A man and his dog spend a quiet morning fishing together on Bryant Pond, Thursday, April 29, 2021, in the town of Woodstock in Oxford County, Maine. Credit: Andree Kehn / Sun Journal via AP

While the final numbers have yet to be calculated, it appears the COVID-19 pandemic continues spurring people to pursue outdoor activities in Maine.

Preliminary data show that more people fished, hunted and rode snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles in 2021, based on information provided by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Nonresidents have spearheaded the increase in license sales. There was a 25 percent boom in fishing licenses and a 10 percent gain in hunting licenses among that group.

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, sales of fishing and hunting licenses are each up almost 9 percent, and ATV (14 percent) and boat registrations (5 percent) also have climbed while people seek safe and fun outdoor activities that minimize the chance of being exposed to COVID-19.

“The increase in license sales and registrations reflect the passion people have for the Maine outdoors, and is evidence of how many people have been flocking to the outdoors during the pandemic,” said DIF&W Commissioner Judy Camuso. “Time spent in the outdoors is restorative, healthy and fulfilling.”

DIF&W spokesperson Mark Latti noted that data for fishing and hunting licenses are incomplete and do not include lifetime and small-game licenses and multi-day fishing licenses. Also, information from towns that do not use online reporting may not be included in the boat and ATV registration numbers.

Here’s a look at fishing and hunting licenses, along with boating and ATV registrations:


— Fishing license sales, which went down in 2020 compared with 2019, experienced a healthy increase last year. The 281,596 purchased in 2021 total 13 percent more than the previous year (248,951).

— Nonresident licenses accounted for a good chunk of the growth, surging 25 percent from 73,817 to 92,250.

— There was a modest 3 percent rise in resident fishing licenses, from 175,134 to 189,346.

— In 2020, 4 percent fewer fishing licenses were sold compared with the previous year.


— Nonresidents provided the biggest boost in the 2021 sale of hunting licenses in the state. They bought 30,262 licenses, 10 percent more than the 2020 total of 27,523.

— Over the last two years, the bump in nonresident hunting licenses exceeded 13 percent, an increase of 12,826.

— Overall, hunting license sales crept up by only 1.4 percent, from 158,300 in 2020 to 160,549 a year ago.

— Resident hunting license sales slipped by less than 1 percent in 2021, with 500 fewer licenses. That is in contrast to 2020, when 8 percent more Mainers bought one.

— More hunters, a thriving population of deer in many areas of the state and a record number of any-deer permits led to a harvest of 38,920 animals, the most deer taken since 1968.

— Maine’s bear harvest numbers were robust (approximately 3,768) despite an abundance of natural food, while moose hunters experienced a tougher time, harvesting 2,353 animals during the traditional season, a 68 percent success rate that was the third lowest in the history of the hunt.


— Boat registrations, which dipped 4 percent in 2020 to 116,450, surged at least 8.6 percent to 126,497 in 2021. The two-year increase is nearly 5 percent.

— Boating numbers do not include non-motorized craft such as canoes and kayaks, which are popular on Maine waters but don’t need to be registered.


— Residents continued to ride all-terrain vehicles with increasing frequency. With more than 77,093 registered last year, registrations were up 6 percent over 2020 and 14 percent when compared with 2019 totals.

Camuso said DIF&W has been trying to help Mainers more easily find information about many of the state’s outdoor recreation opportunities. That includes regular fishing reports, live instructional broadcasts on YouTube and other online sessions.

“Over the past three years, we’ve been working to provide people with information, and making it easier in order to help new and experienced outdoor people to get outside,” Camuso said.

“People are responding in greater numbers and enjoying the Maine outdoors safely and responsibly,” she said.

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...