Camping in the North Maine Woods

Maine is a very unique state in that nearly 90% of the land is forested (over 17 million acres) and the North Maine Woods contains 3.5 million acres of public access woods and waters for hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, snowmobiling, and general use. Access is through one of several gates managed by the North Maine Woods organization consisting of private landowners (many of which are logging companies) and the government. There is a nominal fee to access this land. I have been enjoying these woods since I was three years old (1988) and continue to frequently visit and guide across the area.

My grandfather and father first took me to Spider Lake when I was a small boy for a camping/fishing trip, this was my first experience in the NMW. We would always for in July or August, when it was warm, so we could swim and be comfortable. Fishing during this time of year was never very good, at least the way we fished. My grandfather was a creature of habit and would troll the shorelines with a worm on a spinner, as if most would when trolling for brook trout in the spring. However, when trolling the shoreline in August when the surface temp is in the 70’s, there are no brook trout to be found, only the ever so abundant chub (fallfish). As a kid it really did not matter, it was a blast just catching fish after fish, feeding the resident bald eagle (a rare sight in those days) on occasion. I had no idea that there were so many great brook trout waters in the area, including Spider itself.

A vast majority of the over 500 lakes and ponds in the NMW contain good populations of brook trout, many native, along with lake trout, whitefish, and a few places with landlocked salmon. Many of the remote ponds are fly fishing only and can provide fast action for brook trout, most ranging in the 12-14″ range, although it is not uncommon to land brookies over 18″. Lake trout fishing can be fun in many of the lakes, especially in the spring when the smelt are running. The hungry togue come up from the depths to chase and feed on the abundant forage fish. During the warm part of the year trolling spoons or bait on downriggers and lead core typically 30′ or so deep can produce nice lake trout.

The scenery and wildlife is unmatched as the majestic (or goofy) Maine moose is a common sight, along with the occasional white tail, many grouse and ducks, the rare Canada Lynx, and the ghost of the woods black bear. There are many historical sites that lay out the complicated history of logging in the NMW, including the Ghost Trains and Churchill Depot. Both accessible by road, foot, and/or water. View Mt. Ktaadn (Katahdin) from many different hiking trails and a few old fire towers. The opportunities are endless and every trip into the woods is special. I cherish every moment as the opportunities Maine offers are like no other.

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