Fishermen in Maine stand the best chance to catch a fish in early April this year.

With an earlier start to the open-water season — as declared by Gov. Baldacci’s emergency act on March 25 — fishermen were having at it in southern Maine this past weekend.

Although rain resulted in high water flows and colder temperatures in rivers and streams, fishermen were still busy. The overall warmer water temperatures the past month have resulted in fish activity on lakes and ponds, biologists said.

“Ordinarily, this time of year we wouldn’t have much to report. But since the governor opened the season before the (traditional April 1 opening date), there has been mostly lake and pond fishing and those reports have been excellent,” said Francis Brautigam, a regional fisheries biologist in Gray with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

“We’ve had reports of nice salmon on Sebago, and at a number of different ponds, rainbow trout are biting. I didn’t talk to anyone on a lake or pond who was not successful.”

On Sunday at Collyer Brook in Gray, Brautigam said there was a “charge of fishermen,” and he said there were 16 trailers at the boat ramp at Sebago Lake State Park.

Normally this time of year the rivers are high from snow melt, which makes it difficult for anglers to fish. But while the flows were fast this weekend because of the rain, the overall water temperature has been warmer, Brautigam said. Because of that, biologists will be able to stock once the water levels subside, he said.

That could happen three weeks early.

At the state hatcheries, biologists can’t wait because of what they have to offer fishermen this year: bigger, fatter brook trout.

At the New Gloucester hatchery, the trout have grown fast in the Eddy Brook because of the warmer temperatures. In this partially enclosed brook, warmer winter weather meant the trout started moving and feeding more, as fish normally start to do in the spring.

In March the brook was as warm as 43 degrees, as much as 5 degrees warmer, said fish culturist Jeremiah Haws.

“People don’t think that’s much of a difference, but it makes a big difference especially when you’re growing fish. Our fish are eating a lot,” Haws said.

Warmer winter temperatures throughout Maine have resulted in earlier ice outs on lakes and ponds, setting records in some areas.

At Cold Stream Pond in Enfield the ice went out on March 24, a week ahead of the 50-year record set on April 2, 2006.

Even in the Moosehead Lake region, where ice fishing is still taking place, fly fishermen should be out two to three weeks early, said head fisheries biologist Tim Obrey.

And in western Maine where ice out normally doesn’t occur for another month, DIFW biologist Dave Boucher said open-water fishing has begun.

“We are declaring an official end to ice fishing season,” Boucher joked on Monday. “There is earlier pond fishing for sure. Already small ponds are becoming ice free.”

 

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: [email protected]