An intro to ice fishing

BAR HARBOR — Thinking about ice fishing? This outdoor activity requires few pieces of equipment and with lakes abundant, there are many opportunities to fish across the state. 

The first thing you need to get started is a fishing license. If you’re unsure and want to try it first, there is a statewide free fishing weekend Feb. 13-14 so you can participate with little commitment. Licenses can be purchased online at Children under 16 do not need a fishing license to fish.

According to Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, ice fishing essentials start with warm clothing. Recreating in below freezing temperatures requires (at a minimum) insulated boots, waterproof gloves, thermal layers, a hat and wool socks. It is always a good idea to bring extras of almost everything just in case you get wet.

Before venturing out on the ice, make sure it is thick enough to safely walk or ride on.

The next thing you will need to do is make a hole in the ice. An ice chisel will work, but most anglers will use an auger. A hand auger is the cheapest, but there are also gas, propane and electric varieties. 

When it comes to actually catching fish, the next piece of gear you will need is a trap. A simple tip-up trap paired with live bait is the most common way to fish in Maine. A tie-up is a device that sits on top of the ice and has a flag that raises when a fish tugs on the line. Another option is a jig rod, which is a small fishing pole, but this method requires active participation. In Maine, each angler can have five traps set up so many will use a combination of traps and jigging at one time.

After you’ve collected warm clothing and fishing gear, where is the best place to find fish? 

The staff at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife provide up-to-date fishing news and suggestions broken down into seven regions across the state. According to IF&W biologist Gregory Burr, who provides information for the Downeast region, “Safe ice in December comes to the small and shallow ponds first. This means that the first species that can be safely caught are warmwater fish and stocked brook trout.”

Some of Burr’s recommendations include:

  • Hamilton Pond (Bar Harbor): Fish for chain pickerel and largemouth bass. 
  • Round Pond (Somesville): Fish for chain pickerel and stocked fall yearling brook trout. 
  • Upper Hadlock and Lower Hadlock ponds (Northeast Harbor): Stocked with fall fingerling, yearling, and retired brood stocked brook trout. 
  • Lakewood Pond (Bar Harbor): Stocked with fall yearling brook trout. 
  • Scammon Pond (Eastbrook): Fast fishing for chain pickerel. 
  • Lovejoy Pond (T 35 MD): Stocked with fall fingerling and yearling brook trout. 
  • Billings Pond (Blue Hill): Fish for largemouth bass and wild brook trout. 
  • Indian Lake (Whiting): Stocked with fall fingerling, yearling and retired brood brook trout. 
  • Foxhole Pond (Deblois): Stocked with fall fingerling, yearling, and retired brood brook trout (kids only pond). 
  • Keenes Lake (Calais): Stocked with fall fingerling and yearling brook trout.

According to Burr the outlook for the upcoming season looks promising. “The overall outlook for the upcoming fishing looks bright as many of the larger lakes and ponds salmon, lake trout, brown trout, rainbow trout and splake are growing well and should provide anglers with good catch rates and good chances for larger fish.” But he urges caution, especially in the beginning of the season as ice conditions can vary. “Check the ice thickness early and often, and stay away from inlets, outlets, thoroughfares, spring holes, and saddle areas around islands.”

For more information about ice fishing and conditions, visit 

Faith DeAmbrose

Managing Editor at Mount Desert Islander

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