Based on reports by state fisheries biologists this winter, the ice fishing season is either going great or hardly going.

It’s a good thing Maine is a big place, at least for ice fishermen.

The warm weather and thin ice Downeast has made for the strangest Maine winter in 25 years, said veteran fisheries biologist Greg Burr in Jonesboro.

Meanwhile to the north and west, ice fishing fun is everywhere.

“There is plenty of ice and snow, a suitable 10 to 12 inches of ice on the lakes. It’s all going good. Tell them to go north,” said fisheries biologist David Basley in Ashland.

Downeast, the smaller ponds offer the only consistent ice fishing, with the edges of larger lakes starting to offer some safe ice the past few weeks. But the windy nights have made ice tough to judge.

The popular salmon fishery at West Grand Lake opened to ice fishing Wednesday, but the deeper portion may not be safe enough to travel across the 14,300-acre lake, if it’s even iced over.

“In a nutshell, on the larger lakes in our region, especially below Route 9, it’s still treacherous,” said Burr, the regional biologist. “If it’s sealed over, it’s (still) not safe.”

In southern Maine, ice fishing season is not a total bust, but definitely a venture that requires caution this year. Ice is spotty or nonexistent.

“It really is a strange year. One of the bait dealers claimed it was one of the worst ice years he had seen. And he has been in the bait industry for 30 years. It definitely is weird,” said state fisheries biologist Francis Brautigam in southern Maine.

Oddly enough, the strange and varied weather pattern means ice fishermen in southern Maine are doing well where they can fish.

Often, Brautigam said, ice fishermen assume you have to fish the deep holes to find the big fish.

The reality is brook trout and rainbow trout hang out along the shoreline, which is the only place you can fish right now on the bigger lakes. That’s translating into some good luck.

“All in all, we’ve had pretty good reports,” Brautigam said.

On Sebago Lake, fishing is not an option.

“It’s a strange year in that the ice is slowly forming. Some of the larger lakes were starting to button up but now we’re in this warm spell again,” Brautigam said.

But in northern and western Maine, it’s a different story.

Up in The County and around the Rangeley lakes, traps and bait buckets are not sitting idle.

“This is one of the few places you don’t have to worry about ice and snow. We were out regularly patrolling Jan. 1 on Long Lake in the Fish River chain. Things are pretty much normal,” said Basley in Aroostook County.

Not as many people appear to be out ice fishing this winter, and Basley suspects that may have to do with the price of gas. But those who are able to get out on the lakes and ponds of Aroostook County and northern Piscataquis and Penobscot counties are having great luck.

And in western Maine, ice fishermen have enjoyed the first month of their season without delays.

State regional biologist Dave Boucher in western Maine recommended those lakes that are stocked with ice fishing in mind, water bodies like Porter Lake in New Vineyard, Wilson Pond in Wilton, Smith Pond in Brighten Plantation, Wyman Lake in Moscow, and Crowell Pond in New Sharon.

“It’s going fabulous. It started a bit slow with the warm temperatures, but the smaller ponds that are sheltered were going right from Jan. 1 and now everything is buttoned up. Fishing has been good,” said Boucher in Strong.


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