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River Valley Outdoors
Last summer, I stood on an outcropping of rocks that jutted out from the banks of the Androscoggin River, casting a rootbeer-colored wooly bugger into a deep pool formed by huge hunks of glacial bedrock and years of erosion.
When the fish hit the fly, I assumed it was another big smallmouth bass – until the silver-colored salmon came to the surface and started jumping like it wanted to reach the clouds.
That happened to be my first landlocked salmon ever hooked in the Androscoggin River, and I’ve been fishing the big river for some time now. Releasing the fish back into the current, I had to wonder if folks thirty years ago would have believed anyone would ever catch a salmon here again.
Nowadays, anglers come from all over the country to fish the “Andro” as it’s called. Big-named fly fisherman like Lefty Kreh remark “…the Androscoggin River is my favorite place to catch smallmouth bass.”
Several national outdoor magazines have featured articles about fishing on the river, and most local publications include regular columns and articles highlighting the great fishing on “our” Androscoggin River.
Although some folks risk running a motorized boat on the rocky river, most use canoes, kayaks, or drift boats to navigate around the huge boulders that hide just under the surface.
For angling and floating purposes, the big river can be broken down into two major sections in this region – the Upper Androscoggin River system from Gilead to Rumford, and the Lower Androscoggin River from Rumford to Canton.
The Upper Androscoggin River contains five segments of river that contain floating or angling day trips of five to seven miles.
The first stretch starts at the launch on the upstream side of the bridge in Gilead, with a take out at Newt’s Landing in West Bethel. This section offers some of the best trout fishing in the whole length of the river. Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (DIFW) fills it with hundreds of brook trout, salmon, brown trout, and rainbow trout each year.
The second piece of river continues from Newt’s Landing and runs downriver to Davis Park in Bethel. This section of river produces some great trout fishing, too, and some of the better smallmouth bass fishing in the upper section of the river.
I haven’t fished the next three sections of river from a boat, only casting from the shore – so I can’t really give an accurate account of the fishing there. The three runs go from Davis Park to Moran’s Landing (just east of where the Bear River flows into the Andro), from Moran’s Landing to the public launch in Hanover, and from there to the Rumford Launch just west of MacDonald’s.
The Lower Androscoggin River contains three sections of river and happens to be where I fish the most, not just because I live closer to these parts of the river, but, because I love smallmouth bass fishing.
The first run takes anglers from the Mexico launch, behind the police complex, downriver to the Opera House take out in Dixfield. The Swift River fills this section with cold, mountain water at its upper reaches, while the Webb River pours in from below in Dixfield.
From the Dixfield launch anglers float downriver to the International Paper (IP) takeout on the Canton Point Road. As the trout fishing tapers off in the upper part of this section, the smallmouth fishing picks up.
The last section of river runs from the IP Launch to the Canton Launch on Route 142. This is a very scenic and slow section of river that produces some huge smallmouth bass.
The Androscoggin River produces huge smallmouth bass, and excellent salmonid fishing. Even with great fishing I don’t see very many folks on the water.
Hardly anyone seems to be fishing the river and those that do always return the fish to the water. Even though DIFW biologists claim the fish are clean enough to eat, most folks won’t take a single fish home for a meal.
Maybe that’s what makes it such a great place for me to wet a line – big fish, and I’ve got the whole river to myself.