For the past 40 years, I’ve typically gone ice fishing for several days right after Christmas. However, unless a polar vortex astonishes us, this year there will be open water in front of the camp instead of a sheet of ice.

So … without any ice, where can we fish?

“Several years ago, we created year-round angling in order to provide anglers fishing opportunities when the conditions were not normal,” said Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife fisheries biologist Francis Brautigam.

The reality is we can fish nearly anywhere in southern and eastern Maine – anytime – on the ice or on open water. Unless there is a specific regulation for that water body, all lakes and ponds in southern and eastern counties are open to both ice fishing and open-water fishing all year. Check your law book for specific details, but basically, it’s pick your passion.

So while you may not be able to use your ice fishing traps, you can certainly use those fishing rods you thought you put away for the winter.

The Saco River offers some fine opportunities. Try below the Skelton Dam in Buxton or the tailwaters below the Hiram Dam in Hiram. These fisheries possess some attractive river habitat and generally have water flows that are conducive to fishing.

“You can also try the lower section of the Royal River in Yarmouth, as we stock that section below the dams on Elm Street and Bridge Street,” said Brautigam. “Either spot offers some nice opportunities for trout.”

Another popular destination is the Mousam River. While many anglers will travel to the tidal section just below Route 1 in Kennebunk, another productive section is the area that flows out of the dam on Mousam Lake in Shapleigh.

Arguably the most popular year-round destination for winter river anglers is the Presumpscot River that flows out of Sebago. Both the upstream and downstream side of Route 35 in North Windham provide a variety of riffles, runs and pools.

However, if you don’t want to be wading waist deep in the water, there are plenty of ponds and lakes to choose from.

“A lot of the waters that are open were recently stocked with rainbows, browns and brook trout,” said Brautigam. “Usually, there are anglers ice fishing for these fish this time of year, but not this year. These ponds really provide a good opportunity for legal-size trout.”

Ponds that you may want to try include the Otter Ponds in Standish, Barker Pond in Lyman, Littlefield Pond in Sanford, Moose Pond in Acton, Simms Pond in Newfield, and Hall Pond in Hebron.

Brown trout and rainbow trout waters that offer anglers potentially fine fishing also include the Range Ponds in Poland, Norway Lake in Norway, Long Pond in Parsonsfield and Hancock Pond in Denmark.

Please heed a couple caveats for fishing the cold water during the season that is formerly known as winter. If you are fishing from a boat, wear a life jacket. You will not survive capsizing without it. If you are wading, proper fitting waders with a snug belt and an inflatable life jacket are also good ideas.

Remember that cold water slows a fish’s metabolism, so fish are more sluggish and won’t spend as much energy to feed. Temper your fly or lure presentation from what you would normally do in the summer.

Many lakes and ponds are stocked in the fall in order to provide opportunities for ice anglers. Without the hardtop covering lakes and ponds, these fish are available to open water anglers, all you have to do is adapt to the conditions.

Mark Latti is a Registered Maine Guide and the outreach coordinator for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife