Insufficient ice plagues lakes, ponds in Maine

Posted Dec. 28, 2009, at 9 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:27 p.m.

With New Year’s Day (and the traditional ice-fishing opener) approaching, it seemed like a great idea to hop into my truck Monday morning and optimistically tour a few local lakes.

Of course, after Sunday’s rain and 45-degree temperatures, I knew better. Still, a hopeful ice fisherman’s gotta do what a hopeful ice fisherman’s gotta do.

Here then, is my report: Brewer Lake looks bad. Fields Pond looks bad. Green Lake looks bad.

There was, however, a glimmer of hope … kind of: On a tiny unnamed pond in Orrington, I saw evidence of an angler, or a bait dealer, who had dragged a tote sled and a five-gallon pail out onto the ice.

Then again, there was no sign of the angler, so I’m not sure how hopeful I should be.

Frustrated, I e-mailed Rich Rossignol. Rossignol is an avid ice angler from Madawaska, lives on Long Lake and is gracious enough to welcome me into his fishing party each February during the local ice fishing derby.

There must be good ice in Aroostook County, I figured. And I was confident that Rossignol would give me good news.

Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t.

“Boy, the ice had a hard time freezing up this year — [it] was too warm and then when the cold took, so did the wind, which hampered the ice freeze-up,” Rossignol replied. “All the coves have been frozen for awhile now, but the main part of the lake just froze over a week ago.

“I was on it yesterday testing the thickness in front of home. For the most part there’s three inches of good ice covered with three inches of slush which should be frozen over by New Year’s.”

Rossignol, it turns out, is an optimist as well. He’s not giddy about the ice conditions, but said he’ll be able to make due.

“I might not put out the condo ice shack at first,” he wrote. “Might have to fish out of my portable [shack] for a week or so.”

A few ice-fishing items …

So you dug your ice-fishing traps out of the garage. You put new line on those that needed it, and made sure everything’s in working order. You even fired up the auger to see if it’s still as finicky as ever.

Sounds like you’re ready to fish … as soon as we get some dependable ice.

While we’re waiting for ice to get thicker — kind of like watching paint dry, except colder — I’ve got a few ice-fishing tidbits to share.

ä Don’t look for a new book. You’ve been to the town office four times, and haven’t found a new ice fishing law book. You’re concerned. And you’re wondering how to get your hands on the new, improved edition.

Don’t.

The fact is, according to the DIF&W, the 2008-2009 law book is still valid, and will be until March 31, 2010.

State fisheries officials are in the process of revamping their regulations booklets, and will soon release a two-year edition that will cover both ice fishing and open-water fishing in one convenient booklet. You may have noticed that more recent open-water booklets list laws that are effective from January 2008 until March 31, 2010.

So don’t fret. Just dig a bit deeper into your pack basket and dust off last year’s edition.

Which brings us to this:

— Moosehead biologists would like your help.

In the DIF&W’s recently released ice fishing preview (go to www.mefishwildlife.com to find it on the Web), regional fisheries biologist Tim Obrey asks for a bit of help from anglers who will be fishing Moosehead Lake this winter.

As many anglers know, biologists liberalized regulations on Moosehead in 2007 in order to reduce the number of small lake trout, or togue, that live in the lake.

That effort, according to Obrey, was successful, and for this winter biologists are still encouraging the harvest of togue that are under 18 inches.

Biologists had planned to scale back the regulation that deals with lakers that are longer than 18 inches, dropping the limit from two fish to one.

Since there’s no new law book this winter, however, that wasn’t possible.

Obrey is asking for some help from fishermen.

Although they’re not required to do so, Obrey hopes anglers will consider keeping just one lake trout longer than 18 inches this winter, in order to help the biologists get a jump on achieving future management goals.

I’d suspect that many ice fishermen (and women, and kids) will gladly pitch in on the effort to further improve the fishing on Maine’s largest lake.

— Web site worth a look.

Though not strictly a Maine site, the state’s ice anglers have a valuable resource at their fingertips that’s worth a look.

The Web site www.iceshanty.com offers all kinds of general information about the sport, but with just a few clicks Mainers can find their own ice-fishing home on the Internet.

Go to the “Community” link and look for the “Ice Fishing Maine” heading, and you’re bound to find plenty of worthwhile information.

Whether you’re looking to find out which ponds are safe to fish, talk about gear choices, share stories of your last fishing trip or just chat with others who love ice fishing, you’ll find it there. Frequent visitors to the site even set up fishing outings with each other.

Want to debate the merits of an Allagash trap vs. a Heritage Laker? You’ll find folks who will tell you exactly what they think.

Looking for a place to buy bait in a region you’re visiting for the first time? There’s a directory on the site that will point you in the right direction.

And I’ll bet you’ll find a new fishing buddy or two, if you’re interested.

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