Fishing regulations, like any rules or regulations, are not easy to love. 

V. Paul Reynolds, Outdoors Columnist

Some time ago, as fishing law books got thicker and the water-by-water rules got increasingly complex with multiple S-codes and exceptions to the General Law, a cynic made the observation that a serious law-abiding angler needed two companions with him on the water: a Sherpa to carry the law book and a lawyer to interpret the regulations and S code for each body of water.

The 2020 fishing regulations have been released. The good news is that an angler can now download the fishing law book on an iPhone or access it online at the Fish and Wildlife Department website. The not-so-good news is that fishing regulations have not really been simplified, official assertions to the contrary.

Here is the major new fishing regulation change for 2020, excerpted from the Fish and Wildlife website:

Use or possession of live fish as bait is now PROHIBITED under the General Fishing Law in the North Zone. The use of all other legal forms of bait (including worms and dead baitfish/smelts), artificial lures, and artificial flies is PERMITTED under General Law. All waters in the North Zone where the use of live bait is permitted now have the special law code “S-11” in the 2020 Open Water and Ice Fishing Laws.  


This change reinforces the importance of the region’s native and wild brook trout populations, and stresses the potential damage to those fisheries when bait fish are introduced.

According to Aroostook County fisheries biologist Jeremiah Wood, The North Zone, or Region G, which now has the prohibition of live bait as part of the General Law comprises Aroostook County and northern sections of Piscataquis, Somerset, Oxford and Franklin counties and about 300 lakes and ponds. Bottom line is that an angler can not use live bait on any North Zone water unless it has an S-11 designation. There are 68 bodies of water in this zone that have the S-11 designation.

Wood emphasizes that the regulation change “does not result in any regulation changes for the vast majority of listed waters.”

Wood also observes that there is, indeed, a symbolic or validation aspect of the change that prohibits live bait as a matter of General Law.  The aim, of course, is to keep non-native bait fish out of our highly-valued wild trout waters in order to safeguard the integrity of the fishery.

As Maine’s sport fishery continues to thrive providing matchless fishing opportunities on our more than 5,000 bodies of water, the logical conclusion can only be that complicated fishing rules have played a key part in this revival of our sport fishery. Anyone who doubts this need only look at what is going on at Moosehead Lake with the jaw-dropping brook-trout catches.

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: