Each winter the state holds a free fishing weekend, during which people are invited to enjoy a day on the water without a fishing license. That weekend is upon us, and on Feb. 15 to 16 anyone who hasn’t otherwise had a license suspended or revoked can fish for free.
We’ve got faith that our readers don’t fall into that category. Fishing the right way and following the rules is what it’s all about, after all.
Of course, if you’re not a veteran ice fisher, you might need a few tips to get you started. You’re in luck: The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has asked some of its experts to pass along ideas on how to make someone’s first time ice fishing enjoyable.
Here are some tactics you might try.
“Make it a comfortable experience,” said fisheries resource biologist Nik Kalejs of the Sebago Lake Region. “Bring plenty of hot food and drinks, and extra warm layers. Although not necessary, shelter from the wind and heat for the cold are always bonuses.”
Find cooperative fish
Jason Seiders, a fisheries resource supervisor who works the Belgrade Lakes Region, said that fishing for fish that are more likely to bite can help cut down on the boredom for a first-timer.
“Target warm water species like bass, pickerel and perch. You are far more likely to find good numbers of these fish, which will keep everyone busy,” Seiders said. “With most beginners, it is about quantity not quality. After they catch some bass or pickerel, maybe they will want to use more patience and try for trout the next time around.”
Seiders’s point: Lake trout, landlocked salmon and brook trout are found in coldwater lakes and can be harder to catch. Find a shallow pond and you’re more likely to find fish that will be eager to participate in your outing. Ask a veteran angler or bait shop employee for suggestions, and you’ll be able to pinpoint those kinds of waters.
And Dave Howatt, fisheries resource supervisor for the Rangeley Lakes Region, said preparing for less-than-perfect conditions on the ice can be key.
“Be prepared for slush. Wear, or at least bring along, high rubber boots,” he said. “Snowshoes can also help to keep anglers above sloppy snow conditions. Cold wet feet can ruin a beginner’s trip very quickly. “
And after you return, the DIF&W invites you to share photos from your free fishing weekend adventures on its Facebook and Instagram (@mefishwildlife) pages. The agency will hand out a $100 Cabela’s card and some DIF&W merchandise to lucky winners.