General Fishing Laws and Regulations
General Fishing Laws and Definitions
Advance Baiting: It is unlawful to deposit any meat, bones, dead fish, or other food material in inland waters for the purpose of luring fish. However, it is lawful to place food particles in a baitfish trap for the purpose of luring baitfish (Title 12, §12657).
Bag Limit (All Fish): Any fish, except baitfish and smelts, taken from inland waters shall be immediately released alive into the water from which it was taken, or killed at once. Any fish killed becomes part of the daily bag limit (Title 12, §12611).
Bait Containers: A person selling bait may not provide or sell the bait in containers composed in whole or in part of polystyrene foam plastic. This does not apply to baitfish (Title 12, §12553-2).
Baitfish: See laws on pages 53-55 concern-ing the use of baitfish (live or dead).
Closed Waters: All inland waters, including those in Indian Territory, are closed to ice fishing except those opened by rule (Open Water Fishing – Title 12, §12453, Ice Fishing – Title 12, §12454).
Cusk Lines: All lines set through the ice at night (sunset to sunrise) for cusk must be checked at least once every hour by the person who set them (Title 12, §12659-A-4).
Complimentary (Free) Fishing License Provisions: A free fishing license will be issued, upon application, to the following (these free licenses may be obtained at the Department Office in Augusta):
- Any Maine resident who is blind (Title 12, §10853-2);
- Any Maine Native American who is a member of the Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Maliseet, or Micmac Tribe (must obtain licenses from their respective tribal headquarters) (Title 12, §10853-8);
- A resident or non-resident, if reciprocal privileges exist in the home state of the non-resident, who is a war veteran and has a service-connected disability of 50% (Title 12, SS 10853-4);
- Any Maine resident (or nonresident, if reciprocal privileges exist in the home state of the nonresident) who is suffering from the loss, or loss of use, of both lower extremities (Title 12, §10853-3);
- Any person with a developmental disability (as defined in Title 5, §19503) (Title 12, §10853-10);
- Any person with a head injury (as defined in Title 22, §3086) (Title 12, §10853-12); and
- Any resident 16 or 17 years old in the custody of the Dept. of Health and Human Services (Title 12, §10853-16).
- Any person or entity that allows a group of persons with disabilities to fish in a location for a period of time as specified on the license (Title 12, SS10853-17).
Complimentary License Holders: Complimentary license holders eligible to fish in S-9 waters includes all of those listed under the Complimentary Fishing License Provisions above except item 2.
Failure to Label Fish: It is unlawful to keep bass, landlocked salmon, togue (lake trout) or trout at any sporting camp, hotel, public lodging place or any place other than a person's residence without attaching the name and address of the person who caught the fish (Title 12,§12608).
Fishways: The area within 150 feet of any operational fishway is closed to fishing. For purposes of this subsection "operational" means a fishway capable of fish passage whether or not it is allowing the passage of fish at any given time).
Note: These provisions do not restrict the taking of alewives and smelts in accordance with laws regulating marine resources (Title 12, §12457).
Exceptions: Any fishway exceptions are noted in the special fishing laws section.
Fly Fishing: No more than 3 unbaited artificial flies individually attached to a line may be used. (Title 12, §12654-A).
Note: Note: It is unlawful to troll a fly in waters restricted to fly fishing only (Title 12, §12658).
Free Fishing Days: Will take place on February 18-19, 2023 and June 3-4, 2023. On these days, any person (except those whose license has been suspended or revoked) may fish without a license. All other laws and regulations apply on these days (Title 12, §12503-3).
Ice Fishing Shack: A person who owns any shack or temporary structure used for ice fishing:
- Must remove the shack or structure (1) In any area of the State in which there is a closed ice fishing season, by ice out or 3 days after the close of the ice fishing season, whichever is earlier; and (2) In any area of the State in which there is no close of the ice fishing season, by ice out or March 31st, whichever is earlier. (Title 12, §12661).
- Shall identify on the outside of the shack or structure in 2-inch letters, the owner’s name and address when the shack or structure is on the ice of any inland wa-ters (Title 12, §12661).
- A person may not leave a structure on another person’s land without permission of the landowner (Title 17, §2263-A). A landowner may immediately remove or destroy a structure left on their property and may recover the costs associated with doing so (Title 12, §12661).
Illegal Fishing: Except as otherwise provided, it is unlawful to fish other than with a single baited hook and line, artificial flies or artificial lures and spinners.
