Our Top North Country Trout Rivers
September 29, 2010
Northern New England's trout streams continue to provide great spring fishing for native brookies, browns and rainbows. Here's where to go for hot action this month. (April 2009)
Few things are as sacred among New England trout fishermen as their favorite stretch of moving water. Lakes and ponds certainly have their following of dedicated enthusiasts, but in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, there is no doubt rivers and streams have always had the more irresistible appeal. Perhaps it is the feel of water against the legs, the possibilities of trout holding in a deep hole or eddy, or the sound of water gurgling over gravel and stone. Whatever the personal reason for the attraction, part of the equation is the fact some of the finest trout streams to be found anywhere are right here in northern New England.
This is certainly true when it comes to brook trout, a perennial favorite in all three states. Combined, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department and Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department will stock several million of these speckled beauties this spring, in some cases, nearly half of which will go into rivers and streams
Fishermen in the Northeast who are looking for prime brook trout angling in moving water don't have to travel far to find it. Add in many opportunities for brown trout and rainbow trout including stocked "wild" and holdover populations, and northern New England has stream fishing that is difficult to beat!
Pursuing wild brook trout in moving water is almost a spiritual experience for many fishermen. Not surprisingly, the Eastern Brook Trout Venture, a consortium of government agencies and conservation groups, recently recognized Maine as the preeminent angling destination for native brook trout in the eastern United States.
One of the finest wild brook trout rivers in north-central Maine is the Roach River, which starts at First Roach Pond at Kokadjo northeast of Greenville. From the dam, the Roach River flows more than six miles before dumping into Spencer Bay on Moosehead Lake.
Although best known for its fall salmon and trout runs, brook trout inhabit the river throughout the year and some especially prime opportunities exist during the early part of the fishing season before water temperatures warm.
The Roach is not a big river, no more than 40 or 50 feet at it widest point, but starting at the dam at First Roach Pond it offers a good series of pools and riffles all the way to the big lake.
The Roach River is restricted to fly-fishing only and all fish caught must be released.
Easy access, however, means much of the angling attention is directed toward the uppermost stretch of river downstream from Kokadjo. A public parking area on the south side of the river is across from the public boat launch.
The best foot access along this stretch is a trail on the north shore that leads to several pools in the first one-half mile of river. Farther downstream, access is more difficult and calls for some bushwhacking. As a consequence, the middle and lower sections receive less pressure, but for the adventurous angler some fine wild trout fishing is possible.
Lodging and a small general store are available in Kokadjo, with additional lodging, fly and tackle shops and other services available in Greenville.
For more information, contact the Moosehead Lake Region Chamber of Commerce at (888) 876-2778 or (207) 695-2702; or visit the Web site at www.mooseheadlake.org.
A list of Maine's other 57 designated wild brook trout streams and rivers will be found on the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries Web site noted below.
Perhaps the premier rainbow and brown trout river in Maine right now, certainly one of the top two or three, is the Androscoggin River. The Andy, as it is called, enters Maine from New Hampshire at Gilead and continues generally eastward to the Atlantic Ocean at Bath and Brunswick. Of general interest to trout enthusiasts is the more than 30-mile stretch from the border to Rumford, especially from the border where the Bear River dumps in near Route 26 in Newry.
Both species of trout are stocked annually in this stretch, to the tune of about 8,000 fish, but the Andy is home to an impressive number of holdover or "wild" fish in the 18- to 20-inch range, with some larger specimens, especially brown trout.
Brook trout are also a good possibility, particularly off the smaller upstream tributaries such as the Wild River at Gilead and the Pleasant River entering at West Bethel.
What makes the upper stretch of Androscoggin River so special, and in some ways somewhat unique among Maine trout rivers, is it is not only prime water and trout habitat, but it is easy to fish and access as well. The river is easy to wade, yet it is large enough to float for anglers with canoes or small car-top boats.
While the Andy has its share of riffles, runs and channels around islands, no dams, whitewater or serious rapids impede downstream movement, and the banks and bottom along the section from the Maine-New Hampshire border to West Bethel are primarily gravel, making for easy wading. (Continued)
Foot access is possible at several locations along Route 2 including the bridge in Gilead upstream of Peabody Island, and private landowners generally allow access if properly asked. Small boat access is possible at Davis Park in Bethel or at the Bear River rips downstream in Newry. From either point, some long, productive floats over hard-to-reach water are possible.
