Sunday, August 10, 2014

Mount Desert Island, Long Pond, Smallmouth Bass Caught Where not Supposed to Be

We got the vacation rental house late in the season, about May 1st, probably the only remaining availability on Long Pond, Mount Desert Island, Maine for anytime during the summer. It just so happened that the house is located near National Park Canoe Rental where we launched a rented canoe twice six years ago. So the smallmouth fishing was mostly a sort of romance with our favorite spot from years ago, when I caught a 17-incher the first outing, and Matt a 17 1/2-incher the second, among many smaller bass and a rare pickerel. This time we managed to fish the lake (nearly a thousand acres) six days, although Matt wasn't out on all occasions. We never got skunked, but the biggest bass was about 16 1/2 inches, a half dozen total 15 inches and more, four others that matched and exceeded 14 inches besides these larger. Dozens of smaller bass came over the canoe gunnels. The lake is full of smallish bass, the sort I call "average stream bass," those nine or 10-inchers that inhabit New Jersey's small Highlands rivers.

I didn't stay put at our secret spot, although my best memories of two-pound-plus bass leaping three feet above lake surface will indelibly be associated with these drop-offs I won't give away. I tried quarter-ounce tube jigs 30 feet deep in hopes of finding that indeed the bulk of the bass stay deep where they are "supposed" to be in August. But we marked no fish that deep either. I did mark one big fish 19 feet deep suspended over 28 foot depths, which must have been a bass, but that was the deepest, and the water is very clear. You can see bottom about 12 feet down. I also fished Berkeley Gulp! leech and jig combinations from 10 down to 30 feet deep. I caught a nine-inch bass on the leech and eighth-ounce jig in 10 feet of water, but that was all for my favorite Delaware River presentation.

All the bass--besides one on a Rat-L-Trap--hit Senko-type worms, rigged weightless and usually Wacky. We found some rocks all the way in the front of the lake so thick with jagged crevices that we had to rig the worms with inset hooks. I lost a jig with a hook guard to these rocks. I also lost a Senko-type worm rigged with an inset hook to the same, wedged in there hopeless to ever get exposed to air again, I'm sure.

I've never before seen such great smallmouth habitat, not even on Pepacton Reservoir in New York. We started nailing bass 10 or 12 feet deep in and among the schist on our first and second casts, and I thought we would have dozens of bass on this single outing, but very mysteriously the action died and we just couldn't coax but a few more over a couple of hours and more than a hundred yards of rocky shoreline, although the very best of it I could measure in only dozens of yards.

Miles down lake, Matt hooked the biggest of the entire vacation--a big, bullish bass that towed the canoe out into deeper and deeper water, drag giving yards of line even as the canoe slid effortlessly on riffled lake surface, a breeze of about 10 mph stirring the sun rays about. The hook pulled and that was that. This bass may really have been as big as the South Branch Raritan River four-pounder I caught last September. Who knows. Larger. I certainly hoped to beat my record from last year, but like all anglers I know well, I have a streak of vanity that reality usually corrects.

Matt's big one struck in the perfect location, right where most of our fish connected, about 12 feet down "in the shadows," as I told our landlord when he had inquired about where to catch bass. The really shallow water of less than eight feet has an iron-tinged color since the slightly tannic, but clear, water exposes the rocks to view, and while we caught some bass as shallow as six or seven feet--I caught my 17-incher six years ago in three feet of water--as a rule they were just under the line between light and dark, about 10 or 12 feet deep. The deepest we caught bass was 18 feet down, dragging heavy Strike King Senko-type worms by twitching them up and letting them flutter back to rock bottom, but nothing came from any deeper where the in-the-know writers tell you the bass are this time of year.

I admit I've caught pickerel this time of year 17 feet down at the bottom edge of a weedline, not just one but several or more, but for whatever reason, we just couldn't conform to the magazine articles in Maine.

It was a great series of outings. Twice I got up and paddled out before sun-up, catching bass before I paddled back for breakfast. I tried topwaters both occasions, but could not stir any strikes. Nor could I hoop any topwater swooshes after sunset, staying out into dark, mounting my portable stern light on the canoe's back end, switching my headlamp to red, and getting mawed by mosquitoes. One night, I stood on our dock and casted a big Pop-R, this area of the lake too shallow to hold many smallmouths, 14 feet maximum, yet nevertheless I earned my only topwater strike from a seven-inch smallie.

The first morning I tried popping them up from the iron-tinged visibility, I switched to a Senko and pitched it right there where I had last teased the hard-edged creases below, felt a strong tap, and instantly assumed I had a good bass take that worm six or seven feet down, where the Pop-R was perfectly apparent moments before. I set the hook and more than 16 inches of bronze-black brunt air lifted like the Wright Brother's experiment on North Carolina's Outer Banks.

It didn't stay up very long, but long enough to make a memory last the rest of my life.

 These guys trolled for stocked salmon of the Atlantic species in the lake's deep section (113 feet maximum). Why they even bothered with 35 foot maximum depths at lake's northern end I didn't ask.

 Glacial deposit.

We crossed the lake in the canoe there where the plane landed not too long after.

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