Pelletier and myself decided we were going to head out to this popular location, Madawaska Lake, for opening day.  Madawaska Lake is one which is stocked annually by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.  They put 1700 brook trout in this year, to supplement the native fish for this heavily pressured lake, so my hopes were high about the action we would see.  The majority of these brookies were 12-13" when they were stocked back in the fall, but 100 of them were brood stock fish which are all over 17".  These fish held special interest among our group as big fish are always nice to hook onto.  We arrived at the bait shop just as it opened to make sure we were on the ice as soon as possible to claim the prime territory.  We arrived in the nick of time, and just finished setting up as trucks started rolling into the landing.  As I was drilling the third hole the first flag went up.  A quick battle revealed a fat 12" trout that had eaten the bait.  A quick clip of the hook and he was back down the hole to swim again.  As we continued setting up, the action became fast and furious and at one point 5 out of our 20 flags stood straight up.  All told, we had over fifty flags and landed over thirty trout between four of us.  That kept the action very steady and we had a lot of fun.  We found time to eat well, with moose meat burgers with bacon and onions made into the patties and bratwursts in between flags.  Most of the fish we caught were in the 12-14 inch category, with 80% of them being stocked fish.

One fish stands out in my mind.

I heard the yell - "FLAG".  As I turned to see where it was, my heart skipped a beat when I saw it was the "camp hole" which meant it was my flag.  I had only taken a couple of steps towards it when "ping" I saw another of my flags rocket upwards signaling other fish had taken the bait.  As I neared the first trap, right beside our "base camp" I noticed the reel wasn't spinning on the tip-up, so I continued right past it to the second flag.  I knelt to grab the line as the reel spun wildly, quickly setting the hook and starting a game of tug-o-war with the finned creature.  It started to come up the hole and just before it was out of the water, it came off the hook and started back down.  Reacting, I dove my arm down into the icy water and managed to grasp the slippery fish and fling him out reach of the hole.  Looking down I realized I was now soaked to the elbow on one arm, but as I looked at the fish I forgot all about it.  It was a beautiful 15" trout that had obviously eaten well as it was very thick.  Shaking myself back to reality from enjoying the fish, I remembered I still had another flag to check.  I ran back to the camp hole which by now had attracted a couple of my fellow fisherman to watch the spectacle unfold.  Pulling the trap from the water, the line was not moving but distinctly angled to one side.  As I increased tension on the line, it suddenly got heavy...real heavy!  I could feel a slight head shake to confirm I had a fish and was not stuck on bottom, so I started pulling the line hand over hand.  Reaching my leader I knew the fish was now close and I peered into the hole as the swivel on the hook slid into view and then a head that seemed to fill the hole.  It started up the hole and I almost had the fish without a struggle, but all of a sudden it came alive and dove back down for its first run.   After seeing the fish that rolled in the hole, Nick Pelletier stripped off his coat and rolled his shirt sleeves to dive in after the behemoth if necessary.  I managed to turn the fish back to the hole and got him pointed up and with a sweeping motion Nick grabbed the fish and flung him to a secure spot.  Still in shock, I stumbled over to the fish and couldn't stop admiring it.  An 18.5" male brook trout that weighed 3lbs. 1oz. was laying in the snow.  His belly was a deep purple, almost black that continued onto his jaws which were very dark in color.  Moving up the sides the deep purple faded into a reddish orange color transitioning up into the silvery dark green speckled sides.  The dorsal fin was centered on his humped back with the tiger stripes very evident on the translucent fin.  Truly a beautiful fish, it was my largest brook trout to date that came through the ice.  Check out the pictures below and a video is on its way!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Shed Hunting Report

The shed hunting season is well under way for this year.  Reports are trickling in of people finding antlers.  I would say most of the bulls should have lost their antlers by now and all you have to do is go pick them up.  Sounds easy right?  Not so much...Currently the average for the "shedders" I talked to is about 100 miles of prime areas covered for every antler find.  This can be greatly increased if you can find areas that haven't already been checked by someone in the last couple weeks, but that is getting harder to find with this hobby increasing in popularity.  The recent weather we have had really dropped the snow pack and any of those buried antlers might start surfacing.  I would think right now if you can get into some ground not already looked at, the pickings would be prime.  One of the largest antlers I have heard about comes from Peter Tabor who noticed three tines sticking up through the snow and as he pulled on them the snow started moving three feet away as he unearthed the 24 pound behemoth!  

Then there are days when it really pays off and you can find 8 antlers in one day!
I would say if you are looking for antlers you had better get out there soon before a snow storm buries whatever is out there.  Good Hunting!  Stay tuned for some more fishing reports and video footage.