I recently confessed to my wife that she’s married to a criminal. A small-time criminal, mind you, but a flagrant lawbreaker nonetheless. I kept this embarrassing fact from her because I was, well, embarrassed. Not so much that I was a criminal, which, you must admit, has a certain sexy cachet to it, but that I was such a dumb, pipsqueak, lowlife malefactor.

I’m not a murderer or a bank robber or even a white-collar bandit. My transgression was fishing in Rangeley Lake after fishing season had closed. Now, this may sound like a minor indiscretion in the scheme of things crooked and dastardly, but in Maine this offense is a Class E misdemeanor – the same level of crime as trespassing. And you’re tagged with a criminal charge that stays on your record for the rest of your life.

The irony is that I’m normally such a goody-goody sportsman, always careful to follow the rules and the rule of law. I’m a recreational fisherman, not a meat fisherman, so I never keep any of the fish I catch. What I catch, I release, so as not to deplete the natural resource and deprive other fisherpersons of the same joy I had catching those fish.

Suffice to say, I made a bad decision one autumn morning, moving from one body of legal fishing water to another body of illegal fishing water without checking the season limits or otherwise thinking too much about what I was doing. Like most clueless, small-time criminals, I was caught with my pants down, metaphorically speaking: A game warden spotted me within minutes of dropping my line in the water. He was pleasant enough about the whole sordid business, but it was evident from our clipped conversation that he was going to write me up.

I was embarrassed and mad at myself, but I didn’t think this fishing faux pas would amount to much – something akin to a parking ticket, easily taken care of. I soon learned this was not to be the case, since my offense was not a civil infraction under Maine law but a real crime. My future was to hold many phone calls to the District Attorney’s Office and the Franklin County District Court, pleading my case in hopes of not having to make a six-hour round-trip drive to Farmington for a humiliating court appearance. Fortunately, all the court clerks and assistant DAs were helpful and efficient and, dare I say, compassionate. I mean, they were dealing with a criminal. With their help, I didn’t have to cop a plea before the judge.

It’s a good thing I’m retired, because if I had to apply for another job and my potential employer ran a background check, I’d be exposed. “Mr. Price, I’m afraid something’s come up.” It’s tempting to imagine that, faced with the possibility of losing the job, I’d feel bold enough to strut a little and say, “It was no big deal. No fish were killed in the commission of this crime.”