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Boat camping on Farm Island.
From fishing to camping, kayaking to rafting, there are so many ways to enjoy the Moosehead Lake Region of north-central Maine that it would take an entire summer to sample them all. We tried to do it in three days!
Text & Photography by Tom Richardson
Let it be said that the crew of New England Boating TV knows how to have a good time at work. It would be hard not to, given the subject matter, but our action-packed, three-day shoot in the Moosehead Lake Region in September 2015 was over the top, even by our standards. Allow me to set the stage.
The sun was dipping behind the autumn-tinged hills west of Maine’s largest lake when we pulled up to the Greenville Inn with our Pursuit C260 center console and a Bass Tracker 190 aluminum skiff in tow. Occupying a grand Victorian home overlooking the lower lake’s East Cove and within easy walking distance of downtown Greenville, the largest town on the lake, the inn proved an ideal base of operations for our various excursions, both on and off the water.
Shaw Block, downtown Greenville.
Greenville itself has served as the gateway to the Moosehead Region since the mid-1800s. In 1857, transcendentalist writer Henry David Thoreau embarked from the town on a summer-long paddling and hiking sojourn that he later documented in his book, The Maine Woods. Today, Greenville remains the perfect place to get one’s bearings and stock up on supplies before hitting the water or venturing into the surrounding wilderness.
Helping the cause is Northwoods Outfitters, the one-stop shop for any and all outdoors activities in the region. From moose-watching to white-water rafting to ATV rentals, owner Mike Boutin and his staff can make it happen—as they did in our case, starting with a fly-fishing excursion on the Kennebec River.
Northwoods Outfitters in Greenville rents all sorts of outdoors gear, and can arrange guided trips.
The mighty Kennebec, once a critical conduit for logs harvested from Maine’s interior, begins its 170-mile journey from Moosehead Lake to the Atlantic just west of Greenville. That’s where we met guide Matt Levine, who launched his fiberglass Hyde drift boat a quarter-mile below the East Outlet Dam. This stretch of the upper Kennebec produces excellent salmon and brook trout fishing, particularly in the fall, when the adult fish gather below the lake to spawn.
The entire Moosehead Region is duly famous for its river fishing, and names such as the Penobscot, Roach, Moose and Kennebec resonate with fly fishermen who seek native trout and salmon in an unforgettable setting. Spring and fall typically offer the best action, especially for those who prefer to cast dry flies, but it’s still possible to scratch out a decent fish or two during the height of summer if you put in your time. The upper reaches of the Penobscot’s West Branch continue to produce well all summer, given that it’s fed by cold water released from the bottom of Lake Chesuncook. No matter what the fishing is like, however, the riparian scenery never fails to disappoint!
The Kennebec River offers world-class fly fishing for landlocked salmon.
After expertly positioning the skiff mid-river and handing my co-host Parker Kelley and me a pair of five-weight fly rods, Matt instructed us to cast streamers and caddis emerger patterns to the seams and pockets on either side of boat. Given the unseasonably warm conditions New England experienced last fall, the fish were still sluggish; however, I managed to land a small landlocked salmon for the camera before we had to haul anchor and head for our next location—Kelly’s Landing restaurant in nearby Greenville Junction.
Kelly’s & Kate
One of the surprisingly few dock-and-dines on Moosehead, the casual Kelly’s serves a variety of dishes, including “endless” fried haddock, burgers, ribs, salads and an award-winning seafood chowder. Best of all, it has a long dock where boaters can tie up while they grab a bite to eat or enjoy a cocktail on the deck.
While we filmed the dining segment, the historic steamboat Katahdin passed by the restaurant, sparking a vociferous greeting by the Kelly’s wait staff. Known affectionately as “Kate,” the Katahdin—named for Maine’s tallest mountain—was originally used on log drives and to ferry guests to and from the celebrated Kineo Hotel in the late 1800s and early 1900s. After decades of disrepair, the venerable wooden vessel was fully restored in 1993, and now hosts tours of the lake and special functions from her berth at the Maine Maritime Museum in downtown Greenville.
The restored steamship Katahdin offers daily cruises on Moosehead in season.
Waters Big & Small
After lunch, we hitched up our boats and headed for the Moose River in Rockwood, on Moosehead’s western shore. Waiting to greet us was Mark Gilbert Jr., a third-generation Moosehead boater and the Sales Manager for Moosehead Marina, which offers transient slips, a launch ramp, and a service facility. The marina’s convenient location at the midpoint of the lake gives customers the option of running north into North Bay, south towards Greenville or east to Spencer and Lily Bays.
