The Star-Herald

State opens waters to free inland fishing

AUGUSTA, Maine – Governor Janet Mills on Friday, March 20, directed Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Judy Camuso to open all inland waters for fishing and to waive the requirement that anglers need a recreational fishing license to fish the inland waters of Maine. 

The order will run through April 30 and is intended to encourage Maine people to enjoy the outdoors during the challenges associated with COVID-19. 

The governor is considering additional measures to make the outdoors more accessible to Maine people and urges those who go out to employ appropriate physical distancing measures recommended by the U.S. CDC.

“As an avid angler, I know there’s nothing better for the heart and soul than a little fishing,” said Mills. “As we continue to navigate this challenging time together, I hope this order will motivate Maine people to do what we have done for generations: take to our lakes, rivers, and streams to cast a line. The great outdoors is still open. Please enjoy it safely.”

With many people home and without many of their normal structured activities, inland waters can be a source of enjoyment. 

“During these times, getting outside and enjoying the outdoors is a wonderful way to recharge, while maintaining social distancing practices,” said Camuso. “Waiving the requirements for a license will give people more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.”

Effective immediately, any person (except those whose license has been suspended or revoked) may fish without a license through April 30. This change does not apply to activities which require a commercial freshwater fishing license or permit.

Also effective immediately, all inland waters that traditionally open on April 1 are open now. This change does not open any body of water to ice fishing that is currently closed to ice fishing. All other tackle, length and bag limits and special regulations still apply.

Before heading out, please make sure you let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. If you are accessing a waterway from private land, please treat the land as if it were your own, and leave no trace that you were there.

If you are going to be heading out onto frozen waterbodies to ice fish, please continue to use extreme caution. Use a chisel or auger to test ice thickness in several places. Remember that ice conditions can vary greatly this time of year. Ice that forms over flowing water and currents, especially near springs, streams, bridges and culverts, can be particularly dangerous.

If you are fishing from a boat, the Maine Warden Service is urging boaters to wear their lifejackets. Prolonged immersion in cold water can kill, and wearing a life jacket can greatly increase your survival chances if you are in the water unexpectedly.

The Department of Marine Resources also waived the requirement that saltwater anglers must join the state’s saltwater registry, effective immediately through April 30.

For more information on the rules and regulations on your favorite water, please visit https://www.maine.gov/ifw/fishing-boating/index.html

DIFW offers these other resources.

To find out the fishing regulations on any of Maine’s inland waters. Maine’s Fishing Laws Online Angling Tool (FLOAT), is an online map-based tool that can be accessed from your computer or your smartphone

Check out the improved Maine fishing guide at https://www.maine.gov/ifw/fishing-boating/fishing/fishing-resources/maine-fishing-guide/index.html. This statewide guide features the top fishing destinations in the state, broken down by species, tips on how to catch various species, and even provides advice on how to fish with children. 

To purchase a license now, or after April 30, visit mefishwildlife.com. There are license options for a day, a week, 15 days or a season. Kids under 16 always fish free.

Last year, over 345,000 people were licensed to fish in Maine and fishing contributes over $370 million to Maine’s economy.  

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