The Kennebec River from Moosehead Lake to Tide Water
|West Outlet||East Outlet||The Gorge||The Forks||Bingham|
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One hundred and twenty miles as the crow flies will get you from Popham Beach to Moosehead Lake. The Kennebec however takes a slightly more crooked course. The Kennebec River got it's name from the Abnakis Indians. The name translates to "long quiet waters" and probably referred to the stretch of water below Augusta which is "without falls". The Kennebec River Basin is some 75 miles wide, drops 1000 feet, and drains approximately 6,000 square miles, or about 1/5 of the total state acreage.
There are nine dams between Augusta and Moosehead Lake. Those dams make for mixed blessings. Some of them provide cool water even during the warmer months due to bottom discharge, others provide great tailwaters. That's the good side. The downside seems to outweigh the good. For example, no fish passage, lost spawning grounds, extreme water fluctuation and miles of rapids and riffles that we can only read about; 62 miles (53 %) of the river between Augusta and Moosehead Lake, are now inundated by dams.
So watch out for rapidly rising water, and try to make the best of the rest of it. Fast rising water is only a problem from Harris dam to Solon. One way to beat this problem is to fish above Harris dam; and above Harris dam the place to be is the East Outlet. From the East Outlet to Indian Pond (Harris dam's impoundment) is about 3 miles. Three or four of the best miles of Landlocked Salmon fishing in Maine. Let's start at the East Outlet dam itself and go with the flow.
East Outlet: Make sure you walk up to the dam and check out the view of Moosehead lake. It's worth the walk from Rt.15 up to the dam. If the flow is 2,000 cfs or lower your in luck and if its over 2,000 cfs your out of luck. The river can still be fished but you'll be hanging onto the branches and roll casting unless you have a canoe or driftboat.
There is a great pool just below the dam and you should check it out from both sides of the river. River right has a deep trough and river left has a gravel shingle you can often wade out onto. If you gain the shingle you can work both sides of it all the way down to the Railroad trestle. From the trestle and on past the highway you'll find some wading depending on the flow and water level. You however won't get far below the highway before the safety of the shore will beckon. This is a rocky area and the current can be swift. You will need a wading staff of some sort to effectively wade it. Here's a picture of a local Trout Unlimited member (Oct. 20th, 1998, between the highway and RR trestle) who was going to net a Landlocked Salmon that wasn't ready yet. (he did land the fish)
Heading downstream on either side of the river (dirt road to the right and path to the left) you'll find water that will test your wading skills as you venture out into it. This section of the river drops at a rate of 25 feet per mile.
A little over mile from Rt 15 you'll find the Beach Pool which is classic water and a little to well known, so sometimes crowded. This is a large gravel bottomed pool and is best fished with a general purpose rod which will allow you to switch between nymphs, dries and streamers. Along with Beach Pool you'll find some class III rapids and about three miles down Ledge Falls offers some more class III rapids and a drop of several feet. In between the river is swift but fishable, watch your step, work the pools, or go pocket picking.
The half mile from to the Indian Pond is wadeable; and has been known to provide some of Maine's larger Brook Trout as well as respectable Landlocked Salmon. The water right below Ledge Falls also bears inspection.
West Outlet: The other route from Moosehead Lake to Indian Pond is down the West Outlet. This run is about 8 miles and is a much slower and softer run. Be prepared to use strike indicators and the associated techniques in this stretch when the fish aren't rising. Many people fish the pool right beside Rt. 15 and some respectable fish have been caught there. It however doesn't offer much in the way of wading and is a relatively confined area. There is a road down the river right side of the West Outlet and access is easy along the first 4 - 5 miles. There are two named ponds (Long & Round) along the way and you can fish both of these if you want to launch a canoe and move about a bit. This is relatively flat water and the majority of the fish caught in this area are Smallmouth Bass with occasional Landlocks and Brookies thrown in.
