Henry David Thoreau, beholding Moosehead Lake for the first time, wrote this: “a gleaming silver platter at the end of the table.”
If only he could have seen the lake from the air! The first time that I saw the big lake from the air in a northbound ski-plane my jaw dropped. The expansiveness, not only of the lake itself, but the entire North Woods watershed, presents a panorama like no other.
Forty miles long and 10 miles wide, it is by far Maine’s largest lake and the largest mountain lake in the Eastern United States. Long before Thoreau’s visit, Red Paint People came to Moosehead to fish and gather hornstone (flint) for their hunting tools.
In contemporary times, Moosehead has proven itself a remarkable sport fishery. My late father took me fishing there as a kid many times. In the early 1950s, 18- and 20-pound lake trout were not unusual.
In recent years, a population excess of lake trout, according to the fisheries biologists, had created forage competition among lakers, salmon and brook trout.
In 2008, the state greatly liberalized the take limit on lakers in order to reduce lake trout numbers and to impose some balance into the forage equation. Today, 12 years later, there is good news. Anglers have been catching larger and larger brookies, and lots of them.
According to Greenville fisheries biologist Tom Obrey, 2019 was a banner year for brook trout anglers on Moosehead. Records show that 830 brookies were boated or put on the ice. Some of these were real lunkers. Obrey says that 35 percent of these squaretails exceeded 20 inches!
This success story is attributable to sensible fisheries management, not to mention volunteer efforts over the years by the Moosehead Lake Fisheries Coalition and others, all designed to help Mother Nature recover the brookie populations in the lake.
The introduction of smelt eggs and the recent construction of brook trout spawning boxes at Lily Bay by the Coalition are just some of the initiatives.
Given the angling successes at Moosehead, it seems plausible to expect that it is just a matter of time before some lucky fisherman hooks up with a new Maine record in the annals of brook trout bragging rights.