The following is a guest post by Kale O’Leary of Soldier Pond, Maine. Kale is an environmental studies student at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, seasonal ranger on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, and contract worker for MDIF&W’s Fisheries Division.
For most of us, the month of October means the beginning of fall, and the start of our hunting season here in Maine. Fly rods find a safe place in our garages in exchange for our trusty shotguns. Many of us overlook fishing opportunities that are still present for Aroostook County anglers, and perhaps no better opportunity exists for landlocked salmon fishing as the famous Fish River.
For years, the Fish River has been known for producing quality sport fishing for wild brook trout and salmon, with some fish reaching great size. The river is fed by a chain of lakes renowned for quality sport fishing, including Long, Square and Eagle lakes, furthering the lure and aura around the river’s fishery.
Below Eagle Lake, the Fish River winds several miles before dropping over the Fish River Falls, a natural barrier which, so far, has seemed to keep invasive species such as muskellunge and smallmouth bass from advancing into these pristine headwater lakes. It is from the falls down to the confluence of the Fish River and the St. John River that changes to the fishing regulations have been put in place to benefit anglers looking for more opportunities after the “normal” September 30th end of the season.
Below the Fish River Falls, the river continues with many sharp bends, deep pools, and swift water that historically held a healthy population of salmon, which has been severely impacted by competition and predation from muskies and bass. Some salmon still return to the lower river to spawn each fall, but their offspring typically do not survive due to these invasive species. The regulation changes put in place this year, combined with the presence of these salmon and a yearly stocking program of 12+ inch hatchery salmon, give anglers the opportunity to fish this stretch of the Fish River year-round, including during prime fall salmon fishing. Already we have caught several nice landlocked salmon in this stretch of river, and the fishing seems to be just heating up!
Over the last several weeks we have routinely been fishing on the picturesque lower Fish River with good success. We have caught several of the fall yearling hatchery salmon, along with wild fish which are not year round residents of the lower river, but move in temporarily during spawning season. We have found success with various styles of fishing. Everything from Grey Ghosts, Pink Magog, and Joe’s Smelt streamers to a small Rapala casting smelt imitation have been used with success.
Access points to the lower Fish River are quite numerous. A well-marked, hiking trail on the east side of the river will bring you to the Fish River Falls. This can be reached from the Strip Road, just outside of Fort Kent. The trailhead begins on the Airport Road. Other access includes the public boat launch at Riverside Park, where the mouth of the Fish River can be accessed by a short walk. The river can also be reached at the historic Blockhouse in downtown Fort Kent, and Crocker Beach, which can be accessed from the University of Maine at Fort Kent parking lot. A good pair of high boots or waders are optimal for wading into the river to access deeper water. Remember to seek permission from landowners before accessing private land.
Fishing below the Fish River Falls to the confluence of the St. John River continues from October 1st through March 31st. Fishing regulations are artificial lures only, catch and release. Don’t forget that although muskies and bass are not native to this beautiful stretch of river, they are present and do provide another exciting fishery here. For more laws and regulations, please be sure and check a current 2014 Inland Fisheries and Wildlife law book.