Roaming Rob: Icefishing

Updated 1 year ago

During the winter months, Maine’s largest lake often boasts a thick layer of snow-covered ice surrounded by scenic views of the western mountains, making this one of the most popular ice fishing destinations in the state. After purchasing my fishing license, I met up with some folks at Northwoods Outfitters in Greenville to head out to their fishing spot on the beautiful lake. We drove about 2 miles by snowmobile over Moosehead before arriving at their secluded ice shack.“Well, we’ve made it to our fishing spot and I’m joined right now by Matt Lavigne and Chris Fenn, here with us on behalf of Northwoods Outfitters. Guys, what makes a good ice fishing spot?” “Well, several things I think. One is the drop. We have a nice big deep pool here of about 70 to 90 feet that hold a lot of bait. And the deep spot is where we’ll catch the Lake Trout. And then we also have a nice rocky, jagged kind of island in behind us (atop Moose Island) which holds a lot of bait fish that hide in the rocks, and we set those for Brook Trout.” “All right. Well, let’s drill that hole and start fishing!”We grabbed the auger and drilled through the thick ice. Matt then explained how the trap operates.“Now, what is this contraption?” “This is your typical tip-up. How that works is: fish on the other end, you have your bait down in the hole. That fish will grab the bait and trip this up.” “Ah, ok.” “So your flag pops up, you put your trap to the side. Take off your gloves, and you hand pull it in.”“Right now we’re standing on ice that about 2 ½ feet thick. And Moosehead Lake, at its deepest points, is probably 300ft deep.” “Pretty close.” “But how deep are we going to fish today?” “This particular set that we’re setting up here is for Brook Trout and we’re going to be in about 4 feet of water.”After baiting the trap with a shiner, we set the tip-up and waited to see the flag rise. Chris set several more traps for us, some deeper than others, to improve our odds of successfully catching a fish.“So our fishing trap is set, Matt and Chris, but you mentioned that right now we’re looking for some Brook Trout. What are some other kinds of fish you normally see here in the Moosehead Lake region?” “Well, today we’ve got some traps out for Togue, or Lake Trout. And on those sets, a lot of times we catch Cusk. And of course, we have salmon.”We were lucky, it wasn’t long before…“Flag!” “Ah we got a fish already! Let’s go check it out.”Taking Matt’s earlier advice to mind, I moved the tip-up aside, took off my gloves, and began pulling in a big one. According to Chris, this trap was set to a depth of about 70 feet.“He’s not pulling too hard. See, I’m used to fly-fishing when they really pull. But since it’s winter, I’m guessing they’re probably a little bit more lethargic.” “Yeah, they are.”“Go slow. Oh, that’s a big fish! When his head comes in, leave his head here and I’ll grab his gills. Don’t lift him up because the line might break. Just nice and easy.” “Wow, that is a big fish! Got ‘em?” “I do.” “Wow!” “That’s a big Lake Trout.” “That’s incredible!” “Congratulations.”At 27” and about 6.5 pounds, this was easily the biggest fish I had ever caught. I couldn’t help but marvel at the size and beauty of this fish. Chris and Matt believed that this was probably the largest fish caught at their fishing spot all season and would easily be a catch that many would have mounted on their wall.“So what do we do now guys?” “I say we go back to the shack, have a cup of coffee and warm up a little bit.” “Sounds good to me.”While thawing in the ice shack, we shared stories and continued to watch our other traps through the windows. Matt and Chris explained that some fishing days were better than others, but I could definitely see why many enjoy this wintertime sport.“Well, there you have it. I think my first ice fishing experience was a success. What do you think?” “Absolutely.” “And what are you going to do with this big boy?” “Oh we’ll turn him into a nice fish chowder.” “And you’ve got a lot of fish to work with there too.” “Yeah, that’ll make a big batch.”A big thanks to Matt, Chris, and the folks at Northwoods Outfitters in Greenville. Also, thanks to WABI-TV5 Photographer Suzanne Laidman for the excellent footage and editing!For more info about Northwoods Outfitters, be sure to check out their website at