Midsummer Antics

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you it’s been hot lately. Here in northeastern Massachusetts, we’ve had about a week straight of daytime highs over 90 degrees, and while I’m writing this, the high is nearly 100. Couple that with a lack of rain, and it’s bad news for most cold and coolwater species. So when the weather gets hot, I retreat to my summertime haunts.

Instead of chasing trout (although I must admit, I made the excursion out to the Swift last week), I’ve settled for fishing the ponds, lakes, and estuaries I’ve come to love over countless past summer breaks.

When I got back from my week at the TU Teen Summit, I didn’t get so much as a chance to rest before I was back on the road again. This time I was headed to my family’s cabin on Sebago Lake. Going from small-stream trout fishing in the South to big-lake bass fishing in the North would be a pretty hefty change-of-pace, but an appreciated one.

Though Sebago is easily my favorite place in the world to be during the summer months, this would be my first time up there this year. And while it would have been nice to stay for a while, the demands of work and sports drew me back home after just a single day.

No matter the time limitations, I still made the most of the trip. On my first cast (which I had my mom film for this exact reason), I hooked and landed a smallmouth almost immediately. The Neg Rig never fails! On the subsequent cast, I caught another pipsqueak from the same spot.

A little Sebago smallmouth bass.

Sebago fishing can be fast-and-furious with a Ned Rig, but admittedly, most of the fish you catch on that lure this time of year are small. What I really wanted to do was chase larger fish with topwaters. But as with any fishing plan, Mother Nature slapped me in the face with high winds that would have rendered my topwater offering useless. Nonetheless, I persisted, and had fun catching small bass throughout the afternoon.

Later that evening, I was lucky enough to join fellow youth writer Nolan Raymond in his boat for some togue fishing. Nolan and I first met at the New England Outdoor Writer’s Association conference. Ever since learning that he has a camp close to mine, we’d been trying to find time to do some fishing together.

Despite the wind, Nolan’s pontoon boat handled the “high seas” of Sebago quite well. We had four rods out behind the boat, each plying a different depth. One rod, the lightest of the bunch, was rigged with a spoon given out at the NEOWA conference. Wouldn’t it be serendipitous, we mused, if that spoon caught a fish.

For a couple hours, we trolled unsuccessfully. Still, we enjoyed the brilliant colors of the setting sun, as well as the stories we swapped back-and-forth.

A fine Sebago Lake togue. Photo credit: Nolan Raymond.

As we were getting about ready to call it quits, Nolan pulled the rod rigged with the spoon off the downrigger. When a surprising weight tugged at the other end, Nolan shouted that we had a fish on! After a short but spirited fight (it was a medium light spinning rod, after all), we had an 18″ lake trout in the boat. How funny that it was caught on the same spoon I got when we first met!

That togue ended my short but memorable trip to Sebago. Later that week, not fully satisfied with the fishing I’d already done, I took a trip to the coast to chase stripers on the fly. While I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for, I did cross paths with a new species for me, and one I’ve been meaning to target for a while: the American shad.

In my long evening of fishing at a spot where I frequently find striped bass, I didn’t see a single one. Typically I at least see the silvery flash of a striper as it chases bait, but the night was bass-less. What I did see, however, were comparatively small fish tousling and jumping at the outlet of the river. Now don’t get me wrong, these fish were by no means tiny, but catching a striped bass that size likely would have been laughable.

My first shad on the fly.

To find out what they were, I cast my yellow-and-white clouser right into the pod of fish, and WHAM, quickly received a strike. Not only did it turn out to be my first shad on the fly, but it was my first saltwater fish on the fly, period. A two-fer!

Still not having entirely satiated my hunger for fishing, my friend Ben and I took one final trip before the weather became unbearable. Fishing out of his rowboat, we were in search of big bass and other warmwater species at a local pond.

Ben was the first to strike, with a small bass sight fished before we even stepped foot in the boat. Once we were in the main pond, though, it was my time to shine. Experimenting with Keitech swimbaits, a new lure to me, I was reeling in fish after fish. Largemouths, crappies, and sunfish all rushed to eat the lure, even when I wasn’t even trying to catch anything. Many times my lure would be dangling a few feet from the boat as we rowed to a new spot, and the fish would come in swarms to eat the lure. Admittedly, they were all small, but it sure beat sweltering in the beating sun while also getting skunked.

Everything was eating the Keitech!

While the Keitech worked wonders to entice fish, it was far from the most durable lure I’ve ever fished. I ended up going through an entire pack of ten in under two hours. Sometimes the bait would last a fish or two, but most times the delicate tail would get chewed off before it even caught a fish. I guess it may just be the price you pay for such an effective lure.

Once we were out of the main pond, Ben schooled me in catching respectable fish. Without any of my cheat-code Keitechs remaining, I was left to figure out a new pattern while Ben roped in the bass. Most of his were caught at the edges of weeds.

With no significant break in this intense heat predicted any time soon, I’ll just have to learn to grind through the discomfort. Let’s all do our rain dances, because this lack of water is getting a little ridiculous. At least we have warmwater and saltwater species to occupy us while our rivers and streams rejuvenate.

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