Want to go fishing? Free weekend on tap, derbies abound

If you’re looking to spend a day on the ice and like to add the spice of competition to your fishing adventures, this is the weekend for you.

Fact is, you probably won’t be able to throw a snowball without hitting a fishing derby organizer this weekend.

Rich Rossignol of Madawaska poses with the winning landlocked salmon at the Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby in January. Ice anglers will be back on lakes and ponds this weekend, with 35 derbies on tap around the state on a weekend when those without licenses are allowed to fish for free. (Photo courtesy of Paul Bernier)

A pair of factors have turned this weekend into the busiest competitive fishing weekend of the winter.

First, Maine schools take a vacation break on Friday, and most students from kindergarten through high school will be off all of next week.

Second (and not coincidentally) the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife targets the opening weekend of February vacation as “free fishing days,” meaning that any person (except those who have had their fishing licenses revoked) is allowed to fish for free, without a license. Another free fishing weekend will be held on June 1-2 for open-water anglers.

The result: Derby organizers have targeted the opening weekend of vacation week as the optimum date for their events. Figure: Ice will generally be thick enough. Kids are available. Families are looking to do something fun with the kids. And (did we mention it already) anybody can fish without a license (as long as they’re not a convicted fish-poacher or something like that).

And the derby schedule is crowded. Figure: From now until the end of ice fishing season, there are 61 official derbies listed on the DIF&W’s schedule. Of those, 35 will take place this weekend … 37, if you include Friday and Monday.

Looking for a derby to participate in? You’ll find the list here.

Good luck to all derby participants … and stay safe.




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John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.