The Androscogin River is open to year-round angling, and although fly-fishing is popular, lures and spinners may be used and are equally productive. Fishermen should take note only single hook lures may be used from the Maine-New Hampshire border downstream to the bridge in Gilead.
All fished caught must be immediately released. Downstream of the bridge in Gilead to Rumford Point, the daily bag limit between April 1 and Sept. 30 is one fish and the minimum length limit is 12 inches. All fish between 16 and 20 inches must be released.
Fishermen will find lodging, tackle shops, restaurants, fishing guides and float services, canoe rentals and other services in the Bethel area.
For information, contact the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce at (207) 824-2282; or visit the chamber's Web site at www.bethelmaine.com. The chamber also publishes a handy and informative Androscoggin River fishing guide and access map tha
t may be obtained free of charge by contacting the chamber.
The Kennebec River is considered one of the top trout rivers in Maine. From its source at Moosehead Lake, the river features brook trout in its upper sections and primarily brown and rainbow trout downstream to Augusta, a distance of about 100 miles.
Specific sections worthy of note include the East Outlet, the nine-mile stretch from The Forks at the head of Wyman Lake at Caratunk paralleled by Route 201 and below Wyman Dam in Bingham all the way to Solon. There is also some prime but challenging trout water in the Madison and Skowhegan areas.
One of the most popular trout areas on the river, however, is the three miles of tailwater below Shawmut Dam in Fairfield. The stretch offers good populations of rainbow trout and brown trout with some specimens over 20 inches. There is good public access and ample parking. Fishing is also allowed year 'round.
The best wading water, some 600 yards of it, may be found immediately below Shawmut Dam, which is easily found by taking Exit 133 off Interstate 95 and then traveling north along Route 201 to Bray Avenue.
Additional wading water will be found on the east bank near the access area above Goodwin Corner on the River Road.
Downstream, to the Fairfield Town Landing, this section of the Kennebec River is best fished from a canoe or small, car-top boat. While shore-bound fishermen do well here, a float trip will definitely open up a lot of otherwise hard to reach water.
For fishermen bringing their own watercraft, the boys at the Fly Fishing Only Shop on Main Street in Fairfield offer a shuttle service for a minimal fee. They also fish this stretch regularly and are a wealth of information for anglers unfamiliar to the area.
For more information, contact Fly- Fishing Only at (207) 453-6242; or visit the shop's Web site at www.maineflyfishing.com.
Information on lodging and other services in the area may be obtained by contacting the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce at (207) 873-3315; or visit the chamber's Web site at www.midmainechamber.com.
For more information on trout fishing in Maine, contact the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at (207) 287-8000, or visit the department's Web site at www.maine.gov/ifw.
For stocked or wild trout, some of the best fishing in New Hampshire will be found in the White Mountain region. Moving water fans will find offerings of every description here, from small and medium-sized runs cascading from the highlands to larger rivers that drain the entire region. Practically every up-country tributary is home to native brook trout averaging just a few inches in length, but there are plenty of them and the action can be intense. In the larger streams and rivers, a mixed bag of brook trout and bigger stocked and wild brown trout and rainbows is the general rule.
Starting in the high country near Crawford Notch the Ammonoosuc River travels generally west toward Twin Mountain, paralleling Route 302 much of the way. Its small freestone upper reaches are home to native brook trout, but by the time the river gets down to Fabyan and Zealand, the river, as well as its inhabitants, has increased in size.
Camping is available at the Zealand Campground, and other services are available in Twin Mountain. Downstream of Twin Mountain, the Ammonoosuc grows even larger and good fishing for brown trout and rainbow trout is possible downstream through Littleton past Lisbon.
Special rules are in place on the river from the Apthrop Dam in Littleton to the confluence with the Connecticut River in Bath, so fishermen should make a point to check the latest freshwater fishing digest
South of Twin Mountain, Route 3 parallels the Pemigewasset River most of the way to Ashland. From that point south, other major and secondary routes follow the river downstream to the Franklin Falls area south of Bristol. The Pemigewasset offers good brook trout fishing in its upper stretches from Lincoln down to Thornton and Campton and is home to both browns and rainbows from about Campton downstream through Plymouth and Ashland to Bristol.