Wasting little time, we launched our boats and idled down the Moose River and into the central portion of the lake for a brief orientation. Along the way, Gilbert explained that Moosehead’s navigational system is based on the red and green buoys familiar to saltwater mariners, and that most hazards are well marked. For those new to the lake, Navionics offers a detailed digital chart of Moosehead, while Fishing Hot Spots sells an excellent print version, available online.
Moosehead Marina in Rockwood has your boating needs covered.
Any concerns about our 26-foot, ocean-bred center console being out of place were erased once we entered open water. Some 40 miles long by 10 miles wide, with an average depth of 55 feet, Moosehead is plenty deep and wide enough for big boats, and it demands respect. When strong winds blow up out of the north and south, big seas are possible, and there is no Coast Guard to rely on for help. Close monitoring of the weather is recommended, especially if traveling in a small boat, kayak or canoe.
That said, Moosehead’s many islands and coves provide good protection in most conditions, along with myriad sheltered places to pursue watersports activities, fish, or go ashore to picnic or swim. Kayaking, canoeing and paddleboarding can be enjoyed throughout the lake, but of particular interest is the network of small islands and shallow coves comprising Lily Bay, on the eastern side of Moosehead. Many of the islands are uninhabited, and some feature course-sand beaches perfect for beaching a small craft. This is also a good area to encounter feeding moose, especially at dawn and dusk.
As we neared the end of our brief boat tour, Gilbert had a surprise for us. Taking the helm of the Pursuit, he brought us at full throttle to a deep cove on the southeastern side of Mount Kineo—a massive chunk of rock that rises 700 feet from the center of the lake. Kineo is the country’s largest known mass of rhyolite, a volcanic stone used by Native American tribes to craft arrowheads, hatchet heads and chisels. In the late 1800s, a grand hotel and a colony of Victorian summer homes built by lumber and railroad barons occupied the flat area at the base of the mountain, which now shelters a magnificent, 18-hole public golf course and a lodge, both accessible by boat (shuttle service is available from Rockwood). Private-boaters interested in climbing Kineo can tie up to the landing on the southwestern side of the mountain and make the easy hike to its summit for panoramic views of the lake and surrounding countryside.
The view of Kineo from the water is equally impressive. The mountain’s southeast face rises abruptly from 75 feet of water, allowing boaters to cruise within a few feet of its base. Just a few hundred feet from shore, the depth drops to over 200 feet. I could only imagine the massive lake trout that might lurk in such a hole!
Mount Kineo is an imposing presence on Moosehead.
Lakers & Landlocks
Indeed, Moosehead is famous for its lakers, also called “togue,” and specimens up to 29 pounds have been taken from its mysterious depths. Landlocked salmon also cruise the lake, typically preying on schools of smelt. In spring, salmon can be taken near the surface on spoons and flies, but move deeper once the water warms. During summer and fall, most trout and salmon are caught on slow-trolled leadcore line or downrigger systems, requiring the use of a good depthsounder and chart plotter. Local guides can help those who need a leg up on the proper technique and proven hot spots.
Moosehead also boasts a healthy population of smallmouth bass, which hold near the lake’s shallower ledges, rock piles, drop-offs, and dock pilings. In summer they can be taken on soft-plastic worms, tubes, spoons, live shiners, and jigs fished near structure. If you simply want to catch some panfish with the kids, break out the bobber-fishing gear and soak some worms in the shallow, protected coves for perch, bluegills, sunfish, chub, and pickerel.
Sadly, we didn’t have time to fish the lake, as we had a special segment to film that evening. With the sun sinking fast, we dropped Gilbert at his marina, loaded our boats with camping gear and set a course for nearby Farm Island, a 980-acre state wildlife preserve just north of the Moose River. The island features hiking trails and two lakeside campsites with picnic tables, fire rings and a nearby latrine. Best of all, the sites are accessible only by boat and available at no cost on a first-come, first-served basis. Similar wilderness sites are located on Sugar Island, Moose Island and the northern part of the lakeshore.
Evening light illuminates a birch tree on Farm Island, home to a couple of wilderness campsites.
The NEBO TV crew has camped together once before, but this experience was unique from the start. Shortly after assembling our tents and stoking the campfire for a steak-and-skillet-fries feast, the setting sun suddenly dropped below the ceiling of low clouds to bathe the eastern shore and Mount Kineo in magical golden light. It was a surreal experience, but one that’s far from unusual in this part of New England.
