Frequently Asked Questions

Hunting

Are canned hunts permitted in Maine?

Maine does currently allow canned hunts. They are referred to as Commercial Large Game Shooting Areas and they are regulated by the Maine Department of Agriculture. Click Here. They are not currently issuing additional permits, but a licensed area may sell its facility to a new owner provided they do not change the location.

The Department of Agriculture currently allows the following species to be hunted in the shooting areas: Elk, Red deer, Sitka deer, Fallow deer, Bison, and Boar. However, due to an Inland Fisheries and Wildlife rule passed several years ago to help combat Chronic Wasting Disease, there is currently a prohibition on the importation of cervids. Therefore, the only deer which are currently being hunted are those which are being raised in the State of Maine.

Is it legal to hunt small game with a pellet gun or air gun in Maine?

Yes.

Can a convicted felon use a bb gun/air rifle for hunting?

No. The definition of Firearm in title 12 laws includes pellet/ air guns. Laws that pertain to the use of firearms also apply to pellet/ air guns. Convicted felons are prohibited from possessing firearms unless specifically pardoned by the Governor of Maine or granted a permit by the Maine Warden Service. Learn more (PDF)

What are the regulations surrounding the use of noise suppressors for hunting in Maine?

The law states that the MDIFW Commissioner may issue a permit at no charge for the use of noise suppression devices while hunting. Information and application may be viewed and downloaded here (PDF).

What is wanton waste?

This provision of law applies to the concept of failing to retrieve an animal that has been wounded or killed in the field only.

At this time, wanton waste does not apply to persons who bring home game and then throw it out later. Additionally, this provision does not currently apply to fish.

Can drones be used to assist a person on the ground hunt Bear, Deer, or Moose?

No. Title 12 Section 11216 prohibits the use of aircraft to assist a person on the ground in hunting Bear, Deer, or Moose, and Title 12 Section 10001(1) defines an aircraft as "a machine or device designed for flight." Radio controlled helicopters and airplanes are machines or devices that are designed for flight and, therefore, are aircraft as defined in statute.

Fishing

Is an Umbrella or Alabama Rig legal in Maine?

The Alabama rig is legal to use in Maine with the following stipulations, there can only be a single baited hook on the line, the other lines can have artificial lures but you can only have a single baited hook. If used strictly for artificial lures you can have as many lures on a line as desired.

Why can't I mark the fish that I catch and release?

There are three basic reasons why DIFW does not allow anglers to mark fish that they catch and release:

  1. If not properly performed fish marking or tagging can injure or kill the fish, which can affect population numbers and anglers' fishing success in the future.
  2. As DIFW Fisheries biologists and other fisheries researchers in Maine mark and tag fish in order to conduct studies on fish populations having anglers mark fish could negatively impact these studies. These marking projects provide important data for research, and for developing management strategies and fishing regulations.
  3. The vast majority of anglers want to catch fish in their natural condition and not with tags attached to them.

Do all stocked fish have fins clipped?

No. Fisheries biologists and culturists do not clip stocked fish unless they are planning to evaluate such factors as: fish age, fish growth, strain evaluations of a particular species, angler catch rates, or angler harvest on waters where fish are stocked.

Why do fisheries biologists take scales from fish?

Fisheries biologists take scales from fish to determine the age of an individual fish. Scales are removed from the side of the fish, generally in the area just under the dorsal fin. Back in the laboratory the scales are placed under the lens of a micro-projector to magnify the scale image. Biologists then examine the patterns of growth rings on the scale to determine the age of a fish, similar to how a forester ages a tree.

"Reading" scales provides biologists with additional information about the fish, including whether or not the fish is wild or stocked, growth rates during previous years, or for some species, whether the fish spawned and in which years.

In fish species without scales or in long lived fishes when scale aging is not an accurate method for determining age, biologists use other fish parts such as otoliths, fin spines or even bones. All these structures also possess aging rings that develop as a result of a fast summer growth and slow winter growth pattern repeatedly deposited on these structures as the fish grows annually.

