A state biologist is predicting a healthy fishing season in Central Maine ahead of the tradition opening day for fishing on April 1. Despite rule changes nearly a decade ago, a Maine fisherman said fisherman usually turn out in large numbers, honoring the traditional season despite less-than-ideal conditions.

The traditional open-water fishing dates of April 1 to Sept. 30 apply to rivers, streams and brooks and all waters in Northern Maine. The rules changed for the southern, central and eastern parts of the state in 2010, when lawmakers made it legal to fish in open water or on ice at any time on most lakes and ponds.

Jason Seiders, regional biologist in the Southwestern Division of the fish and wildlife department, said he expects a good fishing season in 2019, citing an abundance of smelts in Maine waters.

“Landlocked salmon and lake trout depend on rainbow smelt as their main forage,” he said. “We’ve seen some tremendously good salmon fishing in our neck of the woods.”

Seiders said tens of thousands of hatchery-grown fish will be stocked in the waters of Kennebec County this year, which include landlocked salmon and a number of different species of trout. While some of those fish are expected to stimulate population growth, some are placed in sub-optimal waters for their survival. He said fisherman relish the chance to catch a brook trout in central Maine and it adds a layer of protection to northern Maine populations.

“We don’t have tremendous wild trout fisheries that (northern Maine) has,” Seiders said. “It would entail a long drive to Northern Maine to get a brook trout.”

“It provides a buffer for those northern Maine fisheries (and) it takes some pressure off of those fisheries,” he said. “We put them in in the fall so anglers … are encourage to harvest those fish.”

Central Maine waters are not as conducive to trout and salmon survival due to degrading water quality and invasive species, Seiders said. He added that some waters around central Maine have stricter rules than others to preserve lake trout populations.

The Portland Press Herald reported last week that Gov. Janet Mills signed legislation to allow the state’s fish and wildlife commissioner the authority to extend Maine’s ice-fishing season up north beyond the March 31 closing date. Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Commissioner Judy Camuso extended the ice fishing season in northern Maine from April 1 through April 21. The rule change only applies to 2019.

Avid fisherman Jeff Smith, of Howland, said Thursday that he regularly travels central and southern Maine due to open-water regulations to fish “almost every other day.” He said more people come out when the weather warms up, but some still honor the traditional opening date.

“There’s still a generation of fishermen that have that April 1 date on their mind,” he said. “It’s changed a lot in the last 15 to 20 years, you’ll see more guys … using their year-round access.”

“You can still catch fish in the off season but you definitely have to put some time into it,” Smith added. “(People will fish if there is a) 45-50 degree day, but it’s usually not until April 1.”

Jeff Smith, of Howland, carries his fishing pole over a dam impounding Annabessacook Lake on Thursday in Monmouth while searching for trout and pike. Smith said he fishes year round with fly rods or poles but closely observes the fishing laws. Maine’s opening day of freshwater fishing is traditionally April 1. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Lou Zambello, a Maine registered guide and author of a number of fly fishing books, said some of the most exciting waters in central Maine are sections of the Kennebec River in Waterville, where diverse populations of trout, striper bass and salmon congregate.

“There’s all these different kinds of fish,” he said. “You never know what you’re going to catch.”

On Sunday, Zambello spoke at the Maine Sportsman’s Show in Augusta about which flies are the most effective for catching trophy brook trout. After his seminar, he said the fishing in Maine in April usually involves tracking where ice is melting  and tracking smelt to lead to the largest fish or heading straight for smaller streams and brooks that clean out faster than bigger ponds.

“Ice out is varying by months at a time because of the global climate changes,” he said. “It’s much more erratic.”

“A lot of us like to (fish in small streams) in the Spring,” Zambello said. “It hearkens back to a simpler time.”

Zambello advocated for waiting a little while before taking to the water to fish and said good skiing conditions could be taken advantage of in the mean time.

“Human beings anticipate events and then get bored,” he said. “People have been venturing out (in April) to fish because it’s been a long winter … and the fishing generally sucks, (but) right now, in April, it’s the best downhill skiing conditions,”

“Nobody is skiing, all the skiers went in November and they jumped the gun,” he added. “We should do it the reverse; October is wonderful time to fish, but the fishermen are moving on.”

Doug Ames, of Farmingdale, attended Zambello’s seminar. Ames said he commonly fishes in the Manchester and Belgrade areas, but won’t likely start for a couple of weeks when the weather warms up.

“April 1 is April Fool’s Day, so only the fools are out there trying to fly fish,” he laughed. “As I get older, I’m more of a fair-weather fisherman.”

 

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666
[email protected]
Twitter: @SamShepME


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