The next morning we were up at dawn, as we had another important date we couldn’t afford to miss. After a calorie-packed breakfast of corned beef hash, eggs and bacon (required camping cuisine, in my opinion) washed down with a heavy dose of potent coffee, we broke camp, cruised back to the Moosehead Marina and piled into the crew’s GMC Sierra Denali for a 30-minute drive south to the headquarters of Moxie Outdoors Adventures.
Loons are a common sight on the lake and surrounding waterbodies.
Upon arrival we were promptly outfitted with the wetsuits, helmets, PFDs and paddles we would need for a whitewater rafting adventure on the Kennebec River then boarded a retired school bus for a bumpy ride to our put-in spot below the Harris Station Dam, at the southern end of Indian Pond. Along the way, veteran guide Eric Sherman informed us that our trip happened to coincide with a federally required “release day.” That’s when dam officials test the turbines by releasing a super-high volume of water, which meant that the rapids we were about to encounter would be even bigger than normal. While Sherman and his fellow guides were visibly stoked about this development, Parker and I were beginning to have second thoughts.
But there was no turning back now, so off we went on a Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride through a couple of Class III rapids and a Class V known as “Big Mama”—the latter a 20-foot-tall standing wall of water that swallowed our raft. Along the way we stopped to dunk our heads below an icy waterfall and also had the opportunity to get out of the raft and float along in the river.
The Moosehead Region is a popular destination for whitewater rafting, and several outfits run trips on the Kennebec, the Dead and the Penobscot. These range from “soft” adventures suitable for kids to full-day, white-knuckle Class V rides. Either way, river rafting is something everyone should experience at least once.
That night we returned to our comfortable digs at the Greenville Inn, grateful for a warm shower and a soft bed—if only for a few hours. We were up again before dawn, ready for a moose safari with guide Steve Sullivan, who drove us to a remote pond in search of Maine’s signature ungulate.
Mist from the warming water swirled and eddied around us as we launched a set of canoes and paddled silently through shallow coves filled with aquatic moose forage. All eyes, ears and cameras were tuned to the dark forest of pine and spruce, from which issued the occasional and tantalizing snap of a tree branch. The table was set, breakfast was served, but the guest of honor had apparently chosen to dine elsewhere.
Morning mist rises from one of the Moosehead Region’s many small ponds.
Two hours later we returned to our put-in spot, ultimately moose-less after several hours of waiting for one of the beasts to emerge from the woods. Yet the morning’s efforts to capture Maine wildlife on camera hadn’t been squandered, as a family of photogenic loons graciously allowed us to film them while they dove for breakfast, preened, and issued haunting calls as if on cue. At least one of the state’s iconic critters had delivered, but so had the region as a whole—even if we had only managed to sample a small part of its many natural wonders and activities.
By the way, you can watch the Moosehead Region episode, as well as the other shows we filmed last season, by visiting NewEnglandBoating.com and clicking on the “TV” tab. Hopefully, it will inspire you to plan a road trip of your own to this beautiful part of New England!
Who says you can’t explore the great outdoors in comfort? Certainly not the crew of New England Boating TV, who were treated to great service, delicious meals and first-rate accommodations at the Greenville Inn while filming the Moosehead Region episode.
Owned and operated since 2003 by Terry and Jeffrey Johannemann, the inn is the former residence of lumber baron William Shaw, who initiated construction in 1890. Today, the beautifully furnished inn features comfortable, well-appointed suites in the main house, as well as accommodations in the carriage house and several cottages, all within walking distance of the Greenville waterfront. Guests can relax on the inn’s sweeping porch overlooking East Cove while they enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine.
The inn also features fine dining and a varied and delicious breakfast buffet (we can vouch for the quality of Jeff Johannemann’s homemade pancakes), and its friendly staff can help arrange activities in and around the lake, including moose-watching, fishing, float plane and boating trips.
The two-day sale is a great opportunity to get rid of any surplus marine items you might have in your garage, boat shed, or basement, or pick up a good deal on marine equipment. All sales raise money for the museum’s programs, and the Museum is also happy to take gently used boats, marine gear, tools, and other items off your hands.
Early admission hours from 8-10am on Friday are free to members, or via $10 donation for non-members.
The peak spring fishing for stripers, blues, and black sea bass in Buzzards Bay may be winding down, but you can still catch some decent fish if you put your time in.