What are the black spots I see on some of the fish I catch? Are they okay to eat?

The black spots that can occur on most freshwater fishes in Maine are a juvenile flatworm parasite called "Neascus". These young parasites have burrowed into the skin of a host fish and are dormant, waiting for a piscivorous (fish eating) bird to consume its host fish. Once inside the piscivorous bird, the trematode matures into an adult and begins laying eggs that are excreted in the bird's feces.

Fish with the black spot parasite are safe to cook and eat.

What are the yellow "grubs" that I see in some of the fish I catch? Are they okay to eat?

The yellow/white grubs that can occur on freshwater fishes in Maine are a juvenile flatworm parasite called "Clinostomum" . These young parasites have burrowed into the flesh of the host fish and are dormant, waiting for a piscivorous (fish eating) bird to consume its host fish. Once inside the piscivorous bird, the trematode matures into an adult and begins laying eggs that are excreted in the bird's feces. In Maine, yellow perch are the fish species most often observed with yellow grub infestations. Other fish species that you might find yellow grub in include: chain pickerel, brown bullhead (hornpout), largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, pumpkinseed sunfish, and red breast sunfish.

Fish with the yellow grub parasite are safe to cook and eat.

What are the circular wounds I see on fish?

The circular scars on fish are often the result of a parasitic sea lamprey that has attached itself to a host fish in order feed on the fish's blood. These circular scars are the result of adult lampreys using their jawless mouth and horny teeth to rasp away the fish's scales and skin creating a circular bleeding wound. Sometimes fish will perish due to blood loss or infection but more often the fish survives the lamprey attack, eventually healing its wounds which leaves a tell-tale circular scar.

Sea lamprey are an anadromous native Maine fish species that matures in the Atlantic ocean and returns to Maine's freshwater, coastal rivers and streams, to spawn in late spring. Most sea lampreys migrate to the Atlantic Ocean and feed on marine fishes. Adult lampreys that don't migrate to the ocean prey upon freshwater fish species. Mature lampreys that are returning to spawn have stopped feeding, their digestive system has shutdown, and they die after spawning. Juvenile lampreys remain in fresh water for several years before migrating to the ocean to continue their lifecycle. As juveniles, sea lampreys are not parasitic. They filter plankton from the water column and live in burrows in silty or gravelly stream beds.

Will the scars and wounds on fish heal over?

Fish suffer wounds from predator bites, bird talons, hooking injuries, boat propeller strikes, and bacterial and parasite infections. Sometimes, fish even injure each other during aggressive pre-spawning territorial battles and competition for prime feeding or refuge habitats. All these wounds must heal in order for the fish to live a healthy and successfully reproductive life. Fish have excellent regenerative abilities to repair wounds and defend against infection. Fish have a specialized scar-forming cell called a "melanocyte" that repairs a wound with a thick black scar. Melanocytes are cells capable of both fighting infection and repairing the wound simultaneously.

What is the difference between the duties of a Game Warden and the duties of a Fisheries Biologist?

Game Wardens are responsible for enforcing the state's hunting, fishing, ATV, snowmobile and boating laws, plus carrying out search & rescue efforts for people lost in the woods or waters. Fisheries Biologists are responsible for evaluating and managing the freshwater fisheries in the state's waters. Biologists collect data on fish populations (wild and stocked), assess fisheries habitat, and document angler use in order to formulate fishing regulations, develop statewide and regional fisheries management strategies, and determine waters to be stocked, including species and stocking rate.

Can stocked trout or salmon reproduce?

Yes they can. Stocked trout and salmon will search for spawning habitat during the appropriate time of year, and if there is spawning habitat present they attempt to utilize it. As most waters that DIFW stocks with trout and salmon contain little or no spawning habitat; these stocked fish do not usually successfully produce many young.

