Skunked Again: A Quest for Blueback Trout

9 mins read

Last weekend I made a trip up to northern Maine’s Allagash Wilderness in search of blue-backs. Although the trip did not focus solely on finding this rare species of trout (known to populate only a handful of ponds and lakes in the world), the ambition to catch one was strong in each man during the journey; we were determined to put in the necessary effort in order to cast our eyes upon the beautiful yet allusive blue-back trout!

I traveled up the evening of Thursday the 10th with my brother Tucker and a handful of his friends from Old Town, Maine: Jared, Nick, Griffin, and Sean. The golden road wasn’t too dusty and neither trucks we brought pulled a trailer (an aluminum boat thrown in the back of each pick-up), so it was relatively smooth sailing to the gate. The posse got to the gate at 9:00 p.m. and all of us handed to the clerk what seemed similar to last month’s rent. Well worth it, well worth it; that’s what you got to tell yourself.

We reserved Johnson Pond for three days and three nights. We eventually made our way out to the secluded campsite on an island in the middle of the pond. The site itself was in poor shape and hadn’t been managed in a year or two. Fallen trees were either strewn across the ground or found in the embrace of another tree still living. A large storm had come through at one point and torn the place apart. Plenty of firewood, but the outhouse was hardly accessible. Most of our time was spent goofing off at Johnson, but we eventually dragged ourselves away from the brook trout we had come across in order to concentrate our efforts on blue-backs. We decided on Wadleigh Pond, waters that allegedly had what we were looking for.

The crew found itself at Wadleigh Pond’s third campsite after having checked the others. A short ways up the road there were campsites normal in appearance, but the water out front proved to be terribly shallow and didn’t appear to be good fishing. After walking around and trying a cast in each spot, the six of us filled in to the trucks and made our way to that third campsite hoping for something better. It was a nice campsite with an impressive sand beach out front. The site was at one end of the pond and offered a great vantage point to soak in the scenery of the distant shores as well as the mountains that loomed behind them. With the sunny day, fresh breeze, warm sand beach, and our proximity to fish I have never dreamed of catching, it was like paradise. We were surrounded by beauty and there was no one else to share it with (lucky for us!) It was certainly one of the highlights of the trip just to have found the spot. The group decided to return to that particular site for next year’s annual trip.

Mt. Katahdin, wreathed in clouds. (all photos by Sam Hill)

The sandy beach, although shallow initially, dropped off quickly. We figured the ridge that this created could possibly have trout in its depths, waiting for food to come tumbling over the edge. The six of us tried with all sorts of lures to snag on to one, but none of us got any bites. Live-bait is forbidden at Wadleigh Pond, similar to a lot of ponds and lakes in the area, and this can often-times be detrimental to your chances at landing a fish. After a half hour of casting, the drop-off seemed to be uninhabited or our lures were of no interest to the fish.

Nick and I decided to take off the canoe strapped to Jared’s F150, but in the process caused a shiver to go down Jared’s spine as a gadget on the canoe’s bow loudly scratched a good foot of paint off the newly purchased truck’s roof. Jared wasn’t impressed, so we got sailing immediately. Nick and I climbed in to the canoe and pushed off from the third campsite’s elegant sandy shore. We did not have a trolling motor but only the strength in our arms to pull us through the water. Nick let his Mooselock Wobbler slide in to the depths as I kept us on a straight course from the back. When his reel clicked shut and he grabbed the paddle, I did the same with a large spinner. We paddled around maintaining a good speed with our poles on opposite sides; each rested on the black railing of the canoe. We were in an Old Town Canoe Tripper XL. This was the perfect canoe to use on lakes and large ponds. Its 20-foot length makes it formidable in rougher waters.

We first paddled through the deep holes of the pond and eventually along the shore a ways out. Nick and I glanced towards the rest of the crew casting along the shore and participating in the mini tail-gate party they had set up. After we noticed the dwindling efforts of our friends on shore, the conversation in the canoe turned to things like “Man! Can you imagine the looks on their faces if we brought back a blue-back trout!” or “even if we don’t catch one I’m still claiming we caught a bunch but didn’t keep any, too small!” We yearned for that first bite, excited simply to have a line in the water. Personally, I remember feeling a surge of pride as one of the two fishermen that paddled out to catch what we initially came to the Allagash for. I felt like Hemingway’s Santiago, only instead of an enormous marlin, I would have been happy with a fish the length of my hand! Unfortunately for that journey out in to Wadleigh waters, that bite never came and we eventually had to steer our course backs towards the anxious group on shore.

The experience itself was worth it. I am all ready itching to give it another try next summer. I had a line in the water and perhaps a great chance to catch one of these rare fish, and I am ready to do it again. Before we even got to Wadleigh Pond I had resolved not to keep a blue-back if I caught one, and I hope most people would do the same. After all, currently they are a heavily threatened species with dwindling numbers and can use any help they can get. Of course, we kept a camera handy the entire time – we knew we needed solid evidence or our relatives and friends would never quite believe. If you fish, then you know how that goes. And so, if any of you find yourself lucky enough to be fishing for a blue-back, keep in mind their futile numbers and the delicacy of their existence. But do not forget that camera! Happy fishin’

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