Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Brook Trout and Bears in Maine

While I haven't gotten out to fish very much at all this year, I'm at least getting out to the places I like to go, or the ones I've wanted to go to for quite some time.  This trip - the week before Labor Day - took me to Maine.  I would be working for the majority of the week, but had a few periods of down-time.  The guys told me that the creek on the property where I stayed used to have brook trout in it, but no one had fished it for a while.  (That IMMEDIATELY sounded like my kind of creek!!)  They also asked if I wanted to go bear hunting.  While I am a hunter, I have no desire to shoot a bear. But I'm always intrigued by different ways to hunt, so I agreed to go out on stand with the property owner for a couple of evenings to see if anything came into the baits.  First up - the fishing report.




The stream on the property could not have been nicer.  Beautiful, clear water, cascading waterfalls - it just looked fishy.  But  - there weren't many trout.  I consider myself to be a pretty good small water trout fisherman and I struggled mightily.  I really don't think there were many fish in the creek.  I purposely walked up to a couple of the deeper pool to see what I spooked, and - NOTHING.  No little trout darting around the bottom, nothing shooting up toward the undercuts at the head of the pool.  The water was cool but not uncomfortably cold - I almost think that may have been a problem, that it got too warm for good brookie fishing.  Also, there were precious few deep pools to have fish survive the long, very cold Maine winters.  Possible winter kill?  Or maybe its just the obvious - that I'm a crappy trout fisherman.  Regardless, measuring the net worth of a day spent walking the woods and fly fishing for wild trout is never measured by the shear numbers of fish caught - at least not by me.  I had a ball even though I only brought 6 or 7 little brookies to hand.  I did, however, nearly have a heart attack when a grouse decided to explode out of a small patch of cover about 3 feet from my head while I was walking in the creek.



                                         I expected more of these parr-marked youngsters



 
 





                                             Beautiful water, high expectations




                             There were SOME Brookies there, and at least this one stupid one!









I went out with the owner of the property 2 nights in a row to sit on baits.  Bear baiting is the accepted way to hunt bear in Maine, but I had never hunted over bait.  Like I said - I wasn't actually hunting, but I wanted to experience it and see what it was like.  Growing up hunting in a state where baiting of any kind for anything was illegal, I admit to having some preconceived notions about hunting over bait.  Well, the folks up in Maine take their bear hunting seriously, and there is definitely a science to doing it successfully.  The real science, though, lies in the use of trail cams.  Before game cams, the only thing you would know about an area was whether or not the bait had been hit since the last time you were there.  Now you can see the number of bears, the size of the bears, and the times they hit the baits.  Very cool!  Speaking of size, the owner paints a orange stripe around the tree and the barrel where the baits are placed.  The stripe is 38" off the ground and, according to the DNR, that is a BIG bear if its shoulder is as high as the stripes.  This guide helps you from shooting a small bear - they're tough to judge unless there are a few of them at the bait. 

Evening 1 ended with a total of 1 red squirrel sited.  Still, the anticipation that, at any moment a 400# plus bear could step into the clearing made it a great experience.  Actually, anytime you are in the woods for daybreak or nightfall, it's pretty special.

The second evening found us at a different bait  -  one that had been being hit in the afternoon.  It didn't take long to see we made the right choice - we watched 3 separate bears from 5:20 - 7:20PM.  All were about the same size - the first maybe a bit smaller at an estimated 104-150 pounds.  The next 2 were close in size and probably 175 each.  At the very end, one of the bigger bears was at the bait and ran like hell.  We saw another bear in the very dark background but it was way too dark to see how big it was.  So - 4 bears in one evening.  We certainly could have shot any of the 3, and a 175 pound bear , while not a trophy of a lifetime, isn't one to be embarrassed about, either.  But the owner has shot a few before and would only take a really big one now, and I just liked watching the show, although I could feel my "hunter instinct" kick in when the bear would show up.  On the way out from the stand, we drove up on a cow moose in a clearing.  A great ending to a great evening.  Oh yeah - the steak dinner that followed didn't suck, either.





                                                            The first, smaller bear





                                                     The second bear - a little bigger




     
                                                            Cow Moose





All in all, a terrific couple of days in Maine.

5 comments:

Bill said...

Sounds like a good way to spend some time. That's a nice looking little stream, maybe you just hit it at a bad time of year. As you know bear hunting here in PA is a whole different world than what you experienced. It's hard to imagine seeing that many bears while out bear hunting, let alone passing them up. lol

Howard Levett said...

Well I make no bones about how I feel about bears...I love/hate them. But I applaud your decision not to hunt. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!) A remarkable trip Joe.

p.s. I want a pay raise when you and Rebecca get back to work.

Wolfy said...

No problem Howard - I'll pay you 2X - no, 3X - our current salaries!

Mark Kautz-Shoreman said...

Hey Joe. Next bear hunt, I'll bring my trash can. Guaranteed to bring in a bear.

Mark

Fat Boy said...

Nice post. My buddy Jim wrote some trout articles on my blog, and he's from Maine as well. These types of waters are exactly what he looks for. We spent quite a bit of time when he lived in my area fishing the Shenandoah National Park streams for native brookies. They don't get big, maybe a 12" fish is a trophy, but they are absolutely beautiful little gems. Catching them is fun, but usually the scenery is beautiful, much like your pics. You just don't see places like that every day, and you're often left with the feeling that you've been in another world altogether.