Exception: This does not apply to hook and line smelt fishing (Title 12, §12654). All other rules and regulations governing the taking of smelt apply. Use of gaff is unlawful (Title 12, SS12656).
Illegal Use of Antifreeze: Adding substances containing ethylene glycol or other antifreeze agents to waters of this State is illegal (Title 38, §413).
Illegal Use of Implements:
A. Except as otherwise provided, it is unlawful to possess any grapnel, trawl, weir, seine, gill net, trap, set line or drop net on or adjacent to any of the inland waters of this State.
B. Except as otherwise provided, it is unlawful to fish with a grapnel, spear, spear gun, trawl, weir, gaff, seine, gill net, trap, or set lines (Title 12, §12656).
Importation of Fish: It is unlawful to import any live freshwater fish or eggs into this State without written permission from the Commissioner (Title 12, §12509 & Title 12, §12556).
Lead Sinkers: is unlawful to sell, offer for sale, or use a lead sinker that weighs 1 ounce or less or measures 2.5 inches or less. This does not include artificial lures, weighted line or lines, or jig heads. It is unlawful to sell, offer for sale, or use an unpainted bare lead jig that weighs one ounce or less or measures 2.5 inches or less (Title 12, §12663-B & Title 12, §12664).
Line Restrictions: Unless otherwise provided by rule, the number of lines an angler may fish at any one time is limited to two lines while open water fishing (Title 12, §12652) and five lines while ice fishing (Title 12, §12659-A). At no time may an angler fish with more than five lines.
Litter: It is unlawful to dispose of litter (including abandoned ice fishing shacks) anywhere in this State, except in areas or receptacles designed for that purpose. Convicted violators face fines up to $500 for the first offense and up to $2,000 for subsequent offenses (Title 17, §2264-A).
Marking Fish: It is unlawful to tag, fin clip, or otherwise mark any fish to be released alive into the inland waters of the State without the written consent of the Commissioner (Title 12, §12601).
Night Fishing: Except as otherwise provided by rule, all waters open to fishing are open to fishing 24 hours a day. All lines must be under the immediate supervision of the person who set them (Open Water Fishing - Title 12, §12652, Ice Fishing - Title 12, §12659-A).
Exception: All lines set through the ice at night for cusk must be checked at least once every hour by the person who set them (Title 12, §12659-A-4).
Notice of Submerged Vehicle: The owner of any motor vehicle, all-terrain vehicle or snowmobile that becomes submerged, or partially submerged, in the waters of the State shall immediately notify the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife of the event and the location of the vehicle. The owner is legally liable for removal and to pay any damages resulting from the submersion or removal. Motor vehicles shall be removed within 30 days (same day if public water supply). Snowmobiles and ATVs shall be removed within 24 hours (Title 17, §2267-A).
Possessing Gift Fish: A person who does not possess a valid fishing license issued under chapter 913 may not possess a fish or any part of a fish given to that person except a person may possess in that person's domicile a gift fish that was lawfully caught and is plainly labeled with the name of the person who gave the fish and the year, month and day the fish was caught by that person. This section does not apply to baitfish (Title 12, §12613).
Possession Limit (All Fish): A person shall not possess at any time more fish than may lawfully be taken in one day (Title 12, §12602-2).
Railroad Track Restrictions: A person may not, without right, stand or walk on a railroad track or railroad bridge or pass over a railroad bridge except by railroad conveyance. For penalties see Title 23, Chapter 611, § 7007.
Removal of Bag Limits on Bass: In waters where the bag limit on bass has been removed by special rule, the season on bass and the method of fishing for them is the same as for trout and landlocked salmon (Title 12, §12601)
Removal of Heads and Tails: It is unlawful to alter the length of landlocked salmon, trout, togue, lake whitefish, and bass unless the fish are being prepared for immediate cooking. It is unlawful to possess or transport fish dressed in such a manner that the species of fish cannot be identified; unless the fish are being prepared for immediate cooking (smoking does not constitute cooking) (Title 12, §12601).
River Herring: A licensed fisherman may harvest up to 25 river herring (for consumption by that person or members of their family) by use of hook and line or dip net (Title 12, §12506 -5-A).
