Bill Markowitz of West Harford, Connecticut, celebrates with a landlocked salmon he caught in West Grand Lake in June, 2021. Markowitz, 58, has taken a fishing vacation in Maine nearly every year for the last half century. Courtesy of Bill Markowitz

Bill Markowitz started making annual fishing trips to Rangeley from Massachusetts with his father 50 years ago. Now 58 and living in West Hartford, Connecticut, Markowitz still travels to fish in Maine every year, now to the Grand Lake Stream region. Even when Markowitz plans a fishing trip out West or to Canada, he still makes his annual pilgrimage to the wild trout, salmon and bass fisheries in Maine to enjoy the crystal clean, uncrowded rivers and lakes.

“It’s non-negotiable. I go every year,” said Markowitz. “It’s the variety. Bass are pretty easy to catch, and put up a great fight, which is nice. Sometimes my friend and I will catch some bass the first day and then go out the next day to hook a (landlocked) salmon for more of a challenge.” 

Many guides and sporting camp owners in Maine say the variety of game fish species and the abundance of wild fisheries are some of the reasons anglers from around the country – and even the world – come to fish in Maine. 

But anglers in Maine also know they’ve got it good, and the percentage of anglers per capita here proves it.

Maine has a higher percentage of adults with recreational freshwater fishing licenses than any state in New England. Twenty-six percent of the state’s 1.1 million adults purchased a freshwater fishing licenses in 2021, placing Maine head and shoulders above the other New England states and in good company nationally, according to research by the Portland Press Herald. (Only anglers 16 and older need to purchase a fishing license in Maine; the other New England states all have similar laws.)

Vermont was closest with 18% of adults holding a recreational freshwater fishing license last year, and New Hampshire was next at 11%. In Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the percentages were 6% or less.


A sampling of other states known for outdoors pursuits shows that Maine stacks up with North Dakota and Wyoming, where 25% of adults had freshwater fishing licenses, according to the most recent data from those states. South Dakota (19%), North Carolina (19%), and Montana (18%) also had a high percentage of adult resident anglers.

Maine sold 288,492 residential freshwater fishing licenses to residents in 2021, the most recent year for data available from the state. Together with non-resident anglers, a total of roughly 380,000 licensed recreational anglers fish on Maine’s inland waters each year. They contribute as much as $319 million to the state’s economy.

While Maine is famous for being the last stronghold in the Northeast for wild native brook trout, it also has some of the best landlocked salmon fisheries in the country as well as some top bass fisheries in the Midcoast and Downeast regions. The smallies here draw big-time bass fishermen from around the country. Registered Maine Guide Don Kleiner has guided them from Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.

“They are all places that produce bigger bass because of the longer growing season. But they comment on the good number of fish here – and the chance to catch a decent-sized one,” Kleiner said.

Washington County offers a great example of the variety of popular game fish in Maine.

Paul Laney, another Registered Maine Guide, said the Grand Lake Stream region is a big draw for residents and nonresidents alike. He hosts equal numbers of each to Grand Lake Lodge. Anglers come from as far away as Texas.


“In Grand Lake Stream, obviously it is a destination for fly fishing for landlocked salmon. But we also have smallmouth bass on pretty much all the lakes. In the summer, that’s great for kids. There is something for everyone here,” Laney said. 

Farther north in the North Maine Woods, fishermen come to fish at Libby Camps from England, Germany and Switzerland. One year there were as many as 12 countries represented, Matt Libby Jr said. Most come here for the large, wild, native brook trout.

Nancy Thouvenell of Upland, California, left, shows off the wild brook trout she caught with the help of fishing guide Terry Hunter at Libby Camps in the North Maine Woods. Thouvenell and her husband, Marty, first came to fish in northern Maine in 2007. They’ve made the trip to the remote forestland a dozen times since. Courtesy of Nancy Thouvenell

“They can catch a wild one in the mountains of North Carolina, but a brook trout there is 6-to-7 inches long. Here, it depends how good a fisherman you are, but it’s pretty easy to catch one 10-to-14 inches. If you have some skill, you can catch one in the 20- to 22-inch range,” Libby said. 

Those wild brook trout were what drew Nancy and Marty Thouvenell of Upland, California, to fish in the North Maine Woods more than a dozen ago. The wilderness-like setting and remote, pristine rivers and lakes is what drew them back to Libby Camps about a 12 times. The Thouvenells have fished in Canada, Montana and Wyoming. But the pursuit of the wild fish in Maine’s big woods makes for an outdoor adventure Nancy Thouvenell repeatedly called “spectacular.”

“It’s not so much the size of the fish – it’s the experience. The whole thing, it’s fun. We waded across rushing rivers holding each other up, and casted next to waterfalls. It’s a blast. You’re always watching for moose. It is a totally different environment,” Nancy Thouvenell said.

The ability to access so many of the wild trout ponds hidden in Maine’s vast forestland is another key attraction to anglers near and far. The open-door policy in Maine in vast tracts of private commercial forestland in western, northern and eastern Maine is unusual, and a defining part of the fishing experience in Vacationland.


“It is one of the largest boreal forests east of the Mississippi. It’s very usual,” said Igor Sikorski, who co-owns Bradford Camps in the North Maine Woods. “In other parts of the country there’s giants tracts of land that are federally owned and gated off. The North Maine Woods is the mothership for ecological vacation experiences. Then add to that you have this incredible resource with wild brook trout and wild salmon fisheries because of their remote nature and because the water is so cold.”

But in a state with 6,000 lakes and ponds, productive fisheries abound in all parts of Maine, including in southern and central Maine.

“Today you can drive to a boat launch on every decent size body of water. Even if you don’t have a boat, that’s a good place to fish,” said Kleiner, now in his 38th year of guiding fishermen. “I’ve fished in 15 different states and, frankly, only a couple of places had better opportunities to catch fish.”

Caleb Kennedy of Raymond displays a smallmouth bass he caught on Sebago Lake. Kennedy said fishing for a lot of Maine residents is about making memories with family and friends – and it’s easy to do no matter where you live in the state. Courtesy of Caleb Kennedy

Caleb Kennedy, 20, of Raymond has fished in southern Maine since he can remember. His grandfather took him to the family camp on Thomas Pond near Sebago Lake every weekend since before he could walk – and they fished.

“I just remember we’d go out on a pontoon boat and we’d catch perch. I was so young it was a blast to catch any kind of fish,” Kennedy recalled.

Today he fishes for small and largemouth bass, mostly in southern Maine, whenever he can get time away from work from his job in construction.

“Fishing is one of the those things for a lot of Maine residents, it’s about family history, something to make memories doing. Even if you go and don’t catch any fish, it’s a blast sharing time, cracking jokes, having a new experience seeing wildlife,” Kennedy said.

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