Massive brook trout like this one, caught by Gage Poulin (right) and his friend Austin Morency, have been caught by anglers in Moosehead Lake in recent years. New laws will help protect those fish by limiting where anglers can fish and which fish they can keep. Credit: Courtesy of Gage Poulin

Tim Obrey is the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s regional fisheries supervisor for the Moosehead Lake region.

We will be operating under new regulations when the ice fishing season opens on Jan. 1 on Moosehead Lake.

Recently, the brook trout population in Maine’s largest lake has seen significant improvement with many fish in the three- to six-pound range caught both summer and winter. It has truly been an incredible few years. I don’t think anyone can remember a time when we have seen this many quality/trophy wild brook trout come from one lake in Maine.

Most of these monster trout are spawning late in the fall into early winter in concentrated areas of the lake and are extremely vulnerable to fishing. It’s worthy of special attention, and the new regulations are designed to protect and prolong this outstanding fishery.

Effective as of Jan. 1, 2021:

— All brook trout between 18 and 22 inches must be released alive at once (this applies to ice fishing and open water fishing) .

— No minimum length limit on togue (this applies to ice fishing and open water fishing).

— Additional area closed to ice fishing: That portion of Lily Bay Narrows with a west border running in a straight line between two red posts, one located on the Lily Bay State Park boundary and the other on Sugar Island to the west of Dollar Island. The east boundary is a straight line between two red posts, one located just south of Porcupine Point on Sugar Island and the other on Laker Point near the mouth of Mathews Cove on a line running south of Two-Mile Island.

The rest of the Moosehead Lake fishing regulations remain the same as in 2020 and can be viewed in the 2021 fishing law book.

Fisheries and warden service personnel installed the red posts this fall to delineate the closed area. The red posts are red 2×8 boards attached to trees at the following coordinates:

— Porcupine Point (just a little south): 45.591333° -69.570114°

— Laker Point: 45.588012° -69.541015°

The regulations proposals were passed this fall after considerable data analysis, internal review and public input. It’s a long process that began last winter, but it ensures regulations are appropriate and supported. We worked with our local stakeholders group, the Moosehead Lake Focus Group, early in the process to get its input.

The proposed regulations passed through several internal reviews, including a detailed justification and review of all the available alternatives. We made a number of press releases to let the public know about the possible changes and the rationale behind them.

Finally, the proposals went out to the public for comment. It was very encouraging to see the comments. It was clear the public understood exactly what was at stake, and they shared the same concerns and desires to protect the fishery as the staff. The response from the public was overwhelmingly supportive. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is grateful to all who participated.

Anglers catch these big trout all over the lake, and we anticipate another good year in 2021. We had a terrific fall and documented that there are still good numbers of these shore spawning brook trout cruising the lake. I’ll write more about that in future fishing reports and include excellent underwater drone footage.

Please handle and release those slot fish (18-22 inches) carefully. Success of the new regulations is literally in your hands. The future for wild brook trout is very promising for Moosehead Lake.

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