Page 26 - WCM 2019 Winter
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 Flag-Up Family Fishing Fun
Story by Ron Fournier, photos courtesy Bryant Pond 4-H Camp
                             Not long after the canoes are stowed for the season, and the docks pulled from the pond, we seek new ways to recreate outdoors. We spend almost five months under the cloak of ice and snow, and it would be a shame to limit our adventures to what many would consider nice weather! Western Maine boasts an amazing amount of water to explore, and with that comes many opportuni- ties to revel in the clean, cold air on the “hard water.”
Many come to Maine for exceptional skiing and snow- mobiling. But Western Maine is unique in that we have places where you can fish for almost all of Maine’s fish species within a short drive. Our glacially formed lakes and ponds provide many high quality fisheries that other states simply do not have. Introducing children to ice fishing is easy as pie, and provides a low-cost recre- ational opportunity for the whole family.
The first things to consider are safety and regulations. Both are very important, but safety is paramount. Before stepping foot on the ice, you need to know
ice conditions, lake access, and weather forecast for the day. With ice safety there’s zero margin for error, and it’s always best to check prior to your trip, and
to know the water body where you are going. Maine Guides are a knowledgeable resource, along with lo- cal fire departments, game wardens, and bait shops. Check the ice thickness periodically. Currents from streams or culverts, protruding rocks, dock aerators, and other factors all impact ice thickness.
Once you know you have safe ice, you’ll need to consider the legal aspects of ice fishing. A Maine fish- ing license is required for anyone over the age of 16. Some water bodies also have special rules regarding the number of fish you may keep, the number of lines you may fish with, and other regulations. Some lakes are closed to ice fishing. Current laws and regulations are available in the Maine Fishing Regulations book printed by Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (or on their website), and help protect our valuable resources for generations to come.
In my role at the University of Maine 4-H Camp & Learning Center at Bryant Pond, I have the pleasure of introducing many first-time folks to the sport through various camp activities. We host school pro- grams, the Becoming an Outdoors Woman program, winter workshops, and other outreach events. In addi- tion, many rod and gun clubs hold fishing derbies and other events designed to educate new anglers.
For beginners, it can seem daunting to get started, but it’s actually quite easy. You’ll need some basic equip- ment, which can be purchased locally at a fair price. A sharp ice auger or other means to cut a hole in the ice is key. An ice chisel is cheap and effective, and even an ax can be used when ice is less than 12” thick. Thicker ice requires a hand, gas or electric auger to drill holes, and possibly a friend or family member is willing to loan theirs out. A scoop is needed to clear slush from the hole so you can access the clear waters below.
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