The Gorge: Indian Pond is an eight mile long wide spot in the river. It's also the source of that wave of water that carries rafters down the gorge and has made this section of the river both famous, and infamous. To fish here is to risk a free unwanted ride. If you want to fish this section, fish it from the west shore a least down to Carry Brook. Most of the west section has a ledge that provides a quick exit route when the water rises up to grab you. Do not drive into the dam area and try to fish the river on the east side. It is dangerous!! You may want to consider wearing a life jacket or an inflatable wading vest. (I almost always wear an inflatable wading vest no matter what water I'm wading including the surf) From Carry Brook on down to the Forks you can fish either side wherever you can get to it, but beware of the water fluctuations! Just above the Forks you'll find good Brook Trout fishing around the mouth of either Cold Stream or Moxie Stream. A little hiking will get you to both of them and both are worth the walk, but during most of the season you may want to have some "Breathable" waders. To reach Cold Stream walk from the Forks up the river (river right). To reach Moxie Stream take the right just before the bridge and watch for signs indicating parking for Moxie Falls. From Moxie Falls pool down to the river you can find Brook Trout that make the trip worthwhile.
The Forks: From the Forks to Caratunk you'll find nine miles of water that hugs Rt 201. All of it holds fish, and is better fished from a canoe. If you aren't into fishing from a canoe or can't arrange a shuttle most anywhere on the route with a short hike you can reach fishable water. You still have to deal with rapid fluctuations in level and flow, but that's better than not fishing it. Just across and a little upstream from the Caratunk landing Pierce Pond Stream empties into the river. You might want to forgo the nine mile trip and put in at Caratunk and canoe across to Pierce Pond Stream - land and fish up and down the stream (another good place for breathable waders - comfortable on the hike an comfortable while paddling the canoe). Just below Caratunk the river widens as Wyman dam in Moscow makes its' influence felt.
Bingham: Below Wyman dam in Moscow (commonly called the Bingham dam, but located in Moscow) you will have a chance to catch fish from one of the few self sustaining populations of Rainbow trout in Maine. Access to the water just below the dam is steep and wading is not an option. This is good early season water; not just because it produces so many fish, but because it isn't frozen. The real secret of this dam though is the cold water released from it during the summer when most places have warmed up and aren't fishing well. In Bingham you will find Austin Stream. There is good fishing in Austin Stream and around the mouth of it. Watch the rule book when you are fishing around Austin Stream, it opens late in the spring and closes before the Kennebec does in the fall. If you forget and fish your way a few yards up the stream during Rainbow Trout spawning time (spring) you may catch a ticket. Behind the mill in Bingham (just upstream from the bridge) you can launch a small boat or canoe. Many fish are caught here also.
Another possible launch site is found across the river just below the dam. To find this cross the river and head towards the dam. When you come to the power line follow it to the river. This is not a maintained launch and more than one person has had to be towed up out of this location, remember to stop and think about getting back up that bank before you head down to the water.
Moving downstream you will find some islands below Gadabout Gaddis airport. Some good trout and salmon are caught in this stretch. You should pay special attention to the eddies at the tail end of the islands. Access is generally gained from an unimproved road on the west side of the river and walking across the pastures. You can also walk down river from Bingham along the river bank. Again you must watch for rapidly rising water. This is a rainbow Kenney caught in this stretch. Note the puncture wounds in the body of the fish. Neither of us could figure out how this happened.
click to enlarge.
Solon: In the town of Solon, Williams dam provides some good fishing with limited wading. Rather than trying to wade below the dam a lot of people use the primitive boat launch in North Anson and head upriver to Solon (about 6 miles). A little closer and just below the Rt 201A bridge in Solon is a great campground (Evergreen Campground) which provides both a good place to stay and a launch site for a fee. Either of these launch sites have one major drawback; a lot of the time people don't make it to the dam because they run into rising fish on the way. Good fishing can be had in front of the campground and just below it in the vicinity of Gray Island.
Madison: Below No. Anson on down to Madison is fairly deep flat water. You won't find much wading on this stretch, but people do fish it from canoes and small boats. Below the Madison dam is a stretch that produces good fishing and access is from the Father Rasle road off 201A at an area known as the Pines. There is also a trail that leaves from the back corner of the cemetery near the Pines that takes you to some good water. Wading can be tough here and you should have a wading staff even at normal flows. There are nice fish here, very nice.