Sale of Certain Fish Prohibited: It is unlawful to buy or sell, directly or indirectly, trout, togue, landlocked salmon, bass, white perch, or pickerel (except fish which have been lawfully produced by commercial producers and skins of fish which have been preserved by taxidermy) (Title 12, §12609-A).
Salmon Eggs As Bait: Commercially prepared eggs from species that do not naturally occur in this State may be used for bait (Title 12, §12553).
Season Dates: All dates are inclusive.
Smelting:Unless closed by rule as indicat-ed within the Special Regulations Section a person holding a valid Maine fishing license may take smelts for recreational purposes only from the inland waters or portions of inland waters that are naturally free of ice with a dip net in the usual and ordinary way from noon to 2:00 a.m. in accordance with bag limits established by rule. Bag limits established by rule under this paragraph are for a 24-hour period, beginning at noon on a given day and ending at 11:59 a.m. the following day. A person may not take smelts with a dip net unless it meets the requirements listed under the dip net definition (Title 12, §12456).
A dip net when used to take smelts in a tributary or within 100 feet of the mouth of a tributary must contain a rigid circular frame that is not more than 24 inches in diameter as measured at any point on the hoop and manually operated by a single person (Title 12, §10001-12-A). It unlawful to alter smelts (including removal of head, tail or innards) from their natural state until a wet measure has been conducted.
Note: An unlimited number of baited hooks may be used on your line while fishing for smelts.
Snagging: It is unlawful to fish for any fish, except suckers, by snagging (Title 12, §12651 & Title 12, §12602).
Special Bag Limit: Whenever any waters have a special bag limit, no person shall possess more than one day's bag limit taken from those waters. (Title 12, §12601)
Species Identification: It is unlawful to possess or transport fish dressed in such a manner that the species of the fish cannot be identified unless the fish are being prepared for immediate cooking. (Smoking does not constitute cooking.) (Title 12, §12601)
Suckers: Persons licensed, or otherwise entitled to fish, may take suckers for their own use between April 1st and June 30th from all rivers, streams and brooks open to fishing by use of a hand spear, bow and arrow or by snagging.
Note: If suckers are taken by bow and arrow, the arrow must have a barbed or pronged point and must be attached to the bow with a line (Title 12, §12506-7).
Supervision of Lines: All lines must be under the immediate supervision of the person who set them.
Exception: All lines set through the ice at night for cusk must be checked at least once every hour by the person who set them (Open Water Fishing - Title 12, - §12652, Ice Fishing - Title 12, §12659-A, Cusk Fishing - Title 12, §12659-A).
Ten-Acre Ponds: All ponds of 10 acres or less, whether the pond is natural or artificial, formed on rivers, streams and brooks are governed by the same fishing laws that apply to the river, stream, or brook where the pond is situated (Title 12, §12451).
Note: This does not apply to private ponds.
Exception: If a lake or pond is in the alphabetical waterbody list of the Special Fishing Laws section then lake and pond general and special laws apply.
Use of Explosive, Poisonous or Stupefying Substance: It is unlawful to take or destroy any fish by use of an explosive, poisonous or stupefying substance (Title 12, §12653).
Use of Fish (live or dead) as Bait: See Baitfish Information below.
Violation of Limits: It is unlawful to fish for or possess fish in violation of the number, amount, or size limits of any rule adopted by the Commissioner (Title 12, §12602).
Artificial Lure: Any fishing lure constructed by humans as an imitation or substitute for natural bait or fish forage and includes, but is not limited to artificial flies, spinners, spoons, poppers, plugs, jigs and plastic, rubber or other artificial imitations of natural bait (Title 12, §10001-4). An artificial lures only rule prohibits the use of any live, dead or chemically preserved natural or organic bait or food (Title 12, §12655).
Baitfish trap: The term "baitfish trap" means a device used to take baitfish fitted with rigid entrance or exit holes and having a volume no greater than 50 cubic feet. (Title 12, §10001-7).
Bass: The term "bass", when used alone, includes largemouth and smallmouth.
Brook Trout: The term "brook trout" includes brook trout, splake, and Arctic char (Sunapee trout and blueback trout).
Dip Net: A device consisting of a rigid frame filled with netting, firmly attached to a rigid handle and manually operated by a single person (Title 12, §10001-12-A).
Fly (Artificial 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 (Title 12, §10001-26).
Fly Fishing: Casting upon water and retrieving in a manner in which the weight of the fly line propels the fly (Title 12, §10001-27).
