How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Anglers need to conquer canoe trail

Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2007
By Matt Crawford

They officially raised the curtain on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail last year.

The trail is a 740-mile waterway that runs through four states, making it possible to paddle from Old Forge, N.Y., to Fort Kent, Maine (with portaging required here and there).

It follows travel routes used by Native Americans and early eastern settlers and slices through what's known as the Northern Forest, the 25 million acres of (mostly) forested land that stretches acres across New York's Tug Hill plateau and Adirondack Mountains nearly all the way to the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. Nearly all of northern Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and some of southern Quebec lie in the Northern Forest.

Think of it as sort of an Appalachian Trail for paddlers, connected by a series of lakes, rivers, ponds and significant streams. All told, there are 22 rivers and streams, and 56 lakes and ponds that are part of the trail -- including Lake Champlain, the Missisquoi River, Lake Memphremagog, the Clyde River and the Connecticut River.

Kayakers and canoeing fans are rightfully excited for the trail, which is detailed in a series of excellent maps put out by Mountaineer Books. But for all the hype and enthusiasm coming from the Northeast's paddling community the fact remains that the canoe trail has already been conquered by an end-to-end paddler: Donnie Mullen, a former Maine Outward Bound instructor did it in 55 days in 2000. People are already on the trail this spring, paddling from one end to the next, looking to join Mullen in the history books.

What hasn't been done -- or if it has, it hasn't been documented -- is to fish the trail from end-to-end. My guess is that it would take more than 55 days to complete if you took the time to fish the whole way, but it might well be the trip of a lifetime.

If an angler/paddler started in Old Forge, N.Y. -- on the southwestern edge of the Adirondack Park -- and worked eastward to Fort Kent, Maine (in the northeast tip of the Pine Tree State) they'd be able to wet a line in some of the most prized and famous fishing spots in all of the Northeast.

On the western front, for instance, the tiger muskie fishing in the Fulton Chain Lakes would certainly kick the trip off on the right foot.

By the time the trip ended, a paddler would likely have experienced the best wild brook trout fishing in all of the United States in Maine -- including the mighty Allagash River where Henry David Thoreau wrote about the beauty of brookies in the mid-1800s.

And in the middle of a trip, an angler/paddler would have to be equipped with the gear needed to tame Lake Champlain's famous smallmouth bass.

It would seem to me the best way to paddle and fish the Northern Forest Canoe Trail would be by canoe, and if you took a canoe you'd need a fishing partner. And if you took a fishing partner you'd have to double up on the gear.

The gear, of course, would include fly rods, spinning rods, baitcasting rods, nets, stringers, tackle boxes, waders and fishing vests.

I'd guess that fly-tying materials would be optional, because you could always buy flies from local shops on the trail, and you'd still need space for camping, cooking and other long-distance paddling equipment.

Luckily, you could buy four of the five required fishing licenses on-line (New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Quebec doesn't sell fishing licenses on line), which would give you more time to be on the water and less time on land, standing in line.

And speaking of time, if I could find a summer to float and cast the canoe trail, I'd jump at the chance. Maybe there'd be a book deal in it all.

Matt Crawford is the Free Press Outdoors editor. His column appears Sundays. Contact him at 651-4852 or


For information about the Northern Forest Canoe Trail call 496-2285 or log on to


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