Here’s a short video that showcases a great day of fishing the Upper Bay, with New England Fishing host Tom Richardson and Dave Steeves of the Goose Hummock Shops. It includes tips for fishing the rocky shorelines with plugs and soft-plastics for stripers and blues, as well as bouncing bottom with jigs for big “bumphead” sea bass.
Boaters based on the south shore of Cape Cod, or those who trailer their vessels to the South Cape area, have it pretty good. After all, few places offer such ready access a variety of fun, exciting places to visit by water—many in the same day!
“What we have here [on the South Cape] is special,” states Tim Leedham, president of Bosun’s Marine of Mashpee and East Falmouth, and a longtime boater. “I’ve taken people from other parts of the country out on daytrips where we’ve hit 3 or 4 different harbors in the same day, each with a completely unique character, and they can’t believe it. They tell me that in their part of the world, people would be lucky to have one or 2 spots to visit in a day. We’re really blessed by the variety on the South Cape.”
On that note, here are 16 great day trip or weekend destinations worth checking out this summer, all of them accessible from South Cape ports.
The name alone evokes mystery. This isolated outpost at the end of the Elizabeth Islands chain is within reach of many South Cape boaters launching from points west of Hyannis (distance from Falmouth Harbor is 16 nm). Duck inside the peaceful, protected harbor and call Cuttyhunk Marina, (508) 990-7578, at the town wharf for short-term dockage. For moorings, contact Jenkins Moorings, (508) 996-9294, or Frog Pond Marine, (508) 992-7530. Once ashore you can wander the hilly slopes of town for amazing views of Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay, play in the surf at Barges Beach, grab a hot dog at Bart’s Cart or cast a plug for stripers or bluefish in one of the greatest surfcasting venues in the world. If you choose to spend the night, be sure to hail Cuttyhunk Shellfish Farms, (508) 971-1120; which will delivers ocean-fresh oysters and other raw-bar items direct to your boat.
Peaceful Cuttyhunk Harbor is a boater’s idyll. Photo by Tom Richardson
2: Washburn Island
This unique island inside Waquoit Bay—part of a state park—offers a rustic ocean escape for all types of boaters, from kayakers to fishermen. The island features sandy beaches, walking trails and campsites, which can be reserved from May to October. The surrounding waters are warm in season and ideal for swimming and kayaking, and the island makes a good base camp for fishing trips in Vineyard Sound and beyond.
Washburn Island offers wilderness campsites right on the bay.
Menemsha Harbor, some 14 nm from Falmouth Harbor, is Martha’s Vineyard’s most isolated and picturesque port—a working harbor that remains home to a stalwart commercial fishing fleet. Once you arrive, contact the harbormaster (508) 645-2846, to arrange a slip, mooring or space alongside Dutcher Dock. If conditions allow, you can also drop the hook outside the harbor and dinghy (or swim) to the gorgeous white-sand beach. Grab a stuffed quahog or lobster roll at Larsen’s Fish Market, (508) 645-2680. Local artists sell everything from copper fish weathervanes and sculptures at The Copperworks, (508) 645-2995; to clothing and gifts at Menemsha Blues (508) 693-9599; or Pandora’s Box (508) 645-9696. For ice cream, lobster rolls and more, head for the Menemsha Galley, (508) 645-9819; at the head of the harbor.
This statue pays homage to Menemsha’s once-thriving harpoon swordfishery.
4: Hyannis Harbor
Centrally located, Hyannis Harbor is an easy run from most any South Cape port, plus it boasts a variety of restaurants, shops, and other attractions. Contact the harbormaster’s office, (508) 790-6273; VHF 9, to see about free dockage along Bismore Park. If there’s room, you can go ashore and visit local artists displaying their work in the park, or grab lunch Spanky’s Clam Shack, (508) 771-2770, or the Black Cat Tavern, (508) 778-1233. Both are kid-friendly. Ice cream is available at Ben & Jerry’s next to the Hy-Line Ferry. Or drop by the Cape Cod Maritime Museum for a look at the Cape’s nautical past and watch wooden boatbuilding in action. On the eastern side of the harbor, you can arrange for a slip at the Hyannis Marina, (508) 790-4000, while you enjoy a drink or something to eat at Tugboats, (508) 775-6433, or Trader Ed’s, (508) 790-8686. Baxter’s Boat House, (508) 775-4490, next to the Steamship Authority docks, is yet another dock-and-dine option on the harbor.
