AUBURN – Maine anglers have used fishing law books for nearly a century.

It’s unclear how long these tiny books have confused them. But without a doubt, the confusion continues.

A year after a new Maine fishing law book was rolled out, fishermen still are unaware that waters in half the state now offer year-round fishing.

“I was under the impression (lakes and ponds) were closed to fishing until April 1,” said Kurt Benziger, 42, who came out April 3 to fish with his 4-year-old son, Sam.

“He loves to ice fish. But this is our first day on open water,” said Benziger of Wales.

A good number of anglers around Lake Auburn, which did open April 1, didn’t know that on many other lakes and ponds, open-water season already had begun. In fact it never ended. Lake Auburn is an exception under the new law.

Charles Freeman enjoyed a father-son outing with his infant son, Kaden.

It was the baby’s first day fishing, and his father’s first day of the year, only because Freeman didn’t know he could have gone to cast at nearby ponds in March.

“I’ve been here since 6 o’clock,” Freeman said seven hours later. “The only thing anyone caught was a yellow perch over there.”

Freeman said when Gov. John Baldacci opened the spring fishing season early last year, before April 1, he thought it was a one-time deal because of the mild weather last winter. Not so.

At that time, the state’s fishing rules changed, making year-round fishing legal on most lakes and ponds throughout eastern and southern Maine.

The traditional open-water fishing dates apply for rivers and streams, and there are exceptions to the new law.

“If you just read the law book once, you set yourself up for fines, because there are more (than just) general provisions. You need to go back and find the exceptions, depending on what kind of year it is (with ice-out),” said Nate Belanger, 25, of Lewiston.

Some anglers have figured it out. Joe Footer was casting at Range Pond State Park on March 26.

He said he likes the different options now. Though even this student of the law book says sorting it out is a chore.

“Now you can ice fish at Long Pond in Livermore in December if you want. But the problem with it,” Footer said, “is why should I have to check a rule book? There should be a sign at each lake that says, ‘Special Regulations,’ and they should print it up and put it on a board.”

And Steve Bickford of Standish, who started his season at the Songo Locks, doesn’t understand why the new year-round law only applies to lakes and ponds.

Then there were fishermen like Tim Farr out at Lake Auburn, guys who knew the basics of the new law, but still acknowledged “opening day” with the same ceremony and celebration.

He fished during the snowstorm on April 1.

“I always put it in the schedule to take it off,” said Farr of Auburn.

For Farr, April brings more open water. And the new law really doesn’t provide any new opportunity for him.

“My opportunity is if I’m not busy and working and get to go fish,” Farr said.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

[email protected]


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