General Fishing Law: General Fishing Law is defined as laws and rules that govern fishing in all water bodies unless there are other more specific regulations listed. More specifically, general law covers any legal terminal gear, daily bag and possession limits, season dates and species.
Ice Fishing: Taking freshwater fish during the ice fishing season through man-made openings in the ice by the use of ice fishing implements. It is unlawful to open water fish in inland waters while positioned on ice (Title 12, §12601).
Ice Fishing Implement: Any lawful fishing implement used to take fish through the ice including a trap (tip-up), jig stick, rod in hand or handline, except that a person engaged in taking smelts and baitfish may do so in accordance with the laws and rules governing these activities.
Ice Fishing Trap (Tip-Up): An ice fishing implement for storing line, designed to be set through the ice and to indicate when something has disturbed the attached bait.
Inland Waters: All waters within the State above the rise and fall of the tide and wholly or partially within the territorial limits of the state (Title 12, �10001-35).
Minimum Legal Length: The total length of a fish measured from the tip of the snout to the tip of the tail, with the lobes of the tail squeezed together (Title 12, §12601).
Open Water Fishing: Taking freshwater fish during the open water fishing season by means of hook and line in hand, or attached to a rod, or by casting or trolling artificial flies, lures, or baited hooks, provided that the person angling does not take fish through a man-made hole in the ice, from the ice or from any object supported by the ice (Title 12, §12601).
Residency Definitions: Resident means a citizen of the United States who is domiciled in this State or or a person who is not a citizen of the United States, but has been so domiciled for one year. You will not be considered a resident unless:
- If registered to vote, registered in Maine;
- If licensed to drive a motor vehicle, applied for a Maine motor vehicle license;
- If owning a motor vehicle(s) located within the State, registered each vehicle in Maine;
- Complied with State income tax laws; and
- If a full-time student at a Maine college or university, resides in Maine and satisfies above requirements.
Nonresident means a person who does not fall within the definition of a resident (Title 12, §10001-53).
River Herring (migratory sea-run): "River herring" means the same as Alewife or Blueback Herring (Title 12, SS 6001- 37-B.)
Salmon: The term "Salmon", when used alone, means the same as landlocked salmon (Title 12, §10001-54).
Set Line: A line extending into the water and rigged to catch fish that has one end secured to the shore, or to a fixed or buoyant object, that is not personally attended (Title 12, §10001-56).
Single-Baited Hook: A single-baited apparatus designed to catch only one fish at a time (Title 12, §10001-57). See Hook definition.
Snagging: To fish by manipulating a hook or hooks in such a manner as to pierce or snag the fish in a part of the body other than the mouth (Title 12, §10001-58).
Terminal Gear: Tackle at the end of a line used to catch fish, including baited and unbaited hooks, artificial lures and baits, and artificial flies.
Thoroughfares: Waterways connecting lakes and/or ponds. The general fishing laws governing lakes and ponds also apply to thoroughfares (includes seasons, bag limits, length limits, etc.)
To Fish: To take, catch, kill, molest or destroy any fish or to attempt to take, catch, kill or molest or destroy any fish (Title 12, §10001-23).
Togue: The term "Togue" means the same as Lake Trout.
Tributary: A river, stream, or brook flowing directly or indirectly into a lake, pond, or another river, stream, or brook. A lake or great pond shall not be construed to mean tributary. The tributary to a great pond shall not be considered a tributary to the outlet of that great pond (Title 12, §10001-66).
Troll: To fish by trailing a line rigged to catch fish behind or in front of a watercraft being propelled by mechanical, wind or manual power (Title 12, §10001-67).
Note: Tandem flies are allowed when trolling.
Trout: The term "trout" when used alone, includes brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, Arctic charr (Sunapee trout and blueback trout), and splake.
The only fish that may be used as bait, dead or alive
The following are the only fish species that may be used as bait (dead or alive) for fishing in inland waters of Maine:
- Common Shiner
- Golden Shiner
- Blacknose Dace
- Finescale Dace
- Northern Redbelly Dace
- Pearl Dace
- Creek Chub
- Lake Chub
- Eastern Silvery Minnow
- Fathead Minnow
- Longnose Sucker
- White Sucker
- Banded Killifish
- American Eel
Tips on Identifying Common Legal Baitfish
Trouble by the Bucketful
That’s what the illegal introduction of exotic species brings to Maine’s waters.
