Have you ever been on a fishing trip that offers the angler a superb possibility of catching a monster-sized fish? I went on one of these trips recently, and I tell you h’what, by the end of the weekend, our nine-person posse drove away from Allagash wilderness with grins on our faces and stories to tell back home.
Eagle Lake is a large body of water in the Allagash Waterway that is home to a healthy stock of our favorite coldwater fish here in Maine, namely whitefish, brook trout, and lake trout (togue). The shoreline is ringed with ancient pine trees that, standing in superior majesty, relax in well-deserved parcels of sunlight. We decided to fish near Smith Brook in particular (DeLorme Map 56 D-1), a spot we were not entirely familiar with, but a place we knew was home to plenty ample-sized brook trout.
As we arrived at the small stream on our snowmobiles, everybody peeled off in a separate direction in order to begin setting up their own traps. Each person is allowed five traps, and there are several types of fish that one can attempt to catch, so each person has to decide where each trap is going and what their target fish is. At our current location we had the option to set traps out deep for lake trout, or along the shore for brook trout. A substantial number of people fish specifically, oftentimes at night, for whitefish. My friend Gump and I decided we would dedicate most of our traps for brookies and each put a single trap out deep for any lunker that might be dwelling on bottom.
I was surprised to find, after drilling a few separate holes a good distance from shore and sounding them for depth, the most water I could find was 10 feet! Hooking a shiner on and dropping it down the hole, we worked with what we had and set the traps anyway.
It was chilly that day, but not as cold as the previous afternoon, which seemed to give us strength built simply out of an optimistic perspective. I should also mention it was just warm enough to keep the beer from freezing in the cooler, and could be enjoyed without first bringing them up to temperature in the Coleman grill.
Flags began popping up everywhere along the shore, and it wasn’t long before Gump and I, who were fishing just 50 yards from the entrance of the brook, each pulled up a few nice looking brook trout about a foot long, and released them back into the arctic-cold Allagash waters. Directly in front of the tributary where my brother had set up most of his traps were also hopping with fish. None of the traps set for togue showed any action, and chatting with the others, I discovered 12 feet was about as deep as it got in the vicinity, that is, unless you wanted to migrate a little further off shore to where even binoculars might have a hard time seeing.
After checking a sprung flag on one of his traps, Tucker’s pull-cord busted on his sled as he tried to start it. As many of you know, when there are lots of guys around, a busted snowmobile might as well be a ’67 Mustang broken down on the ice. Eventually, the 10 of us were able to get the pull-start assembly back together (manually coiling the spring back into its spot offered a challenge), and it wasn’t an hour too soon as evening started to show its slow approach.
It was about at this time we heard distant shouting from my brother-in-law Zach, who was kneeling down around one of his togue traps, trying to get our attention. Someone mentioned that there was a flag up in Zach’s vicinity and he was probably making us aware of it. The group of master mechanics continued to put the finishing touches on Tucker’s sled, tightening and screwing things back into place, and that’s when we heard Zach’s snowmobile whining across the lake in our direction.
As Zach reached us, he hopped off his sled before it fully stopped, took two long strides to his dog-sled, reached into his cooler full of terrified bait, and pulled out this:
The lake trout weighed in at 10 pounds and was caught in a surprisingly shallow 12 feet of water. Though togue have the capacity of getting a lot bigger than this one, it was still quite a sight to behold. After showing us his remarkable fish, Zach gently released it back into the water. Gump and I kept a more diligent eye on our traps out deep for the remainder of the evening, but despite our anticipation, we wouldn’t land our own togue that trip.
Gump and I would indeed catch some beautiful brook trout, some around 14 inches, but I think both of us would agree that a few more togue traps will be set next year. A nice brookie, or any fish for that matter, can be a thrill to pull up through the ice, but when the possibility of catching a mammoth lake trout presents itself, you better not pass up the opportunity! Happy fishin’!