The recent string of cold weather has been popular with ice anglers, many of whom are eager to take advantage of recent rules changes that allow them access to many of the state’s waterways as soon as safe ice forms.
Those anglers should be aware, however, that some of those lakes and ponds also are governed by rules that call for more conservative bag limits.
Maine Game Warden Jim Fahey checked in on Wednesday to give Penobscot County fishermen a heads-up about those rules.
“Going into ice fishing season, we’re using a two-year rulebook, the one that made its debut last spring [and applies] from April 1, 2010, until the end of March 2012,” Fahey said. “So there are a lot of changes for the ice fishermen.”
One of his district’s traditional early hot spots is among those that will have some different rules this year, Fahey said.
“Locally, I want to make sure that anglers are aware of [the rules at] the former Mud Pond, [now known as] Perch Pond, in Old Town,” Fahey said. “Last year there was a five-trout limit but this year it’s a two-trout limit for all ponds in Penobscot County.”
Another change at Mud-Perch Pond could also affect early anglers — and not knowing the regulation could put a fisherman on the wrong side of the law.
“Last year trout could be kept, basically, as soon as the ice formed on Mud Pond, but this year they have to wait until Jan. 1 to keep brook trout,” Fahey said. “[That is] more in line with our traditional cold-water sport fisheries.”
Fahey said that all anglers should pay close attention to the new lawbook, and should not assume they know what the regulations on a pond are. The new Penobscot County brook trout limit is further explained on Page 31 of the new rulebook, Fahey said.
If you’re looking to get out onto the ice in the near future, Fahey advised using caution, even at places like Mud-Perch Pond, which traditionally freeze early.
“The ice right now down there is poor,” Fahey said on Wednesday. “Somebody else tested it and I could see the tracks in the fresh snow, and [the ice] was broken up near shore. The high water has what ice was there pulled away from shore.”
On the bright side, the heavy rainfall most of the state received early this week could help make ice safer in some areas. In certain parts of the state, 8 or more inches of snow had fallen after a skim of ice built up, and that snow cover would have insulated the ice from the cold air above. As a result, it would have taken longer for ice to build up.
The rain that fell wiped out that snow and ice in most areas, and lakes have started freezing up again, in most cases without a thick blanket of snow on top.
Add in several days of cold weather, which we’ve been receiving, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for ice making.
But as always, remember to be safe; there’s not a fish out there that’s worth risking your life over.
If you’re looking for a big-mountain ski experience at a less-than-big-mountain price, you’ll be happy to learn that Saddleback Maine in Rangeley opened for the season on Thursday.
According to a Saddleback press release, an early season lift ticket rate of $35 will be in effect until resort staffers are able to open up more terrain.
“The temperatures have been perfect for snowmaking, plus, we accumulated more than 18 inches of natural snow from [last week’s storms],” Chris Farmer, the resort’s general manager, said in the release issued Monday — before most of the state was deluged with rain. According to the Saddleback website, the mountain re-ceived 1 inch of snow on Tuesday night and had received 7 inches of snow in the past week.
“We’re excited for the season to begin,” Farmer said. “Among other improvements, we’ve cut new chutes in Casablanca Glades, which is part of Kennebago Steeps, the largest steep skiing and riding area in the east.”
Thursday’s open trails included Upper and Lower Grey Ghost and Royal Tiger.
Saddleback boasts a 2,000-foot vertical drop and the peak is 4,120 feet above sea level.
When at full operation the resort features 66 trails and glades serviced by five lifts.
For the most up-to-date trail reports, go to www.saddlebackmaine.com.