Some thoughtless individuals are attempting to destroy the future of Maine’s native fisheries. These nonsportsmen illegally stock the type of fish they prefer to catch, without regard for the environmental havoc they inflict on the resource. Illegal stocking selfishly denies the people of Maine the right to decide what is best for our waters.
Please help fight this serious problem.
- It is illegal to transport live fish without a permit except legal baitfish or smelts.
- It is illegal to dump unused baitfish into any waterway.
- There is a $10,000 fine for a conviction of illegal stocking.
- Always keep your ears and eyes open for those who are committing these senseless acts.
- If convicted, the license revocation has increased from 1 to 5 years.
To report information about an illegal introduction please call: 1-800-ALERTUS (253-7887)
Harvesting Baitfish for Personal Use
All inland waters (including rivers, streams and brooks) are open to the taking of baitfish for personal use unless designated “closed to the taking of live baitfish” (see Special Fishing Laws on page 5), with the following conditions:
- Legal species only – See page 54 for list of fish legal to use and harvest as bait. All other fish must be immediately released alive into the water from which they were taken.
- Fishing license required – You must have a valid Maine fishing license to harvest baitfish for personal use. Baitfish may not be sold or harvested with the intent to sell without a bait dealer’s license.
- Label and tend your traps – Baitfish traps and holding cages must be labeled with the owner’s name and address, and must be tended at least once every 7 days by the person who set them.
- Trap specifications apply – Baitfish traps may not exceed 50 cubic feet in volume and must be fitted with rigid entrance or exit holes.
Baitfish Importation Prohibited
It is unlawful to import any live baitfish or smelts into the State of Maine. This law helps keep Maine’s waters healthy by limiting the introduction of foreign fish diseases and parasites, exotic fish species, invasive plants, and other undesirable aquatic life that can irreversibly damage Maine’s natural resources. Do your part by only using locally caught legal baitfish species when fishing in Maine.
Storing Live Baitfish
You may not store or hold live baitfish in waters where the use or possession of live fish as bait is prohibited during the entire fishing season. This includes waters restricted to the use of artificial lures only, waters restricted to fly fishing, and waters where there are other prohibitions on the use of live fish as bait.
Commercial Bait Dealer's License
In order to harvest live baitfish and smelts for sale, or to buy and resell them, you must possess a valid bait dealer’s license (Bait Retail License, Bait Wholesale License, or Smelt Wholesale License). For more information on license requirements or how to obtain a license, contact MDIFW at (207) 287-8000.
BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR AQUATIC INVADERS
Maine Law prohibits the transport or possession of any invasive plant or plant parts on watercraft or equipment (including baitfish traps and nets) that could cause the plant or plant parts to enter waters of the state. It’s up to you to inspect boats and equipment and ensure Maine’s waters are free from all aquatic invaders, including invasive plants. Failure to clean your equipment between waters puts you subject to financial penalties and loss of equipment.
Aquatic Invasive Species
Help us Keep it Maine: Protect our waters from aquatic invasive species
Maine has some of the country’s most pristine and healthy waters, which support high-quality habitat for fish and wildlife as well as endless opportunities for outdoor recreation. On our inland waters, anglers can fish for native brook trout, Arctic charr, landlocked salmon, and lake trout, just to name a few.
Unfortunately, Maine waters, as well as the fish, wildlife, and recreation they support, are threatened each year by introductions of fish, plants, diseases, and other aquatic hitchhikers that compete with and displace native natural communities.
What can be done?
Once an invasive aquatic species has established in a body of water, it is extremely difficult for it to be eradicated. These efforts are costly, often risky, and not always successful and introductions have the potential to change our natural places and the way we enjoy them forever.
Therefore, prevention is key. So much of the spread comes from people simply enjoying the great outdoors. It’s our duty as those who enjoy using Maine’s waters to become informed, attentive, and accountable for our potential role in the spread of invasive species and to take steps to protect Maine’s waters.
Do your part: Protect Maine Waters from Aquatic Invasive Species
- Clean off plants, animals, and mud from gear and equipment including waders, footwear, ropes, anchors, bait traps, dip nets, downrigger cables, fishing lines, and field gear before leaving water access.
- Scrub off any visible material on footwear with a stiff brush.
- Dispose of debris in a trash reciprocal or a responsible location away from the water.
- Drain water from watercraft, motor, bilge, bladder tanks, live well and portable bait containers away from the water before leaving water access.
