It’s not too late to make a summer splash

Posted Aug. 12, 2011, at 2:22 p.m.

Where did summer go? Last thing we knew, there was a pile of snow, gravel and branches — a snavelanche, if you prefer — in the front yard. Then the black flies started to bite. It got hot for a week. And now, we look at the calendar and realize we’re nearly halfway through August. This morning’s nippy air felt like football weather, not Folk Festival weather.

And we’ve got so much left to do and a rapidly dwindling summer season reminding us that we might not have time to do it all.

Don’t fret. There’s still plenty of time to get a few things done. And if you’re looking for suggestions, you’ve come to the right place.

First, though, let’s admit the truth.

Before we get started, we ought to get a piece of housekeeping out of the way.

Summer does not end on Labor Day. No, that’s the semi-official end to the summer tourist blitz as kids begin heading back to school. And though a TV talker will inevitably lead into Labor Day coverage by telling you “today marks the official end of summer,” we all know that’s wrong in a couple of ways.

Weather-wise, summer in Maine lasts a week. And calendar-wise, we’ve got the same official “summer” season as they have in, say, Malibu.

So what’s the point? Just this: Don’t be so quick to give up on summer. It hasn’t given up on you. And all you’ve got to do is make a point of getting out there and enjoying it. And here’s how you can do it.

Celebrate your own shark week

Everybody loves sharks (as long as one’s not gnawing on their leg). A cable network even runs a week full of programming that deals with nothing but the toothy critters. So why not join in on the fun?

Maine may not be known as a particularly shark-y state, but Capt. Pete Douvarjo, owner of Eggemoggin Guide Service in Sedgwick, will tell you that we’ve got plenty of sharks. He and guides like him would be glad to take you out and show you how much fun shark fishing can be.

“[The ocean off Maine is] lousy with ‘em,” Douvarjo said, explaining that most of the sharks his clients catch are blue sharks, which can be four to 10 feet long.

“Five or six [feet] is the average. It must be an 80-, 100-pound fish, so it’s a lot of fun,” Douvarjo said.

All the shark-fishing is catch-and-release, and Douvarjo and other outfitters often take clients out to fish for other species, including tuna, cod and mackerel. Cod, in particular, have shown signs of rebounding, and Douvarjo said larger fish show up later in the year. In 2010, he said clients were catching 10-pound cod into October.

When it comes to shark fishing, Douvarjo has worked out a pretty productive system.

“We go out to Mount Desert Rock, set up about a mile or so off of it, and I’ve got fish oil, menhaden oil, in an IV drip bag. We get this oil slick going and then I thrown out some frozen chunks of ground-up menhaden and we sit back and wait,” Douvarjo said. “It usually takes us anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour before they start showing up.”

Muckle a muskie

While we’re talking about fish that could take a chunk of angler with them when they return to the water, it’s worth mentioning a popular event that’s going on this weekend.

Fort Kent has rolled out the red carpet for muskellunge anglers for their eighth annual muskie derby. If you don’t have weekend plans, the tournament will run through Sunday and is worth a look, even if you don’t plan on competing.

The muskie derby is part fishing tourney, part festival, and visitors will find plenty of things to do. Just pack a rod. You might be tempted to walk down to the St. John River and try to tangle with the “fish of 1,000 casts.”

Take a hike

We live in Maine. It’s easy to find a place to hike. In many cases, you can find one right outside your back door.

Still, beginners might want a few suggestions.

If you’re up for a big challenge, Maine’s tallest peak, Mount Katahdin, is certainly a place to consider. You ought to be in shape, however. And you ought to view the climb with the respect it deserves. Use proper footwear. Carry food and water. Bring warm clothing.

If you’re looking for an less strenuous option, maybe Chick Hill in Clifton would be more up your alley. It’s a relatively short, easy uphill hike. At the peak, hikers are rewarded by expansive views of the surrounding forests and nearby lakes, even the coast. Just ignore the trucks roaring by on Route 9 and you’ll think you’re in the wilderness.

If you’re willing to throw yourself on the mercy of the court — in this case, the helpful rangers at Acadia National Park — they’ll be glad to send you off on a hike that you’ll love. The options in Acadia range from the simple-yet-beautiful Ship Harbor Nature Trail or trail around Jordan Pond to the more severe Precipice trail overlooking Sand Beach. There are dozens of scenic day hikes of varying lengths available and all are worth considering.

Grab a paddle

Your neighbor has a canoe and paddles. Ask to borrow them. Or, if you really feel adventurous, find a well-established sea kayak guide and hire them for a memorable day on the Maine coast.

Either way, grab a paddle and go.

Maine has thousands of lakes. It has miles and miles of ocean frontage. What are you doing standing on dry land?

Many of our lakes and ponds have fantastic boat launch facilities, and a leisurely paddle on one of the more remote waters can provide up-close wildlife encounters that you’ll never forget.

Another thing you shouldn’t forget: Wearing your personal flotation device.

We’ve already had too many accidents on Maine’s waters this year. Don’t become the next statistic.

And while we’re talking about safety, it’s important to note that when paddlers buy an ocean kayak, their responsibility goes far beyond simply taking their wallet out and handing a sales clerk a credit card.

A day on the ocean is not amateur hour. Nearly anyone can enjoy a day on our coastal waters, but it’s incumbent upon participants to realize things often go wrong. Taking the time to learn skills necessary to deal with mishaps is an essential part of the responsibility of every paddler.

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