TURNER — Peter Crowell can recall 25 years ago when he was a boy and his father would go out on opening day of fishing season to cast to open water and try to hook a trout.

Because of new fishing laws in 2010, there no longer is a legal start to the open-water season – and fishermen can fish many waters year-round. Still, to many Maine fishermen April 1 remains the symbolic start of the open-water season, and they go out to fish regardless of the weather.

“I still remember opening day as ‘The Day.’ My dad would go to Lake Auburn no matter how cold it was,” said Crowell, 32, of Brunswick. “I feel like that’s why I go out. I’ve been fishing ever since, as long as I can remember.”

When the state fishing laws changed eight years ago, year-round fishing became legal on most lakes and ponds in eastern and southern Maine. (Although traditional open-water fishing dates still apply for rivers and streams, and there are other exceptions.)

Yet every year many fishermen continue the ritual of fishing on April 1 to welcome the season, regardless of whether the water is near freezing, the day falls on Easter Sunday, or there is snow on the ground.

“I’m sure some will be out there regardless of the holiday. I have fished on Easter on at least one occasion,” said Jim Pellerin, the state’s regional fisheries biologist in southern Maine.

State fisheries biologist Scott Davis in Sidney expects the tradition to continue for some time.

“The traditional opening day of open-water (season) was or is more of a generational thing now,” Davis said. “Older anglers look at it as April 1. … But now so many waters are open from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. So the younger anglers don’t think of it in the same way.”

Crowell was one of Maine’s many die-hard opening-day fishermen who was out Sunday to mark the start of the season. He didn’t get up at dawn, or go to a secret fishing spot free of other fishermen – as anglers often do.

Crowell simply wanted to christen his new bamboo fly rod that he built this winter. The Nezinscot River, where he fished, had swollen over the shore and was running about double the speed of its usual flow, which is about 500 cubic feet per second.

On top of that, Crowell had to take refuge on the shore three times during two hours of fishing to let his wader-clad feet warm up.

The chances of his catching a brown trout were small – and in the end Crowell didn’t.

Still, he was at peace. The fact it was April 1 meant several months of open-water fishing lay ahead.

“The fishing won’t be good for two to three weeks. But it’s just nice to get my gear together, and make sure I have everything,” said Crowell, who had several cases of flies.

Fly fishermen Ret and Karen Talbot of Rockland were out fishing Sunday at a spot they wouldn’t disclose. Ret, who produces a fishing blog, and Karen, who is a scientific illustrator whose artwork focuses on fish species, fish year-round.

“We try to fish opening day each year,” Ret Talbot said. “Karen and I often fish year-round on the Georges River, which is one of Maine’s year-round streams. Because we fish locally year-round, we generally try to make opening day more of an event and go somewhere special. And special for us means native fish in a beautiful setting.”

Ret Talbot thought the fact April 1 fell on Easter Sunday this year meant more fishermen would be out.

“Because it’s Easter, we’ll probably look to get more off the beaten path than usual,” Talbot said.

Steven Mogul, an attorney in Bangor, doesn’t go out every opening day – but he was out this year. He said he loves the ritual of welcoming the upcoming fishing season, so he drove an hour to Grand Lake Stream to try his luck.

Mogul knew it would be cold. He simply brought his backpacking stove, an old tin coffee pot and coffee.

“It’s as much about the tradition as it is about the fishing,” Mogul said.

Of course, not all avid Maine fishermen were out Sunday morning with the temperatures in the mid-40s.

“It’s called April Fool’s Day for a reason,” said Jeff Reardon, Trout Unlimited’s Maine brook trout project leader, who lives in Manchester.

 

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