- Dry completely before reuse.
Under Maine law, you must immediately kill any fish that you decide to keep, and never transport any live fish (other than legal baitfish).
Never introduce fish or fish eggs into any inland water, including private, small, artificially constructed ponds, without a permit. MDIFW does issue permits to allow for safe and appropriate private pond stocking. Applicants must show that the stocking will not create adverse risks to native species, and that fish will come from pre-approved and licensed private hatcheries.
Make sure you are using legal baitfish species.
Don’t dump your bait! Properly dispose of unused baitfish on land or in the trash. Never release any live baitfish into a water body.
Consider using non-felt soled boots to further reduce the risk of spreading aquatic invasive species. If you do use felt soled boots, thoroughly dry the boots and/or soak in a disinfecting solution before moving to another body of water.
If you see or suspect someone is moving live fish, contact the Maine Warden Service immediately at 1-800-ALERT-US or report the offense at MaineOGT.org.
For more information on invasive aquatic plants, please visit: maine.gov/dep/water/invasives.
Fishing with Soft Plastic Lures
O-rings and hooks with built-in retention devices such as twist locks and bait keepers help keep lures where they belong.
Soft plastic lures are popular fishing tackle; and just like all other equipment, it’s your responsibility to properly maintain and dispose of them. Over the years, plastic lures have been improperly used and disposed of, consequently ending up on lake bottoms or in fish stomachs. Fish can ingest these lures off the bottom, and that can negatively impact their health. Soft plastic lures on the land or in the water also pose environmental concerns.
Some lures end up in the water intentionally, while others fall off hooks unintentionally. Do your part to help keep Maine’s waters clean and fisheries healthy:
1. Properly dispose of soft plastic lures
There is no doubt, discarding soft plastic lures on land or in the water is littering and poses environmental concerns. Instead, dispose of used lures in a trash can or recycling canister. Several Maine boat launches offer bait recycling canisters, and many local fishing clubs and retailers also offer bait recycling programs.
2. Secure your lure
Simply putting a soft plastic lure on a standard J-hook is not enough to help ensure your lure will stay on and not end up in the water or the stomach of a fish.
Secure your hook to help your lure stay where it belongs. Not only does this help preserve the quality of the fishery and water, but also saves you money from not losing lures and reduces time spent rebaiting.
There are several ways and products available to secure your lure, here are a few:
How to utilize O-rings
O-Ring: Much like Zip Ties O-rings can also be used as a means of securing wacky rigged soft plastic worm baits. Companies such as Fattube, Lethal Weapon, O-Wacky, Yum, and Wacky Tool all create tools specifically designed to help anglers use O-rings on soft plastic worm baits.
- Step 1: Choose soft plastic worm bait of your choice.
- Step 2: Insert bait into applicator tube.
- Step 3: Firmly holding bait in the applicator tube, slide the O-Ring down the tube and onto the bait. Slide the O-Ring to the middle of the bait.
- Step 4: Slide hook under the O-ring, wedging it in-between the O-Ring and the bait. The o-ring should be tight enough on the bait as to keep it firmly in place on the hook.
- Step 5: Cast and catch!
Tips: Do not reuse the O-Rings.
Other popular options:
- Zip Ties: Zip Ties can be used in the place of a rubber O-Ring to firmly secure a wacky rigged soft plastic worm. Although the traditional wacky rig requires the hook to be pierced through the middle the bait, the use of a zip tie will extend the useable life of the bait while minimizing loss as instead of hooking through the bait, the hook will be slid underneath the zip tie, sitting between the tie and the bait. After setting the hook on a fish the bait will slide up and away from the hook but staying on the line. This allows the angler to continue using the bait even after many catches.
- Step 1: Choose soft plastic worm bait of your choice.
- Step 2: Chose zip tie in color that complements or matches color of bait.
- Step 3: Firmly fasten zip tie to the center of the bait. Once tightened, cut off the excess so it is flush with the head.
- Step 4: Slide hook under the zip tie, wedging it in-between the zip tie and the bait. The Zip tie should be tight enough on the bait as to keep it firmly in place on the hook.
- Step 5: Cast and catch!
- A hook with a twist lock or built-in bait holding device: Examples are Mustad Ultra point Impact soft plastic hooks or Owner Twistlock hooks. These are a bit more expensive than traditional hooks, but in the long run helps keep the bait on the hook and extends the life of the soft plastic.
