Skunked Again: Moosehead Mania
Moosehead, Maine's largest lake, is a spot that is hard to stay away from. I had some success fishing there a couple months ago with my friend, Matt, but one visit during the summer just isn't enough, so this past weekend I took Kim on what would turn out to be a beautiful adventure into the Maine woods. Moosehead in particular is a great place to visit if you are an outdoor enthusiast, curious about Native American history, or simply a passionate fisherman—I just so happen to be all three.
If you do plan on traveling to Moosehead, make sure to check the forecast for wind. A bit of a breeze can go a long way on a lake, making it very difficult to navigate, let alone fish, out on the water. Before departing I looked up the weather and confirmed “calm winds” were expected—game on!
Kimmy and I packed the truck and Princecraft boat early Friday morning and set out for Lily Bay, which is located about 10 miles up the eastern side of the lake. Despite a $3/day/person fee to launch your boat and keep the truck parked in their resort, it is an extremely convenient vantage point onto the lake, particularly close to the spot we were destined for: Sugar Island.
True enough, the wind on Friday was extremely mild; once we were all launched, waves of clear but tranquil waters lapped lightly against the side of the boat and continued on with little effect. There were people all around us, mostly giant party barges that steamed by, (generally with only two people on them!); everywhere people were fishing, tubing, relaxing, and even a little skinny dipping!
Kimmy and I could tell that it was too late to turn back, and our safest bet was to blend in to the surrounding Moosehead madness.
Fishing was fairly slow, and it didn't help when my deep-cycle battery decided to quit on me, leaving the electronics in my boat useless. Without the fish finder I was not only unable to see where the fish were in general, but how deep they were—two useful pieces of information when trolling a big lake. However, with a little patience and a few beverages to break up the time, I soon got a tug on my leadline that was four colors out and trolling a flash king. After playing it for a short while and bringing it up to the boat, we observed a healthy landlocked salmon, approximately 17 inches long. Kim was able to snap a photo before I released it back into the water.
That night we stayed at a campsite called Pebble Beach, a beautiful spot located within a tiny cove on the eastern side of Sugar Island. The site was true to its name, offering a 20 yard stretch of mostly smooth stones (and a little “sea-glass,” Kim was quick to find out). The beach was nice for swimming, but it also accommodated a boat easily, providing a serious drop off not too far from shore. Two picnic tables were at the site, one down by the beach and the other up near the fire pit. The only thing the area lacked was a good spot to put a tent. Kim and I were able make it work with our 3-4-person tent, but anything larger: no way.
We went fishing early the next morning in order to build up a solid appetite for what I like to call a “Coleman platter” of cornbeef hash and eggs, with a side of buttered sub rolls. After we ate, we used digestion as an excuse to lounge around the campsite, but eventually we gathered the motivation to take the boat onto the lake in order to collect some driftwood we saw baking in the sun on a beach further along the island.
It wasn't until we had the boat filled to the brim with wood, and 50 yards from shore, that the motor decided to quit on me. Conveniently, it wasn't rough out, but a calm Moosehead is like a “little rough” any other lake, and we found ourselves steadily being pushed away from our campsite. However, it was hardly five minutes of Kim paddling like a crazy woman at the bow of the boat, and me sitting in the captain's chair trying to think of what could be wrong, before two fellow fisherman on their way through stopped and offered a tow back to the campsite. Though I thought we had it pretty well under control, we took the five-minute tow back to camp.
“'Barrassin!” My father would say.
Back at the campsite, stranded, (but with a boat full of dry wood!), we were able to keep the mood high while building a nice fire to cook some ol' fashion s'mores.
The next morning I promptly began working on the motor. After cleaning the spark plugs four times in succession I was finally able to get the 25 Merc roaring back to life. Kim would later tell me that, despite having to work early the next morning, she was a little disappointed not to have the extra couple days on the island.
It was too windy that Sunday to be fishing in my 16-footer, so the two of us made ourselves content with another Coleman platter, some cribbage, and rock skipping contests. When we eventually packed up later that afternoon, a couple fellas we met early, Bob and Ruege, swung by on their party-barge in order to check on our motor situation, showing sincere Moosehead hospitality. The two of them, and the group they came up with, have been going to Moosehead for the past 30 years as an annual tradition. Since the motor was all fixed, and they were on their way to pick up more gear from the same boat launch, we agreed to follow behind them as they cruised back. Never has riding upwind on a choppy Moosehead lake been easier!
The Moosehead region is special to us Mainers because the area has so much to enjoy. Next on my to-do list there is to climb Mt. Kineo in order to get a closer look at the perilous cliffs it proudly displays. We could see the mountain while we fished that weekend, though next time I won't be so hesitant to drop the fishing pole and to pull on some hiking boots instead!
Happy fishin' everyone.