The Star-Herald

State offering free fishing weekend Feb. 15 and 16

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has announced a free fishing weekend Feb. 15 and 16, 2020, and said it’s the perfect time to introduce someone to ice fishing.

During the weekend, any person (except those whose license has been suspended or revoked) may fish without a license. All other laws and regulations apply.

The department is accepting entries of photographs taken on free fishing weekend. Check their Facebook and Instagram (@mefishwildlife) pages to learn how to enter photos for a chance to win a $100 Cabela’s gift card and MDIFW swag.

Department personnel from around the state offered several tips to make someone’s first time ice fishing enjoyable.

“Make it a comfortable experience. 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,” said Nick Kalejis, fisheries resource biologist in the Sebago Lake Region.

“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. With most beginners, it is about quantity not quality, said Jason Seiders, fisheries resource supervisor in the Belgrade Lakes Region. “After they catch some bass or pickerel, maybe they will want to use more patience and try for trout the next time around.”

“Make sure they have warm clothing, including footwear. Being cold or wet on an ice fishing trip is no fun for even seasoned anglers,” said fisheries resource supervisor Kevin Dunham of the Penobscot Region.

“Go to one of the stocked waters for fall yearling brook trout.  Many of these waters also have smelt to catch as well. For fast action, set up for smelts in 30 feet of water with a small hook tipped with cut bait to catch these small fish that usually bite readily,” Frank Frost, fisheries resource supervisor for the Fish River Lakes Region in Aroostook County, said. “Try Madawaska Lake mentioned above or Scopan Lake near Mapleton, both waters have lots of stocked fish and abundant smelt to catch.”

“Fish fast action for chain pickerel. These voracious predators do not hesitate to strike any bait that is put down the hole.  If you are looking to catch pickerel, head to Scammon Pond in Eastbrook, Somes Pond in Somesville, Hamilton’s Pond in Bar Harbor, and Wight’s Pond in Sedgwick,” fisheries resource supervisor Gregory Burr of the Grand Lake Region said.

“Be prepared for slush,” David Howatt, fisheries resource supervisor for the Rangeley Lakes Region, said. “Wear [or at least bring along] high rubber boots. Snowshoes can also help to keep anglers above sloppy snow conditions. Cold wet feet can ruin a beginner’s trip very quickly.”

“Make it a short trip and target warm-water species like perch and pickerel so you have lots of action, said fisheries resource supervisor Tim Obrey from the Moosehead Region.

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