Fish River Chain of Lakes, Maine, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - New England - Maine - Aroostook County -

Also known as:  Portage Lake, Fish River Lake, Saint Froid Lake, Eagle Lake, Cross lake, Mud Lake, Square Lake, Long Lake

For big-lake fishing, Aroostook County’s Fish River Chain of Lakes is the destination of choice. Home of Maine’s best landlocked salmon fishery, the lakes are somewhat remote, located near the border of New Brunswick, Canada. The eight natural lakes are undammed, making this ideal trout and salmon breeding areas. The cottage owners who own or lease land count their lucky stars for the chance to spend happy days on the pristine lakes.

First in the Fish River Chain of Lakes is shallow Fish River Lake. Westernmost lake in the chain, Fish River Lake is highest at 714 feet elevation, covering 2,642 acres to a depth of 46 feet. Nearly the entire lakeshore is in the hands of a paper company, with only a few private and commercial camps on leased land along the shore. The lake is within the North Maine Woods boundary, so a user fee is collected before reaching the lake. A small boat ramp is located at the northwest corner of the lake. No ice fishing is allowed here. The lake serves as salmon spawning area at the outlet past Round Pond, with rainbow smelt introduced in the 1960s to provide food stock for salmon, brook trout and lake trout. Fish River meanders more than 15 miles to the southeast to enter Portage Lake. There is no information available as to whether the river is navigable by small boats or canoes between the two lakes.

Portage Lake is the southernmost lake in the chain and over 100 feet lower in elevation at 604 feet. The 2,474-acre lake is also one of the shallowest with a maximum depth of 25 feet. Sheltered by West Mountain, Portage Lake is one of the most densely populated of the chain, with the little town of Portage hugging the southern shore. A public boat launch and beach area are provided for residents and visitors, with a seaplane base just west of the beach. A motor lodge is located here, and the town has a golf course nearby. From the outlet, the small river meanders through forest and wetlands to reach Saint Froid Lake to the north.

Saint Froid Lake is located just west of Highway 11, the Fish River Scenic Byway. This lake has little development; only a small number of cottages cling to the eastern shore of the 2,339-acre lake. One of the deeper lakes at 114 feet, Saint Froid holds many lake trout, or togue as they are called locally. The trout were re-introduced in 1969 and are stocked annually. Salmon, brook trout and a small population of lake whitefish reproduce here, feasting on the plentiful rainbow smelt. Ice fishing is popular, with some real whoppers being landed through the ice. Nadeau Thoroughfare, the outlet at the north end of the lake, leads to Eagle Lake. The Thoroughfare provides excellent salmon spawning.

Eagle lake, at 575 feet elevation, is one of the largest in the chain. The 5,601-acre lake reaches 136 feet in depth and has a shoreline of over 30 miles. Eagle Lake holds several fishing camps, and a public boat dock can be reached on the southern shore outside of the town of Eagle Lake. The developed areas hold both public and commercial beaches and picnic areas, although the lake is quite cold until late summer. The eastern arm of the lake is primarily state-owned, with several water-access-only campsites and picnic areas. Eagle Lake is the main destination for the chain, with a number of lodgings available, including guest cabins, motels and bed & breakfasts. This is the site of the annual Eagle Lake Sled Dog Races, including the 100-mile race and the 30-mile race. It’s also one of the main points on the Aroostook County portion of Maine’s renowned snowmobile trails. The Eagle Lake outlet is another location for excellent salmon spawning.

Although all eight lakes are considered within the Fish River Chain, the other four lakes – Square Lake, Mud Lake, Cross Lake and Long Lake – are not actually on the Fish River. Instead, they drain as a separate lake system into Eagle Lake where they contribute to the Fish River’s flow. The Eagle River then flows out of Eagle Lake.

