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Interview with The Amazing Fish-a-Metric Blog’s Stan Pauwels

DockTalk365 Maine

Explore Maine with Stan Pauwels and the Amazing Fish-A-Metric Blog

Explore Maine with Stan Pauwels and the Amazing Fish-A-Metric Blog

I love great blogs. I really enjoy the different perspectives and angles to blog writing of the bloggers that I read. Some have said that blogging may go away as video and social media take over. I hope not. Stan Pauwels’ Fish-a-Metric Blog is one of those reasons that I hope blogging lasts a long time. I could spend hours on his blog and I am not even from Maine, the primary area he blogs about. Stan took time to let us get to know him and his perspectives on fishing and blogging.

Where did the name for your blog come from?

I started playing with the state of Maine’s annual trout stocking data way back and quickly realized that all fish stocking was NOT equal. Imagine that Pond A, 5 acres, and Pond B, 50 acres, each receive 500 brook trout in the fall. Clearly, the odds are much better for catching those trout through the ice in Pond A, 500 trout/5 acres = 50 trout per acre, than in Pond B, 500 trout/50 acres = 5 trout per acre!

That simple yet profound insight became the foundation for the first iteration of my website, which consisted of a searchable database to let anglers discover how many trout are stocked per acre in 600+ ponds and lakes throughout the state. Visitors to my website could query the stocking data by season, species, town and county. I called my website “The Amazing Fish-a-Metric” because it was based entirely on calculated metrics derived from the state’s trout stocking program.

Stan with a Beautiful Largemouth Bass

Stan with a Beautiful Largemouth Bass

I really enjoy the first line of your blog that says “Welcome to my awesome fishing blog.” After reading it, I agree that it is quite awesome. What started your blogging?

I thought that the idea of a searchable database of ponds and lakes stocked with trout was promising but the concept completely flopped. The reason was that search engines couldn’t rank my site because it only provided numbers! I got few if any visitors which made me nearly give up on the whole idea of a website.

Fortunately, I had poured way too much effort in this project and could not give it up so easily. Someone suggested that I use my annual trout-per-acre stocking spreadsheets as input to write blogs. Blogs contain lots of key words and concepts that search engines can readily retrieve, rank and present to people looking for freshwater fishing spots in Maine. Blogging became the successful basis for the second iteration of my revamped website which started five years ago.

Meanwhile, my personal fishing experiences had become “stale” a couple of years earlier. I was comfortable visiting the same dozen or so locations in southern Maine where I live and which reliably and consistently produced bass and salmonids in open water and through the ice. That made me lazy and reluctant to spend my limited fishing time exploring new places.

I forced my own hand when I started blogging. I made a very conscious decision that the purpose of my blog would be to find, fish and report on a multitude of ponds, lakes, streams and rivers scattered throughout Maine. That means that I forever look for new places to fish! It forces me to travel extensively throughout the state to seek those locations and write about my angling adventures.

Guess what: my fishing ain’t stale no more!!

One of the things that I think makes your blog quite awesome is that it is truly a library on Maine fishing. Someone literally could spend weeks using your site for research. Is it all first-hand information or do you do research on locations as well?

My blogs combine intensive research to help identify new angling locations with first-hand experiences about fishing those spots. The information comes from one or more the following sources:

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) website contains depth maps for hundreds of ponds and lakes in the state. These maps are a tremendous resource which also provide general fisheries conditions, presence of fish species, and a description of public access, if available.

The MDIFW uploads on its website an up-to-date report of its extensive annual trout and salmon stocking efforts. This report provides a motherlode of information which I eagerly mine each year to find new “hot spots”! Do you want to catch a lunker trout through the ice next winter? Use the stocking report to see where the State releases its brood stock in the fall, and use the surface area information from the depth maps to figure out which water bodies receive the highest number of brood stock fish per acre!

The MDIFW fishing rules book contains much data about when and where to fish, and what to fish for. It provides information on target species, opening and closing dates, tackle restrictions, use of live bait, number of lines per angler, minimum keeper sizes, bag limits, engine restrictions, and more. Do you want to catch a trophy brook trout on a dry fly? Go to the rules book and find the ponds and lakes that have large minimum size limits on trout and are restricted to fly fishing only. Voila!

I make extensive use of Google Maps to “visit” a new location before I ever fish it. I examine a body of water remotely from my electronic device to identify rock piles, fallen trees, shallows, rapids, dams, emergent aquatic vegetation, docks, nearby roads, or potential access points.

