Fall fishing at Moosehead Lake

I feel like 2020 has been “cross-threaded” right from the start and now we can add drought to the long list of grievances. Festivus may require an extra day this year. The lack of rain has likely had an impact on our small shallow trout ponds this summer and it will definitely have a negative impact on the fall river fishing. Free-flowing rivers, like the upper Moose River and the Piscataquis are exceptionally dry. There will be marginal fishing opportunities in these types of flowing water until we get significant rain. Rivers below dams usually fare better in a dry fall because upstream impoundments have stored water and can provide flows to improve fishing. This year’s drought is severe, and some impoundments have little to give.


Each August, we consult with Brookfield and Kruger, the two hydropower companies with dams in the Moosehead Lake Region. Brookfield operates the dams on the Kennebec River and the West Branch of the Penobscot River and Kruger operates the dam at Wilson Pond. Both of these companies are great to work with and they have a deep appreciation for the anglers. Together, we try to work out the best flows for the angling community.


While there is not much fishing opportunity on Wilson Stream below Wilson Pond, the water release is essential for the upstream passage of spawning salmon in Sebec Lake, which is on the downstream end. There is a set of falls where Wilson Stream drops into Sebec Lake and it’s very difficult for salmon to pass. We typically release water just after Labor Day, the end of the traditional summer recreational season, to attract salmon into the falls. We then decrease the flow and salmon can pass upstream. In very wet years, the flows can be excessive, and we have documented total failure. We will begin the drawdown on Sept 8 this year. It can be bittersweet to watch the salmon jumping at the falls. They are impressive and committed, but many will perish attempting to pass the falls when the flow is too high. You can check out a couple short videos of the salmon at Early’s Falls here:


We operate the dam at First Roach Pond which supplies the flow for the very popular Roach River. We have been at our summer minimum flow since filling the lake in late May. Despite the low outflow all summer, the lake is about 1.5 feet lower than normal. We need to make sure that once we begin the release that there is sufficient storage to maintain the flow through September. We will likely have to hold off until around Sept 8-9 to begin the release on the Roach.


It’s a similar situation on the Moose River below Brassua Lake and the West Branch below Seboomook Lake. The lakes are very low and approaching their minimum elevations as allowed in their licenses. We hope to get additional flow in both rivers around the middle of September, but we need some rain. You can expect very low flows until then. This means about 200 cfs on the West Branch which is too low for most boats and canoes. It might be better to keep your powder dry and save your prop if you were planning a trip to the Foxhole in early September.


The East and West Outlets will have some water, thankfully. Moosehead Lake must be drawn down over the fall months to protect lake trout spawning and this translates to good flows in the East Outlet for fishing in September and October. The last few days have been cool and windy and surface water temperatures are dropping. Wet flies and nymphs will be the ticket early in the month. Many anglers switch to gaudy streamers as the spawning urge for salmon and trout increases.


It’s important to remember that lake elevations will drop quickly as the fall drawdowns begin, especially if it’s still dry. Keep this in mind if you are a camp owner on one of these waters and you have docks or boats to remove.

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