Skowhegan: Below Skowhegan home of Weston Dam you'll find the Big Eddy pushing up against Rt. 2. From the Big Eddy down to the islands about a mile below the boat landing you will find some reliable spring fishing. The water however warms considerably in the summer and fishing slows. The only wading to be had is around the island of the Big Eddy and up into the gorge towards the dam. The boat landing near the Big Eddy and the boat landing at the Hinckley Bridge provide good access for most any size boat you want to launch. When the dog days of summer are upon us the ride from Hinckley to Skowhegan is a good way to spend the afternoon. Some remarkable Largemouth Bass are taken in this stretch and it isn't exactly devoid of Trout.
Shawmut: The section from Shawmut dam to Fairfield is what people generally refer to as "good water." The tailwater is custom made for wading and for the 1st 600 yds. or so most people do wade. The rest of the 3 miles is better suited to a canoe or driftboat. You can find a lot of information about this section by checking some of the other pages on this site. There is a weekly "Friday update", "Hatch information", "a Shawmut Map" and "Canoe Shuttle" information. This stretch of river is also where you will find us. Check our "Hours of Operation" to find out when we're open. And, if you don't know how to get here you will also find directions at "How to Get Here."
Waterville: Winslow provides the next
good location for fishing the Kennebec. The best access is at Ft. Halifax Park. This park
is located at the junction of the Sebasticook River and the Kennebec. Just down and across
from Ft. Halifax Park, Waterville has a good boat launch. The launch is almost below the
new Donald Carter bridge. From this launch you can head downstream towards Augusta or
upstream to fish the water around Ft. Halifax Park. This is probably the best way to fish
this section of the river. With the removal of Edwards dam we regain 17 miles
of natural river that is now flooded by the Edward's impoundment. Yes, there are
Landlocked Salmon in this stretch of the river. Here's a look at one of them.
Click to enlarge.
Here's an example of the Brown Trout that hang out around the Waterville boat landing.
Augusta: The old Edward's parking lot, provides
parking and is the location of a set of stairs that takes you to some good fishing.
Stripers hit this area in May and stay all summer. Some big fish are caught here both from
boat and by waders. If you've never fished Stripers go check this out. Come fall Sea Run
Browns move in as the Stripers are leaving and provide good fishing into December. You can
wade here and the fishing is good. Moving down river from Augusta you are in tidal water,
and on your own. With the tidal influence, depth of water and lack of wading most of the
fishing is limited to boaters and heavy gear.
Harris dam spans the Kennebec River Gorge and can be found in the
Maine Atlas & Gazetteer on Map 40, D-4.
Pertinent Data, Constructed - 1954 by Central Maine Power, Turbines - 4 @ 107,320 hp Francis Vertical, Generators - General Electric, Water Usage - 8,000 CFS,
KW output - 87,500 Total, Generator Voltage - 13,800 v, Generator Amps - #1 Unit @ 697, #2 & #3 Units @ 1,395 & #4 Unit @ 420 ----- General Data = Normal Head Water level - 955 ft above sea level, Normal Tail Water level - 807 ft above sea level, Penstock - 2 @ 24 ft in diameter, 1 @ 17 ft in diameter, 1 @ 6 ft in diameter; 300' ft length, Average Expected annual output - 217,874,000 kwh.
Moosehead lake is home to Lily Bay State Park, Mt Kineo, and can be found in the Maine Atlas & Gazetteer on Maps 40,41, 48 & 49 (big lake!). It is the source of the Kennebec River, and is feed by famous fisheries such as the Moose River and the Roach River.
Phippsburg is home to Popham Beach State Park and can be found in the Maine Atlas & Gazetteer on Map 6, E-5. There is a lot of beach here and a picnic area. A nice family compromise, beach, tidal pools, swimming, nature area and STRIPED BASS FISHING.
