Friday, September 28, 2012

Inside The Moments: Episode 2 - Catching Maine's Rare Arctic Charr

In 2010, it was the year of fishing and kayaking for me, and there was somewhat of a reason for that which I will leave personal, but it was fun, and I had a lot of quiet time during these outings. All summer long I had fished, but when it was May and my brother's birthday, there was no forgetting our next, and 2nd Deboullie trip, for which I crafted into a kayak AND camping trip.

During this 2nd adventure to Deboullie, I had the most memorable fish-catch of my life to date. It was no twenty-pounder or anything, but I had caught Maine's rare Arctic Charr, also known as a Blueback Trout.

During our first trip here in 2009, we had not one bite and didn't get to eat any fish. This time would be different. While fishing from in the water along the shore of Gardner Pond from the Gardner West campsite, we were not getting any bites. (I could show you this from the many dozens of minutes of footage I have before I caught my fish.) Constantly checking our legs for leeches, we fished for a long time that afternoon, with my brother about 20 feet next to me. If you read about catching the Charr, you'll learn that the species likes the deep, cold water found in the drop-offs, which are predominantly found along the shores of Deboullie and Gardner Ponds, as the steep mountains dip right into the depths of the lakes.
Gardner Pond
After a long time of no action or bites, I decided to take a few steps further out in the water so that I could cast my line as far as possible. In addition to that, I let it sink for several seconds before clicking the line in. Just seconds after that, I was startled by a fierce tug on my line. I thought you have to be kidding me?! After hours of fishing, I make a couple of specific and thought out adjustments to my casting and location, and BANG. Of course it felt like a giant had struck my line, but really it was regular sized fish with a decent amount of fight that had jumped out of the water in front of me. It would be either a brookie or Charr, and when I reeled it home, sure enough it was my first Charr. I remember being so excited it looked like I was catching a fish for the first time!

Here is the video of the moment. (Fast forward to about 4:30 to go right to the action.)

Now.....Going back to before my catch, our friend Eric caught a slightly larger one than mine the night prior, so before I even caught my own, I had witnessed a catch and had tasted the Arctic Charr. The process of getting it from the rod to the fire and into our bellies can be seen below.

As you can see, we cooked that baby up nice and it was just awesome. The fish was so delicious, I could hardly describe it. We mixed some of the fish with a can of Chunky spicy gumbo soup, and that too was simply amazing. As I ate my fish, I had no idea what would come in the middle of the night....
Arctic Charr and Gumbo
Apparently, I am allergic to fish in the salmon/trout family... I went to bed hoping for a good night's sleep, but what happened was the most disgusting and crappy night ever out in the woods to this day. I barfed and screamed all night long until the sun came up and by that time, the only thing that was coming out of my stomach was bile. How was that fish so good, and how could that happen? I guess this will go down in history as the only time ever that I will eat this fish. This is a reason it remains all so awesome for me.

After our few days camping, we paddled out across the deep glacial lakes, and the people camping closer to the parking areas were shocked that we had stories of the Charr. They wanted to know everything about how we caught it. People come from far away to catch the elusive Blueback in Maine. This species is only known to be in 12 lakes in the State of Maine, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife (sometimes its 11, sometimes its 12, depending on what you read). Those waters are listed in the management plan link below. The fish are tough to catch because they like the bottom of the lakes where it is cold, but in addition to that, the bodies of water are simply difficult to get to. This is why catching an Arctic Charr of any size can be considered a life-time catch. Although we caught a few, we only kept and ate two that weekend.

I visited Deboullie again in 2012, and remember catching a tiny blueback, and the rest of us had similar action, and nothing close to worthy of keeping for a meal. Given that my brother and I didn't get one single bite in 2009, this goes to show you that your trip here may or may not result in pulling a Charr for your meal.

Visit Maine's Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife page here for brief stats on the species.
To read about the largest Arctic Charr ever caught in Maine, read this article here.
The 2001 Arctic Charr management plan can be read here This PDF file contains very good information on the fish and its presence in Maine.

If you have any questions or comments about or experiences catching the Arctic Charr, feel free to leave a comment!


  1. Wow! Definitely fun moments. I enjoyed watching the video and the photos. Thanks a lot for the great share. Cool!

    1. Thanks Shyra, I can't tell you how many laughs we had during this "moment".