Just a breath of breeze riffled the water’s surface as I slid my canoe into the pond. It was 65 degrees and the sun reflected and sparkled from the waterway onto the kaleidoscope color of bankside trees. Along the opposite shoreline I could see ducks and geese tipping and dipping to feed in the shallows, not yet aware of my presence. It was the third week of October, a perfect Indian summer day and prime time for waterfowl hunting.
My weapon of choice on that particular outing wasn’t a shotgun, as might be expected, but a 3-weight, 8-foot fly rod with a medium arbor reel loaded with a sinking tip fly line. Most sportsmen are heavily committed to some variety of big or small game gunning or upland birds or waterfowl during October and November, completely ignoring late-season fishing options. A couple of decades ago, many autumn angling opportunities didn’t even exist, and a lot of outdoor enthusiasts don’t realize their current availability.
Many waterways are open to fishing until freeze-up slams the door, so to speak, but are under strict guidelines. Most waterways are artificial lures only (ALO), a few are fly fishing only (FFO), and of course, catch and release is mandated for most species of game fish. Fishing pressure is light since most sports are afield or in the forest and a lot of folks consider the weather too cold, wet and windy. Personally I don’t see a lot of difference between spring and fall fishing conditions.
Spawning season is well underway this month and fish tend to be more aggressive, especially toward colorful streamer flies. Brook trout are in full, bright spawning colors and male salmon exhibit a prominent lower hook bill called a kype. Perhaps it’s my imagination, but fall fish just seem to fight harder and longer than during spring when the water temp is far colder.
Not another boat was on the water nor any shoreline caster spotted during my 90-minute trolling venture on this urban-edge lake. Using a size 8 long shank Magog smelt streamer fly, I hooked 12 trout, landing and quickly releasing nine vividly colored brookies. There are over 50 lakes and ponds open until Nov. 30, or whenever ice forms enough to prevent fishing. These are listed online at the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife site, along with the open dates and any special regulations for each location.
Another waterway that is open even later in the season is the Penobscot River. Although it’s a bit of a drive to Medway, I visit a couple of times each autumn for “last chance” smallmouth bass casting. There are lots of fish and very few fishermen, and a few bronzebacks will still strike surface plugs, although plastic worms, crayfish and salamanders produce faster action. Colorful, shallow-diving crankbaits and skirted spinner baits are other proven options.
Don’t get the idea I’m not an avid hunter. As far as I’m concerned, October and November need more days, and the fact that they keep getting shorter is additionally frustrating. On the other hand, I truly enjoy open-water fishing, and losing that opportunity for at least four months dampens my spirit. My personal solution is to fit a few casting outings among the shooting sports, thereby banking a few fishing memories to help my mind and spirit endure the snow months.
For the working folks who only have weekends to enjoy outdoor adventures, there’s always Sunday for fishing outings, since there’s no hunting available. Sundays are always considered a day of rest, and what better way to relax than a day on the water among God’s creatures and creations? Mother Nature can be very unpredictable here in Aroostook, year to year and even day to day at this time of year. Just because the fishing season is open doesn’t mean the lakes and ponds will be.
Find time to get out for some late fall fishing before ice seals that opportunity. It will soothe your mind and soul until spring.