There are “peak periods” for just about everything you can think of in Maine, running the gamut of options from leaf peeping, blueberry picking, apple picking, lobstering, fiddleheading and dozens of others that occur at some point during the year.
Coming up on the first of June it is the peak time for fishing. Whether you prefer probing small woodland streams for colorful brook trout, casting the shoreline for black bass, drifting a dry fly for landlocked salmon or heading to the coast for bluefish and stripers, this is the time to go.
Just as November deer hunters tend to drop everything so they can spend more time roaming the Maine woods, June anglers find any number of ways to avoid everyday responsibilities so they can spend a few hours on the water in search of their favorite game fish.
Having spent half of April and all of May teasing brook trout with fat garden worms I am ready to shift gears and head for the nearest bass pond, where spawning largemouths (in the southern counties) and smallmouths (more prevalent in the northern half of the state). Both species have similar habits when it comes to spring spawning, which make them extremely vulnerable to a well-placed lure or fly.
This is the only time of the year when bass fishing is ridiculously easy. The fish move into shallow water near shore and make their spawning beds, staying on the job of creating more bass through June and into July before they head back to deep water where, most days, they are all but impossible to reach.
For now, however, bass are fun to catch because they are so aggressive. It’s almost impossible to find a lure that they will not take, and sometimes a bass that’s already been caught two or three times on one lure will come right back for more. Their ferocious, belligerent attitude is what gets them into trouble, but that’s what makes June bass fishing so much fun.
Some lakes, ponds and rivers in Maine can be fished from shore or by wading. All the angler has to do is toss a spinner, spoon or fat deer-hair fly into the water near shore and retrieve it with enthusiasm. Bass are notorious for chasing and attacking intruders near their spawning beds, so pretty much anything you throw at them will get a response.
Some of the best spots, of course, are surrounded by muck, brush or other obstacles that make delivering a lure very difficult, if not impossible. This is where a canoe, kayak or other small craft comes in handy. It’s an easy matter to paddle or drift about 30 feet from shore and cast into the shallows, even up on land, probing every possible place where a bass could be hiding. Target anything that looks remotely like a hiding place – sticks, reeds, stumps, fallen logs, rock piles, boulders, overhanging limbs – any sort of structure is all but guaranteed to have a bass (or two) lurking nearby. It’s often worth making two or three casts to a particularly good-looking spot because if a bass is there he will respond unless you’ve done something to spook him. In that case, simply mark the spot for later and come back in an hour or so to try again. Chances are that your fish will be more responsive next time around.
How good is the bass fishing in June? Well, there are three places I’ve fished in central Maine where I’ve caught a bass on every cast – not all monsters, mind you, but bass nonetheless. I’ve actually done this several times on Nokomis Pond in Newport, Brann’s Mill Pond in Dover-Foxcroft and in the Piscataquis River between East Dover-Foxcroft and Milo. Of course, I held my fire till I found the perfect spot for a cast, but all of these waters contain thousands of potential hotspots. Any experienced bass fishermen will recognize the most logical hotspots and will waste no time dropping a lure into the most likely lairs.
All of the rivers in our area contain good numbers of bass, too. I’ve had many red-letter days on the Sebec, Piscataquis, Pleasant and Sebasticook rivers, plus many of the larger streams in the region contain good numbers of bass all summer long.
The majority of our lakes and ponds contain bass as well, mostly smallmouths, but Stetson Pond is renowned for its exceptional largemouth bass population, with some specimens exceeding 10 pounds. Years ago I would launch a canoe by the earthen dam and spend the entire day fishing only the main channel and surrounding weed beds, rarely getting into the main lake. There was no need – the bass were abundant, aggressive and very cooperative.
Being that catch-and-release has been the common ethic among bass anglers for decades it’s a sure thing that these and many other waters in our area are still full of fat, cooperative bass. I cannot recall a single time when I went out specifically for bass and was skunked. Some days are better suited for yard work (stormy, rainy, blustery days, for example) but even then if you focus your efforts on the lee shore you’ll have some luck.
These days most bass fishermen carry a suitcase filled with cleverly designed modern lures but I have been fishing for bass in Maine since the 1960s with the same old selection of lures and never fail to catch fish. My favorites are the Mr. Twister Teeny in yellow or purple; the No. 1 Mepps gold spinner (with or without bucktail); the 3-inch Rebel silver minnow and the fly-rod sized Jitterbug gurgler, which resembles a small green frog struggling on the surface. The Jitterbug is my go-to lure for heavy weeds or log jams, and is a real killer for night fishing.
Truth be told, you can toss just about anything in the tackle box and a bass will respond. Put away the garden tools and grab a fishing rod because the time to go is now!