Salmonid Fishing Slows; Salty Angling Picks Up
As the year slides into July, trout and salmon fishing slows considerably for many anglers. Folks who know good spots and have bottom-dredging skills still do well, but it isn’t late May or early June anymore. Angling can slow a little now.
Lake trout anglers know these deep-dwelling chars concentrate in deep holes in most waters now, easy to find to drag a lure or bait past. Flowing-water aficionados follow a similar plan, fishing deep holes in brooks, streams and rivers, and pond trout anglers do the same for brookies. Lake fishermen find salmon deep, too.
Saltwater angling continues in July as stripers, mackerel and maybe blues swarm along the coast. Folks love to get out on the cool ocean as temperature soar in Maine’s warmest month.
Bassers who know how to fish deep with jigs do ever so well now with slab-sided females, and early morning coves produce as bass lingering after a night of feeding cannot resist a well-presented fly, lure or bait.
Anglers catch plenty of panfish now, such as freshwater hornpout, white perch, black crappie, pickerel and sunfish, as well as salty specimens including cunner, pollock and flounder. Folks love having a fish fry with species that are abundant.
Folks scout for deer, bear, moose and grouse this month, and bird dogs need work. Rifle shooters perfect trigger squeeze, smoothbore enthusiasts work on smooth swings and follow-through and bowhunters practice crisp release and steady bow arm. Veterans have the steady anchor point down cold.
Backpackers, canoe trippers and vehicle campers get out all month and sit by campfires as the stars blaze above.
Gardens start producing now, and cookouts excite gardeners as we begin finding radishes, leafy veggies and summer squash. By next month, we’ll be stuffing our faces with corn, potatoes and winter squash.
Tips of the Month
Splashing Rises a Sign
On quiet evenings in July when brook trout rise with showy splashes, casual observers often tie on dry-fly imitations (usually mayfly patterns) and cover the rises – and go fish-less.
Showy splashes indicate to fly casters that trout are following caddises up from the bottom as they hatch. When ready to emerge, these aquatic-insect members of the Trichoptera family swim fast toward the surface, before quickly popping through the meniscus and flying off. If trout cannot catch these insects before they hit the surface and get into the air, the fish miss this high-protein meal.
The best way to approach this hatch begins with a down-wing pattern in the same size and color scheme. Cast it out and fish it submerged, while stripping it about six inches at a time to imitate a fast-swimming insect. This approach matches the caddis.
Three Bow-and-Arrow Shooting Rules
Three tips lead to good shooting with a bow and arrow.
1. Find a consistent anchor point such as the butt of the ear, and anchor the string or arrow release there every time.
2. Next, during the release, do it so the actual release of the arrow catches the shooter by surprise – a good, crisp release.
3. Keep the bow arm steady during and after the shot.
Where the Action Is
Waldo County Brooks
Maine has three fertile areas that support good deer, grouse and small-game populations as well as lots of fish per acre of water – York County, Waldo County and the limestone country in eastern Aroostook County.
This month, anglers knowing this tip should head to the bottom third of Maine to fish brook-trout brooks in York and Waldo counties. Folks look for deep holes, springy spots and undercut banks, where they find brookie concentrations now.
Once anglers find a hot spot, they can go there frequently and find trout – especially if they choose to adopt the growing practice of catch-and-release, preserving the fish population for others.
Check DeLorme Atlas, Maps 2, 3 and 4 for York County, Maps 13, 14 and 22 for Waldo County and Maps 58, 59, 64 and 65 for limestone country.
News and Tidbits
Release a Breeder Club
Stripers Forever, a striped-bass conservation organization, is promoting the live release of large striped bass so the big fish can contribute to the species’ future gene pool. The Release A Breeder Club (RBC) advocates for wild striped bass.
“For reasons not clearly defined, the recreational catch of all wild striped bass along the Atlantic Coast has declined dramatically during the last eight years,” said Brads Burns, president of Stripers Forever. “In the face of this decline, too many large, prime breeding stripers are being harvested by anglers and commercial interests, causing a serious reduction in the spawning-stock biomass of stripers.”
RBC emphasizes that the recreational striper fishery thrives on quality angling, and releasing fish 36 inches or longer ranks as a much-needed conservation move.
The club offers free recognition on the Stripers Forever website and an elegant certificate for qualifying anglers who submit a photograph of their released fish and/or a statement from a witness. The group also recognizes guides and charter captains who agree to promote the release of large stripers caught by their clients. Full details on the Release A Breeder club are available at www.stripersforever.org.
2013 Deer Kill Up
Hunters shot and registered 24,795 deer in 2013, a 15 percent increase of 2012’s 21,552 harvest. Maine youth hunters shot 781 deer in 2013, 211 more than the 2012 harvest.
