Wherever the fish are, that’s where we go.

Richard Wagner

Hello, fellow fishermen!

I’ll be writing a monthly fishing column for Current Publishing‘s family of local newspapers. When I was asked to do this, I was taken aback as there is not much journalism in my background beyond writing content for Sebago Chapter of Trout Unlimited’s website www.sebagotu.org and our newsletter, but giving it some thought, fishing is my passion and I expect to grow into my new role as a fishing columnist.

I started fishing before I started school and had a fly rod in my hand by the time I was about 10. Like so many folk with whom I discuss fishing, I really enjoy all kinds of fishing from fly casting small dry flies that I tied myself to the latest thing to enter my repertoire: squid fishing from the town dock on spinning gear – I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I enjoy it all.

It’s easy to come across as an elitist fly fisherman, and to avoid that, I’ll be writing about as wide a range of topics as I can competently cover. That’s relatively easy to accomplish here in Maine with our broad range of fishing opportunities: fresh water and salt water, cold water and warm water species, ponds and moving water, ice fishing… Beyond what’s available within a half day’s drive of here lie some unique fisheries: the tributaries of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario that can offer some of the best trout and salmon fishing available; and the legendary Atlantic salmon of the Miramichi in New Brunswick, so close to our doorstep.

Besides the fishing itself, there are the methods and gear we fish from worms on hooks to flies, traps to jig poles, surf casting rods to ultralights. It’s easy to get hung up on gear – so often when we’re not enjoying our fishing the way that we should, we buy more gear rather than maintaining the gear that we have, scheduling our time better, or taking a casting lesson. I’m a firm believer that a $600 rod is not 10 times better than a $60 rod, but we do love our gear, and I must admit that when making a long cast at a rising trout, it does seem to help to know that you are fishing good equipment – and there is certainly some out there to be had.

Another recurring topic will be conservation. Maine’s best fisheries are well known and under constant fishing pressure. Without regulations to limit our catch and reduce mortality among those that we throw back (or a constant line of stocking trucks) the fish would be gone every summer before the end of June. I have been genuinely privileged to work as a volunteer alongside our local Region A State Fisheries Biologists Francis Brautigam, Jim Pellerin and Brian Lewis, and we are truly fortunate to have them. Working to maintain fishable abundance and restore more natural ecologies, they are our hope for dealing with the challenges facing our fisheries now and in the future: global warming, invasive species, and loss of habitat to name some of the most significant. What they do is important and impacts our fishing profoundly. We all still owe a debt to former Maine Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Commissioner Bucky Owen whose changes to Maine’s fishing regulations some years back continue to work for us all.

We would all like to see Maine once again enjoying significant numbers of sea-run fish as we once did with Atlantic salmon on the Penobscot. Why shouldn’t Mainers be able to enjoy fish that grow as large as those in the Miramichi or the Great Lake tributaries? This can’t happen as long as our major rivers remain largely behind a series of dams and impoundments. I’ve been pleased to work with some of Maine’s best conservation professionals over the years including TU’s Jeff Reardon, Nick Bennett of the Natural Resource Council of Maine, Dr. Curtis Bohlen and Matt Craig of the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Landis Hudson of Maine Rivers, Josh Royte of The Nature Conservancy, and John Burrows of the Atlantic Salmon Federation to name some of the best. With legacy dams on the Royal and Mousam rivers under consideration for removal, and low returns for shad and Atlantic salmon on the Saco, there are major issues quite close to home.

If any of this interests you, please stay tuned.

Steve Heinz is an avid fisherman who lives in Cumberland and is Conservation Chair for the Sebago Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

Fishermen love our gear. 

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