 

A New Maine Pond to Explore

A New Maine Pond to Explore

The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer,published by Delorme, provides geographic information on the location of a water body in relation to nearby towns and roads. I never leave home without this road map! But most importantly, the Atlas shows the location of the public access points on all the water bodies in the state and whether a boat launch is trailerable or hand-carry only.

Combining the information obtained from these five sources tells me what fish species to target, what sizes to expect, which boat to bring on the water, how to reach my fishing spot, what lures or bait I can or cannot use, where to focus my attention once I’m on the water, and what to look out for. I know from experience that the more information I gather up front, the lower the odds of running into problems when I reach a new spot.

Doing my homework also greatly decreases the chances of getting skunked. That is important because I typically give myself no more than 2 or 3 hours to explore a new location. The upshot of all of this research is that my blogs are rich in content to help anglers determine where to fish in Maine.

You write on your blog about some waters that aren’t that big. This is always a bit of a dilemma for anglers in not giving away unpressured waters or “secret” methods. What is your philosophy/approach to writing about waters in a way that gives enough info but not too much info?

First, I am temperamentally attracted to smaller bodies of water because I like their intimacy and love the solitude. Second, I enjoy fishing from a canoe which points me towards smaller ponds and lakes that lack hard boat launches. Third, I simply don’t hold back on sharing information about the places I fish! After all, that’s the whole point behind my blog.

I believe that this spirit of openness makes my writing authentic. People feel that genuineness and have enthusiastically responded to it with over 100,000 visits annually to my blog.

Now, you say, doesn’t that openness create a problem for me when I spill the beans and constantly divulge all my secrets? The answer is a categorical “no”. The reason is that I stay ahead of my fellow anglers by systematically fishing a different body of water week after week. So, I’m already ten ponds ahead even if a place gets discovered as a result of my writing! And I won’t ever run out of fishing options either because Maine is home to innumerable ponds and lakes and thousands of miles of streams and rivers!

Speaking of waters, what do you consider your five favorite bodies of water to fish in Maine?

The conundrum with your question is that Maine is big and offers so many options for freshwater fishing. Having said that, the following five locations are definite winners in my book.

Sebago Lake, Windham or Standish, Cumberland County: This huge lake is 28,771 acres, which is the second-largest freshwater body in the state after Moosehead Lake. Sebago Lake is a regional mecca for lake trout and landlocked Atlantic salmon fishing in southern Maine. Sebago Lake is also considered a premier bass-fishing destination.

Pierce Pond Salmon Fishing

Pierce Pond Salmon Fishing

Pierce Pond, Pierce Pond Township, Somerset County: For the last 15 years, my son, a dear nephew, a friend and I have fly fished Pierce Pond, 1,650 acres, in western Maine for up to a week at the end of May during the annual mayfly hatches. Our targets are brook trout and landlocked Atlantic salmon. We stay at a remote “fishing camp”, fish for up to 14 hours per day, bond deeply, drink lots of invigorating cold beverages, and make life-long memories! No private or commercial development is allowed anywhere along the lake’s shoreline, which gives it a unique unspoiled feeling.

Black Pond, Porter, Oxford County: Once in a while, I discover a pond that simply blows my socks off. Black Pond, 50 acres, is a highly-sophisticated largemouth bass manufacturing machine hidden away in the rural backcountry of southern Maine. Everything about it is geared towards growing bass: the available structure, the shallow water depth, the general habitat, the abundant aquatic vegetation. I love discovering and writing about such places!

Russell Pond, T4 R9 WELS, Piscataquis County: Russell Pond is small at 20 acres and very remote native brook trout pond located smack in the middle of gorgeous Baxter State Park in Northern Maine. The surrounding mountain peaks looking down on the pond are stunning. This beautiful spot can only be reached after an 8-mile hike through the park. The native brookies in this pond are small but what they lack in size they more than make up in fighting spirit!

The Penobscot River, Penobscot County: The Penobscot River upstream of Bangor is an unparalleled smallmouth bass fishing paradise! It is the best bronzeback river in Maine, bar none, and ranks as a top smallmouth bass fishery in the northeast. The river is relatively shallow and bouldery, and is full of bass-holding habitat. The surrounding landscape is glorious and largely unspoiled. I can’t think of a better way to spend a lazy summer afternoon than to slowly drift down the Penobscot while catching dozens of chunky smallies on a floating Rapalla, a small soft stickbait fished “wacky style”, or a Tiny Torpedo on the surface!

A lot people like me consider Maine for a family vacation where they hope to do a little fishing as well. What advice do you have for those traveling and fishing with their family?

