My Salmon Bonanza

by Dennis Bolduc

My preferred method of fishing is using dead smelts trolled real slow behind my electric Minnkota trolling motor. I sew the smelt on a single hook tied to a six foot leader and then attached by a swivel to lead core line.

With great anticipation I look forward each spring for the last bit of ice to leave my favorite salmon water. I have been enjoying this ritual for the past 25 years. Little did I know, this past spring would be one of the most memorable fishing trips my family and I could ever encounter.

It all started May 10th, 1999. It was the first Monday of my two week fishing vacation on the shores of Rangeley Lake.

My preferred method of fishing is using dead smelts trolled real slow behind my electric MinnKota trolling motor. I sew the smelt on a single hook tied to a six foot leader and then attached by a swivel to lead core line. The use of live bait is prohibited in Rangeley Lake. Although l bring my smelts up to Rangeley alive, I always remove and kill them 11 -I2hrs before going fishing. This way the bait is dead, but they hold their color all day when placed directly on ice. So, part of my arrival day is spent unloading the 6 quarts of smelts which are kept alive in a large tank and then supplied with fresh water, by way of a submersible pump and garden hose, from Rangeley Lake. These smelts will stay alive the whole 2 weeks except when removed for fishing.

After a slow start Monday, Tuesday's fishing started to pick up. My nephew, Jon, fished the whole day with me and we were able to land 7 salmon and again we had numerous hits. The biggest fish was 19 inches long and very fat. This was Jon's last day so he kept one fish to take home. That evening, after Jon went home, another good friend arrived to fish a couple of days with me. Mark Damren, of Belgrade, Maine, is an excellent salmon fisherman. Fishing, with Mark, the next couple of days proved to be very productive.

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May 12th, Wednesday arrived and it was flat calm again. Mark and I caught 10 salmon, the biggest being 20 inches long. We decided to keep one salmon, a 19 inch beauty, for supper that night. In the evening, we landed five more salmon, nothing big but all were fat and all were released. This being only the 3rd day of fishing, I started to notice that a lot of the salmon were natives They had larger spots and had no fins clipped As the week progressed this pattern continued, and showed that more than 50 percent of the fish caught were native to Rangeley Lake.

Thursday's weather was a little breezy, but we had a fantastic fishing day. Mark and I caught 34 salmon and we missed a lot more. The biggest fish was 26 inches long, about 5 1/4 lbs in weight. The average fish was around 31bs and a couple were 4 lbs. Mark had to leave that evening, but vowed to be back up the following week. My wife and three boys arrived Thursday evening.

Friday was a beautiful morning to fish, sunny and flat calm. My wife enjoys spending quiet days, at camp, reading and playing with our dog Buddy, while the boys and I go fishing. We caught 8 salmon.

Saturday was another perfect day, sunny 70 degrees and flat calm. The kids landed 15 salmon ranging from 3 lbs to 4 lbs. Brian caught back to back 4 - 1 lb salmon. These salmon were all between 19 inches and 23 inches long We kept one salmon 20 inches long for supper. The rest were released.

The remainder of my fishing vacation was more of the same, some bright calm days and some windy with a good salmon chop. The fishing remained good throughout.

May 24th, Monday, was my last day. It was too rainy and windy to fish, but I was far from disappointed. After adding up all the salmon caught the last 13 days, the total came to 168 salmon with just 7 killed for consumption. I feel fortunate to have such an understanding wife who allows me to go fishing and then prepares several different salmon dishes for the whole family to enjoy. My family and I can't wait for this spring ice-out just around the corner. We hope to continue this family and friends tradition for many years to come.

_______________________ Dennis Bolduc lives in Oakland and is a devoted angler.

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