If a fish can't spawn, why would DIFW stock that species?

To provide recreational fishing opportunities that are important to Maine's recreation based economy.

Can I keep fishing after I have killed my limit?

Yes. Once you have killed your limit of a certain species you may continue to fish and practice catch and release fishing for that species for the rest of your day.

Can I use a treble hook on my baited ice fishing line?

Yes. When fishing with bait, anglers are restricted to the use of a single baited hook on a line. By definition a hook is defined as a "single fish hook constructed with 1, 2, or 3 points. [Exception – Anglers hook and line fishing for smelt may fish an unlimited number of baited hooks on their line.]

What is considered immediate supervision of lines when fishing?

Immediate supervision means that the angler must be able to see their own fishing lines/fishing poles/ice fishing traps and respond without delay to tend the line/lines/fish. This would not apply to supervision of night ice fishing requirements pertaining to cusk.

Can I open-water fish off the edge of the ice under the new regulations?

No. An angler open water fishing cannot take fish through a man-made hole in the ice, from the ice, or from any object supported by the ice.

Are artificial baits with natural scents considered artificial lures?

No. Artificial lures with natural scents are not considered artificial lures under DIFW's current fishing rules. These types of lures can be used on waters with general law terminal tackle restrictions, but not on waters that have artificial lure only (ALO) regulations.

Can I throw my bait fish into the water when I'm done fishing?

No. It is illegal to release any live baitfish into a waterbody. DIFW suggests that anglers always dispose of unwanted baitfish on land or in the trash. To learn more about the negative impacts of illegal fish introductions, please visit http://www.maine.gov/ifw/fishing-boating/fishing/laws-rules/illegal-introductions.html

It is okay to feed the eagles by leaving the fish I catch for them to eat?

No. Do not intentionally feed bald eagles. Artificially feeding bald eagles can disrupt their essential behavioral patterns and put them at increased risk from power lines, collision with windows and cars, and other mortality factors. Some eagles in Maine have died as a result of hook ingestion or have been severely injured via entanglement with monofilament fishing line. Do not assume the birds will pick around gear to avoid such harm.

Eagles are savvy scavengers. They patrol wide areas and follow the lead of crows and ravens. Many ice fishermen have unintentionally fed eagles by turning their back while their catch is lying on the ice. They are accustomed to stealing fish being transported by ospreys, and are quite willing to take yours as well! Never leave a fish on the ice with hooks, line or any gear attached to it.

What is spring and fall turnover in a lake or pond?

Spring and fall turnover refers to the exchange or complete mixing of surface and bottom water in a lake or pond. Although we use the term spring and fall turnover, they only describe a portion of an entire annual cycle that is important for Maine anglers to understand if they want to improve their fishing success. Following is a brief description of the entire cycle and its significance to anglers:

Spring: Immediately after ice-out the water column is cold but quickly warms to the point where temperatures are uniform from top to bottom. When this occurs, the entire water column is readily mixed by wind and wave action, hence the term spring turnover Spring turnover is a popular fishing period, as coldwater fish like salmon and trout range widely throughout the lake because temperature and oxygen levels are suitable and do not restrict their movements. At this time salmon and trout species often occur in shallow water where they can be more easily targeted by anglers.

Summer: As summer progresses, the sun continually heats the surface of the water. In deeper lakes, this leads to dramatic temperature and density differences of water at the surface and at depth (colder water is more dense and thus heavier than warmer water), so these separate "layers" are no longer mixed by surface wind and waves. This period is often referred to as summer or thermal stratification. Moderate to deep Maine lakes typically develop into three distinct layers: the upper layer of warmer, well mixed water (epilimnion); a middle layer of water where water temperatures plummet rapidly with increasing depth (metalminion or thermocline); and the coldest bottom water, which becomes isolated from the upper layers for several month (hypolimnion). This isolation of the bottom layer is important because it receives no new oxygen from the surface. In many lakes and ponds oxygen levels are gradually depleted from this bottom layer. At this time of year, warmwater fish species such as bass and perch typically dominate anglers' catches in the shallower, warmer surface waters. The upper layer becomes too warm for coldwater species like trout and salmon, and they will be located in the middle or bottom layers. However, on many lakes and ponds coldwater fish become excluded from even the bottom layer, which can lose enough oxygen to support trout and salmon. Thus, coldwater fish get sandwiched into the middle area, which is why you often hear other anglers talking about fishing the thermocline. An angler that knows how to locate and fish the thermocline effectively can become quite successful.

