by Mike Guarino
Did you see that massive thunderstorm this past week? I kept waiting for Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz to come zooming by.
This time of year the storms can pack a wallop and anglers and boats need to be aware. The storms move quickly across the lake too, so if you see lightning or hear thunder it's best to find a safe spot.
It's because of these storms that we decided to put a new mooring in at the dock. After diving down to the bottom of the lake a number of times to fix the new chains, I couldn't help but notice all the big smallmouth swimming past. So, I decided to free dive the lake for a while and see what they were up to.
The lessons learned by getting down into their environment are priceless. First, the water was about 12-feet deep and much colder on the bottom. I didn't put a thermometer down there but it was a significant change.
Second, the fish were all hugging the bottom and feeding on crayfish. I actually watched a smallie chase a crayfish and inhale it. Awesome sight! The little lobster-look-a-like scooted about 2 feet very quickly and the bass nailed him with such force that he turned up the bottom a bit.
A third observation was that when I looked up toward the surface from the bottom of the lake, I could see crystal clear! I think this is why we've been catching so many big bass on topwater. They are obviously feeding and hanging out on the bottom, but it's only two or three tail flicks and they are at the surface!
One last observation worth mentioning: golf balls sink! I was amazed at the number of golf balls. Maybe it's best if the local golfers practice at the driving range than into the water (or on the ice during winter).
So in addition to storms, smallmouth, and golf balls, another fish has been stealing the show lately. Black Crappie invaded the Belgrades some years ago but this year they are bringing their A-Game. We've caught some of the biggest crappie I've ever seen and the good news for anglers is the fish are still relatively shallow. East Pond is quickly becoming a crappie Mecca in the Belgrades and the lake offers both size and quantity.
The single best way to catch crappie is by fishing small live bait under a slip bobber, but you can also catch them on hair jigs and small Rapalas, etc. They are minnow eaters and like to hang near weeds or sunken timber. We always have our best luck at dusk or on very overcast days. They seem to feed best in low light.
The resurgence of the American Bald Eagle in the Belgrade Lakes region is a true success story. For as long as I can remember we've had eagles flying around the area, but this year they seem to be everywhere. There are established nests on all the lakes in the chain and spotting an eagle or two is common during each fishing trip. Personally I think it's a testament to the efforts of so many people working hard to improve our water quality. The eagles seem to be thriving! There are three that often hang out in an area I like to fish.
This past week we witnessed an amazing sight, when a large mature eagle swooped down right in front of the boat and snatched up what appeared to be a good sized white perch. Just as the eagle headed skyward a second eagle came screeching in and smashed sideways into the first bird. I think the first bird was even more surprised than we were! In the end, the more aggressive bird stole the perch and flew into a nearby tree to feed.
I've seen eagles up close before, but these were so close that we could hear the collision and feathers mashing together. What I wouldn't give to have had the video camera rolling when that event took place!
The eagle photo in this article was taken on the eastern shoreline of lower Long Pond. The bird liked hamming it up for the camera and allowed us to get quite close. While I don't like to harass any of the local wildlife, we used the electric trolling motor to cruise by the bird slowly. In the end, the bird never took flight and we simply glided away with some terrific pictures. Good luck this week!
Mike Guarino is the owner of Maine Wilderness Tours. One can contact him at