Later Fishing-Season Opener
Way back when I was a kid, Maine’s fishing season opened April 15, not really a warm time. There would be no mayfly hatches or even black flies. When it first changed to April 1, opening day made me feel as if I were in a deep freeze compared to two weeks later.
States south of us such as New York and Pennsylvania also had April 15 or similar mid-April openers, and quill-Gordon or red-quill hatches might be going full blast. Those hatches made opening day a big deal. Fishing action was very possible in these more southern climes, and some years, it was inevitable.
The change to year-round fishing or early openers actually hurt license sales in other states in the 1950s, because there was no impetus to purchase a license if fishing was poor because of high water and cold. Editorials on the topic appeared in outdoor magazines.
We can fish more days now, but license sales have dropped precipitously, partly for this reason and perhaps because of other considerations.
Variable Milfoil Facts
A variable-milfoil plant can grow 1 inch each day in water from 15 up to 20 feet deep, and if growing conditions are favorable the plants can create such a dense mat that swimming is impossible and boating or kayaking difficult.
If the leaves or roots of this invasive plant are broken up by boat propellers, oars or paddles, the pieces will spread to other areas of the lake and take root there. In addition, pieces can easily be spread to other waters, inadvertently transported on trailers or outboard motors’ lower units. Because it grows in relatively shallow water, milfoil may completely surround a lake, pond or flowing water along the shoreline.
In 2013, an active milfoil-reduction team in Great Meadow Stream and North Bay in Great Pond in the Belgrade Lakes accounted for the removal of 28,939 gallons of milfoil. Activists are hopeful that milfoil won’t spread to the rest of Great Pond and nearby Long Pond, two ponds attached to one another by a short section of Belgrade Stream.
Baby-boomers born just after World War II often heard old timers use the term “pod-auger days” in conversation. It refers to a carpentry tool commonly used until the 1920s and 1930s. Before carpenters began building house frames from 2x4s, they constructed post-and-beam homes, and fastened the large timber frames with wooden pegs. These builders drilled the holes for the pegs with a pod bit in an auger; hence, pod-auger days, meaning the time years back when folks lived in homes built with pod augers.
Memorable Quote from History
“This year will go down in history. For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration. Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future!”
Adolph Hitler said this powerful quote in 1935, but it doesn’t intimate that countries should have no gun laws. For example, in America, we cannot buy a fully-automatic weapon without registering it but can purchase semi-autos. Most of us do not mind this law and others like it.
As the old axiom goes, though, “the devil is in the details,” so advocacy groups battle it out as to which laws are reasonable.
In 1936, Don Gapen, a professional fly tier from Anoka, Minnesota, was fishing on the world-famous Nipigon River in Ontario and tied his first Muddler Minnow to imitate cocatush minnows, the Ojibway word for sculpin minnow. It bothered him to tie such an ugly fly, because he preferred the brightly-colored flies of the time. His Muddler took big brookies on this river that occasionally reached double-digit weights, and the Muddler’s reputation grew.
Unbelievable Fish Record
Patric A. McDaniel of Orlando, Florida maintained precise records of his fish catches, and on December 28, 2013, he caught his 200,000th fish, which included 13,775 largemouth bass, 156,643 bluegills and crappies and one sturgeon. Before reaching 250,000 fish, he had been inducted into the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame.
Eastport Most Eastern City in U.S.
Eastport, Maine is the most eastern city in the U.S., but the next U.S. Eastern-most record illustrates just how far this country stretches. The eastern-most point is Pochnoi Point in Semisopochnoi, Alaska and the most-eastern settlement is Attu Station, Alaska. In short, our country now extends so far west that it reaches the eastern part of the world.
Length of Maine Coastline
The length of Maine’s general coastline stretches 228 miles – way behind Florida’s 580-mile figure. However, when the measurement includes all the coves and peninsulas, Maine beats Florida’s precise shoreline measurement 3,478 miles to 3,341 miles!
Bird of the Month
Moments after sunup last Easter, a flock of dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis) perched in a dense shrub off the corner of my deck, choosing branches deep inside the tight limbs to avoid avian predators. An owl or hawk could not swoop down and grab a junco on the tip of a branch, but rather would need to fight its way into the bush for the meal, giving the prey a chance to escape.
My house created a shadow on the birds, so in the early morning gray before sunlight hit this spot, the juncos looked like black, fat lumps throughout the bush, since they had puffed out their feathers for warmth. While watching them, I thought how lucky we are to have this delightful species in Maine year-round.