- Step 1: Screw the head of the plastic bait onto the device.
- Step 2: Secure the opposite end of the soft plastic to the hook so the lure extends from the “screw” piece straight down to the point of the hook (sometimes referred to as a ‘Texas rig’).
- Step 3: Cast and catch!
- Bait stop: These small, durable pieces of rubber keep the soft plastic in place and prevents them from sliding down.
- Step 1: Chose your soft plastic lure of choice and slide it onto the hook.
- Step 2: Slide the bait stop onto the hook against the soft plastic.
- Step 3: Cast and catch!
- Heavy monofilament fishing line: Another method you can use to help keep the bait from not sliding down the hook shank and eventually causing the bait to easily fall off the hook is using a piece of heavy monofilament fishing line.
- Step 1: Cut a piece of heavy line (40 pound test for example) about 3” or 4” long.
- Step 2: Thread the plastic bait onto the hook.
- Step 3: Impale the heavy fishing line through the plastic bait and into the eye of the hook and out the other side of the soft plastic lure.
- Step 4: Snip the ends flush with the bait.
- Step 5: Cast and catch!
- Super Glue for Jig Trailers: Although many jigs now come with metal keepers that are designed to secure your soft plastic lure trailers, one simple extra step can increase their effectiveness.
- Step 1: Choose your soft plastic lure to attach as a trailer.
- Step 2: Slide your trailer onto the hook and secure the SPL by gluing to hook shank at points of attachment by slightly pulling the lure back and applying glue to the hook shank and then pulling the lure over the glued area of the hook shank.
- Step 3: Cast and catch!
- Step 1: Choose your soft plastic lure to attach as a trailer.
3. Check your bait often
Don’t risk it – If you think you can “get a few more casts,” just replace it!
Soft plastic lures can wear out and get brittle, stretch, or rip, increasing the likelihood that they could fall off your hook. The best thing you can do to prevent that is inspect your soft plastic lure frequently. After catching a fish, make sure your lure is still intact. If it is worn or close to falling off, either replace it with a new bait, rehook it, or repair it. Technology has come a long way since plastic lures were first introduced, and many on the market today are made with more durable materials for a longer lifespan and have built-in lure retention devices.
Remember, it is time to replace or repair your lure if:
- The lure keeps sliding down the hook
- The lure has a minor cut
- The plastic is stretched or brittle
- You have caught several fish and worked the lure over abrasive cover
Frequently asked questions
What is a soft plastic lure?
Soft plastic lures have been growing in popularity over the last 20 years as manufactures have released a greater variety and selection. Soft plastic lures come in all different colors, shapes, and sizes, ranging from soft plastic worms and grubs to baitfish and frogs. The lures may come with hooks attached, or you may need to attach the hook yourself. Many anglers prefer soft plastic lures over hard-bodied lures due to their more natural feel.
Are biodegradable lures safer to use?
Not necessarily. Although some products are marketed as biodegradable, little compelling data supports these claims and they do not comply with existing national testing standards for testing biodegradability. In addition, the lure manufacturing industry has not developed their own standards for manufacturers promoting more environmentally friendly soft plastic lures.
How do soft plastic lures impact the health of a fish?
Fish readily feed on discarded or lost soft plastic lures found on the bottom of Maine’s waters. Limited research indicates some fish like bass can regurgitate plastic lures, but other fish like brook trout may not and since soft plastic lures do not readily decompose in fish or in the water, and they also tend to swell over time, their accumulation in fish stomachs may alter feeding behaviors and adversely impact fish health.
I have never found a lure in the stomach of a fish, is this really a problem?
Anglers commonly report catching fish that contain soft plastic lures. Soft plastic lures are most often found in lakes with bass, since they are a popular lure for bass fishing. Bass are found primarily in the southern and coastal portion of the state. An examination of 18,000 stomachs from fish by MDIFW revealed on average only 2% of the fish had soft plastic lures in their stomachs. However, some waters experience elevated rates of ingestion influenced by water clarity, bottom type, type of fish, and availability of other prey. Since soft plastic lures do not tend to decompose in water, they can accumulate.
What is the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife doing to protect the state’s fisheries from soft plastic lures?
