Key Species: landlocked salmon, smallmouth bass, pickerel, white perch
Best Way to Fish: boat, canoe
Best Time to Fish: May through September
MAG: 26, B-4
Description: Gardner Lake is only a few miles outside of East Machias and is easily accessible. Yet most of Gardner Lake and its companion lakes, Second Lake and Loon Lake, are in the undeveloped, semi-wild country so typical of Washington County. These three lakes, plus Harmon Stream, a long, narrow section of Second Lake, cover a huge area. You will need a boat or canoe to take advantage of these waters. There is little opportunity to fish from shore. You will find motels on U.S. Route 1 in Machias and campgrounds in Perry, Calais, and Alexander.
Fishing index: Gardner Lake is a popular spot for landlocked salmon right after ice-out, usually around the end of April. The entire eastern shore is good for salmon, including the islands at the north end of the lake. Troll here with streamer flies: gray ghost, nine-three, black ghost, pink lady, Jerry’s smelt, and supervisor. Use a sinking fly line and about 20 feet of 6-pound test leader. Place a split shot on the leader, slightly above the fly. Dodgers, with single-hooked gray ghost or Jerry’s smelt tagging behind, can bring strikes when action is slow. Some anglers troll with live smelt. Be sure to check the action of the smelt before beginning to troll. Hook the smelt and while going at a medium trolling speed, drop the bait in the water alongside the boat and check that it rides along without twisting. If it does spin, readjust the hook until the smelt rides straight. A slight twist back and forth is acceptable.
White perch can be found in any section of the lake in the summer. Begin fishing in about 20 feet of water. The lake’s deepest spot, 56 feet, is just out from the boat ramp, but the water in the middle of the lake is of a uniform depth, between 30 and 50 feet. Fish on bottom with worms or small minnows. You can also take perch with small lead-head jigs, either curlytails or sparkle tails.
Look for pickerel near shore, in the coves where the water is shallow. Fly fishers take pickerel on poppers during morning and evening hours. Otherwise, use brightly colored bucktails. Medium-sized Dardevles work well on pickerel here. Cast the Dardevle, allow it to sink a bit, and reel it in slowly, applying additional action with the rod tip.
Since Gardner Lake is noted for fast salmon and pickerel fishing, few anglers bother with the resident smallmouth bass. Smallmouths are found along the rocky shores and around the islands at the north end of the lake. Lead-head jigs, the same kind you use for white perch, take smallmouth bass here. Cast the jig, let it sink to the rocky bottom, and raise the rod smartly. Reel in the slack and repeat the process. Smallmouth bass are masters at shaking off jigs when they jump. Most anglers like to give slack line when a big smallmouth jumps, but the author has found that keeping a moderately tight line makes it difficult for the fish to throw the jig.
Smelt, a popular forage fish for Maine’s coldwater gamefish, and streamer flies tied to mimic them. When wet, the flies will compress, creating a realistic imitation.
Directions: From East Machias, take U.S. Route 1 east and look for the first road on the left, about a mile out of town. Take this road to Chase Mills, where you will see the boat ramp. The road forks just past the boat ramp, and if you take the right-hand fork, you will come to a hand-carry boat ramp.
For more information: Contact the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife in Bangor or Machias.