The Franklin Falls area in particular is popular among brown trout fishermen. Some parts of the Pemigewasset River are restricted to catch- and-release, while fishing immediately below the Ayers Island Dam in Bristol and most other dams is prohibited. Here again, fishermen should refer to the newest fishing digest for specific details.
Baker & Mad Rivers
While in this area, fisherman should take time to check out the Baker River along Route 25 between West Plymouth and West Rumney. It offers a mixed bag of trout species and receives little attention.
The Mad River is another fine brook trout and rainbow trout stream. It rises in the Waterville Valley and travels along Route 49 to Campton. Campgrounds and other services may be found along both rivers, with additional services in Plymouth.
For more information, contact the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce at (800) 386-3678 or (603) 536-1001. Visit the chamber's Web site at www.plymouthnh.org.
For big rainbows, the Newfound River, actually the outlet of Newfound Lake, is a must. Rainbows are present year 'round, but during the early season when the flow is high, lake rainbows drop downstream and some lunker fish are possible. The area is restricted to fly-fishing only and there is a two-fish bag limit with a 15-inch minimum length limit.
Swift & Saco Rivers
As Route 112, better known as the Kancamagus Highway, descends toward Conway, it parallels the Swift River. Starting in Crawford Notch, the Saco River travels along Route 302 through Bartlett, Glen, Intervale and North Conway on its way to the Maine-New Hampshire border.
Both rivers offer wild brook trout in the headwater runs and rainbows in the lower stretches. The section of the Saco River in North Conway from Lucy Brook to Artist Falls Brook is restricted to fly-fishing only and there is a two-fish limit on brook trout.
The Ellis River, which enters the Saco River at Glen, is another fine little trout stream. Take note the section from the covered bridge in Jackson to the iron railroad bridge in Glen is also limited to the use of flies.
More information on the Swift, Saco and Ellis rivers as well as other rivers in the area and needed fishing supplies may be obtained by calling the North Country Angler in North Conway at (603) 356-6000 or by visiting the shop's Web site at www.northcountryangler.com.
For information on lodging and other services in the area, contact the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce at (877) 948-6867 or visit the chamber's Web site at www.mtwashingtonvelley.org
For more general information on trout fishing in the Granite State, contact the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at (603) 271-2501, or visit the department's Web site at www.wildlife.state.nh.us.
Fine trout streams may be found throughout the Green Mountain State, but some of the most diverse waters are in the state's central region. The region includes sections of the Lamoille and Winooski rivers, two of Vermont's largest and most productive trout waters, several smaller runs and a long list of mountain brooks and streams, nearly all of which contain brook trout.
On the Lamoille River, the 10-mile stretch between Wolcott and Morrisville offers some excellent rainbow and brown trout fishing and is well known for producing trophy-sized fish. Route 15 parallels the river and access is possible at several places as well as at bridges crossing the river.
Upstream of this stretch brook trout dominate, especially east of Hardwick. East of Morrisville, the Green River enters the Lamoille and is a good spot for all three species of trout including some wary resident trophy-sized browns. The two-mile section between Garfield and Route 15 is accessible only by foot and calls for some bushwhacking.
Downstream of Morrisville there is some good trout fishing below Cady's Falls.
Fishermen will find lodging, restaurants and other services in Morrisville and there are seasonal campgrounds east of that town on Route 15.
West of Montpelier, the Winooski River from Middlesex to North Duxbury offers primarily brook trout and rainbow trout with easy access at several locations along Route 2.
For information on lodging and other services, visit the Waterbury Tourism Council Web site at www.waterbury.org.
Of equal importance, however, is the Dog River entering the Winooski at Montpelier. The Dog River is one of Vermont's blue-ribbon trout streams and is a popular spot for trophy-sized brown trout, especially downstream of Northfield.
Routes 12 out of Montpelier and Route 12A from Northfield Center follow the river and offer easy access.
The upper reaches of the Dog River, along with Stony Brook and Bull Run and other tributaries above Northfield, are smaller but contain a mixed bag of brook, rainbow and brown trout.
For more information, contact the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department at (802) 241-36555 or visit the department's Web site at www.vtfishandwildlife.com.