Fall: With the arrival of autumn comes cooler air temperatures, and eventually the surface water of the lake cools and becomes heavier. At a certain point, the thermal/density break between the layers weakens enough for the fall winds to remix the surface and bottom water completely – this is the fall turnover. The lake once again becomes uniform from top to bottom in terms of temperature and dissolved oxygen, so coldwater fish are able to range freely throughout the entire water column.

Coldwater fish again have access to the upper surface layer, warmwater species may start heading for deeper waters, but both types of fish can be a little more difficult to locate as they become less concentrated at this time of year.

Winter: Another thermal stratification occurs at this time, though far less pronounced. Water is most dense (heaviest) at 39.2oF but becomes lighter from this temperature down to the freezing point of 32 F, where water turns into ice and floats. Thus, the water is coldest just under the ice and gets progressively warmer (up to 39.2oF) towards the bottom.

This is a weak stratification, but remains all winter due to the ice cover. Warmwater fish like bass are often found near the bottom where the water is warmest.

Similar to summer, the ice cover prevents any new oxygen from entering the water and it gets depleted from the bottom water as the winter progresses. Have you ever ice fished later in the season near the bottom where you did well earlier in the season, and got no flags? Was your bait dead when you checked it? If so, the bottom had lost all its oxygen, and you'll need to move your bait higher into the water column until you find oxygen again. In shallower ponds, we sometimes get winterkill - where most of the fish die -, because oxygen has been completely depleted.

Why do I have to kill my fish and not just keep them alive in a livewell or on a stringer over the side of the boat and pick out the ones I want when I'm finished fishing?

Maine fishing regulations require that an angler who takes a fish, other than baitfish or smelt, immediately release the fish alive into the waters from which it was taken, or immediately kill the fish and count it towards the daily bag limit. This regulation is in place to prevent the illegal movement and introduction of live fish to new waters and to minimize the practice of "high-grading", whereby anglers release injured or wounded fish back to water in favor of larger, more desirable fish that are caught subsequently.

Is the sale or use of felt sole waders prohibited in Maine?

Maine does not prohibit the sale or use of felt soled waders. However, anglers should remain aware that all fishing gear in contact with water has the potential to transport material between waters, including plants and animals.

Didymo (Didymosphenia geminate) is a major threat to Maine waters. Didymo is a single celled algae which covers river and stream bottoms, displacing native flora and fauna. These infestations result in reduced productivity in these systems. There are significant relationships between Didymo introduction and colonization and fishing access sites. http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wat/wq/studies/didymo-blooms.pdf

Prior to moving to a new water body all waders should be disinfected in a diluted bleach solution or other appropriate disinfectant. Soaking felt waders in a disinfectant is far more effective than spraying.

Do I need a license to recreationally fish in saltwater?

A person is required to Register with the state of Maine annually to engage in recreational saltwater fishing unless that person meets one of the following exemptions.

Proof of being Registered or documentation of exemption from the Registry requirement must be carried at all times while recreational saltwater fishing or transporting caught fish.