Pertinent Data - Old Station, Constructed - 1913 by Shawmut Manufacturing Co., Acquired by CMP - 1924, Turbines - 6 @ 7,200 hp Horizontal Francis, Generator - General Electric, Water Usage - 4,300 CFS, KW output - 4,650, Generator Voltage - 2,300 v, Generator Amps - 188.5, New Station Pertinent Data - Constructed - April 1982 by Central Maine Power, Turbines - 2 @ 5,760 hp Horizontal Fixed Blade, Generator - Siemens Allis Water Usage - 2,400 CFS, KW output - 4,000, Generator Voltage - 4,160 v, Generator Amps - 308 ----- General Data, Normal Head Water level - 112 ft above sea level, Normal Tail Water level - 88 ft above sea level, Average Expected annual output - 61,300,000 kwh
Pertinent Data, Constructed - 1939 by Central Maine Power, Turbines - 2 @ 18,450 hp Vertical Kaplan Variable Pitch, Generators - General Electric, Water Usage - 5,000 CFS, KW output - 13,500, Generator Voltage - 6,900 v, Generator Amps - #1 Unit @ 670, #2 Unit @ 544 ----- General Data, Normal Head Water level - 320 ft above sea level, Normal Tail Water level - 372 ft above sea level, Average Expected annual output - 97,472,000 kwh
Pertinent Data, Constructed - 1920 by Central Maine Power, Turbines - 4 @ 17,350 hp Vertical Francis, Generators - General Electric, Water Usage - 6,100 CFS, KW output - 13,200, Generator Voltage - 6,600 v, Generator Amps - 328 ----- General Data, Normal Head Water level - 156 ft above sea level, Normal Tail Water level - 121 ft above sea level, Average Expected annual output - 84,738,000 kwh
Pertinent Data, Constructed - 1930 by Central Maine Power, Turbines - 3 @ 102,000 hp
Vertical Francis, Generators - General Electric, Water Usage - 8,000 CFS, KW output -
80,000 Total, Generator Voltage - 13,800 v, Generator Amps - 1,115 -----
General Data, Normal Head Water level - 485 ft above sea level, Normal Tail Water level -
344 ft above sea level, Penstock - 3 @ 16 ft in diameter; 100' ft length, Average Expected
annual output - 350,604,000 (kwh)
General purpose rod - If you want to buy one outfit that will address most Trout and Landlocked Salmon situations - try a 9-foot, 6-weight rod. With a good 6-weight rod you can cast a full range of standard flies from size 20 dries to size 6 lightly weighted streamers.
High Sticking is generally done with a 6 to 9 weight line and a rod of 8, 8 1/2, or 9 feet in length. The line weight is needed to cast and roll over heavy flies. The rod length is needed to give you line control. The longer the rod the better the line control and mending abilities. Unfortunately, that length often translates to fatigue after only a short time standing with your arm extended, holding line up off the water. A short rod isn't the answer either because you can't reach the fish without getting to close and spooking the fish. Somewhere there is a happy medium that you should like. The best way to know is come cast a rod and see how it feels. To find out how to High Stick click here.
Pocket picking - A method of fishing fast boulder filled water. Rocks, logs, plunge pools and similar features create "pockets" or lies for holding fish. Suggested outfit 6 to 9 weight, Floating Weight Forward taper line, 3 to 4 foot leader. You'll need a strong rod for casting the big, weighted nymphs or streamers needed for pocket picking. A great rod for this type of fishing is the Orvis, 8 - foot 3 - inch, 7 wt. "All Rounder" What you give up in reach you gain in accuracy & comfort when you high stick pocket water.
Strike Indicators take some of the mystery out of Nymphing. In plain terms they are bobbers, and more than one guy I know uses just that, for an indicator. The small red & white style about 1/2" in diameter. However most people use yarn (soaked with floatant), twist ons (Styrofoam) or float putty. Most people attach a strike indicator about twice the water depth from the fly. This allows the fly to "get deep" and provides you with a visual indication of a strike. When that strike indicator pulls under or moves strangely - set the hook. A great rod for this type of fishing is a 9 foot rod for a six weight line.
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