April 22, 2018
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Maine won’t extend its ice fishing season this year

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
Ice fishing shacks on Hermon Pond, Jan. 3, 2018. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has decided not to extend the state's ice fishing season beyond the end of March.
By John Holyoke, BDN Staff

In spite of spring conditions that have left many of the state’s lakes and ponds with thick coverings of ice, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has decided it won’t extend ice fishing season on northern lakes and ponds beyond the end of March.

According to DIF&W, the department did consider the extension, but opted not to take action this year.

“People have made requests to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to extend the ice-fishing season due to current ice and snow depths in portions of the state,” Commissioner Chandler E. Woodcock said in a prepared statement issued through his assistant, Christl Theriault Thursday morning. “The Department has given serious consideration to these requests and although we appreciate the positive aspects the extensions might bring, we will not be extending the season this year.”

Some ice anglers who post on social media about their sport had been openly lobbying for an extension of the season. Such a change would require an emergency action by the Maine Legislature. Woodcock’s statement addressed that, and said hinted that a more flexible plan might be in the works in future years.

“The department will be examining a method which could result in more opportunities for ice-fishing in the Northern zone and a more consistent process to plan for late season ice-fishing trips. We appreciate your understanding of this issue,” he said.

The fishing laws and seasons are vastly different in northern Maine than in the southern counties. In northern Maine, ice fishing season ends March 31, and open-water season starts April 1. In years when there’s still ice on April 1, nobody can fish those lakes and ponds legally.

In southern Maine, however, most lakes and ponds are open to all fishing year-round. If there’s substantial ice in December, for instance, anglers can ice fish. If there’s no ice in February, they’re allowed to fish from a boat as they would during the summer.

According to the DIF&W fishing rulebook, “The North Region contains an abundance of wild and native coldwater fish populations, while the South Region contains predominately stocked and/or warmwater fisheries. The difference in General Fishing Laws reflect the management needs for the two regions, and typically offer additional protection to wild and native resources in the North and more angling opportunity (i.e., fall or year round fishing) in the South.”

Winter conditions prevail on many lakes, and the spring thaw — and open-water fishing — is likely weeks away, according to fisheries biologists.

Frank Frost, the regional fisheries biologist for Aroostook County waters, said there’s been no sign of spring in his neck of the woods.

“All of our regional waters have 30+ inches of ice so ice fishing is still going strong,” Frost said in an email earlier this week in response to a BDN request for open-water fishing options on opening day, April 1. “We talked to a group ice fishing up here from Hancock County this past weekend and they commented that ‘it really is a different world up here!’ We also have a 30-50 inch snow pack so it’ll be awhile before we are looking at any ice outs. At this time all we can use is the average for our waters of late April to early May.”

Down in Enfield, regional biologist Gordon “Nels” Kramer echoed Frost’s observations.

“Still lots of snow in the woods as well, which will make river and stream fishing something to dream about for the next month or so,” Kramer wrote.

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