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Potpourri of outdoor news: Free fishing to water safety, animals, campfires

From free fishing June 5-6 to how to deal with black bears to wearing life jackets
By Staff | Jun 05, 2021
Courtesy of: Bryan Pfeiffer Monarch butterfly on Monhegan Island in 2018.

Augusta — As Maine weather improves, there is plenty to do in the great outdoors, including free fishing, and Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has advice from bears to boating to campfires.

Free fishing June 5-6

On Saturday and Sunday, June 5-6, any person — except those whose license has been suspended or revoked — may fish without a license. All other laws and regulations apply on these days. Open to residents and nonresidents.

June is a prime time to fish, with endless opportunities across the state.

For beginners, target warmwater species such as bass or perch for more action. Remember, it is a buggy time of year, so bring repellent. For experienced anglers and those already hooked on fishing, June is a good time to target coldwater species.

Campfire reminders

A campfire is an enjoyable way to top a day of adventure, but in order to protect Maine's lands and respect private landowners, there is a lot to consider:

• Always check with the local fire department before burning or building a campfire and check with local forest rangers in remote sites. Follow mainefireweather.org for your area's fire danger rating, and if the fire danger rating is high, very high, or extreme, then do not build a campfire.

• Know where fires are allowed. Even if the conditions allow for a fire, the landowner may not allow campfires on their property — always check and only build fires in designated fire areas. Do not build your own fire ring unless you have permission from the landowner.

• Use only local firewood and kindling. Moving firewood into Maine is illegal and moving firewood around Maine is a big mistake. Forest destroying insects travel with firewood. Get firewood at your campground or nearby.

• Never leave a fire unattended or allow the smoke to become a nuisance. Never use accelerants to start a fire or burn prohibited materials like trash, metals, and plastic. Never discard ashes in areas with combustible materials.

• Ensure the fire is out. Keep at least five gallons of water and a shovel near the fire. Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the area or going to bed. And when you think the fire is out, check it again to be safe. The coals should be cool to touch.

Be good land user

Enjoy time on the water, and remember:

• Leave no trace — Carry out all that you carry in.

• Park in public or designated areas — Do not block paths or other roads. Be mindful of muddy and soft roads.

• Respect private property — Utilize public access sites or areas where you have permission to park or access.

• Be prepared — Check the weather, bring what you need for the day, and let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.

• Bring some of your catch home — In certain waters, the department encourages the harvest of fish in order to maintain healthy fish populations and improve the fishery. Bring some of your catch home for dinner or share it with a friend.

Judy Camuso, MDIFW commissioner, said Maine’s landowners are a pillar of support for our state’s natural resources; ensuring wildlife populations have diverse habitat, and Mainers have opportunities to live, work, and explore in the outdoors. With more than 20 million acres of forested land under the care of landowners, it is important to us they have the technical and financial resources available to them through MDIFW or other organizations and partners, she said.

"If you’re a Maine landowner, we want to know how we can help you manage or enhance the features of your land in a way that works best for you," said Camuso. "Staying connected will also help us to keep you updated on our efforts to communicate with and better educate Maine's land users."

Maine Fishing Guide

Prepared by Maine's fisheries biologists, the Maine Fishing Guide is a compilation of the best inland fishing spots in Maine, plus freshwater fishing tips, resources, and advice. Inside, one will find:

• Region-by-region fisheries listings.

• An illustrated fish identification chart.

• Species-specific fishing tips.

• Guidance for keeping versus releasing and bringing home a quality catch.

• Advice for fishing with children.

Prevent black bear encounters

During dry summers natural foods are often scarce. Take steps now to prevent black bears from coming to your backyard. The following are a few questions and answers from MDIFW officials:

Why do we have conflicts with bears?

When natural foods are scarce, typically in the spring and early summer, but especially during a dry summer or early spring, bears will venture into backyards in search of easily accessible food such as bird feeders, garbage, grills, bee hives, pet food, and livestock.

When do we have conflicts with bears?

Bear conflicts are most common in the spring and early summer after bears emerge from their winter dens. Conflicts tend to diminish as berries begin to ripen, providing bears with a natural source of food.

What are the most common bear attractants?

By far, the most common problems involve bears at bird feeders, getting into garbage cans and dumpsters, and destroying beehives.

What can I do to prevent conflicts?

Many and most bear conflicts can be prevented by removing or securing common bear attractants such as bird feeders, trash, grills, compost, and more. Removing these attractants will also limit conflict with other backyard visitors like raccoons, skunks, and fox.

A bear is getting into my trash or dumpster, what do I do?

Store garbage cans inside until the morning of trash pickup and always use a lid. Make sure outbuildings are secure by repairing broken windows and always keep doors closed and latched. Dumpster lids should always be closed and latched and never let them overflow. In areas experiencing bear problems consider storing dumpsters in a secure building or behind chain-link or electric fencing.

I am going camping, how do I prevent a visit from a black bear?