Bustling Hyannis offers boaters free dockage near a slew of restaurants and shops.
5: Vineyard Haven
Vineyard Haven is short run from Hyannis (18 nm), Falmouth (5 nm), or Wood’s Hole (6 nm) and offers boating amenities galore. You can drop off passengers at the Owen Park town dock then anchor in the outer harbor or secure a mooring for the day, night or weekend (reservations are recommended in summer). Call the harbormasters, who are always ready to help. Once ashore, there are many shops and restaurants to explore nearby. Don’t miss the homemade ice cream at Mad Martha’s, harborside dining at The Black Dog Tavern or the fresh seafood-in-the-rough at the Net Result on Beach Road.
Vineyard Haven lights up at night. Photo provided by Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce/ David Welch Photography
Monomoy is one of the great natural wonders of New England—a world apart from the rest of Cape Cod, or anyplace else. Surrounded by Bahamas-clear sand flats, it’s an amazing place to visit by boat, as long as you respect the tide. Many a careless mariner has anchored here, only to find himself (and his family) high and dry for the entire afternoon. Study the charts and tide tables, and make sure you have a GPS in case the fog rolls in, as it often does here, being so close to the chilly open Atlantic. Once anchored, break out the kayaks or a dinghy and explore the wonderland of flats and channels. The crystalline water teems with crabs and baitfish, as well as predators such as striped bass and bluefish. And you’ll likely see a harbor seal or two cruising the shallows.
Monomoy is surrounded by great fishing and white-sand beaches.
7: Sampsons Island
This long barrier island (also known as “Dead Neck”) off Osterville and Cotuit is managed by Massachusetts Audubon, whose staff may ask for a donation while you use the beach. You can access the protected backside of the island via the narrow channel that connects Cotuit and West Bays then gently nose your bow onto the sand to offload passengers and gear. This is a wonderfully protected place for small children to splash around, and there’s a nifty tidal pool on the western end of the island to explore. Note that much of the island’s interior is off-limits to protect nesting shorebirds.
8: Nantucket Harbor
This trip isn’t necessarily for small-boats, but ACK is certainly within easy striking distance of many South Cape ports. The distance from Hyannis, Bass River, and Falmouth Harbor is 21 nm, 21 nm, and 27 nm respectively. Once inside the harbor, hail Nantucket Moorings (508) 228-4472; or the Nantucket Boat Basin, (508) 325-1350; for a place to secure your vessel while you go ashore. The quaint, cobbled streets of downtown are flanked by shops and galleries. If you’re looking for a local spot to anchor an beach it for a while, a safe bet is Dioness Beach, just west of the harbor.
Nantucket is tons of fun for the whole family.
9: Lake Tashmoo
This lovely salt pond on Martha’s Vineyard is accessed via a small inlet on Vineyard Sound (MLW depth 5.5 feet) just south of West Chop. Boaters in shallow-draft vessels can pull up onto the sand flat just inside the inlet and let the kids frolic in the warm water. Or you can anchor in the southern part of the pond, with permission from the harbormaster. Leave your dinghy at the dock at the foot of Lake Street then stroll the mile or so into Vineyard Haven. Moorings on Lake Tashmoo are also available through the Tashmoo Boatyard, (508) 693-9311.
Downtown Chatham isn’t directly on the water, but that shouldn’t stop you from visiting by boat. Set a course for Chatham Roads then head north towards Stage Harbor. At the truncated lighthouse, you have 2 options: continue into Stage Harbor and grab a mooring or slip at Stage Harbor Marine, Oyster River Boat Yard or Chatham Yacht Basin, or bang a right and follow the winding channel east to Outermost Harbors, where you can rent a slip before strolling the mile or so into town. The marinas in Stage Harbor can arrange lift to Main Street, but it’s more fun to take a dinghy up either the Oyster River or Mitchell River. Both feature public landings close to Main Street. Enjoy dinner, a beverage and live music at the famous Squire Tavern or Red Nun, or spend a romantic night at the Cranberry Inn on Main Street. No matter how you get there, Chatham is a special place.
Chatham offers diversions for young and old alike.
