Most of the trout lakes and streams on Maine's tribal lands are open to the public under the general rule. All you need is a state fishing license and a yen for adventure! (July 2007)
Photo by Jeff Samsel.
One of the Pine Tree State's best-kept secrets may be that some of Maine's premier trout waters, located on tribal lands, are open to the general public. Many anglers assume that non-tribal members are not allowed access to Indian lands without fees or permits, and so these waters don't suffer much fishing pressure.
The fact is, however, that many waters in Maine's tribal territories fall under the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife's general rule. Even waters governed under special regulations have few additional restrictions.
As a result of the Maine Indian Claim Settlement Act of 1980, the Maine Indian Tribal State Commission has exclusive jurisdiction over fishing on any pond larger than 10 acres with 50 percent or more of its shoreline within tribal territory, and any section of a river, brook or stream where both banks are in tribal territory, or where one bank is in tribal territory for a continuous length of half a mile or more.
The commission has adopted some rules that affect certain waters within their territories. But for the most part, trout streams on tribal lands are open to the public under the general rule.
Check the MDIFW's Web site at www.state.me.us under "Fishing." Select "Open Water Fishing Regulations," and in Section IV, click on "Indian Territory."
Armed with a valid Maine fishing license ($21 for residents; $52 for non-residents) and the same common courtesy that anglers would show to any landowner, all Maine's tribal trout waters might be fished by anyone willing to make the effort.
Raphael Sockabasin works for the Passamaquoddy Indian Nation's Forestry Department. He is also a registered Maine Master Guide.
Sockabasin said that Pistol Lake Stream, which runs between Middle and Lower Pistol lakes, is stocked with brook trout each year.
To reach the stream, go into Springfield on the Springfield Road. Drive about six miles to the Depot, then turn right onto Pistol Lake Road. The stream is about six miles farther in. A recent logging operation there created a nice landing with plenty of room for angler parking.
Near Indian Township on what is known as the Webber Lot, are the east and west branches of Musquash Stream. The East Branch contains spawning habitat for landlocked salmon, in addition to offering up great trout fishing. Drive to Waite, and then take the West Lake Road. Turn off at Talmadge and drive about two miles, where a bridge crosses over East Branch Musquash Stream. Travel west another two to three miles to reach the crossing of the West Branch.
Tomah Stream, another worthy trout destination, flows through Indian Township and Waite. The stream crosses Route 6, and Sockabasin said that anglers could fish from that crossing into Indian Township where the stream enters the Grand Falls flowage. There are plenty of places where anglers can find roadside parking to access Tomah Stream.
The Passamaquoddy tribe also owns land in Jackman, home to the Moose River, a premier brook trout fishery. Sockabasin said that the roads have just been graded there. He advises anglers to take Jackman or Hardscrabble Road and follow the river to find numerous access points.
The Passamaquoddy Indian Nation owns lands in six of Maine's 16 counties. General-law provisions apply to rivers, brooks and streams in Franklin County. At Clear, Elaine, Big Indian, Little Indian, Trout and Twin Island ponds in Lowelltown Township, limit is two brookies per day, minimum length of 10 inches.
Many anglers assume that non-tribal members are not allowed access to Indian lands without fees or permits, and sothese waters don't suffer much fishing pressure.
The general-angling law applies at Lower, Side, Middle and Upper Pistol lakes and the Middle and Upper Chain lakes in Hancock County, as well as in most rivers, brooks and streams. At Kilman Pond, the minimum length for brookies is 10 inches.
The general law applies to most Passamaquoddy waters in Penobscot County, including Mill Privilege Lake and sections of all rivers, brooks and streams in T5 R1 NBPP, T3R9 NWP and TAR7 WELS.
The section of the South Branch Penobscot River in Passamaquoddy territory (Hammond Township) in Somerset County has some special regulations. From April 1 through Aug. 15, the daily limit on trout is two fish, with a minimum length of six inches. (Only one may exceed 12 inches.) From Aug. 16 through Sept. 30, the bag limit is one fish, minimum of six inches. Fishing is allowed with artificial lures only.
In Holeb Township, the daily creel limit on brook trout is two fish, with a minimum length of 14 inches.
State rules prohibit the use of motors greater than 10 horsepower on Big Fish Pond and the thoroughfare upstream to Little Fish Pond and Grassy Pond. These waters are limited to fly-fishing only. The daily creel limit on Little Fish and Grassy is two brookies, with a minimum of 10 inches.
Cape Horn Pond in Prentiss Township also has a daily bag limit of two fish, 10-inch minimum length. Fishing (with flies only) is above-average here and well worth the drive up Route 201 to Kelly Dam Road to access the Passamaquoddy territory.
Nearby, Mary Petuche Pond is subject to tribal regulations that will be posted, so call ahead before wetting a line there. Lower Wellman Pond, Hall Pond (flies only), Duncan Pond and the unnamed inlet stream from Hall to Duncan also have a two-fish, 10-inch minimum-size restriction. Wellman and Duncan ponds are open to artificial-lure fishing only.
Sections of all other rivers, brooks and streams in Passamaquoddy Territory in the above townships, as well as in Alder Brook, Pittson Academy, Soldiertown and Hammond Townships, fall under general-law provisions. Many of the Washington County waters fall under the general law, including Lower Chain Lake, the Sysladobsis (lower) lakes, Grassy Pond and sections of prime trout brooks and streams in T5 NDBPP and T19 MDBPP.
The Penobscot Indian Nation also holds some prime trout fishing holes. In Alder Stream Township, Round Mountain Pond opens May 1 to fly-fishing only, with a daily bag of two trout and a 10-inch minimum size restriction.
From the confluence of Alder and Little Alder streams downstream to Penobscot Territory boundary lines, from April 1 through Aug. 15, anglers age 15 and under may use artificial lures with single-pointed hooks. For anglers 16 and older, and all anglers from Aug. 16 through Sept. 30, these waters are open to fly-fishing only, as are the rest of Alder, Little Alder and their tributaries and the North Branch Dead River.
Both Blanchard and Snow Mountain ponds are open to fly-fishing only, and no motors are allowed.
The sections of Birch, East Branch Birch and Hemlock streams on Penobscot territory in Argyle Township (Penobscot County) are managed under general law, as are sections of East Branch Passadumkeag River in T3R1 NBPP and Mattamiscontis and Little Mattamiscontis lakes.
Sections of East Branch Seboeis, Mattamiscontis and Sam Ayers streams and Johnny Ayers, Mountain and Squirrel brooks are also general-law waters.
At First Lake Mattagamon and Mountain Catcher Pond in T6R8 WELS, a two-fish, 10-inch minimum-size limit is in effect. However, some sections of Mountain Catcher Stream fall under general-law provisions.
The general law also covers waters in Piscataquis County, where the Penobscot Indian Nation holds lands in Williamsburg Township. These include sections of Merrill, Roaring, Stinking and Whetstone brooks and the West Branch Pleasant River.
Keep in mind that while most other waters not mentioned here are governed under the general rule, the Passamaquoddy Tribe may require a permit for access to its waters within its reservation at Indian Township in Washington County, including Big Lake, Grand Falls Flowage, Lewy Lake, Long Lake, Georgie Brook, Berry Brook and Tomah Stream.
Tribes have their own warden services that enforce both tribal and state regulations on waters located within their territories. Waters open for tribal use only will be posted or gated.
Anyone wishing to fish on tribal territory should call one of the following offices to be clear on current rules: The Maine Indian Tribal State Commission at (207) 622-4815, The Penobscot Indian Nation Department of Natural Resources at (207) 827-7776, or The Passamaquoddy Warden Service at (207) 796-2677.