State will keep April 1 open water fishing date, but many areas can be fished now

By Julie Harris, Bangor Daily News Staff

There has been great speculation on social media about whether early ice-outs on lakes and ponds would translate to a sooner open water fishing date in Maine.

Ice fishing season technically ends on March 31, although for dozens of lakes and ponds, it’s already finished.

Warmer than usual temperatures, winds and rain in February made ice conditions sketchy in some areas, especially in southern parts of Maine, and caused early ice-outs at more than three dozen ponds and lakes by Tuesday.

But it’s not necessary for the state to modify the April 1 open water fishing date.

Rule changes the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife made during the early ice-out year of 2016 will provide plenty of open water fishing on some of Maine’s most popular lakes and ponds, according to Mark Latti, the department’s communications director.

Lakes such as Moosehead, East Grand, West Grand and Aroostook County’s Long Lake can all be fished year round. On lakes and ponds like these, you can fish on safe ice while someone else is fishing from a boat in another part of the lake where there is open water and both are legal, Latti said.

Or you can switch back and forth as the ice-open water situation dictates.

“Just don’t open-water fish from the ice. That’s illegal,” Latti said.

The department began amending its fishing regulations to accommodate warm winters and early ice-outs because of the 2016 year, he said.

Approximately 300 lakes and ponds in the northern zone that can be ice-fished are open to year-round fishing. It is legal to fish a lake or pond year round either through the ice or in open water if it has an A designation in the lawbook. A water with a B designation can be fished through the ice and on open water from Jan. 1 through April 30.

In the southern zone, waters that are subject to general fishing laws can be fished through the ice or on open water year-round.

There are multiple waters that have native trout and landlocked salmon that are closed to ice fishing and cannot be fished until April 1 for open water to avoid increasing the pressure on those populations, Latti said.

Maine rivers, brooks and streams are closed to all fishing from Oct. 1 through March 31 to protect spawning fish, their eggs and fry, he said.

There are always exceptions to these rules and those fishing should check the 2024 Fishing Law Book or the FLOAT (fishing laws online angling tool), or the Searchable Special Fishing Laws Table.

“As always, if you are headed out onto the water this spring, wear your lifejacket. And remember, access to many lakes and ponds are over private roads, and it is mud season. Please respect all landowners, and limit your impact to private roads and property,” Latti said.

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