You are exempt from Registering if:

  1. You are under 16 years of age.
  2. You hold a valid Maine freshwater fishing license (not a Lifetime License*) and you indicated on your license whether or not you engaged in saltwater recreational fishing during the prior year.
  3. You hold a valid ME Commercial fishing license and you have indicated on that license if you engaged in saltwater recreational fishing during the prior year.
  4. You are a Maine resident and are recreational saltwater fishing only on Memorial Day weekend, July 4th or Labor Day weekend.
  5. You are a member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, the Penobscot Nation, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians or the Aroostook Band of Micmacs.
  6. You are fishing as a passenger on a for-hire vessel (charter or head/party boat) captained by an individual who possesses a valid recreational saltwater fishing Operator's License.
  7. You are fishing from a dock, pier or wharf that is owned by someone who possesses a valid recreational saltwater fishing Operator's License.
  8. You are renting a smelt fishing camp from someone who possesses a valid recreational saltwater fishing Operator's License.
  9. You are registered/licensed to engage in saltwater recreational fishing in another state, or with the National Registry. 

*If your Maine freshwater fishing license is a Lifetime License, then you are not covered by that license for saltwater recreational fishing in Maine.  You will need to check to see if you qualify for any of the other exemptions, above, and if you do not, then you are required to annually Register for recreational saltwater fishing.

Registering can be done in one of 4 ways:

  1. Online for $1 at maine.gov/saltwater
  2. By mail: Download an application form, print it, fill it out, and mail it in with $1 payment.
  3. In-person for $1 at the ME Department of Marine Resources' (DMR) Licensing office in Augusta, at 32 Blossom Lane (in the old AMHI Complex on the east side of the Kennebec River) (directions).

In-person at any ME Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife appointed license agent for $2.  MDIFW license agents include all Town Offices, larger tackle shops, major outdoor stores, and other outlets such as country stores.  (Please clarify with the agent if it's only the saltwater fishing Registration you wish to purchase.)

Are biodegradable lures permitted to use in artificial lure only waters?

The use of live, dead, or chemically preserved natural or organic bait or food is prohibited in artificial lures only waters. This rule is deliberately restrictive and does eliminate many forms of biodegradable lures/baits. There are also many other types of artificial lures, artificial flies, poppers, spinners, spoons, etc. The use of biodegradable worms would be legal in all general regulations waters.

Can I fish interstate waters (Maine/ New Hampshire) with a New Hampshire license from a Maine shore?

Yes, you can. Please visit the Maine fishing laws to learn more about Maine's Border Water Regulations with New Hampshire.

Does a person need a fishing license if they are in a boat but they are not fishing?

No. A person does not need a fishing license in a boat that contains a fishing pole. The fishing equipment must be used for fishing for the person to be required to purchase a Maine fishing license.

Does a person need a fishing license to assist a child or handicap person with baiting hook, casting/retrieving, or releasing fish?

Game wardens will use their discretion in circumstances such as this to determine if the person casting and retrieving is either assisting the person who is not capable of doing so or fishing for themselves.

Can I add weight to my fly line?

Yes, as long as the weight of the fly line is propelling the fly and can do so on its own, then a weight may be added to allow a quicker sink of the fly. The use of spinning gear would still be prohibited in fly-fishing only waters even if the person was using a fly with a weight attached.

Definitions:

Fly. A single-pointed hook dressed with feathers, hair, thread, tinsel, or any similar material to which no additional hook, spinner, spoon, or similar device is added.

Fly Fishing. Casting upon water and retrieving in a way the weight of the fly line propels the fly. No more than three unbaited artificial flies individually attached to a line may be used. (NOTE: It is unlawful to troll a fly in waters restricted to fly fishing only).

Boating

Is it legal for passengers to be drinking alcohol while boating?

Maine law strictly prohibits those who are under the influence of alcohol and drugs from operating any watercraft including motorized and non-motorized watercraft as well as canoes and kayaks. The rivers, ponds, and lakes contained within the state are public places. A person is guilty of public drinking if the person drinks liquor in any public place within 200 feet of a notice posted conspicuously in the public place by the owner or authorized person that forbids drinking in the public place or after being forbidden to do so personally by a law enforcement officer, unless the person has been given permission to do so by the owner or authorized person.

