If you’ve been thinking of introducing your kids to ice fishing — or trying it yourself, for that matter — this is your lucky weekend, for a couple of important reasons.
First, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has announced that Saturday and Sunday are this year’s winter “free fishing weekend,” and folks can head out to fish without purchasing a license. (An important note: If you’ve been on the wrong side of the game wardens and your license has been suspended or revoked, you’re out of luck: This special weekend doesn’t apply to you).
Add in the fact that the traditional school vacation kicks off this weekend, and it makes perfect sense that this is also one of the busiest ice fishing derby weekends of the year.
The DIF&W is cautioning anglers to check ice conditions before heading out, and to continue to test ice thickness while moving farther out on lakes or ponds.
If you do choose to head out fishing, the DIF&W is inviting folks to share their fishing adventures on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter by tagging posts with #FishME.
We think that’s a great idea, and we’ll be monitoring those posts in hopes of sharing some of them in a blog next week.
Where to fish?
So, you’re sick of hiding in the house (or shoveling snow) and you want to head out fishing. Why not join some others and enter a local ice fishing derby?
Add in some snacks and make a day of it. Who knows? You might even catch the winning fish, or be drawn to win a shore prize.
So where do you go? I’m glad you asked. Here are a few derbies, along with a family fun day you may want to consider.
Up in Milo, folks will be flocking to local lakes Feb. 18-19 for the 55th annual Schoodic Lake Ice Fishing Derby. The proceeds benefit the Milo Fire Department charities and anglers can fish Schoodic, Ebeemee, Seboeis and Boyd lakes. Call 943-2303 or 943-2785 for info, or go to trcmaine.org.
A bit farther north, the Island Falls Ice Fishing Derby will be held Saturday and Sunday on Mattawamkeag Lake and Pleasant Pond. You can register and weigh in at Jerry’s Food Store on Houlton Street.
Over on Beech Hill Pond in Otis, Dunn’s aviation hangar will serve as the headquarters for the MAINEiacs Charities Ice Fishing Derby on Saturday and Sunday. More than $8,000 in shore prizes will be up for grabs during the event. To buy a ticket, contact Jason Clark at 949-4431, Scott Fish at 944-6772, Gerry Martin at 944-5376 or Joseph Lozier at 852-3946.
And if you’re looking for a fun and easy way to introduce kids to the sport of ice fishing, head over to Brewer for the Penobscot County Conservation Association’s family ice fishing day. Fishing will be provided for toddlers through those age 15, and the holes will be predrilled, with traps preplaced. Kids need to be accompanied by an adult, but there will be plenty of experienced fishermen and women on hand to teach kids (and adults) the ropes.
Let’s talk moose
Winter is obviously in full swing, but it’s not too early to start dreaming about adventures that will take place several months from now.
For instance, if you’re interested in earning the privilege of moose hunting this year, registration for the online lottery for those permits is officially open. To apply, go to mefishwildlife.com.
The deadline for online entry is 11:59 p.m. on May 15.
Last year 2,140 lucky entrants won the right to hunt moose. A total of 48,865 prospective hunters — 35,062 Maine residents and 13,803 nonresidents — entered the 2016 lottery.
This year’s lottery will be held at the Caribou Parks and Recreation facility on June 17.
John Holyoke can be reached at email@example.com or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke