Songo River Guide Service: learn fishing & electronics from Dan

The late September day when Dan Hillier took me fishing in Western Maine turned out wet and windy. So instead of exercising his deep trolling expertise on wide-open Lake Sebago, we launched from a crude dirt ramp into a hideaway pond so that I could at least enjoy another of Dan’s skills — explaining his extensive system of Humminbird electronics and integrated gear.

I’m guilty of not writing about this trip for more than a year (along with several other worthy Panbo subjects), but maybe the timing turned out well. Because now I can report that Dan is fully ready to guide fishing trips however and whenever that’s possible in 2020, and I don’t know another boat skipper I’d feel safer with.

Dan Hillier with his fully loaded Princecraft Hudson 190 DLX

Dan first caught my attention when he was representing the fishing side of Portland Yacht Services at a boat show, and his ability to clearly explain what marine electronics can and can’t do impressed me. So when Humminbird invited me to experience their fishing gear on the water with one of their pros, I requested Songo River Guide Service.

Actually, I’ve ridden along with many pro fishermen thanks to the electronics companies who sponsor them, and have often witnessed how skillfully they must manage all sorts of equipment, customers, sponsors, and fishing conditions. It’s great to have a job doing what you love, but this is also challenging work even in South Florida, and even more so given Maine’s weather and relatively tiny guiding market. But then again, those are more reasons that the beautiful Sebago region will likely be an easy place to maintain safe distances in the months to come.

At any rate, there’s a lot of complex equipment packed into Dan’s Princecraft 19 — all kept in good working condition — and he can patiently discuss how it helps to find and catch fish. That’s a potential bonus for many clients, aside from chasing salmon, bass, and trout plus maybe stepping ashore for Dan’s fresh campfire chowder lunch.

Humminbird Helix 10 side imaging and vegetation mapping
Humminbird Helix 10 side imaging and vegetation mapping

I was particularly interested in seeing the LakeMaster mapping and AutoCharting features that Humminbird has been developing in recent years, and pleased to learn that Hillier is a trained contributor to efforts like this Plus Northeast V2 map card. Actually, I’m not sure that this little pond is mapped on any other card, though we could have done it ourselves that day with AutoCharting.

In fact, as seen on the screen above, we were using AutoCharting to determine the bottom vegetation density, and thus I learned to correlate the vague imagery seen in what can be sharply detailed Mega Side Imaging with understandably vague weed clumps. We verified that hypothesis by fouling our lures, which is why you can use the vegetation mapping to identify the lighter weed areas better for productive casting.

I saw lots to like on the twin Helix 10 “fish finders”, though isn’t a device that can plot your position on multiple chart formats while also integrating solid-state radar, trolling motors, downriggers, and shallow water anchors actually a true multifunction display (MFD)? Humminbird is modest in this way, but something I’ve picked up from competitors in recent years: the Johnson Outdoors fishing family — Humminbird, Minn Kota, and Cannon — has been doing very well in the huge freshwater market, and making inroads on saltwater.

For instance, Minn Kota’s i-Pilot technology was noteworthy in 2010 and has become much more refined since. Using either the wireless remote or the Helix (with foot pedal or Bluetooth phone app controls also available), we could autopilot routes or depth contours, “Spot Lock” on GPS points, and much more. And while Dan’s Terrova model easily overcame a stiff wind, this year a self-deploying model means easy transitions to and from outboard planing speeds (and maybe he’ll try this unmanned launch move).

From Dan Hillier's April 2020 Facebook entries
From Dan Hillier’s April 2020 Facebook entries

So this is where I should have a photo of the big fish I caught with Dan, but they were even less cooperative than the weather. However, that’s Dan with a 28-inch Lake Trout he caught at the mouth of the Songo River just last week, and just one of several early-season success photos he’s been posting on Facebook. The guy loves to fish, and he knows the bountiful Sebago area as well as his boat gear.

Moreover, Hillier also succeeded at his other childhood dream, and so another Facebook picture I snagged shows him as he sometimes dresses during his shifts in Auburn as a professional firefighter and EMT. In other words, he’s quite aware of how things can go wrong, and he’s trained for it. Which is yet another reason to contact Songo River Guide Service for some fishing fun and electronics education even during a troubled time.

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

1 Response

  1. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Fishing trip specifics 2020: Maine currently prohibits any guided trips, but may open them up to some degree soon. Meanwhile, Dan is taking reservations without deposits and with the understanding that he or the client can cancel at any time.

    Incidentally, Dan originates many of his trips from Migis Lodge, which looks fabulously rustic and probably an especially nice option for a family that don’t all enjoy fishing:

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