Pro photographer, Matt Charette focuses his camera on kayak fishing. His assignments take him far and wide, but his favorite place to fish is at home in Maine. When his homewater in southern Maine becomes crowded, he heads north to the Belgrade Chain.
The best fishing is often found in an overlooked location. When the overlooked location is under your nose, that’s even better. Most tourists flock to Maine’s wild north or rugged coast. Those people miss out on the state’s fishy central counties. Glacial lakes and mountain rivers support a healthy bass population.
The seven lakes of the Belgrade chain are a great place to start. Great Pond and Messalonskee Lake offer deep water and McGrath and Salmon Ponds are smaller and shallower, all are wild and uncrowded.
Find largemouth hiding in milfoil and lilypads or head to one of the rocky islands and search the deep points for trophy smallmouth. Many locations are impossible for motorboats to access. Slide the kayak into a launch too small for a compact car and within a couple paddle strokes, find paradise.
Maine Yak Anglers, a local kayak fishing club, is the best resource for information. Members are knowledgeable and friendly; they can suggest the best rivers and lakes. Check them out at facebook.com/maineyakanglers.
A trip to Maine is not complete without a stop by the original LL Bean in Freeport. The international catalog giant is still the best place to gear up for local fishing. Rent a kayak at Belgrade Canoe and Kayak between Great Lake and Messalonskee Lake. The shop has a variety of boats to address Maine’s many fishing options.
Maine is vacationland, there is always a campground close to the best fishing locations. Let Belgrade Reservation Center provide a cabin or rustic camp. Castle Island Camps is a one-stop vacation spot with great food and cabin rentals right on the water. Public access is often on a quiet back road. Camping at the launch ramp is legal in Maine.
Don’t drive through Portland without stopping by High Roller Lobster Company for an authentic Maine lobster roll. Bonus points for visiting one of Portland’s 20 local breweries. In Belgrade, the Village Inn and Tavern off Main St serves indigenous dishes and native beer. The local watering hole is the best place for fishing information.
Largemouth and smallmouth bass. Smallmouth school up on rocky ledges and boulder fields near islands. Largemouth hang in shallow water waiting to ambush prey.
If you can put up with cooler weather, spring and fall offer the best fishing and most solitude. Ice is off the water by the end of May and fall fishing lasts through October. Summer, the lakes will be crowded. Spring and fall, the weather is finnicky. Bass season runs through ice over, so there are plenty of opportunities to fish in the quieter shoulder season.
Lean on finesse gear. Crystal clear water makes it easy for bass to spot heavy line and bulky presentations. Pack a medium power Shimano Exage spinning rod spooled with 12-pound fluorocarbon for finesse worms and lighter presentations.
To pull jigs and frogs through the pads and grass, use a heavy-power, fast-action Lews Custom Pro with a Lews Hypermag 7.5:1 reel. The go-to stick is a Lews Custom Lite medium-heavy, fast-tip and Hypermag reel. Spool with 30-pound braid and a 15-pound fluorocarbon leader to drag Chatterbaits, spinnerbaits and crankbaits. Start the day with three set-ups: a Texas-rigged Senko, a jig and a Chatterbait.
Choose an easy-to-maneuver, sit-on-top to cover big water and handle changes in the weather. A mid-size, open water boat, like the Vibe Yellowfin 120, will handle open lakes and small streams.
Pedal anglers should pull up the drive in the shallows; giant boulders and thick vegetation hold fish and wreck pedal drives. A fish finder is handy to locate schooling smallmouth in deep water.
Matching the hatch is more important in clear cold water. The local forage is often shiners, rainbow trout, yellow perch and crayfish. White seems to be a good color for skirted baits. Reds and oranges mimic a crayfish bouncing off the rocks.
Try to be on the water as the sun is coming up, early morning feed is the best time to spot schooling smallmouth on the fish finder. Head to the points and rocky ledges, drop a spinnerbait or a lipless crankbait and hold on tight.
Later in the day, move to the grass where largemouth push bait into balls. Throw them an easy target, like a Chatterbait with a paddletail trailer. Towards evening, transition to shallow shelves and throw crawfish imitations, like jigs or crankbaits, for largemouth and smallmouth.
More information: www.maine.gov/ifw/fishing-boating/
Paradise under your nose. | Featured Photo: Matt Charette