Umbagog Lake National Wildlife Refuge was listed among refuges that would allow fishing for the first time in a news report outlining the Trump administration’s proposal to open hundreds of refuges to hunting and fishing.
But anglers who head to Umbagog, which straddles the Maine-New Hampshire border, may not notice much difference, as popular Umbagog Lake has been, and will remain, open for fishing.
An Associated Press story included critics calling the administration’s plan “tone-deaf,” considering the ongoing coronavirus crisis, but others have said that the nation’s wildlife refuges have long been spots where fishing and hunting are part of long-term management plans.
Nationwide, 2.3 million acres across 100 wildlife refuges are proposed to be opened to hunting and fishing.
At Umbagog, the refuge manager said visitors are accustomed to seeing anglers.
“Most of the refuge is the shoreline of the lake,” said Paul Casey, the refuge manager. “The lake itself is open to fishing. We are now officially facilitating the access to the lake for fishing. We have three boat launches on the refuge. Additionally, there are several ponds [on which] we own all the shoreline. We are officially opening these to allow fishing.”
In fact, the area near Umbagog is famous for fishing: The Rapid River, for instance, flows six miles from Lower Richardson Lake into Umbagog. The Rapid is a well-known brook trout water that is a destination for traveling anglers. Only the outlet of the Rapid is within the boundaries of the refuge.
Jeff Reardon, a Maine angler and fisheries conservationist, said he doesn’t think much will change.
“Umbagog Lake, the Rapid River, and the Magalloway River have all been popular places to fish for decades,” Reardon said. “They hold bass tournaments on Umbagog Lake. What I think is changing is that for the first time the Refuge will have an official ‘fishing plan.’ As far as I can tell, it just formalizes what’s been allowed for a long time.”
Another Maine site listed in the administration proposal: Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in southern Maine, which would see an expansion of saltwater fishing opportunity. Currently, nine of the refuge’s rivers are accessible for recreational fishing. According to the proposal, a portion of one additional river would be added.
Umbagog has unveiled a new recreational fishing plan, and the public is invited to comment on that plan until April 29.
“Please keep in mind that refuges are closed to all activities until officially open through a public review process and Code of Federal Regulation designation,” Casey said. “Umbagog [National Wildlife Refuge] is now going through that process to officially open.”