11: Oak Bluffs
Oak Bluffs Harbor may be small, but it’s the main party spot on the Vineyard. Oak Bluffs Marina, (508) 693-4355; VHF 71, welcomes visiting boaters with slips and moorings, available on an hourly or nightly basis. On shore is a cornucopia of restaurants, shops, and the Flying Horses Carousel. This vintage ride, complete with brass rings to grab, was built in 1884 yet continues to thrill new generations of kids. Adults can grab a cold beverage and burger at Coup de Ville, (508) 693-3420; overlooking the harbor, or order sashimi at the Sand Bar & Grill, (508) 693-7111, also on the water. A short walk will bring you to the Offshore Ale House, (508) 693-2626; and Sharky’s Cantina, (508) 693-7501; which serves up tasty Mexican fare in a fun family atmosphere. Check out the colorful Victorian cottages of the Revival Campground nearby, or play on the beach along Seaview Avenue.
The Flying Horses Carousel is but one reason to visit Oak Bluffs by boat.
12: Egg Island
This low-lying and ephemeral island at the entrance to Lewis Bay off Hyannis is a wonderful spot to drop anchor and go ashore for a few hours to frolic in the shallows or picnic on the beach. It also offers good protection from the prevailing southwest wind in summer. Try to plan your trips around the low tide, however, as there isn’t much dry land available at high water. Egg Island is also a popular anchorage if you’re thinking of spending the night while visiting Hyannis.
Edgartown (17 nm from Hyannis; 10 nm from Falmouth Harbor) is widely considered the most “upscale” of Martha’s Vineyard ports, boasting a wonderfully protected inner harbor and a rich variety of restaurants, boutiques, galleries and shops along its well-groomed and architecturally interesting streets. In terms of daytrip access, however, simply popping into town for a few hours is not as cheap or easy as places such as Hyannis or Menemsha. Many boaters offload passengers at Memorial Wharf when the ferry is not tied up, then cruise around or fish while their family and friends explore the town or get something to eat. If you’re lucky, you may be able to find a short-term berth at Mad Max Marina, (508) 627-7400, or a transient mooring through the harbormaster, (508) 627-4746; VHF 74/16. You can get a lift into town via Oldport Launch, VHF 68.
Edgartown Yacht Club | Photo by John Phelan, via Wikimedia Commons
14: Tarpaulin Cove
Veteran cruisers know Tarpaulin Cove, about midway along the Vineyard Sound side of Naushon Island in the Elizabeth Islands, as a well-protected anchorage and all-around aquatic gathering spot. It’s also one of the few places on the privately owned island where you can go ashore and enjoy the lovely sand beach. Just don’t wander into the island interior. Note that there are no public bathrooms on shore.
15: East Beach (Martha’s Vineyard)
Aside from the occasional surfcaster in a 4-wheel-drive vehicle, boaters can have this sprawling beach on Chappaquiddick Island all to themselves. And once you get past the rocks off Cape Poge, there are no underwater hazards to hinder your approach to shore. East Beach, which is managed by the Trustees of the Reservations, is an especially nice spot when the southwest wind begins to honk on a summer afternoon, plus the water bordering the beach is deep enough for large boats to offload crew and gear before setting bow and stern anchors.
If you’re looking for an alterative ACK experience, plot a course for laidback Madaket, on the west end of Nantucket and roughly 20 nautical miles due south of Hyannis. Make your way through the winding channel and you’ll see why Mister Rodgers (remember him?) made Madaket his summer neighborhood for over 30 years. Madaket Harbor’s shallow waters are ideal for kids to romp in, and there’s food and beverages in a pleasant atmosphere to be enjoyed at Millie’s, (508) 228-8435. Boaters can drop off crew at one of local landings then anchor inside Smith Point and dinghy ashore. Contact the harbormaster, (508) 228-7261, if unsure of protocol.
Madaket Harbor is the place to go if you like peace and quiet.
The Penobscot is wide, shallow, and clear as it flows past Lincoln, Maine.
Catch your fill of smallmouth bass on a scenic trip along Maine’s beautiful Penobscot River. By Tom Richardson; Photography by AJ Derosa
There are parts of New England that manage to surprise even lifelong residents, pockets of stunning natural beauty where you might not see another human being for hours on end. One such place is the section of the Penobscot River that flows through the towns of Lincoln and Chester, about an hour’s drive north of Augusta.
Until last August, the Penobscot I was most familiar with was the upstream sections famous for whitewater rafting and blue ribbon landlocked salmon fishing, as well as its tidal portion from Bangor to Penobscot Bay. Therefore, I was thoroughly unprepared for the exquisite natural beauty of the river’s languid midsection.
A spunky smallmouth takes to the air.
