Maine is the northernmost state in the New England area. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the southeast. There are many lakes in Maine, making it an ideal place to go ice fishing plus they have long, cold, snowy winters. In the Western and Northern parts of Maine, the winters can be severe. Up and down the state of Maine, no matter what part you are in, there are prime ice fishing spots.
What to Know Before Ice Fishing in Maine
Ice fishing is when you catch fish with fish hooks or spears and lines through an opening in the ice on a frozen body of water. When you go ice fishing, there are some things you need to make sure that you have.
When you go ice fishing, especially for more than one day, you should have a large heated structure to make it a bit more bearable. They may be called an ice shack, fish house, or ice shanty and are towed onto the ice using a truck, snowmobile, or ATV. They are made of heavy, watertight material. Some are pop up shelters with a door that is the only way out or one that flips behind you when you do not need it. Some who are avid ice fishermen will have a permanent shelter that is made of metal or wood with wheels so it can be rolled out onto the ice.
The equipment that you need for ice fishing is highly specialized. You will need something to cut a rectangular or circular hole in the ice, such as an ice auger, chisel, or ice saw. The size of the hole depends on the fish you are fishing for but on average, the hole should be about eight inches. You will also need to have a large metal spoon with holes in it called a skimmer to clear the slush from the hole after you make it and to remove any new ice as it forms. Most will carry some type of heater to keep them warm and to keep the hole from freezing back over.
Make sure that the fishing rod you are using has plenty of sensitivity. These poles are shorter than your average fishing pole and are usually three to four feet long. The reason they are shorter is that you do not need to do long casts. You should also have a spincasting or ultralight spinning reel with an eight-pound line. You can use artificial or live bait but for beginners, live bait is the best like wax worms or minnows. You can also use spoons or jigs to make ice fishing more challenging.
Ice Fishing in Maine
- Use a small fishing rod that is lightweight with small, brightly colored jigs or lures with bait like fatheads, shiner minnows, or wax worms. When fishing you sit at the hole and lift the pole now and then to cause a jig effect.
- Spear fishing is when you can use fish decoys in your fishing hole if you want. You will sit in a dark ice shanty and peer into the water while holding a big spear with four or five points. A line can also be attached to the points. When the fish appear, you plunge the spear into the water. It is a method that is often used for lake sturgeon.
Dangers of Ice Fishing in Maine
The ice is really the biggest danger of ice fishing. It needs to be the right thickness such as:
- Walking — at least four inches but some will go out when it is two and a half inches thick
- Sleds, snowmobiles — 5-6 inches
- Light cars — 7-12 inches
- Full-size trucks — 14-16 inches
You also need to watch for offshore winds as they can break off mile-wide chunks of ice and leave you stranded. Although the ice may be of the necessary thickness, if there has been a late-winter warm spell, the ice can become soft or rotten and not support the weight it should. Always make sure that your ice shanty is well ventilated to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Watch for frostbite from long term exposure to the low temperatures and wind.
Ice Fishing Regulations
The season for ice fishing in Maine begins January 1st and runs until March 31st. You will need to have a fishing license. When ice fishing, the daily catch will vary according to where you are fishing. Always check with the area where you are ice fishing to see what their rules and regulations are.
Best Places to Go Ice Fishing in Maine
This is a popular lake for ice fishing in Maine. It is in the southern part of the state. It is approximately 12 miles wide and 40 miles long with its mass branching out to many of the smaller areas also. This is a great place to come ice fishing with your family. Every year during the last week of January they have an ice fishing derby with a top prize for the one that catches the biggest fish. You can fish for brook trout, smallmouth bass, lake trout, and landlocked salmon.
This lake is located in Sinclair, Maine and here there are also many different types of fish to be caught.
This is the lake you want to visit if you want to catch trout that can be as big as 10 pounds. It is such a big lake that sometimes the middle will not freeze at all. February is the best time to go ice fishing on this lake. In addition to trout, you can also catch Atlantic salmon, smallmouth and largemouth bass, black crappie, and yellow or white perch. It is located in the southern part of Maine and is the second largest lake in the state. The maximum depth is 316 feet. There are many inlets, coves, and other parts of the lake in which to fish.
This lake is very popular for rainbow trout, brook trout, and landlocked salmon. The lake has some of the smaller lakes flowing into it, like Cross Lake, Square Lake, and St. Froid Lake.
East Grand Lake
This popular lake is found in mid-Maine, in Aroostook and Washington Counties. It is approximately 20 miles long and a vast variety of fish can be caught in this lake. The two most popular fish are the bass and brook trout but you can also catch American eel, landlocked salmon, and white or yellow perch.
This is a large ice fishing lake located in a small town with a small population. The ice fishing is great with trout and landlocked salmon reaching as much as 10 pounds.
This is a popular, out-of-the-way remote lake in Northern Maine. It is located on the Allagash Waterway. Here you will find trout, salmon, burbot, lake whitefish, and maybe some pike.
Although this is not a lake, it is still a popular spot in southeast Maine. The main fish to catch here is northern pike but you can also catch smallmouth and largemouth bass, chain pickerel, white or yellow perch, and black crappie. Some of the pike you can catch weigh 20 pounds or more. This lake also has an ice fishing derby but it is specifically for pike.
This lake is found in Dexter, Maine and here you can fish for brook trout, chain pickerel, American eel, brown bullhead, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and more. There are two parts to this lake, split by a dam. The bigger lake is deeper and is fished more. For each lake, there are different regulations and rules so make sure that you find out what they are before fishing there.
When you go ice fishing, most will do it around dawn and dusk but it can be done any time of the day. Every fish is active at different times of the day so you will have to figure out the best time to fish for the ones you want to catch. Ice fishing in Maine is something that you can do as a family. Make sure that you have everything you need to keep you warm before heading out along with knowing the danger signs of where it is not safe to go ice fishing. Find your favorite lake, or pond, and have a great day ice fishing in Maine alone or with the family.
If you are new to ice fishing in Maine, you can always hire a guide that will provide all of your supplies, so all you will need to do is dress warmly. Most will offer half-day or whole-day excursions. Some of the reasons you should hire a guide if you are a newbie are that they are familiar with the techniques of ice fishing, they know the right tackle to use, and they know the best spots for successful ice fishing in Maine.