Opinion

Ice fishing changes on Allagash Lake

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has relaxed the ice fishing rules at Allagash Lake. For the first time in many years, the lake has been open to ice fishing from January through March. Ice anglers are allowed to use five lines instead of the two-line restriction that has been in effect since as long as I can remember.

Fisheries biologists are hoping that ice fishermen will remove more lake trout — commonly called togue by Mainers — from Allagash Lake. The togue and brook trout at Allagash Lake have historically been fine-looking specimens with many togue being caught over ten pounds and fat healthy brookies over 18-inches common.

In recent years, the fish have run smaller. Most notably the togue are skinny with large heads. This is a common consequence of an over population of predator fish and an under population of forage fish. The primary forage fish at Allagash Lake is the rainbow smelt. 

It is hoped that anglers will remove more togue at Allagash Lake because of the increased months open to ice fishing and additional lines allowed. The theory is that fewer predator fish will allow the smelt population to increase and in-turn the remaining fish in the lake will grow larger at a faster rate. This all sounds good, but we need to be patient. Noticeable changes in the size of fish will be a slow process. We do know that the lake has the capacity to grow huge fish given the right balance between game fish and forage fish.

Allagash Lake is arguably the most wild and scenic of all the Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW) headwater lakes. The waterway has special rules in effect at Allagash Lake to ensure that visitors have a wilderness experience.

No motors of any kind are allowed on Allagash Lake or Allagash Stream (winter or summer). That means no snowmobiles, power augers or chainsaws. However, you are allowed to drive a snowmobile to the shore of the lake at three locations: The Islands in the southeast corner of the lake, the ranger station in the southwest corner and Ledge Point Campsite in the northwest corner of the lake. 

Allagash Lake is a designated Maine Heritage Fish Water. Therefore, the no live fish as bait restriction is in place on this lake. 

I had some of the best togue fishing in my life between the island and shore across from Ledge Point Campsite. Me and two friends were jigging in about 30-feet of water, a foot off bottom with a gold leadfish, we were hauling fish in one right after another. We caught 32 togue in a matter of a couple of hours. It was a bright sunny, windless February day – one of those days when everything worked out “just right.”

So, strap on those snowshoes and head to Allagash Lake for an authentic wilderness ice fishing adventure. You won’t be disappointed.

The AWW is managed by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Bureau of Parks and Lands as a wilderness area. 

Matt LaRoche is superintendent of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, a Registered Maine Guide, and an avid outdoorsman. He can be reached at 207-695-2169 or at matt.laroche@maine.gov. The AWW is managed by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Bureau of Parks and Lands as a wilderness canoe area.

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