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Catching and Releasing Fish

Fishing Regulations Maine Freshwater Fishing

By carefully following these simple instructions, you can release your fish unharmed. If you enjoyed catching your fish, so will the next angler!

  1. Time is of the essence. Play and release the fish as quickly and carefully as possible. An exhausted fish may be too weak to recover. Please, do not “overplay” your fish!
  2. Important: Keep the fish in the water. Minimize or eliminate the time your fish is out of the water – as little as 30 seconds of air exposure can cause delayed mortality of released trout, or the fish may be subject to a “quick freeze” during the winter months.
  3. Always wet your hands when it comes time to handle the fish. Dry hands are much more likely to remove a fish’s layer of slime that protects the fish from fungus, bacteria and parasites.
  4. Photographing your fish can be stressful. Prepare for taking photos with your fish safely under the water surface. When lifting the fish out of the water, do it for 5 second intervals or less. Try to get the shot (within reason), but return your fish to the water for a rest between attempts.
  5. Be gentle. Keep your fingers away from the gills. Don’t squeeze the fish. Please, never drag a fish onto the bank!
  6. Choose the right landing net. Rubber nets are easier on the fish than traditional twine nets.
  7. Remove the hook with small pliers or a similar type tool. If the hook is deeply embedded or in a sensitive area such as the gills or stomach, cut the leader close to the snout. Make an effort to use regular steel (bronzed) hooks to promote early disintegration. Do not use stainless or gold-plated hooks. Consider using barbless hooks, especially on “catch and release” waters.
  8. To revive a fish once it is back in the water, hold it in a swimming position in the water until it is able to swim away.
  9. Togue (lake trout) often have expanded air bladders after being pulled up rapidly from deep water. If the belly appears expanded, release the fish from the hook first, then gently press your thumb along the stomach near the paired belly fins and move it forward a few times to remove air from the bladder. Finally, proceed to revive and free the fish.

Loons & Lead Don’t Mix

Lead tackle is deadly to waterbirds!

Lead sinkers and jigs cause fatal lead poisoning in loons and other waterfowl. Lead ingestion is the #1 killer of loons in Maine, but any waterbird can die from swallowing just one lead sinker or jig!


  • Use steel, tin, bismuth or plastic instead. Ask local tackle shops to stock alternatives.
  • Properly dispose of old lead sinkers & jigs.

Tackle exchange participating districts

Maine Audubon

20 Gilsland Farm Road, Falmouth or

216 Fields Pond Road, Holden

Franklin County Soil & Water
Conservation District

107 Park Street, Farmington

Telephone: (207) 778-4279


Hancock County Soil & Water
Conservation District

185 State Street, Suite B, Ellsworth

Telephone (207) 667-8663


Kennebec County Soil & Water

Conservation District

21 Enterprise Drive, Suite #1, Augusta

Telephone: (207) 622-7847


Knox-Lincoln County Soil & Water Conservation District

893 West Street #103, Rockport

Telephone: (207) 596- 2040


Penobscot County Soil & Water

Conservation District

1423 Broadway, Suite #2, Bangor

Telephone: (207) 990-3676


Piscataquis County Soil & Water Conservation District

42 Engdahl Drive, Dover-Foxcroft

Telephone: (207) 564-2321


Somerset County Soil and Water Conservation District

12 High Street, Suite 3, Skowhegan

Telephone: (207) 474-8324 x 3


Waldo County Soil & Water

Conservation District

266 Waterville Road, Belfast

Telephone: (207) 338-1964, x 3


York County Soil & Water

Conservation District

21 Bradeen Street, Springvale

Telephone: (207) 324-0888 x 214