CANAAN — Steve Richardson trudged through the ice and slush Friday afternoon at Lake George Regional Park, looking longingly at his pickup truck stuck in several inches of ice and snow.
The truck, which Richardson had driven close to the edge of the lake for ice fishing the day before, broke through the soft ice on the road and became stuck late Thursday. By 3 p.m. Friday it was still there, and a crew of men was working with chains and ropes to drag it out.
“We went out yesterday to get our shacks out and spent all day chiseling ice. Now we’re back doing the same thing for our trucks,” said Richardson, 50, of Clinton.
After a harsh winter that has extended its grip into spring, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife issued a reminder Friday for everyone to use caution on what is the last weekend of the ice fishing season in some parts of the state.
In 2010, the department went to year-round fishing laws for the southern and eastern parts of the state, including Cumberland, Kennebec, Penobscot and part of Oxford counties, with the hopes of simplifying the fishing laws. That move extended the ice fishing season beyond April 1 if the ice was still safe to drill through.
In the northern and western parts of the state, including Franklin, Somerset and part of Oxford counties, ice fishing destinations are marked by an A, meaning the season ends on April 30, or a B, meaning it ends March 31.
At Lake George, which straddles the border separating Canaan and Skowhegan, the season ends Monday; but anglers at the lake Friday said there are still areas where the ice is up to 4 feet thick.
“There’s plenty of ice around. Usually by this time of year, it’s pretty much gone,” said Rick Mehuren, 52, of Dixmont, one of the five anglers in Richardson’s party.
The group pointed out that even though the ice on the lake is still thick, getting there is difficult.
On Thursday, when the five men went to take their shacks off the lake, two pickup trucks got stuck in the soft ice on the road.
All ice fishing shacks need to be removed by April 1, according to department regulations, but portable shelters are allowed in areas where ice fishing is permitted after April 1.
Roger Hogdgon, who owns Hodgdon’s Garage in Troy, said as he worked on hauling the trucks out Friday that it’s not uncommon for vehicles to break through the ice at the start of spring. Normally it’s something that happens farther north in the state, though, he said.
Getting the trucks out proved difficult. The men arrived back at the lake around 8 a.m. Friday and still were working with chains and ropes to haul the trucks out by mid-afternoon.
“We caught some pretty good trout earlier this year, and it’s been cold all week; but really, I think we’re ready for open-water season,” Mehuren said.
Some Somerset County ponds and lakes that allow for ice fishing until April 30 if conditions are safe include Boynton Pond in Embden, Bog Pond in Hartland, Halfmoon Pond in St. Albans and Hicks Pond in Palmyra.
A-rated ponds in Franklin County include Crowell Pond in Chesterville, Flagstaff Lake in Eustis, Mill Pond in New Vineyard and Pease Pond in Wilton.
“Always check the safety of the ice before heading out by chiseling or drilling holes in the ice and measuring,” the release stated. “Remember, springtime ice can often be softer than ice in mid-winter, and areas near inlets and outlets tend to open up earlier than other parts of lakes and ponds.”