April activities in Maine vary with each outdoor adventurer, but five options attract myriad participants — fishing, picking fiddleheads, digging dandelions, hiking and bicycling.

Rural folks particularly like three of them, fishing and collecting fiddleheads and dandelion, and why not? This trio of spring endeavors can easily result in scrumptious meals.

For centuries in April and May, depending on latitude, Mainers have eaten brookies and fiddleheads or white perch and dandelions, and today, these two meals still interest Mainers who follow this state’s folklore.

During my youth, a less well-known duo, pickerel and dandelions, proved more common in the Allen household, because the two were abundant in fields and a millpond within a mile from home.

When cooking dandelions, my mother put a little water in the pot, enough liquid to discard should the greens need a change of cooking water to boil twice. This step lessens the bitterness in older dandelions. Unless the veggies were old and tough, she cooked them eight minutes in all.

In pod-auger days, country chefs cooked dandelions in a pot with salt pork and potatoes. They started with a 1-pound piece of salt pork in a 10-inch Dutch oven and simmered the meat in water for 21/2 to 3 hours.

About 1 1/2 hours before dinner time, cooks filled the pot with well-rinsed dandelions and added a half-teaspoon of dry mustard before cooking the veggies with the pork for an hour. Thirty minutes before dinnertime, they added diced potatoes and stirred the greens to distribute the fat.

This one-pot recipe comes from a Marjorie Standish cookbook and strikes me odd that folks actually cooked dandelions for 11/2 hours.

Folks have time-tested gimmicks to remove bones from pickerel, but this species ran large in the millpond near our house. Because of that, frying whole fish minus the head worked just fine for us. When ready, we’d lift the skin off and pull chunks of white, flaky meat from the bone.

Catch-and-release fishing as a way of life makes sense, but in small brooks that few people fish, a meal or two in April doesn’t hurt the resource.

I like to time this delicacy with the first emergence of fiddleheads, which should be darned early this year, depending on weather.

Here’s a key point about fiddleheads, which go by the name ostrich fern. Most ferns have round or oval stems, but the edible species has a pronounced groove on the inside of the stem. In fact, if someone cut a thin slice off an ostrich-fern stem a la cucumber, it would be U-shaped.

Another point, ostrich ferns are bright green, which also helps people identify the plant. After the ferns mature and stand 3-to-4 feet, this color helps folks locate a patch from a far distance, a place to pick next spring. 

People have wandered the Maine woods for centuries, but today, hiking often means staying on blazed trails, which drives me nuts. I like to wander through trailless woodlands — half-lost half the time.

These days, bicycling in Maine attracts legions. In comparison, the only hunting sport that draws more participants is deer hunting, but as far as I know, and I’ve looked, no one has a reliable figure on the number of Maine bicyclists. This sport just continues to grow and grow, though, evidenced by all the pedalers on roads and the many bicycle shops with great inventories.

Let’s get back to angling. This sport is more popular than bicycling, and in April, anglers often troll for salmonids or fish brooks for brookies. However, fly rodders cast baitfish imitations for salmonids,, or bait- or spin-casters throw fast-sinking jigs for bass, white perch or black crappie. Live bait also has followers.

In my years as a high school English teacher, trolling streamers or bucktails in late afternoon struck me as great fun after being in a classroom on my feet all day. It was so relaxing to sit in a boat and watch a trailing line, interrupted only when a fish struck and added high excitement.

These days, while writing and editing, I sit all the time, so trolling for fish or sitting in a tree stand to hunt or shoot photos bores me sick.

Other April sports such as white-water kayaking and canoeing excite some folks, as do scouting and patterning wild turkeys. I once lived for white-water canoeing, but turkey hunting never caught my fancy, nor did stalking woodchucks and crows.  

Photography excites people who love shooting images of sporting scenes, landscapes and wildlife, and the advent of digital photography is making folks better photographers than ever before.

A big part of the success with digital cameras begins with instantly seeing a digital photo with all the warts. With that advantage, photographers can shoot the same subject again (and again) until they get it right.

Whatever folks do, it’s April and it feels mighty good to get out on those days when sunlight warms our shoulders and a southwest breeze wafts spring smells into Maine.

Ken Allen of Belgrade Lakes is a writer, editor and photographer. He can be contacted at: [email protected]