Steve Burtt of Orrington tries his luck ice fishing on Brewer Lake on Jan. 6, 2016. Burtt said he drilled a hole through three or four inches of ice, but the ice farther away from shore looked to be much thinner. Credit: John Holyoke

The recent cold snap has led to some rare early season ice conditions in the Bangor area, but a Maine game warden urges potential anglers to pay extra attention to their fishing law books for rules that apply to certain waters.

“We have liberalized our fishing opportunities. In the south region, under general law, lakes and ponds are open all year long, either to open water or ice fishing, as the case may be,” Warden Jim Fahey said. “So if there’s ice in November, they can be ice-fished, and if there’s open water in January, they can be open-water fished.”

There are a couple of rules that some anglers may not be aware of, Fahey said. Anglers should look in the state fishing rulebook, look up the name of the lake or pond they are planning to fish, and learn what is allowed.

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Lakes and ponds that are not listed are considered “general law” waters. Those that show up in the alphabetized list of waters for a given county have special rules in effect.

Consider Mud Pond, also known as Perch Pond, in Old Town. Fahey visited the pond recently to find several people fishing on 5 inches of ice. Some were not aware of the rules.

“In the case of Mud Pond, there is an opportunity to fish in the fall, but from Oct. 1 until Nov. 30, it is artificial lures only, and it is also [listed as] S-7, which means all brook trout must be released at once,” Fahey said.

On general law waters such as Hermon Pond or Etna Pond, ice fishing with bait, or keeping trout in November, would not be an issue. On Mud Pond, it is.

“I don’t think in 12 years I’ve seen ice-in on Mud Pond in November, so it’s never really come up,” Fahey said. “But it’s important that they know that just because there’s ice that is supporting them — or there was on Saturday — they’ve got to be careful to not use live bait or keep any fish.”

Fahey said he has made sure the three access points on Mud Pond have signs indicating the special regulations, and has visited two local bait dealers and asked that the owners advise customers to check their law books before using live bait.

Fahey also cautioned that assuming ice is safe in November — or at any time, for that matter — can be a risky proposition.

“The usual hazards exist in any usually hazardous areas. Anywhere there’s a current coming in or out, around shoals or large rocks that are above the ice and attract the sun’s rays, there can be thin ice.” Fahey said. “It’s very important that nothing is assumed. If you drill two holes, don’t assume that the rest of that cove, the rest of that area, is safe. They just have to take it one hole at a time.”

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John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...