Store food, trash, lotion, toothpaste, and deodorant in a vehicle with windows rolled up, a bear-proof container, or suspended in a tree 100 yards from sleeping area. Cook food away from your tent and where feasible, cook 100 yards from your tent. Clean cooking area thoroughly before going to sleep or leaving for the day. Do not sleep in clothes you cooked in

What is the best way to protect my beehives and livestock?

When properly installed, electric fence is safe for people and pets and has been proven to be the most effective tool for deterring bears from getting into beehives, livestock, and dumpsters. Learn more about the recommended electric fencing.

If possible, keep all poultry and livestock in a secure building at night and in a fenced area during the day, ideally protected with electric fence. If that isn’t an option, scare devices can be effective deterrents. Learn more about bear resistant barriers at bearwise.org.

Are there really black bears near me?

Maine is home to the largest population of black bears in the eastern United States. Black bears in Maine are most active between April 1 and Nov. 1. While it is great to spot bears in the wild at a safe distance, you should never approach a bear, and should quietly back away and leave the area.

Wear life jackets

Memorial Day Weekend marked the beginning of the boating season for many, and the Maine Warden Service continues to urge boaters to wear their personal flotatation devices (PFDs), abide by the headway speed law, and to boat safely.

Annually, more than 85 percent of the country’s boating fatalities involve boaters not wearing lifejackets. Approximately half of Maine’s boating deaths involve non-motorized watercraft such as canoes and kayaks with the paddler not wearing a PFD. Even the strongest swimmers lose the ability to stay afloat when immersed in cold water for a period of time. A life jacket can keep you afloat until help arrives.

“A life jacket doesn’t help if it is stored under the seat of a boat and you are in the water,” said Colonel Dan Scott. “Tragically, each year we investigate boating fatalities where if someone was wearing their life jacket, they would still be alive.“

The Maine Warden Service enforces Maine’s boating laws and will be on patrol reminding boaters to wear their life jackets. Additionally, wardens will look for violations of Maine’s Headway Speed law, which requires all motorized watercraft to operate at the minimum speed to maintain steerage while within 200 feet of any shore (including islands). Maine’s headway speed law protects boaters, swimmers, personal property, the shoreline from erosion and nesting wildlife.

Before you head out on Maine’s waters, the Maine Warden Service reminds you to:

• Wear your life jacket.

• Do not mix alcohol and boating.

• Be conscious of your boat’s wake.

• Operate your watercraft at a reasonable speed for conditions and be considerate of other boaters on the water.

• Devise a float plan. Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.

• Be mindful of headway speed areas on Maine’s waters, and obey all boating laws.

• If your boat has an attachable engine cut-off switch, utilize it.

• Make sure your boat is equipped with all the proper safety equipment, including wearable life jackets for all on board

• Always check the weather before heading out.

For more information concerning boating safety, visit maine.gov/ifw/fishing-boating/boating/index.html for more information as well as for online boating safety courses.

Enjoy the outdoors responsibly

Summer weather has arrived. With millions of acres of land, more than 6,000 lakes and ponds, and thousands of miles of rivers, Maine is the perfect place to be. Much of the land, however, is privately-owned, and all land users need to work together to make sure these special places are open for generations to come. Treat the land with respect, and be safe and prepared:

• Always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return.

• Have a backup plan in case your first destination is busy or there is no space to park. Consider visiting earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid peak times.

• When on the water, always wear a life jacket.

• Leave no trace — pick up after yourself and others.

• When venturing on private land, always ask for permission first.

• Bring an emergency kit, complete with plenty of water, food, a fire starter, and more — learn what to bring in our You Alone in the Maine Outdoors (PDF) booklet.

• And remember to help stop ticks by wearing light-colored pants, closed-toe shoes, and applying EPA-approved bug repellent.

Keep fisheries healthy

Do your part to help keep Maine’s waters clean and fisheries healthy.

Soft plastic lures are popular fishing tackle; and just like all other equipment, it is your responsibility to properly maintain and dispose of them. Over the years, plastic lures have been improperly used and disposed of, consequently ending up on lake bottoms or in fish stomachs.

Do your part by following these steps:

1. Properly dispose of soft plastic lures: Always dispose of used lures in a trash can or recycling canister. Several Maine boat launches offer bait recycling canisters, and many local fishing clubs and retailers also offer bait recycling programs.

2. Secure your lure: Secure your hook to help your lure stay where it belongs. Not only does this help preserve the quality of the fishery and water, but also saves you money from not losing lures and reduces time spent rebaiting. There are several ways and products available to secure your lure. One popular method for soft plastic worms is using an O-ring, click here to watch a video to learn how to use an O-ring. Don't have an O-ring? No problem, you can do the same thing with a simple zip-tie. Another option is to use a hook with a twist lock or built-in bait holding device. Examples are Mustad Ultra point Impact soft plastic hooks or Owner Twistlock hooks. Bait stops, super glue, and swimbait keepers are other great options. Learn more and find out which option will work best for you!

