The long Memorial Day weekend marks our annual spring fishing trip to the classic salmon habitat of West Grand Lake. The planning begins in earnest a month before the weekend. Family and friends make the fishing gear transition from ice fishing to trolling. Ice shacks are hauled off shaky ice to become reverted temporarily back to garden sheds. Trolling rods, yanked from garage rafters, undergo thorough inspections, and reels containing last season's lines are stripped off and newly installed. Flies and lures, beaten from last season's angling battles, are checked for bend shafts and missing barbs. Then they have their hooks sharpened.
Though perhaps a tad bit excessive in preparation, it puts me at ease knowing the strength and quality of my fishing line, gear and tackle rather than relying on pure faith when battling a wall worthy salmon or lake trout (togue).
Late May brings with it hordes of hungry salmon and togue, intoxicated by newly available forage and driven wild by hunger after the desolate winter season. Despite their wanton desires to fill their empty bellies and replace depleted fat reserves, this does not mean that the fish are always biting and hungry.
Last season, our first day of fishing was marked by incredible action, spurred by a titanic eruption of Hendrickson mayflies that whipped the salmon into a feeding frenzy. In a day of trolling the lake from sunrise to sunset, we succeeded in bringing 20 salmon to the boat. Most of the fish were between 15-17 inches. This included one well-fed football shaped monster that succeeded in registering 18 inches. (*Length limits on West Grand Lake and Grand Lake Stream for salmon is 14 inches and18 inches for togue.) Our second day was considerably more difficult, and the salmon needed A LOT of "convincing" to elicit strikes. Through trial and error, we managed to get several average salmon into the boat. We finally hit gold with any lure containing the color pink. The remainder of the weekend was marked by high winds and cold temperatures. Our last half day of fishing yielded not a single strike. As in all angling adventures, there are highs and lows, times when the fish bite and times when the "strikes" go cold.
Show me a map of West Grand Lake, and it would be difficult for me to indicate a specific spot where I have fished and not caught many fine salmon and togue including: Whitney Cove, the Thoroughfare, around Hardwood Island, Oxbrook, Pineo Point and many other locations. I am confident that when the fish are biting, anyone with a basic sense of direction and a good depth map will find success with minimal effort.
West Grand Lake should not be trifled with any time of year but especially during the early season. Those wishing to fish its watery depths need to have a backup plan, should weather turn dangerously nasty. The ice may have long since receded, but unfriendly winds can still nip flesh. My past trips have run the range of extremes from arctic conditions to sunny blue bird days spent lounging around in shorts and t-shirts. As the saying goes, this is typical of Maine weather, and it is better to be prepared than second-guess what Mother Nature might decide to offer up.