Before Ron Cote even started beta testing his Maine fishing regulations app, Tim LeSiege wanted it.

“I said, ‘Dude, how much do you want? How much do you want for that?’ I am one to pay for an app like that regardless of the cost,” LeSiege said.

That kind of reaction caught Cote, of West Gardiner, a little off guard. Even so, he made his Fish Maine app public a little more than a week ago, and he’s hoping that others will find it as useful as he thinks he’s going to.

Cote’s adventure in making apps — generally, a specialized program that can be downloaded to a mobile phone — started when he started wondering how he could make his own fishing experience less complicated. Cote describes himself as an occasional fisherman. He’s familiar with the regulations on the lakes and ponds around his home, but when it comes to bodies of water up by his camp in Eustis or anywhere else in the state, it’s a different can of worms.

“I want to go out and have a good time, and do everything right,” he said. And that includes flipping back and forth to decipher the special codes and where they apply in the official fishing regulation book that the state’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife publishes. The book spells out what can be fished for and when.

Cote said finding the information requires flipping back and forth in the book, and he started to think, “What if?”

What if that information could be distilled into a searchable database?

What if he could learn SQL (Structured Query Language) and HTML5 (Hyper Text Markup Language) to make an app?

What if the app could take the burden of remembering to toss the regulation book into the tackle box by downloading the information to a smartphone that goes everywhere with him?

Cote, who works for the Maine Department of Transportation, is no stranger to invention. He’s a partner in Invisible Intelligence LLC, which in 2013 produced a device that records all radio transmissions at airports where it’s installed. G.A.R.D, or General Audio Recording Device, provides valuable information to plane crash investigators, particularly at small airports where that information isn’t otherwise captured.

Because there appears to be no other similar app on Maine fishing regulations, he decided to make one.

So he started to put together the pieces he needed to make the app happen. He sought some outside help and advice, hired someone to input all the regulations and he started testing. And testing. And testing.

“It’s been an interesting project,” Cote said. “Once you learn one thing, you have to learn 10 other things.”

Based on beta testers like LeSiege and Steve Hunnewell who spent time putting the app through its paces in its final development stages, he made some changes for readability and convenience, like the locater button that will work on a smart phone’s GPS to tell a fisherman where he or she is.

That’s not a trivial matter.

“If I am driving around Vienna, I could be in Franklin County, Somerset County or Kennebec County,” he said, and the regulations in each may differ depending on where he casts a line.

For LeSiege, who hunts for sport and recreation, the app will be a boon. His job takes him all around Maine. If he’s headed up north for a night or two, he can pack his gear and hit any lake because he will have the rules with him.

“I would rather not be the guy on ‘North Woods Law’ being the one who gets caught. I think this app will help people follow the law,” he said.

Because the information exists on the phone, no cell signal is required to access it, making the information available even when cell signals are not.

Hunnewell tried it out up north a couple of weeks ago and it worked well.

“One good thing is there’s a link to the depth maps. Every pond has been mapped, showing the deep spots,” he said. “It doesn’t automatically pop up for the pond where you are. I would prefer a one-click thing.”

Cote anticipates revisions and updates as more feedback comes in.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife inserts this note of caution.

“The Maine Fishing Rules App certainly has the potential to be a very useful tool for anglers when it comes to planning a fishing trip in Maine,” said Mark Latti, who works in outreach and communications for the department. “Anglers need to be aware, however, that the department’s Open Water and Ice Fishing regulation book is the only definitive source of regulations, since as required by state law, this book is filed with the Secretary of State’s office annually. Anglers should always check the department’s law book before fishing any Maine water.”

For now, the app is available only for Android phones, and it costs $3.99. Cote, who funded the development out of his own pocket through his company, Northeast Logic LLC, decided to charge a fee rather than put ads on the app because he’s not sure he could attract enough eyeballs to make it worthwhile. Any money he makes will defray the costs of developing the app and for making it available through Apple’s App Store for iPhones. He hopes to launch it there soon.

This may not be the end of app development for Cote.

LeSiege has already hit him up for a hunting app.

“As much as I fish, I hunt,” he said. When he’s out after duck, he needs to know what zone he’s in. He’s also hoping to get a moose permit, and that is also zone-specific.

“It’s just easier to hit the ‘Where am I?’ button,” he said.

And then there are those other 49 states that have fishing and hunting regulations that might be converted into app format.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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