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Ice Fishing Tips from Maine DIFW

From Maine DIFW

AUGUSTA – Anglers across the state are eager to hear “FLAG!” for the first time in months!

Now more than ever people are looking for more ways to spend time outside. With over 6,000 lakes and ponds in Maine there is opportunity for everyone, and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife encourages experienced anglers to bring someone ice fishing for the first time this year.

Remember to always use extreme caution when venturing onto Maine’s waterways. Accessing lakes and ponds should be avoided unless you can be certain of ice conditions by checking ice thickness.

Before stepping out, use a chisel or auger to test ice thickness in several places. Remember that ice seldom freezes uniformly. Conditions are always changing and can vary from one location to the next. Ice that forms over flowing water and currents, especially near streams, bridges and culverts, can be particularly dangerous. 

Before you head out for a day of ice fishing, ALWAYS tell someone where you are going and when you will return. 

Maine DIFW biologists put together a list of waters they recommend trying in the early season as well as tips and reminders in the online Fishing Report at The report lists several small bodies of water that typically freeze first, but it is up to the angler to test for ice safety.

Ice fishing tips from Maine’s fisheries biologists –

 If targeting salmon and brook trout, don’t miss the early season for these species as the best fishing generally occurs within the first two weeks of ice-in. Tip two is the same as last year, learn to jig! – Fisheries Resource Supervisor Jim Pellerin

The number one tip when it comes to ice fishing for brook trout is STAY SHALLOW. Your best brook trout water is going to be in less than five feet of water. Brook trout like shallow, near-shore habitat in the winter. Another tip when it comes to brook trout through the ice is keep your bait small. Small minnows or pieces of nightcrawler work just fine. You can certainly bait-up with a big shiner, but just know that many brookies will keep picking at that bait without getting hooked. A small bait works best for brook trout. – Fisheries Resource Supervisor Jason Seiders

 When targeting rainbow trout I highly recommend fishing with worms. When fishing for salmon, use live shiners or smelts and set your trap just under the ice (1-2 feet under the ice). – Fisheries Resource Supervisor Gregory Burr

Pack more than one (non-lead) depth sounder just in case you misplace one. Before you head to the ice, go over your tip-ups and respool old, weak fishing line so you don’t lose the fish of a lifetime. – From Fisheries Resource Supervisor Kevin Dunham

Before fishing a new water look online for a depth map. If you’re fishing for brook trout, target shallower water and set traps or jig near the shoreline or structure. – Acting Fisheries Resource Supervisor Liz Thorndike

You don’t have to fish deep for brook trout. Stick to the shoreline where it’s safest. Worms are low maintenance and always a good bet for bait. Hopefully, Ole Man Winter will make an appearance soon and we can look forward to some terrific salmon, trout, and togue fishing in the north country. – Fisheries Resource Supervisor Tim Obrey

Try catching your own bait. The past couple of years has seen minor shortages in the availability of live bait, particularly smelt. If you are fortunate to live near a water with smelt and it is open to ice fishing, consider spending some extra time to catch your own. – Fisheries Resource Supervisor Frank Frost

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