Gov. Janet Mills says she will sign emergency legislation to allow the state’s fish and wildlife commissioner the authority to extend Maine’s ice-fishing season up north beyond the March 31 closing date, according to Scott Ogden, Mills’ communication director.

The legislation only affects waters in far northern Maine, because year-round fishing is legal in the rest of the state.

Laws passed in 2010 and supported by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife made it legal to fish in open water or on ice at any time on most lakes and ponds in the 12 Maine counties in southern, central and parts of eastern Maine. Although traditional open-water fishing dates still apply for rivers and streams, there are other exceptions.

Every year, fishermen statewide still celebrate April 1 as the traditional start to the open-water season in Maine. However, some years ice fishermen in southern Maine still ice fish when possible – as they did in April 2014, when there was enough ice to extend the season – including on 28,770-acre Sebago Lake.

Traditional ice-fishing dates still apply in northern Maine, so the emergency legislation will allow ice fishermen in the northern half of the state to enjoy ice fishing on lakes that still have a foot of ice or more.

The legislation sponsored by Rep. Danny Martin, D-Sinclair, allows IFW Commissioner Judy Camuso the authority to extend the ice-fishing season in that part of the state, allowing waters currently open to ice fishing in northern Maine to remain open into the spring.

Camuso extended the ice fishing season in northern Maine from April 1 through April 21, according to IFW. All rules and regulations for those waters that are already open to ice fishing in the north region will remain in effect.

Camuso said the extended season only will apply this year. Any waters that are not open to ice fishing will remain closed to ice fishing, and Tribal Waters are excluded from the season extension.

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