Catch a Drift
My introduction to this magical place was arranged by Zac Glidden of Tracewski Fishing Adventures, which offers drift- boat trips along the Penobscot. After splashing Glidden’s 16-foot Hyde at a dirt put-in at the base of a bridge, we entered a different realm. The river immediately swallowed us up, its verdant banks muffling manmade sounds. Soon all was silent, save for the occasional dip of oars and the calling of birds.
I was immediately taken by the clarity of the water. While I expected to encounter a sluggish, tannin-stained river, the Penobscot proved every bit as clear and inviting as a North Woods trout stream, with thick weed beds undulating in the moderate flow. Naturally, the water conditions vary according to the amount of rain received upstream. Spring, in particular, can see a substantial increase in current and roiled water, but the river’s normally “low-key” nature usually returns to form by mid-June.
A typical Penobscot bass, taken on fly.
On this balmy August day, the river eased us along at a comfortable pace that made it possible to fish each likely holding spot with care. The action wasn’t long in coming. A few casts along the shady bank with a soft-plastic tube lure yielded a strike from a scrappy smallmouth, which displayed its remarkable aerial skills through a series of energetic leaps. It was to be the first of many such fish, as it turns out that the Penobscot is a virtual smallmouth factory.
Humans aren’t the only predators that patro the river.
Introduced to the Penobscot in the late 1800s, smallmouth bass quickly occupied the river’s quieter stretches, from Bangor all the way to Millinocket. The section that flows through the Lincoln area is loaded with prime smallie structure, including submerged boulders, deep holes, undercut banks, overhanging tree limbs, weed beds, logs and the mouths of feeder creeks. In short, you’re likely to find fish almost anywhere.
And we did. A mere 60 minutes into the drift, I had landed some dozen fish on tubes, spinnerblades, and poppers. As Glidden expertly positioned the drift boat, I was able to pull bass after bass from the bank edges and below overhanging branches. At one point we came to a spot where the river rejoined after flowing around a small island. The confluence of current had carved out a 15-foot “hole” at the base of the island, and it was loaded with smallies, including some bigger bass we could clearly see swimming around like so many pet fish an aquarium.
It’s hard to top a yellow Sneaky Pete slider fly.
Midway through the trip, I switched to a five-weight fly rod rigged with a floating line, an eight-foot leader and that famous smallmouth-slayer: a yellow Sneaky Pete slider. I couldn’t keep the fish off the thing, and would often find myself attached to a leaping bass after letting the fly drift idly behind the boat. It was stupid fishing, on a glorious, warm, sun-drenched day that eventually lulled me into a kind of reverie.
Watch the New England Fishing TV episode on fishing the Lincoln Lakes area.
When hunger got the best of us, Glidden beached the boat on a gravel bar and produced a shore lunch of cold cuts, cole slaw, and potato salad. We sat in the warm sunshine and talked of past fishing adventures as the bass splashed around us. Eventually, I waded out through the grass-covered shallows and caught several more fish on the Sneaky Pete, just soaking in the beauty of the river.
A drift boat allows you to cover a lot of water—and catch a lot of fish.
Remarkably, we never encountered another fisherman the entire day, and rarely heard the sound of a vehicle as we drifted along the leafy banks. Occasionally we’d be startled by a bald eagle flapping off from an overhead perch or a stick-still heron stalking the shallows. Deer, mink, otter and even moose are sometimes spotted along the river, according to Glidden.
One of the many highlights of fishing the Penobscot is the fishery’s consistency. Smallmouth can be taken all day long, as well as at night, from June through October, and fall offers the added bonus of fishing amid brilliant autumn foliage in cool, crisp weather. As if I need another reason to return.
Costa Sunglasses has introduced four new performance frame styles: Broadbill, Tico, Spearo and WaterWoman.
The Broadbill features a sculpted large wrap and nonslip vented nose pads, along with integrated temple tip icons. The frame is available in four frame colors, including a new matte reef color way, and is available in the full variety of Costa’s color-enhancing 580 lenses.
The Tico is an all-day wrap frame with wide, chiseled temples to provide full coverage from the sun. Reminiscent of Costa Rican sportfishing heritage, Tico offers a sporty style and performance features, including vented nose pads, integral hinge and CAM system for smooth temple action, as well as temple tip icons. The new style is a medium fit and comes in four frame colors, including matte wetlands, and offers the full variety of Costa’s lens colors.
The Spearo featuress a lightweight, yet sturdy, bio-resin frame, vented nonslip nose pads, nonslip and keeper-ready temple tips, and Costa’s integral hinge and CAM system construction for added comfort and durability. Available in four frame colors and with a variety of Costa’s seven lens colors in its proprietary 580 lens technology.