Some dark-eyed juncos spend the year from Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Maine down through southern New England, New York and south along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains to extreme northern Georgia. West of this rather narrow line, they inhabit a narrower band through the Great Lakes and along the Canadian border to above North Dakota. New York is arguably the heart of this wintering habitat.
The juncos that migrate spend winter practically everywhere in the continental United States and then head into Canada and Alaska during summer.
This slate-gray, sparrow-shaped bird measures 6 1/4-inches long, has a 9 1/4-inch wingspan and weighs .067-ounces. The dark-eyed junco has bright white, outside tail feathers and a whitish bill with a hint of pale pink. The back, head, throat and top of the breast resemble dark slate, but the bottom of the chest and stomach is white with no stripes. Occasional dark-eyed juncos have white wing bars. Only juveniles have stripes on the body but still have those white feathers on the outside of the tail – a key for identification.
Juncos make a short, trilling sound, and most guidebooks compare it to a chipping sparrow’s voice. However, this junco makes a light smack instead of chip call like the chipping sparrow, and it also makes tickering sounds.
Juncos feed on the ground, apparent to folks with birdfeeders. Flocks of these birds pick seeds below the feeder like a litter-cleaning crew. If seeds spill on a deck, they forage there, too.
In the wild, this species chooses relatively open conifers or mixed woods. Once many years ago when I was hiking on a trail in the Camden Hills State Park, a large flock of juncos passed me, a lasting memory because of the flock’s size and the fact that the woods there looked like classic junco habitat – big hemlocks and spruce with hardwoods and a little brush beneath the canopy.
Juncos build a well-constructed, deep nest made with grass, pieces of bark and moss, and lay three to six eggs – pale-green or blue with brown spots. This species places its nest in a concealed spot on the ground or a little above, where low-growing cover offers safety. (Ken Allen)
Do You Know?
Which Month Ranks as Coldest?
In the “Weather Sidebar” in this Almanac, an item stated that July’s average high and low temperatures were the year’s hottest. What month produces the coldest average readings – December, January or February?
John Ford – a Funny Writer!
John Ford’s Suddenly, the Cider Didn’t Taste So Good (Islandport Press, Yarmouth, Maine) became an instant Maine big seller – at least in bookstores when it hit shelves in 2012.
After Ford’s book came out, this reviewer noticed about two dozen of them on display at Barnes & Noble in Augusta, an unusually large number. Often, a regional title will have one to two or three volumes on display. A few days later, though, customers had bought most of the 2-dozen copies, which really made an impression on this reviewer.
Very soon, another large batch of Suddenly, the Cider Didn’t Taste So Good appeared on the same shelf, and those sold out, too. A good book in conjunction with a publishing company that meets sales demand translated into a fast moving product. Without doubt, this talented writer has a growing popularity.
In my opinion, an opinion dictated by eyeballing book displays in stores more than by studying sales figures, Ford’s book has sales reminiscent of Paul Doiron mystery novels – a top seller by Maine standards. Ford’s audience generated a second published book by Islandport Press – The Cider Still Tastes Good.
Here’s a not-so-subtle point, too:
Top-selling guidebooks often attract customers because of the topic – not the writer’s name. With where-to books describing excellent fishing, biking or hiking locations, or how-to books on topics like varnishing or canoe building, the title sells the book.
Ford’s books, on the other hand, fall into the “mood” genre, where the writer’s stories and his style draw readers to the author. Ford himself captures his readers – not the topic of where-to or how-to.
Suddenly, The Cider Didn’t Taste So Good has a good mix of humor, Maine culture and adventure, and often in the adventure yarns, Ford interjects funny stuff, too, such as in his story about a manhunt for dangerous criminals. During the tense anecdotes about wardens putting their life on the line, Ford pops off with funny little incidents.
Suddenly, The Cider Didn’t Taste So Good seems like an odd title, but “Suddenly, The Cider Didn’t Taste So Good” is also the name of the last chapter of the book, and it is a doozy of a story. The ending will make most readers burst out laughing, because Ford is trying to stop a deer-baiting operation, illegal in Maine. While he was chasing the baiters, the last laugh was on Ford. You gotta’ read it.
And in this last chapter, part of Ford’s charm shines loudly and clearly, because it clearly illustrates he has the ability to laugh at himself – not an easy task for many writers. Poking fun at himself comes from being completely confident in his abilities and wit.
One of Ford’s stories, “The Bogeyman,” really showed a writer’s courage. Ford admits to being afraid of the dark, and his story really captures that fear. It takes guts to write about the topic. And, on a personal note, the story might have captured me more than it would have most people.
I suffer from an opposite extreme. Walking in the dark makes me feel safer, because no one can see me. In college, I told a criminology professor that tidbit in a roomful of students, and he said, “Studies show feeling safe in the dark is common – for people who have criminal tendencies.”
