In the “When life gives you lemons …” department, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife sent out an email reminder on Friday.
Let me paraphrase (with apologies to the good folks at the DIF&W for my liberal translation): “We know the weather has been awful. Yes, we’re tired of skiing, too. And we’re tired of freezing. And shoveling. And complaining. Therefore, we’re happy to remind you that since we’ve got all that GREAT, WONDERFUL, COOL ice on lakes and ponds, you should stop thinking about the traditional open-water fishing season, and continue ice fishing. Regretfully, we expect you may still be ice fishing until July 4.”
Here’s the real story: Back in 2010, the DIF&W changed its approach a bit, realizing that some of its rules didn’t really correspond with actual Maine seasons.
During many years, the traditional open-water opening day, April 1, arrived and all of the state’s lakes and ponds were only accessible for those with an ice auger. Alas, March 31 also marked the last day of legal ice fishing season … and anglers were out of luck, unless they could find an open stream or river.
When the department instituted year-round fishing rules in 2010, one result was that many lakes and ponds remained open to fishing no matter what the conditions. If there was ice, anglers were allowed to ice fish. If not, they could troll or cast.
And this year, with ice still measuring in feet on many lakes and ponds, it’s not likely that there will be many boats launched come April 1.
“So while others may debate the pros and cons of climate change, don’t put your ice fishing gear away just yet,” the DIF&W said in a news release. “Go out and check the safety of the ice on your favorite pond and enjoy another outing on the ice.”
According to the DIF&W, in southern, central and Down East Maine, all lakes that are open to open-water fishing under general law provisions, anglers can fish through the ice or on open water. The caveat: some of those waters may have special regulations listed in the state fishing law book, and that book should be consulted.
In western and northern Maine, anglers can keep ice fishing in April as long as the lake or pond is designated with an “A season” in the law book.
The DIF&W does caution, however, that the regulation on ice shacks has not changed. If you’ve got an ice shack on any Maine lake or pond, you’ve got to remove it by April 1. You can, however, tow a small portable shelter onto the lake and fish from it if you choose to go.