ATV

How old do you have to be to operate an ATV?

A person under 10 years of age may not operate an ATV. A person 10 years of age or older but under 16 years of age may not operate an ATV unless that person has successfully completed a training course approved by the department and is accompanied by an adult. A person under 16 years of age may not cross a public way maintained for travel unless the crossing is in accordance with section 13157-A, subsection 6, paragraph A and the person satisfies the requirements of 13154-A.

Note: The requirements listed above do not apply to the operation of an ATV on:

  1. The land on which the operator is domiciled;
  2. Land owned or leased by the operator's parent or guardian; or
  3. A safety training site approved by the department

What are the legal requirements to operate a dual sport/on-off road dirt bike on an ATV trail?

Currently, there is no statute that would prohibit a properly registered dual sport motorcycle from operating on an ATV trail UNLESS the landowner does not want them operating on their land.  Then, after a proper warning/notice, they could be summonsed for T17-A criminal trespass or T12 civil trespass.

Example:  The operator of a dual sport motorcycle operating on an ATV trail and it is NOT registered as an ATV or a motorcycle could be summonsed for operating an unregistered ATV.  That same operator could be summonsed for operating an unregistered motor vehicle if operating on a road.  As stated above, if the dual sport motorcycle is registered as a motorcycle then they could be summonsed for trespassing.

Snowmobile

Does any snowmobile need to be licensed or registered to compete or attend an organized and valid permitted event in Maine on private land, providing the snowmobile is transported to the event and not ridden in by trail?

Pursuant to MSA 12, 13112, snowmobiles are exempt from the registration requirement when operated at a prearranged racing meet whose sponsor has obtained a permit from the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to hold such a meet. This applies to the time when the meet is in operation and at pre-race practices at the meet location.

Does any snowmobile need to be registered to compete or attend any organized event if that event does not have a permit from the State of Maine?

The only events described in law that exempt snowmobiles from the registration requirement are those events whose sponsor has obtained a permit from the State (as described above). Therefore, all snowmobiles competing in or attending an event that does not have a permit would be required to have a valid and current registration.

Does any snowmobile need to be licensed or registered to compete or attend any organized event if that event is on public land or a body of water?

The location of the event has nothing to do with the legal requirement to register a snowmobile in the context of this question. The registration requirement and exemption depend on if the race meet's sponsor has obtained a permit from the Department or not. If the race meet were permitted, then the snowmobiles operated in the meet would not need to be registered. If the event was not permitted, then the snowmobiles involved would all need to be registered.

Other

What is the white foam on the lake shores?

"Natural" foaming occurs when small aquatic organisms (such as algae and insects) die and decompose, releasing a variety of organic compounds. Organic compounds leached from soil also cause foam. The organic material weakens the water's surface tension, allowing wind or currents to inject air and create "foam". Foam is produced and may accumulate in quantities on windward shores, in coves, or in eddies. The natural foam has a somewhat earthy or fishy aroma, and it breaks down rather quickly.

Can I harvest snapping turtles and/or snapping turtle eggs?

A person may take up to two snapping turtles for personal use if they are killed immediately. A person may also take snapping turtle eggs for personal use/consumption. A person must obtain a wildlife possession permit to possess live snapping turtles. The commissioner of MDIFW may issue permits and establish seasons for the commercial harvest of snapping turtles, however, currently, no permits are being issued for commercial harvest of snapping turtles.

Whom do I contact if I want to do a ride along with a Game Warden?

We accept 'ride-alongs' or 'job shadowing' with those who are at least eighteen years of age who are actively pursuing a career in conservation law enforcement. You may contact a Game Warden at the nearest dispatch center or regional office.

To learn more about a career as a Maine Game Warden, please visit http://www.maine.gov/ifw/warden-service/career-opportunities/index.html