So, I don’t know who has the most courage, Ford admitting to be leery of boogeymen in the night, or me basically admitting to criminal tendencies. Many of the stories in this book engender thoughts like this courage topic, and keep the reader thinking long after finishing the book.
What more can anyone ask from a $16.95 investment – the price of this paperback – than topics that make the reader ponder for years and years? Lovers of the outdoors should buy both of Ford’s books. (Ken Allen)
About a year ago, I began noticing an intriguing symbol – intriguing mostly because it obviously meant something that most of society didn’t know, including me. The little drawing had made it to Maine and was showing up as graffiti on outside walls but mostly on bathroom walls of all places. Not long ago, a woman in Barnes and Noble in Augusta had this symbol on her bicep.
The symbol begins with a simple circle and two equilateral triangles inside it. Naturally, each triangle put the viewer in mind of Egyptian pyramid, and the bottom one has the point up and the top one the point down and touching the bottom triangle’s top. The two together look like an hour glass; hence, that was the clue to the symbol’s message. The circle represents the earth, and the two triangles suggest an hourglass, meaning we’re running out of time before humans destroy the planet.
Mainers with an eye to history know that we have lost several species that have disappeared from the earth, including sea mink, Labrador duck and great auk – just to name three well-known species. According to Alfred J. Godin’s Wild Mammals of New England, we’ve also extirpated woodland caribou, Eastern timber wolf, wolverine, Eastern mountain lion, walrus and American elk, although, as “extirpated” suggests, these species indeed live elsewhere.
Some environmentalists think that we should put our white-tailed deer in northern Maine on the Endangered Species List, because according to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, that part of the state has but one to two deer per square mile.
That deer figure misleads the public a little, though, because spots with proper habitat in northern Maine have denser populations. However, many areas up there have zero deer, so the average between those areas and the more abundant populations average one to two per square mile – dismal.
The extinct symbol and recent extinction and extirpation figures caught my eye and started me thinking about this topic. In the latter category, this earth has produced about 4 billion species since it became habitable about 3.5 billion years ago, and 99 percent of the species no longer exist.
Five cataclysmic events destroyed most of them in a brief time, and we all know about one of them – the asteroid the size of Long Island that hit the Yucatan Peninsula at 45,000 miles per hour and vaporized nearly every living thing on what we now call North America. This wasn’t the worst cataclysmic event! Research information on the Internet can furnish readers with details on the other four of the Big Five. (Ken Allen)
Humidity and More Heat!
A Maine August can generate oppressive humidity on its people, and we all know of the suffering that accompanies simultaneous high air temperature and big-time humidity. It can make us feel as if we cannot get out of our own way.
Folks in the know often get out at dawn and work bird dogs, scout for deer, bait bears, fish salt or fresh water, exercise (walk, run, hike or bicycle), shoot rifles, smoothbores or bow and arrows or work on gardens, before the thermometer shoots way up into the mid to high 80s and even 90s.
Many veteran saltwater anglers love getting onto the water at the very first gray light of dawn, when fish recklessly feed, winds haven’t given rise to whitecaps and air feels cool. Stripers, blues and mackerel feed well in the dim light, but those same game fish often slow down their feeding activity by 8 a.m.
Black bass can be like that, too, but a friend tells me that thinking like this shows I am a trout angler at heart, not a basser. I guess he may be right, and I still call them “barse.”
Dawn finds big bass in shallows, though. When the sun rises, they often head into deeper water – okay for folks who know how to work jigs.
Northern Maine ponds offer evening hatches this month that can provide fast action when folks cover rises, but the biggest trout frequently come to folks who know how to work a fly on bottom. In the Pine Tree State, we call these specialists “bottom-dredgers.”
A cold summer rain draws northern Maine brook trout and landlocked salmon up rivers and large streams now, where anglers can often have name waters all to themselves. Yes, rising, cool water can activate flowing waters.
Gardeners love August. Corn, early potatoes, summer squash, first winter squash, snap beans and green-leaf veggies begin filling kitchen counters now. By August 31, gardeners are often at their healthiest of the year after all the fresh, nutritious roughage.
Camping, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, boating and sailing boom now – as does backpacking and canoe tripping – the latter two the more specialized of the camping crowd.
And did we mention summer barbecues? Cooking on the back deck or lawn grows year after year, and grills get more complicated each season, too.
Answers to “Do You Know?”
The Coldest Month Is…
An old country singer circa the early 1980s used to croon that December was the coldest month of the year, so he was hoping he and his family could make it through the 12th month and then times would get better.
Sometimes, December does feel the coldest, but statistically year after year, decade after decade, January wins the accolade of being the coldest month, and February takes second place.