Free fishing in April

April — Maine’s seasonal limbo month — just got a little more interesting. Governor Mills directed Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Judy Camuso to waive the need for a fishing license during the entire month of April. Of course, anglers must still abide by all of the fishing regulations as outlined in the new fishing lawbook, but nobody needs a license for the first 30 days of the open water fishing season, which commenced April 1.

Why do this at a time when so many of us are staying home preoccupied with the coronavirus? The Fish and Wildlife Department said that the license hiatus “is intended to encourage Maine people to enjoy the outdoors as we confront the challenges associated with COVID-19. The Governor is considering additional measures to make Maine’s great outdoors more accessible to Maine people. She continues to urge those who go out to employ appropriate physical distancing measures recommended by the U.S. CDC.”

“As an avid angler, I know there’s nothing better for the heart and soul than a little fishing,” said Governor Mills. “As we continue to navigate this challenging time together, I hope this order will motivate Maine people to do what we have done for generations: take to our lakes, rivers and streams to cast a line. The great outdoors is still open. Please enjoy it safely.”

The Governor has a good point. By definition most outdoor recreational activities, whether hunting fishing or camping and hiking, involve “social distancing.” For many of us, it is the reason why we fish or hunt: solitude. The Governor’s gesture presents a perfect opportunity for parents, stuck inside with kids, to get them outside in the safe, fresh air away from their iPhones and video games and the coronavirus. All you need is a fishing pole and a can of worms.

As April ushers in ice-out on Maine’s waters, ice fishermen are reminded that they have just three days after opening day to get their ice houses off the lakes and ponds. Fines can be imposed on those who fail to comply.

The Maine Warden Service has also issued an advisory regarding unwanted early use of all-terrain vehicles on designated trails that are not yet open, despite the early spring and bare ground in southern Maine. As the April thaw does its work, early ATV use on trails not yet hardened can wreak havoc on trail conditions.

ATV users need to be watchful for the red signs that indicate closed trails during mud season. Red means stay off the trail until the thaw is over. It only takes a few thoughtless ATV operators to ruin a trail for everybody else. In Maine, most ATV trails do not officially open until early May.

And many club trails rely on good relations with landowners for their use. These landowners, whose generosity opens so many of Maine’s ATV trails, have little patience with those whose behavior on ATVs demonstrate disrespect for their land.

V. Paul Reynolds

Columnist at Ellsworth American
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. His email address is [email protected]

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