3. Check your bait often: It is time to replace or repair your lure if — The lure keeps sliding down the hook; the lure has a minor cut; the plastic is stretched or brittle; and you have caught several fish and worked the lure over abrasive cover.

Hatcheries receive money

Gov. Janet Mills said Maine’s hatcheries will be the recipient of nearly $20 million from the American Rescue Plan. The funds will be used to modernize two hatcheries, and install upgrades at all eight of the department’s hatcheries.

During the pandemic, hunting and fishing has spiked as people flocked to the outdoors. Already in 2021, fishing license sales are up nearly 20 percent over last year. At the core of Maine’s fisheries is Maine’s State hatchery system, which stocks more than one million fish annually in Maine’s waters. Fishing in Maine has an annual economic impact of more than $320 million, supports over 3,300 jobs, and there are more than 350,000 licensed anglers in Maine.

Despite the importance of Maine’s hatcheries to the state’s outdoor recreation economy, some hatcheries are woefully outdated. These funds would improve infrastructure at all hatcheries, particularly at New Gloucester and Grand Lake Stream.

Fish are raised in earthen raceways in New Gloucester, which will be replaced by 16 circular tanks. Improvements would also include increasing bulk oxygen, deepening the water supply reservoir, and a water treatment facility for water exiting the hatchery.

At Grand Lake Stream, home to one of Maine’s last remaining distinct landlocked salmon populations, improvements would include eight 20-foot diameter circular tanks that would hold feral brood stock, and protect them from possible disease since sea run alewives have been reintroduced into the watershed. Oxygenation capabilities would be increased, and water treatment facilities would be improved at Grand Lake Stream and all eight hatcheries.

Improvements are slated to start quickly, and anglers will see the benefits for years to come.

Additionally, the bird group also handles an extensive taxon, specializing in everything from the secretive blue heron to the recovering peregrine falcon, or the popular piping plover. Maine’s bird specialists fly into some incredible projects focused on species recovery, protection, and preservation.

Share space with animals

As a Maine resident or visitor, we are lucky to share this beautiful state with thousands of wildlife species

Some wildlife species are drawn to residential areas because they offer food, shelter, and safety from natural predators. This can be an exciting time to see wildlife.

Seeing wildlife during daylight is typically not a cause for concern. In the spring and summer, mothers are busy raising their young and may need to look for food during the day.

To prevent wildlife from coming to your yard, you just need to understand why animals might be attracted to your property, and then take some preventative steps.

How to avoid conflicts:

Keep wildlife wild — Watch wildlife from a distance. Never approach, handle, feed, or attempt to move a wild animal.

Feed bird the natural way — Plant native plants in your yard that provide food and shelter for birds and other species, without attracting rodents and other animals.

Eliminate access to shelter — Seal potential entry points in attics or chimneys and under buildings, decks, and crawl spaces with 1/4-inch mesh hardware cloth, boards, or metal flashing. Trim tree limbs near rooftops and attach sheets of metal flashing around building corners.

Protect poultry and livestock — Secure your poultry and livestock in a predator-proof pen, protected by electric fencing or guard animals. Store food indoors or in an animal-proof container.

Be smart about garbage — Store garbage in a building. Use garbage cans with latching lids that do not open if pushed over. If you have curbside pickup, wait until that morning to take out the trash. Keep dumpster lids closed and latched.

Compost responsibly — Secure your compost to keep wildlife out. Never compost animal matter, which can become smelly and attract wildlife.

Be a responsible pet owner — Keep your pet’s vaccinations up to date. Keep your pet on a leash and under control at all times. Don’t feed pets outside unless you must; and if that’s the case, clean up after. Don’t feed feral cats. At night (dusk until dawn), brings your pets inside and lock pet doors to keep other animals out.

Leave them there

Wildlife is active during the late spring and summer, and it is common to come across baby fawns, moose calves, fox, raccoons, and other young wildlife in fields, woodland areas, and even backyards.

If you encounter wildlife anywhere in the Maine outdoors, remember this motto: If you care, leave them there.

Wild animals and birds do not make good pets, and it is against the law to possess them without the proper state and federal permits.

Picking up young wildlife might seem like the right thing to do; but in most cases, wildlife has a much better chance at survival when not disrupted by humans. Here are a few questions and answers:

Is it an orphan?

It is common to see a young animal alone in the outdoors, and when you do, you may worry that it has been abandoned by its mother. It probably has not. The mother-young bond in mammals and birds is very strong; and most likely, mom is just searching for food to sustain her young. The best thing you can do if you come across a healthy young animal or bird is leave it alone; and if you have pets, put them inside or on a leash so they don’t disturb the young wildlings.

For information on specific species or what to do if a you have observed a young wild animal alone for more than 48 hours and believe it truly may be orphaned, visit mefishwildlife.com/livingwithwildlife.

What if the animal appears injured?

If you encounter an injured deer, bear, moose, or turkey, contact a MDIFW biologist or game warden. For all other species, contact local licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

Courier Publications' sports staff can be reached by email at sports@villagesoup.com or by phone at 594-4401.

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