If ever there existed a river that offers something for everyone, from canoeists to anglers, it is the Saco River. From its birthplace in New Hampshire’s White Mountains to Biddeford/Saco, in southern Maine where it empties into Saco Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, the Saco offers something for the whole family.
From the New Hampshire border at Fryeburg to Buxton there is a series of power and flood control dams. Due to rapidly rising waters below the dams, anglers are advised to keep a close eye on water levels and flow. From Buxton (Skelton Dam) to Biddeford, the water also runs slow and wide with only one set of very short Class I rapids that pose no threat to boaters.
Landlocked salmon and brook trout as well as smallmouth bass and brown trout can be taken throughout the river, although shad that are lifted over the Cataract Dam in Biddeford each spring also spend time in the river as far upstream as Buxton (Skelton Dam) during the summer months as do a small number of Atlantic salmon. It is unlawful to fish for or keep Atlantic salmon due to their current listing under the Endangered Species Act. Anglers are advised to look at large trout very carefully to determine the difference between brown trout and Atlantic salmon. Brown trout have very well developed vomerine teeth in the roof of their mouths as opposed to the single row of soft teeth in salmon.
Smallmouth bass and brown trout reach record proportions in the mid-section of river between Buxton and Biddeford with catches of bass over 4-pounds common and brown trout in the 6-pound range.
Anglers as well as other boaters have access to the mid section of the Saco, just below the Skelton Dam in Buxton, a dirt launch for small boats, a canoe/kayak take-out (no ramp) at the Route 5 bridge in Saco, a concrete boat launch on Lincoln Street in Saco and another public ramp on the Biddeford side at Rotary Park in Biddeford.
The entire length of the Maine portion of the Saco River is open to year round fishing although creel limits and other regulations vary during the seasons.
Downstream from Biddeford/Saco, the river is brackish and summer anglers enjoy an excellent run of shad, striped bass, and, at the mouth of the river at the Camp Ellis breakwater, mackerel. Anglers are advised to visit the NOAA website and sign up for the newly-legislated mandate that saltwater anglers in Maine participate in the National Saltwater Angler Registry program. Beginning in 2011 some Maine saltwater anglers will be required to purchase striped bass angling permits.