The WaterWoman is dedicated to the woman with an active, water-based lifestyle. Offering a medium fit, the WaterWoman has beautifully angled temples and seamlessly integrated Hydrolite accents. Available in four new frame colors—matte shadow tortoise, shiny palm tortoise, shiny wahoo and shiny blond crystal—the new frame style offers elegance coupled with performance for days on the water.
Join New England Fishing TV host Tom Richardson as he heads offshore with the team at Goose Hummock Shops to pursue bluefin tuna in the waters south of Martha’s Vineyard.
After launching at Falmouth’s Inner Harbor, Richardson and Team Goose run 50 miles south to the area known as “The Dump,” and it doesn’t take them long to find some fish. It’s an action-packed episode filled with advice on how to find and catch bluefins on both trolling and casting gear in the waters south of the islands. And we’re all hoping it happens again this season!
The poachers keep on poaching in Buzzards Bay—and getting caught.
On Sunday, June 9, Massachusetts Environmental Police Officers made yet another bust of piscatorial scofflaws. While conducting fisheries inspections on Buzzards Bay, crew of the EP patrol boat Jessie came upon a vessel with 7 individuals actively engaged in fishing. As the officers approached, passengers aboard the boar were observed dumping fish over the side. Subsequent inspection of the vessel found that the individuals were in possession of 89 black sea bass and 157 scup, resulting in 64 sea bass and 7 scup over the legal limit. Additionally, 31 of the sea bass and 2 scup were undersized.
All individuals aboard the vessel were criminally summonsed for the following:
– Possession of Black Sea Bass over the legal limit;
– Possession of undersized Black Sea Bass;
– Possession of Scup over the legal limit;
– Possession of undersized Scup;
– Failure to display catch.
Additionally, two individuals onboard were cited for fishing without a valid recreational saltwater permit.
The catch, totaling 272 pounds, and all gear, coolers, and buckets were seized.
A boating fan favorite for over 40 years, this Buzzards Bay mainstay is a heavenly spot for a hearty meal or sunset cocktail.
Text & Photography by Tom Richardson
It all began with a barge.
When Kingman Marina (now Kingman Yacht Center) expanded its operations on Cape Cod’s Red Brook Harbor the late 1960s, it placed three scuttled barges along the shoreline to extend the property. One served as a machine shop, but as the marina’s popularity grew, customers began requesting some type of on-site sustenance.
“So the owners set up a big steamer pot at the end of the barge and began offering lobsters, clams, hot dogs—small stuff. That was the beginning of the Chart Room,” explains Dave Jarvis, who, along with business partner Tom Gordon, owns what is one of the most popular dock-and-dine restaurants on Cape Cod.
The signature broiled swordfish.
Now in it 44th season, the Chart Room bustles with customers who come for the good food, lively bar scene and spectacular sunsets. Jarvis, whose father bought the restaurant in 1972 and whose mother used to sing there, has maintained its cozy, nautical ambience with a focus on fresh, high-quality food. “We use only fresh lobster meat in every dish, including the baked stuffed lobster,” he says, referring to one of the restaurant’s more popular dishes.
Another favorite is the broiled swordfish, which is caught locally through much of the summer. “We probably go through 150 pounds of swordfish a day,” Jarvis says. “All of it is hand-cut right here in the kitchen. Our chefs spend a lot of time prepping for the dinner rush.”
Other crowd-pleasers include the clams casino, clam chowder, steamer clams and the lobster salad sandwich on Portuguese bread.
The Chart Room also has a large bar staffed by three bartenders, who have their hands full most nights. “We’re well known for our mudslides,” says Jarvis. “Our blender is running flat-out from 3:30 p.m. on Friday to 8:00 p.m. on Sunday!” Customers can enjoy those mudslides and other drinks in the bar, whose dark beams resemble the interior of a wooden ship, or on the large patio overlooking the Kingman docks.
Lobster salad sandwich.
Boaters who wish to visit the Chart Room can hail Kingman Yacht Center on VHF channel 79. Dockage is sometimes available along the facing dock, but if not, the marina staff can put you on a mooring and get you to shore via the launch.
The Chart Room opens the weekend after Mother’s Day in May and closes after Columbus Day. Dinner reservations are a must, especially on summer weekends. Of course, you stand a better chance of getting a last-minute table on a weekday or during the shoulder seasons.