The 32nd State of Maine Sportsman’s Show, the largest of its kind in the state with 130 booths, 100 seminars and many exhibits in the auditorium and in rooms around the Augusta Civic Center, takes place Saturday, March 30 through Sunday, April 1.

“The Maine Sportsman” magazine and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine co-host this extravaganza, and for many Mainers and visiting non-residents, it unofficially kicks off the open-water fishing season. You know — the last indoor event before we disappear outdoors for several months.

This sportsman’s show draws big crowds of like-minded souls, so naturally, show-goers bump into old friends and make new, enduring ones. In fact, each year, this is the only place where I see many old acquaintances.

Here’s how that rule works:

For decades, the Reversing Falls in Sheepscot village on the Sheepscot River attracted quite a following of Atlantic-salmon anglers, and many of us became good friends. These days, we can no longer legally fish for this species in the U.S., so often, the only time I run into these Sheepscot anglers occurs at the Augusta show.

One feature of the weekend has always impressed me. Show producers have aimed to make it a family affair that pleases generations of men, women and children alike, and sometimes, I’ll see a group there, consisting of a grandparent or two, parents and children.


Maine ATV offers an opportunity for kids to ride in the Civic Center parking lot, Trout Unlimited teaches children how to tie flies and the Maine Bowhunters Association shows youngsters how to shoot a bow and arrow. The show also has a moose-calling championship.

Seminars include something for everyone — everything from buck and turkey hunting to trout and tarpon fishing to rod wrapping and turkey calling to dog training and bear hunting.

L.L.Bean seminars offer a first-class learning experience, because this company has done them for a long time at the flagship store in Freeport. They’ve polished their presentation skills.

At the Augusta show, two speakers from L.L.Bean shine. Keith McDonald covers shot-gunning for game birds and clay targets, and Rod McGarry talks about becoming a better fly rodder. McGarry once worked as an inspirational speaker so he gives an exuberant presentation.

Other Bean speakers talk about surf-casting in Maine, trolling tactics for early season salmonids, gearing up for turkeys, setting up a bow and prepping a firearm.

Harold Porter brings antique fishing and camping gear to display at the show. I’ve know Porter for a quarter-century, and his products from yesteryear bring back forgotten memories.


Capt. Dave Pecci presents a seminar on tarpon fishing in the Florida Keys.

For years, this man has guided saltwater anglers from his home-base in Bath, where I’ve fly-fished with him for blue sharks 25 miles out in the ocean beyond the mouth of the Kennebec River. He’s a top-notch guide for large salty game fish and has added Keys tarpon to his business.

Displays of woodcarving, fine arts, photography and taxidermy have been a perennial favorite during the weekend, and folks often stand in lines to see these four options in a room off the main auditorium.

Many folks go to the show to look at outfitters and sporting-camps booths from such places as Maine’s north woods, Atlantic Coast and Lake Ontario charter boats. The latter has a big presence at this weekend event because trolling for giant salmonids interests Mainers.

Major sporting-goods dealers attend the show, bringing with them fishing gear, firearms, camping equipment, deep-sea fishing boats and many other outdoor-related businesses.

The show often has another attraction that impresses me. Someone will be selling a gadget that I never knew existed but suddenly cannot live another day without — say a tiny backpacking wood stove or a knife-sharpening device that easily creates a razor edge.

One last attraction needs mentioning. Folks will see extremely well-trained bird dogs through the weekend, so well-trained that it wows anyone who sees them. This gives dog owners an opportunity to measure their dogs’ behavior to critters polished to a high degree.

The show runs from 1 p.m.-7 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $7 for adults, $4 for children five to 12 and free for younger folks. These are great prices to get into anything these days.

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