Where the Fish Are (in Maine)
By Scott Warner

If you want to find a fisherman, go to where
the fish are.

The Penobscot (pe-NAHB-scot) River from Medway to Old Town  in Maine is
sixty miles of the best smallmouth bass fishing in the eastern US.  I live in
Lincoln, Maine, one of several mill towns along this stretch.  But I've yet to find
a fisherman.

I have a feeling I know where they are: A salesman visiting my office one day
commented on the "huge lake" he'd crossed driving off I-95.  Exit 227 turns
right onto an access road that eventually crosses the Penobscot. Some days, it's
so broad and beautiful this river could be mistaken for a lake. It's one of the
natural wonders of Maine, and a true sportsman's paradise.

The Penobscot is 350 miles long, the distance from Washington, D.C. to
Cleveland. It's the second longest river in Maine and the longest within the
state. New England's second largest watershed, it drains 1/3 the land area of
Maine, originating in two branches that join in Medway and flow southeast
through Bangor and Brewer to the Penobscot Bay in Bucksport. Terrain ranges
from Katahdin, to forests, to bogs.

Credit for discovery goes to Martin Pring, an English explorer who touched on
the islands in Penobscot Bay and continued south looking for sassafras. But
people have been living in this land for thousands of years before Europeans
"discovered" it. To them, Penobscot means "waters of descending ledge." Their
lives must have been intertwined with this large, powerful water system.

When Bangor was the world's lumber capital the river was used to transport
timber. Since then, 113 dams have been built, 20 of which are hydroelectric.
Humans have learned, if nothing else, to steal the river's energy. Fortunately,
organizations such as the Penobscot River Restoration Trust are working to
keep this great ecosystem vital.

Lincoln, Maine lies along the main branch. Mattanawcook Pond, one of four
lakes that drain into the river, extends into town and can be seen from my front

There's good fishing on the Penobscot, which is something Maine can be proud
of. The smallmouth bass, known as Micropterus dolomieu, is a species
sensitive to pollution. Its rising numbers are a good indicator of conservation
efforts in a region. The smallmouth bass is smaller than its cousin the
largemouth and measures 10 to 15 inches long. It's not uncommon to catch a
larger fish. There are fishing tours on the river that can help the novice learn

A variety of warm water game fish abound. Yellow perch and chain pickerel
are two common species. I've caught both in the area in the summer and the
winter, my bare feet stinging on the metal bottom of a boat in summer or
sweating in boots watching a hole augured in four feet of ice in the winter.
Beware the pickerel. Their small, sharp teeth can clean your thumb when you
try to unhook them.

In addition to the fish, you might see osprey, bald eagles, and a heron or two.
I've even seen a lynx. And everyone knows about the moose. Even if you don't
catch a fish, it's worth it for a chance to see other abundant wildlife.
You have to get a fishing license, which is $19 if you're a resident and at least
16 years old. The details are here:
Maine Fishing License.

There are area lodges, camps, and guides. A good place to start looking for
these is the Lincoln Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce at (207) 794-8065.
You'll find that there are a lot of choices for fishing and more than enough fish
throughout the season.  

That's what I know from experience...not from talking to any fisherman
because I still haven't run into any of them.  Maybe its because the river is so
broad and so long we just never run into each other.  

Or maybe because the "real" fishermen know something I don't.

I can only imagine that somewhere in the midst of these 60 miles of river lies
one of the best kept fishing secrets in New England.  Or, perhaps, the real
fisherman are doing what they should be doing: Out early catching the fish
before the osprey does.

About the author:

Scott Warner was born in New Jersey but grew up in the Oxford Hills region of
western Maine.  After a stint in the Air Force stationed in Washington,
D.C., he settled in Downeast Maine for twenty years, living in the Ellsworth
area and working in local hospital laboratories.  He now lives in Lincoln
with his wife and two boys where he is a hospital laboratory manager and
freelance writer.
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Scott Warner
The Penobscot River in Maine...Where the Fish Are.  Photo by Scott Warner
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