Thousands of attendees headed to Orono over the weekend for the sporting expo that many view as the unofficial opener of the spring show season.
Woody Higgins of the Penobscot County Conservation Association, which puts on the Eastern Maine Sportsman’s Show, said attendance was down Friday night, but surpassed last year’s totals on both Saturday and Sunday.
The show is always entertaining, and is a rite of spring for many. Here are just a few items of interest from this year’s 72nd edition of the eastern Maine classic:
• According to Deborah Turcotte, the spokeswoman for the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, there’s a bit of confusion about a not-yet-enacted fishing law.
Many anglers are aware that the state’s fishing rules have been revamped, and in coming years, year-round fishing will be the norm in most locations. When there’s ice, folks will drill holes. When the water’s open, they can troll or fly-fish or cast from shore, depending on preference and specific rules pertaining to the water in question.
In speaking to Turcotte, and to a representative of a local bass club, I learned some anglers think that the new rules are great, and they’ve been taking advantage of our mild spring to test the extended open-water fishing season.
Unfortunately, they’re likely breaking the law.
The new regulation on year-round fishing takes effect April 1. That’s the date when the new fishing rulebook, which governs open-water and ice fishing for the next two years, becomes law.
There are some waters already open for year-round fishing, of course. Check your old fishing regulations to find out if the water you’ve been eyeballing is one of them.
• Game Warden Maj. Gregg Sanborn looked sharp at Saturday’s Q & A session, as he modeled a vintage warden uniform that turned more than a few heads.
Sanborn explained that the blue warden uniform was standard issue until 1980, at which point “earth tones” were adopted. Sanborn said he enlisted the help of several retired wardens to put together the complete uniform he was sporting at the show.
Unveiling the uniform was a fitting tribute to the Maine Warden Service’s 130th anniversary, which is being observed this week.
• It was good to catch up with Steve Campbell, the owner of the Thomas Rod Co., during this year’s show. Campbell had a busy weekend, as plenty of folks stopped by to look at both the beautiful rods he builds and classic rods he has collected.
As often happens at shows like this, when the foot traffic slowed down, exhibitors stepped away from their own booths, chatted and began planning future outdoor excursions with each other.
For Campbell and I, the rough outline of an economical Atlantic salmon fishing trip began to take form by the end of the weekend.
A couple more friends would complete the group. A tent or cheap motel would keep us dry. Day-access to salmon pools on some fabulous rivers would be essential. And a few cooperative salmon? That would be icing on the cake.
Here’s hoping our master plan comes to fruition in the coming months.
• Old Town Canoe gets my vote as the top booth this year, as they used a bit of popular technology to spice up their exhibit.
The company had plenty of canoes and kayaks on display. They had personal flotation devices and gear and garments.
The kids, however, loved the Wii.
Company employees put a real Old Town canoe on the field house floor in front of a big TV screen, put kids in the canoe, and handed them short paddles that had remote controls from the popular Wii video gaming system attached.
The children then made paddling motions with their real paddles, and watched their virtual selves race each other on the TV.
I’m not sure who had more fun, the racers or the adults who stopped to watch.
Another nice touch: Each kid who took part in the video races stepped into their landlocked canoe wearing the most essential piece of equipment: A life vest.
Correct contest address
On Monday I learned that some potential entrants in our “Win a Fishing Trip” contest might be having a few problems getting their entry blanks to us.
In conjunction with the Eastern Maine Sportsman’s Show, the BDN gives away a drift boat trip on the East Outlet of the Kennebec River to one lucky angler. On Father’s Day, the contest winner will join guide Dan Legere of Greenville’s Maine Guide Fly Shop (and me), for a trip to remember.
Our trip plan is simple: On June 20, the lucky winner catches fish. Legere teaches, entertains, cooks, rows and generally does all the hard work. And me? I am essentially ballast. I sit in the back of the boat, make a few casts (or more than a few, if the fishing is good), and make sure I jot down a few notes for a future column.
Unfortunately, when our contest coupon first ran in the paper, the wrong post office box was listed. Some of the entries sent to that now defunct address — P.O. Box 636 — have arrived at our office. Many others may not have.
The good news: We won’t be drawing the name of the contest winner for another couple of weeks, so you’ve got plenty of time to get your entry blanks in to us.
The correct address: Win A Fishing Trip with John Holyoke, c/o Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402-1329.
We’re sorry for any inconvenience, and appreciate your understanding.