Ice out on…
We can start checking off Maine bodies of water on a daily basis now. And as spring continues to bear down we’ll be checking off bodies of water by the hour. Today I sojourned to beautiful Basin Pond, which nestles itself in the north east corner of the town of Fayette. Basin is a small pond encompassing barely 30 acres but it makes up for its minor breadth with a major depth. From the shore the pond quickly drops off reaching a maximum depth of 107ft almost directly in its middle. The water quality is out of this world.
The pond has a clarity unmatched by any other lake or pond I’ve ever observed in this state and it carries a dreamy turquoise hue. This is true even on cold steel gray days in the spring or fall. Where most waters would themselves take on the cold steel gray reflection of a clouded sky Basin peers back deep soothing blue-green. Besides its beauty Basin Pond is also out of the way, which is another great reason I frequent it. There are no camps on this pond. It sits silent and alone in a large tract of woods that is owned by the town. Because it’s a little walk up and over a hill through the woods it’s a pond I often find myself alone at when I’m visiting. On days like that I feel like Henry David Thoreau on his Walden Pond. Given the day (a gray wet late April in Maine) I could be relatively assured that today I’d be alone as well.
my spirits were lifted by the sight of Torsey Lake beneath the Kents Hill ski center—ice out. Still further up Rt41 now my spirits lifted higher (even though it was now raining) by the sight of the much larger, much deeper Echo lake—ice out!
The trip wasn’t necessarily to fish but rather to scout. Cruising past the upper reaches of Maranacook Lake in Readfield on Rt17 revealed a bay still covered in gray ice with patches of white snow all still extending beyond sight. Surely this would mean the small deep Basin Pond surrounded by thick boulder strewn woods of spruce and birch would still sit capped in a soft layer of thick ice. I pressed on anyways and my spirits were lifted by the sight of Torsey Lake beneath the Kents Hill ski center—ice out. Still further up Rt41 now my spirits lifted higher (even though it was now raining) by the sight of the much larger, much deeper Echo lake—ice out! A quick left turn onto the Sandy River Road and a few miles later another left onto the shore road followed by another quick left down Basin Rd and I was at my destination. A dirty yet still formidable pile of cold snow was banked up against the fieldstone wall at the woods entrance. I changed into my muck boots, put on my rain jacket, grabbed my pole and headed into the woods.
I’d been going to Basin Pond for several years before I ever caught a fish there. I never knew anyone else to land one there either so after awhile I gave up on the idea there were really fish in it. It looked like a volcanic lake or something strange and out of this world so I wondered if oxygen levels or some other sort of thing prevented a decent habitat. Instead Basin became just a place to go for a walk and picnic or a quick swim in its clear cool water on a hot summer day. Eventually I learned my assumptions were false. As a managed water body the State of Maine has been at work with Basin Pond since at least as early as the 1950’s. Back then interest in utilizing the unique depth and character of this pond as a stocked trout fishery meant an effort to eradicate the pond of bass and other predatory fish that had destroyed the native trout stock. Records indicate this eradication was undertaken chemically and brook trout were successfully reintroduced and rebounding with the absence of predator fish. Who knows how long that lasted? There are bass in the pond today. Huge whopping bass! I know because I’ve caught one.
Much fun as it is to haul in a hard fighting smallmouth bass I’ll never for the life of me understand why some jack-asses feel the need to have them in every body of water they come into contact with. Why can’t a trout pond stay a trout pond and just that? There’s plenty of small out of the way ponds full of bass for people who prefer just that. In 1969 the State attempted to establish a blueback trout fishery in the pond which failed. Blueback trout are similar and closely related to the artic char. Could it be that predator fish were already back in the pond again by 1969? By the 1980’s the State found the fish that would do the trick—the splake. Splake is a hybrid fish that’s been around since at least the 1880’s. It is a cross between a brook trout and the much larger lake trout. Because of the cross the fish grows extremely fast which increases its chance for survival against larger predatory bass. In Basin Pond these fish thrive. The state record for a splake is 10lbs 3oz. held by one Daniel R. Paquette since 1993. The fish Daniel caught was pulled from Basin Pond. One April morning in 2012 I got up before sunrise and made the trip into Basin where I managed to catch my first splake ever, and not one but three! All were over 17” and two came home with me—one went to my neighbors freezer and one to mine. These fish were caught right from shore on a fast sinking spoon that I was able to retrieve slowly due to the pond’s depth, but to be truthful fish were rising all over the pond that morning and a gentleman out in his canoe was fly fishing and having as much success as I was. I’ve been back to Basin on numerous occasions and have never caught a single fish there since. I had one on one year and lost it.
The trail in today still had icy patches of snow covering it in intervals with remnants of the many snowmobiles that had cruised this path mere weeks ago. The year I’d caught my trout here it was the first week of April and all of the snow was gone. Today in the last week of April I was gearing up for the fact that the pond might still be frozen. As I crested the ridge and peered through the trees down into Basin I still couldn’t tell if it was covered or not. The rain was coming down at a good clip perhaps obscuring the view a bit. But I approached to the surprise of the crystal clear turquoise tinged water. I quickly tied on a lure and beat a path along the shore to my favorite spot. I felt good about today. Ice must just be out as I could still see a small shelf of it lining the opposite shoreline, a low bank of fog rising from it in the warmer rain. I might be the first fisherman down here this season. I cast… and cast… and cast…
Alas it was not to be. I saw a fish rise far from me, and a few ducks flew by, but save for the pattering rain, the skittering squirrels, and the chattering chipmunks rustling through the early spring detritus of last fall there was absolutely no action.
It was a perfect sojourn nonetheless, as is any to this magical place. On my walk out I was treated to an incredibly close encounter with a hairy woodpecker making a meal out of malformed trailside tree trunk. He was a bit bigger than the downy woodpeckers I see around home and he had no clue I was four feet away from him watching him peck out slivers of soft wood and dig out the bug meat hiding within. I don’t always need to catch a fish. I find my little wins and private joys. The ice is out. The fish are rising. We’ll soon hear spring peepers peeping. It is spring time in Maine. Rejoice!