Ice fishing enthusiasts in southern Maine have caught a break this year after two consecutive delayed seasons caused by unseasonably warm Decembers.

Fishing has been underway for several days at lakes and ponds in the southern portion of the state. That’s in stark contrast with last season, when most bodies of water in southern Maine did not form adequate ice for fishing until well into January.

“The last couple of years were abnormal,” said Jim Pellerin, a fisheries biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “This year’s a little bit ahead of two years ago, and way ahead of last year.”

Pellerin said the early-season cold has made for some excellent ice fishing opportunities in the southern part of the state.

He said those looking for good early-season fishing for trout should try Otter Ponds in Standish, Littlefield Pond in Sanford, Barker Pond in Lyman, Knights Pond in Berwick, Hall Pond in Paris, Moose Pond in Acton, and Worthley Pond in Peru. Pellerin said the best places to take kids ice fishing in southern Maine are Round Pond in Lyman and Lower Hinckley Pond in South Portland.

“There are a lot of people out already, and there is more than a couple of inches of ice on the smaller ponds,” he said. “A lot of the bigger lakes are still open in the middle, but the shoreline and coves have frozen over.”

Larger bodies of water containing rainbow trout may not be sufficiently frozen over until after Jan. 1, Pellerin said. Those include Stanley Pond in Hiram, Norway Lake in Norway, Little Sebago in Gray, the Ranges in Poland, and Crystal Lake in Gray. Most of those should have adequate ice for rainbow trout fishing by the first of the year.

But smaller, shallower ponds containing brook trout are more than ready for fishing, he said. Pellerin said those looking to catch brookies should fish shallow, in water that is 5 feet deep or less. He recommended small bait, such as worms or small shiners, and said don’t be afraid to use a small jig as well.

“On some of these ponds, like the Otters, anglers are doing great already,” said Pellerin, who noted that those ponds have been stocked with trout that range from 12 to 15 inches in length, with a few bigger ones also.

Gorham resident Mark Morrill was ice fishing Friday at Otter Ponds. He said the ice was 4 to 5 inches thick – more than enough for ice fishing.

“It’s great to get started before the first of the year,” said the 46-year-old Morrill. “It just wasn’t a great season for ice fishing last year.”

He didn’t have much success Friday, but said a group that came out before him appeared to have caught a few. Morrill said part of the fun of ice fishing is that it provides another outdoor activity that is exclusive to Maine’s long cold-weather season.

“It’s just great to get outside in the wintertime,” he said. “You kind of have to embrace the winter, especially when you live out here.”

Gorham resident Cody McFarland also was with a group that fished Friday at Otter Ponds. The 23-year-old said two people in his group landed trout.

“The conditions were pretty good,” he said. “This is definitely a regular thing for me. I like to get out there early in the season.”

McFarland said he enjoys ice fishing because it’s possible to catch species that are difficult to land during the state’s warmer months.

“It gives you different access to a different variety of fish,” he said.

There are also plenty of opportunities right now for anglers in Maine’s central and midcoast regions, said IFW fisheries biologist Jason Seiders. Available catches are more diverse in the region, including trout, white perch, salmon and bass.

Seiders said midcoast residents who want to take their kids out for a day catching trout should try Maces and Rocky ponds in Rockport. “Both ponds are heavily stocked with trout,” he said.

Heading away from the coast and toward the Belgrades, Seiders recommended Salmon and McGrath ponds in Belgrade, which he said were recently stocked and also have some nice bass. He said those looking for panfish should head to East Pond in Smithfield, which has a popular white perch fishery.

Round and Brettuns ponds in Turner provide good access and good fishing, Seiders said, both heavily stocked with brook trout along with some holdovers of brown trout that are in the 20-inch range.

There are also some excellent salmon to be found in the central and midcoast regions, Seiders said. Fall trapnetting revealed a number of 20-inch salmon in waters such as Flying Pond in Vienna, he said, and in Alford Lake there were brown trout that tipped the scales at over 7 pounds, along with a number of 20-inch salmon. Lake Wassokeag in Dexter also had a good number of large salmon.

Down in the southern coastal part of the region, Seiders recommended Sewall Pond in Arrowsic for trout and a chance at some big bass. In Georgetown, Charles Pond also has been stocked and should offer some fine trout fishing, he said.

Although there is enough ice on most smaller lakes and ponds for fishing, Pellerin reminded anglers to be cautious. He said to proceed slowly away from shorelines and avoid fishing near flowing water.

“Always check the ice every few feet when you go out,” he said. “Don’t ever assume the ice is safe.”