Friday, January 18, 2019

Ice Fishing Trout on Sheepscot Pond

Authors Son "Wildman" with a nice Sheepscot Brookie
Sheepscot Pond in Palermo (Map 13, B-4) is an expansive (1,193 acre) pond situated among the rolling, wooded hills of southeastern Waldo County. A moderately developed lake (unusual for Central Maine!) it remains an attractive setting for ice anglers. A state-owned boat ramp, located off Rt. 3 on the lake's north shore, provides access for anglers and other recreational users. While individuals can fish just off the landing, this area is typically hammered hard throughout the season. Better ice fishing is found further away, from this highly pressured area, on the western shore of Leeman Arm or eastern shore of Bald Head.  

Ice Fishing Variety
For the ice Angler who believes that variety is the spice of life, they will find no better thrill than a day spent ice fishing Sheepscot Pond. On an expedition to the lake in 2018, family, friends and I managed to pull up 7 different species of fish including, salmon, largemouth bass, pickerel, white perch, yellow perch, lake trout and brook trout. According to the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the lake additionally contains, brown trout, smallmouth bass and even splake, which were originally introduced to the lake in 1993. While we were unsuccessful in catching any of these additional species, the possibility of going to a lake and catching 10 different species of fish is exciting! As an angler who typically targets big northern pike, Sheepscot Pond is a refreshing change and a great place to take kids. It was a lot of fun showing the kids (and some adults) how to identify the different fish species pulled out of the ice holes. 

Stocked With Trout
Sheepscot Pond is part of the state’s fish stocking program and received a stocking of 500, 10 inch brook trout in April of 2018 and 500, 13 inch brook trout in November of 2018. On our outing last season, we were successful in catching a total of 5 brook trout, all were within a range of 10-14 inches. 

If specifically targeting brook trout on Sheepscot Pond, targeting points and inlets are both prime ice fishing spots. Points provide structure and hiding places for small bait fish and inlets flush nutrients into the lake attracting the small baitfish trout target. The ideal bait fish for trout is a 2 inch shiner or dace, any bigger decreases catch rate. Shiners work great as long as they stay lively. Replace any bait not actively swimming around, lifeless bait does not attract trout. 

Patience Puts Trout On the Ice 
When a flag pops up but the spool is not turning, reset the flag without checking the bait. Finicky brook trout will often take the bait, trigger the flag, but then spit out the bait and swim around it. Jigging the ice hole can also help hook the bait stealer.

Heavy Metal
Winter brook trout anglers typically fish with either worms or minnows but there are times when the fish are just not interested in either. Jigging spoons can often trigger a bite response, on days when bait fishing slows. My favorite spoon is the blue/silver Little Cleo. Adding a small piece of bait to the jig hook will greatly increase scent thereby helping increase the catch rate. Also, when jigging for brook trout, don’t make big jerking movements, instead employ a smaller 6-10 inch jigging motion.  

Target Brook Trout When Most Active
Trout activity under the ice peeks early and drops off two or three hours after sunrise. This is because sunshine tends to push brook trout into deeper water. To extend the bite, place tip-ups along the eastern shoreline. This causes the rising sun to stay hidden behind the trees creating a shadow line that will last till late morning. Most fish species do not bite exceptionally well for 48 hours after a low pressure system. However, fish tend to feed aggressively 24 to 36 hours before a low pressure moves through. When the weatherman predicts temperatures in the 30’s, overcast skies and flurries, it’s going to be a good day to fish. 

The Secret Weapon
On days when the brook trout are refusing to eat everything an angler can imagine to throw at them, a highly effective tip-up rig can be made using a blue/silver Little Cleo or Dardevel. To rig the spoon, first remove the treble hook. Next attach 12 inches of 6-8 pound fluorocarbon leader to the O-ring and tie on a #1 baitholder hook. To the hook, thread on a large night crawler so that the entire hook is covered. Set the worm about a foot off bottom. While the spoon sparkles and reflects light, the worm triggers fish to bite. 

Sheepscot Pond Regulations, Know Before You Go!
Sheepscot Pond is regulated by general fishing laws with the exception of S-22 (Daily bag limit on landlocked salmon: 1 fish.) and S-25 (Daily bag limit on togue: 1 fish). Also, the minimum length limit on landlocked salmon is 16 inches. One confusing regulation reads “the holding of any live baitfish not taken in Sheepscot Pond is prohibited”. I found this particularly confusing and so I dropped an email to IFW for clarification. The response I received from one of the state fisheries biologists was, that “anglers can use outside bait for ice fishing, but individuals can’t store outside bait in the pond. If an individual wants to store bait under the ice of Sheepscot Pond, it must be fishes that were collected in Sheepscot Pond.” The regulation was put in place as a biosecurity measure, to help limit the amount of pathogens in the Palermo Hatchery water supply. 

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