Square Lake is the next lake heading north along the Fish Lake Chain of Lakes. The Square Lake outlet to Eagle Lake, known as the Eagle Lake Thoroughfare, is short and relatively direct, heading to the largest lake in the chain at 8,090 acres. This outlet also provides excellent salmon spawning. The lake reaches depths of 122 feet and is little developed. One boat launch on the northeast corner of the lake is reached by over seven miles of private, unimproved gravel road. Most boats enter from the other lakes.

A short stretch of river leads to Cross Lake, with 2,470 acres, a depth reaching 46 feet, and many cottages and homes along its shoreline. A seaplane base provides quick access for some area residents and guests, as the area is otherwise a five-hour drive from Portland. Fishing is primarily landlocked salmon and brook trout with a public boat ramp located at the southeast end of the lake. The boat ramp isn’t suitable for large boats, but residents with their own ski boats enjoy water skiing, tubing and sailing.

Mud Lake is the next lake to the north, accessible via a pleasant kayak or canoe ride. Only 1,002 acres and just 20 feet deep, Mud Lake is the smallest and most shallow lake in the Fish River Chain. Private cottages and a few commercial camps lie along the northern shore. A short channel leads to Long Lake through the village of Sinclair. Northernmost lake in the Fish River Chain of Lakes, Long Lake covers 6,849 acres and reaches a depth of 163 feet. Located only a couple of miles from the Canadian border, the lake is quite heavily developed, including on Pelletier Island. The area has a distinct French Acadian flavor. A public boat launch and picnic areas are located at St. Agatha on the northwestern end of the lake. An annual ice fishing derby draws large numbers of fishermen vying for large cash prizes. A seaplane base is located on the western shore. A 32-mile trail around the lake makes it a favorite among cycling fans. All of these northernmost lakes are managed for salmon and trout and are connected by navigable natural channels.

The entire Fish River Chain of Lakes is noted as one of the best salmon and lake trout fisheries in the country. Fish River Falls downstream near Fort Kent prevents other fish such as muskellunge and bass from migrating upstream from the St. Johns River into salmon country. This border area was settled about 1750 by Acadians who were pushed out of New Brunswick by the British. Although other parts of Maine were settled by English-speaking settlers, it wasn’t known that this population of Acadians existed until logging interests pushed north into the area after 1820. The ‘Aroostook War’, more of an armed standoff between 1838-1842, finally resulted in an agreed-upon border between Canada and the United States. The ‘war’ adds some local color to history with a nearby preserved fort.

Aroostook County and the Fish River Chain of Lakes provide four-season recreation. Miles of groomed snowmobile and cross-country skiing trails bring winter visitors, while the prolific wildlife is great for nature observation, photography and stalking the wily brook trout in tiny rushing streams. Black bear, moose, deer and many smaller mammals, songbirds and waterfowl find ideal habitat here. Bald eagles soar overhead. Aroostook County is potato-growing country; many school districts still give children three weeks off in September to help bring in the family harvest. Fort Kent holds most of the business and is a gateway to the area. It is here at Fort Kent that famed US Route 1 begins; the other end is in Key West, Florida. The Fish River Scenic Byway meanders 37 miles south from Fort Kent to Portage Lake. Along the way, some of Maine’s best scenery, small restaurants, motels and local festivals can be found. And always, the big lakes of the Fish River Chain hold huge salmon, hefty lake trout and an abundance of water for fun and relaxation. So, pack the fly rod, arrange for a fishing guide and come up to Eagle Lake and the rest of the chain.

*Statistics listed are for Eagle Lake only.

Things to do at Fish River Chain of Lakes

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Tubing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding

Fish species found at Fish River Chain of Lakes

  • Bass
  • Brook Trout
  • Lake Trout
  • Muskellunge
  • Pike
  • Salmon
  • Smelt
  • Trout
  • Whitefish

Fish River Chain of Lakes Photo Gallery

Fish River Chain of Lakes Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 5,601 acres

Shoreline Length: 35 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 575 feet

Average Depth: 44 feet

Maximum Depth: 136 feet

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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