True Natives: Maine’s Brookies - The Fisherman

True Natives: Maine’s Brookies

2018 8 Maines Brookies Main
Late summer through early fall is the time to fish the cool, clean remote streams of Maine for world-class brook trout action.

None of the other trout we regularly catch locally are native to the northeast. Browns were introduced from Europe, and rainbows are landlocked west-coast steelhead. Brook trout, along with lake trout, are the only natural trout native to New England. Arguably some of the best United States brookie fishing takes place in Maine where this species flourishes in the wild lakes and streams of the outback. The Maine State Record brookie is 9 pounds, 2 ounces. My wife and I started fishing for them during the 1980s and found that the best brook trout lurked in the wild rivers and lakes of Maine’s deep woods where moose come down to drink; it’s a great place.

Where Brookies Roam

They can be found in the lakes and rivers in better numbers way north where access is more limited. Water temperatures further north are also more favorable to brook trout. Big thermocline graced lakes like Moosehead or Chesuncook, to name only a couple, host deep water fish that are trolled, ice fished, and baited year long. These brookies are not stocked but occur naturally. There is nothing like a big brookie dotted with blue spots weighing over 3 pounds for natural beauty. Rivers that feed these big lakes also entertain runs of fall spawning fish, which begin as soon as the nights start to cool in late summer. Watch for steaming waters in the morning and you know the time is near. I have seen spawning runs occur from mid-August on; the later the better.
Big waters like Moosehead Lake are fed by the Moose River and Roach River that have spawning runs every fall. Brook trout are the most popular species here, but landlocked salmon run these cooling rivers at the same time and will take a fly as readily. Also, while the lakes also have fall spawning lake trout, I think the lakers run slightly later than the trout and salmon.

2018 8 Maines Brookies Trout
Brook trout like this one are hard to find elsewhere. This one was landed by Kate Farnham of Cross Current Maine Guided Adventures.

Rivers Are Better

While the lakes are boat fished by anglers trolling wire, the only shore fishing is done in rivers where those in waders can reach them. My experience in this region is in fly fishing the rivers. My wife and I have witnessed marvelous brookie and landlocked salmon fishing in big streams like the West Branch of the Penobscot, which has a healthy population of fish that is more landlocked salmon than brook trout. There is also a limited Atlantic salmon fishery, which, while officially dropped, does occur at a limited and unknown level now that obstructing dams have been removed. If you get a “landlocked” salmon over 10 pounds, chances are it is a sea-run salmon that made it through high seas netting. Return it.

On average, late summer river flows are lower making wading in the rivers easier with holding pools easier to find. Fly hatches make dry fly fishing productive for both brookies and landlocks and add to the excitement of catching.

Much of the river fishing we have done has been on the Roach River below Kokadjo down to Moosehead Lake. A bigger feeder river is the Moose River, which also hosts a fall spawning run from Moosehead Lake.

Fly Fishing Methods

On top, we fish a floating line commonly with the old favorite #16 Adams. Have a variety of colors on the ready as they do show preferences at times, and both landlocks and brookies slurp them up like candy. When fish are not showing, it is better to have an extra-fast-sinking fly line in your bag for deep-dredging the pools. River-running fish will rest in the deep pools during the day, and then move upriver at night. As a result, every deep hole has new fish in the morning, just waiting for you to intercept them. You may have scared them all yesterday, but other fish from the lake have come during the night to test your skill. There is drama in dry fly fishing (much in the way poppers work fun on stripers), but I think you will catch more fish with a sinking line using a nymph fished slowly on the bottom of the deep pools. Of course, seasoned trout fishermen would naturally employ the patterns that have worked for them in other waters. Trout fishing doesn’t have to be Maine, after all.

2018 8 Maines Brookies Map
Situated between Moosehead Lake to the west and First Roach Pond to the east, the author favors the Roach River in Maine for its pristine water and exceptional brook trout fishery. (Image courtesy of Navionics)


Maine regulations are waters-specific where each lake or river has a unique set of regulations provided in an abstracts booklet when you buy your license. In general, the more stringent the regulations, the better the fishing. Places that are fly fishing only with conservative catch limits tend to have the best fishing. Catch and release waters are optimum. Buy a pound of cod if you want to eat fish, these fish are better released. You will also find that some feeder rivers are closed early fall to protect spawning fish that will drop back down to their lake of origin. Read that regulations booklet carefully because all waters are treated differently.

River Red Flags

All salmonids want to travel up stream until they are limited by dams. The trout and salmon tend to prefer up-stream movement, and the babble of falling water gives them oxygen-rich breathing. That is why Fisheries puts red markers below dams limiting angling to below the red markers as it’s a sucker bet that fish are gathered close to the dam. Fish inside the markers and you’ll run into trouble in short order.

Sure, there are fish possibly holding anywhere on a river, but the bigger the pool the more fish are likely to be holding there. Other anglers all know that so if the nice pools are crowded, you might want to walk the river for virgin water in the small, lack-luster spots, which many can’t see.

Angling traditions have rendered trout fishing as a spring time activity. Consequently, there is less interest in trout fishing in the fall yet it is no less spectacular. You won’t see many fishermen then as heavy breathing is mostly reserved for impending hunting season. It’s a fishy quirk I look forward to every season.



Spring Strategies: Workingman’s Trout

Trout fishing around your work schedule starts the day off right and kicks the season off on the right foot, too!

Trout Season Kickoff: Belmont Lake

A body of water that will receive over 2,000 stocked trout this spring.


Brown Notes: Return Of The Seeforellen