Thanks to quick action by the legislature’s IFW committee, DIF&W Commissioner Chandler Woodcock was able to extend the ice fishing season from April 1 through April 16 in the northern region of the state. In southern Maine, anglers can already fish year round on ice or open water, whichever is available.
That opportunity was the result of legislation championed by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, when I served as SAM’s executive director and lobbyist. Ironically, DIF&W opposed our bill, but later embraced the idea of year-round fishing, at least in the southern half of the state. They were able to prevent it in the northern half of the state.
I also find it ironic that DIF&W opposed my bill this session to allow an extension of the fall fishing season in the northern half of the state for open water anglers, which the IFW Committee subsequently killed, and then the agency comes back just a few weeks later to ask permission to extend the ice angling opportunity. When did ice anglers become more important than open water anglers?
The IFW Committee did not support the department’s request to give the Commission authority to do this in the future, so he’s only able to do it this year. You will note in the agency’s press release below, that the Commissioner hasn’t given up on the idea of giving him and future commissioners the opportunity in years ahead to extend the ice angling season.
The photo above is my relative Bruce Hodgdon with an otter he caught while ice fishing.
Here’s DIF&W’s press release announcing the season extension.
AUGUSTA, Maine — Due to unusually cold weather conditions and an emergency resolve signed by the governor this afternoon, ice fishing season in the northern region of the state is extended from April 1 through Sunday, April 16. Waters in Southern Maine are already open year round to both ice fishing and open water fishing unless closed by special rule.
“Extending the ice fishing season in northern Maine will provide anglers throughout the state similar ice fishing opportunities to those in southern Maine,” said Governor Paul LePage. “Not only will this provide for more recreational opportunities for anglers, but also continued economic opportunity for many small businesses that support fishing.”
Under the emergency law, waters that are open to ice fishing as of March 31 in the north region will continue to be open from April 1 through Sunday, April 16. All rules and regulations for those waters that are already open to ice fishing in the north region will remain in effect.
Waters that are not open to ice fishing will remain closed to ice fishing.
“We are pleased that we can extend additional ice fishing opportunities for anglers this year, and we look forward to working to modify the current statute so that a future commissioner may extend or shorten seasons when appropriate,” said Chandler Woodcock, IFW Commissioner.
Currently, waters in the south zone are open year round to both ice fishing and open water season unless closed by special rule. This provides those in the south with fishing opportunity no matter if there is an early or delayed spring.
April 1 also marks the traditional start to the open water fishing season in the northern region of the state.
Ice conditions can change rapidly during the spring, and anglers should be reminded to always check the condition of the ice before heading out.
“Test the thickness of the ice using an ice chisel or ice auger in several locations on the lake or pond,” said Major Chris Cloutier of the Warden Service. “Remember that new ice is usually stronger than old ice and ice seldom freezes uniformly. Ice that forms over flowing water and currents, especially near streams, bridges and culverts, can be particularly dangerous.”
Many anglers often access waters surrounded by land that is privately owned. During the spring, unpaved roads can be muddy or soft, so anglers are reminded to be respectful, and avoid damaging roads.