Five-year-old Joseph LeClair of Milford fishes for striped bass near the Milford Dam on the Penobscot River on Monday, July 10, 2018. Credit: John Holyoke

Are you ready to escape from your quarantine lair and start having some fun outdoors? After 11 weeks of pandemic isolation, I bet you are. And this is your lucky day: This weekend, you’re invited to find a spot to go fishing. And you won’t even need a license.

Yes, it’s that time of year again, and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is staging a Free Fishing Weekend, when anglers can head afield without a license (provided they haven’t had their licenses taken away for some sort of fish and game violation). And after being cooped up for much of the last two months, there’s nothing better than spending a little time casting into a local brook, river or pond to celebrate the return of warm weather.

First things first: Some folks might be thinking that they already had the right to fish without a license, and might have a vague memory of an announcement about that several weeks ago. That’s not the case. While the state did temporarily remove the need to hold a fishing license in order to help people find a recreational outlet during the early days of the pandemic, that rule only covered the month of April. Since then, licenses have been required.

So, now you’re eager to get out there, and to take your children out for a fun day of fishing. You might need a few tips. Luckily, a few weeks back the state’s fisheries biologists sent out a report with some great advice. Some of those tips could help you enjoy your free fishing weekend even more.

Before I share that info, bear with me for one super-important message: If you go out on the water, wear your life jacket. Please. And make sure your kids are wearing theirs, too.

Moosehead Region

From region fisheries resource supervisor Tim Obrey: There are many put-and-take ponds stocked throughout the region. The best bet is to check the stocking report and try to fish these waters soon after stocking. Anglers in the Dover-Foxcroft area can find some spring trout fishing in places like: Garland Pond, Snow’s Pond, the Piscataquis River (if the flow is manageable), and Mill Brook and Bear Brook in Bowerbank. In the Sangerville/Guilford area, anglers can find stocked fish at Bennett Pond, Big Bennett Pond, Piper Pond, and Whetstone Pond. Also, last fall Center Pond received some retired brown trout brood fish. Jamie Bray, the supervisor at the Palermo Rearing Station and native of Dover-Foxcroft, gave us a hometown deal on some of these monster fish that he and his crew pampered for years.I know there are some behemoths still lurking around Center Pond. You may see me out there chasing after them.

Fishing tip: As biologists, we are frequently asked how anglers can help us with our work. We have just three full time staff to manage the vast fisheries resources across the Moosehead Lake Region and we can’t get to every lake/pond/river/stream. We have relied on anglers to keep voluntary record books for much of the information from our smaller waters. The information has proven to be very valuable in detecting changes in fisheries on waters that we might visit only a handful of times during a career. If you would like to keep a record book for us, please shoot us an email at We will send you a book with instructions, and a return envelope with postage at the end of the season.

Penobscot Region

From fisheries resource supervisor Kevin Dunham: If river fishing is more your thing, the Mattawamkeag River in the towns of Haynesville, Bancroft, and Drew Plantation has several convenient canoe and kayak access points. River flows should be favorable in May and water temperatures will continue to warm, providing great early season brook trout action. The portion of the Stillwater River in Orono from Stillwater Ave. downstream to the Penobscot River offers bank-fishing opportunities as well as canoe and kayak access. Both the Mattawamkeag River and Stillwater River have been stocked this spring with brook trout in the 10-inch range.

For the kids: Home-schooling these days? Why not schedule a “field trip” and take a youngster fishing? There are several special “youth only” fishing waters in the Penobscot Region and each one is stocked with brook trout. Milo Farm Pond in Milo, Edwards Family Kids Fishing Pond in Lincoln, Rocky Brook in Lincoln, Burlington Fire Pond in Burlington, Hannington Pond in Reed Plantation., and Jerry Pond in Millinocket, as well as portions of Mattagodus Stream in Springfield and Cold Stream in Enfield are all great places to teach a youngster about fishing and the outdoors.

Final note

From fisheries resource supervisor Jason Seiders, Belgrade Lakes Region: I have seen a lot of folks fishing brooks and streams this spring and it is great to see people utilizing these resources. Please be respectful of private landowners. So many of the fishing opportunities in central and midcoast Maine depend upon the generosity of private landowners allowing public access. It only takes one disrespectful person to ruin it for everyone. Please be courteous to others and don’t leave trash behind.

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...