Hundreds of thousands of folks “from away” travel to Maine in the summer to enjoy our Great Outdoors. The state is full of freshwater fishing opportunities that can be enjoyed by the whole family. The following are some pointers to keep in mind when planning to fish in Vacationland:

Summer fishing in Maine is largely focused on warm-water species in ponds and lakes, particularly smallmouth and largemouth bass, but also yellow perch, white perch, chain pickerel, and sunfish. Check the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) web site to download the Maine Lakes Survey Maps mentioned earlier in this interview. These maps provide depth profiles and fisheries information on hundreds of ponds and lakes. Note that the salmonids in the summer are typically hiding in the cold-water layer 30+ ft below the surface and can only be caught using specialized techniques, i.e., trolling deep with downriggers or lead core line.

The best time to hit a busy lake in the summer is early in the morning before everyone gets on the water or an hour before sunset when people are off the water and the fish feed one last time before darkness sets in.

The hard truth is that the rural character and wooded nature of Maine makes it a persistent challenge to comfortably fish a pond or lake from shore. The vast majority of shoreline is private, posted, inaccessible, and/or overgrown with vegetation. The only honest way to fish a pond or lake in our state is from a boat. A small kayak or canoe works great, even a simple inflatable device will do. Don’t get me wrong: one can catch fish casting from shore or a dock, but the odds go up exponentially if you can fish from the water.

If you are planning to stay at a commercial campground and wish to go fishing, then make sure to (a) select a campground located next to a pond or lake, (b) ask if they have kayaks or canoes for rent, or (c) ask if you can launch your own motorboat from their site. Be aware of state registration rules if your boat is motorized! The point is to camp close to water and do whatever it takes to have access to a boat in order to increase your chances of catching fish.

Make sure to obtain a freshwater fishing license before wetting a line in Maine. A license is required for anyone 16 years or older. Younger kids fish for free. The easiest way to acquire a license is to buy yours on-line at the MDIFW MOSES web site.

You recently posted about the Mepps inline spinner. I agree with your love of the inline spinner. Will you share with us what you love about fishing the inline so much?

I pick the #2 Mepps in-line spinner, silver with red poky dots, please, without a moment’s hesitation if you told me that I was forever banished to a remote wilderness and that I could take only a single kind of lure with me. What I like about the Mepps is its sheer versatility. I’ve used it in brooks, streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes to catch pickerel, northern pike, sunfish, fallfish, yellow perch, white perch, crappie, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, and Atlantic salmon, among others. No other lure on the market can do that!

The Mepps spinner blade is wide enough to significantly slow down the lure when fishing in running water. I also alter the hook by removing two of the three hooks on the treble. This simple modification makes it much easier to release the fish unharmed. It also greatly reduces the chance for the lure to get stuck on submerged snags.

And here’s the icing on the cake: I was fishing for smallmouth bass in a deep pool in 1990 on the Penobscot River below the Old Town dam using my ultralight spinning rod with 8-pound monofilament and a #2 Mepps in-line spinner. I hooked into a 36” sea-run Atlantic salmon, fought it hard for 15 long minutes, landed it, admired it, and released it! That once-in-a-lifetime fish was caught on a Mepps!

North Otter Pond Trout Fishing

North Otter Pond Trout Fishing

Coming back to the blog to end, what are the future goals/plans for the Amazing Fish-a-Metric Blog?

My long-term goal is to turn the Amazing Fish-a-Metric web site into an authoritative source of information on freshwater fishing destinations in Maine. Even though my blog already describes over 250+ water bodies, that number represents only a tiny fraction of the available fishable waters! I have yet to seriously explore and blog about entire regions of the state, such as Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, the Belgrade Lakes by Augusta, remote trout ponds in the White Mountain National Forest of southern Oxford County, the region south of the west branch of the Penobscot River by Baxter State Park, the Allagash Wilderness Waterway in the northwestern corner of the state, the remote trout ponds in the Moosehead Lake region, or the trout ponds around Rangeley, to name just a few destinations. Because I live in southern Maine and have a full-time job, some areas of the state, such as Downeast Maine or northern Maine, will remain largely out of reach for the foreseeable future.

I hope that the insights I share on my website will entice more anglers to expand their fishing horizons and explore new destinations which they might otherwise miss. In my estimation, fishing is a powerful antidote against the interconnected and fast-paced world that consumes us all. Fishing slows things down, gives our minds the chance to reconnect with our inner selves, and allows us to rediscover the gorgeous natural world that surrounds us. My efforts will be meaningful if I can entice more people to go out and fish our wondrous outdoors.

So, what are you waiting for? Go get lost in Maine with The Amazing Fish-A-Metric Blog. Thank you Stan for doing what you do!

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