The Department is committed to educating anglers on the environmental concerns related to soft plastic lures in the water and on the land, proper disposal of soft plastic lures, and steps to take to prevent unintentional loss while fishing. MDIFW’s goal is to significantly reduce the number of soft plastic lures ending up in Maine’s waters and land while keeping this popular fishing lure available to anglers.
Why would anyone dispose of a lure in the water?
Most anglers values Maine’s prized fisheries and would never intentionally litter in the waterways. However, some lures end up in the water due to unintentional loss while fishing. That’s why securing your lure and checking your lure frequently is so important.
Where can I find devices to secure soft plastic lures?
Most fishing supply stores that sell soft plastic lures also sell retention devices.
Why am I still seeing soft plastics in fish?
Even if all anglers begin to follow best practices on maintaining and disposing of soft plastic lures it will take a while before the lures that are already in the waterways are gone.
Recreational Angling for Migratory Fish
There are several species of migratory fish (such as shad, river herring/alewives, and striped bass) that are managed by the Maine Department of Marine Resources and may be found in the inland waters of Maine. Complete information on recreational angling regulations for these species, and others, can be found by visiting www.maine.gov/dmr/fisheries/recreational or by contacting the Maine Department of Marine Resources, 32 Blossom Lane, 21 SHS, Augusta, ME 04333-0021, (207) 624-6550.
|Species||Daily Bag & Possession Limits||Length Limit|
|American Eel||25 fish||9 inches|
|River Herring||25 fish||None|
|Striped Bass||1 fish|
28 inch minimum;
|Sturgeon||No Fishing Permitted|
Know the S-33 Code
Maximum length limit on Landlocked Salmon and Brown Trout: 25 inches
Sea-run Atlantic salmon occur in many of Maine’s inland waters where landlocked Atlantic salmon and brown trout may also exist. Sea-run salmon are listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and therefore may not be fished or harvested. Sea-run salmon exhibit a variety of color phases from black to silver to brown, and can look similar to brown trout and landlocked salmon in coloration. Therefore, establishing a 25 inch maximum length limit (S-33) on waters where adult sea-run Atlantic salmon may occur ensures anglers will not inadvertently “take” a misidentified endangered fish. Any sea-run Atlantic salmon incidentally caught must be released immediately, alive and unin-jured. At no time should sea-run Atlantic salmon be removed from the water.
International Waters Between Maine and New Brunswick
Either a Maine or New Brunswick license will be honored while fishing on the main body of the waters listed to the right, or on International river waters. Fishing on these waters in any area or cove where jurisdiction can be determined by a straight line drawn between two points of land, or fishing while positioned on shore or tied up to shore requires the appropriate agency license.
- Grand Lake, East, Danforth, Forest City Twp, Orient, Weston
- Glazier Lake, T18 R10 WELS
- Grand Falls Flowage, east of a line between red markers on McAllister Point and Abbott's Point and north to Spednic Falls.
- Monument Brook, Amity, Orient
- Mud Lake, Forest City
- North Lake, Orient
- The Thoroughfare between North Lake and East Grand Lake, Orient
- Saint Croix River, in its entirety
- Saint Francis River, T18 R10 WELS, T19 R11 WELS, Big Twenty Twp.
- Saint John River, from its confluence with the St. Francis River to the easternmost border of the town of Hamlin.
- Spednic Lake, Forest City Twp, Forest Twp, T11 R3 NBPP, and Vanceboro
- Woodland Flowage (St. Croix River Flowage), Baileyville
Interstate Waters Between Maine & New Hampshire
Fishing licenses issued to any person by either this State or New Hampshire shall be recognized when used on any lake or pond which is partly in both States of Maine and New Hampshire.
- Balch and Stump Ponds, Acton, Maine and Wakefield, New Hampshire.
- Great East Lake, Acton, Maine and Wakefield, New Hampshire.
- Horn Pond, Acton, Maine and Wakefield, New Hampshire. Signs posted at the downstream extent of the Great East Dam Outlet Canal denote the boundary between Horn Pond and the Salmon Falls River.
- Kimball Pond, Lower, Fryeburg, Maine and Chatham, New Hampshire.
- Milton Pond, Lebanon, Maine and Milton, New Hampshire.
- Northeast Pond, Acton and Lebanon, Maine and Milton New Hampshire.
- Province Lake, Parsonfield, Maine and Effingham/Wakefield, New Hampshire.
- Salmon Falls River, Acton, Lebanon, Berwick, and South Berwick, Maine, and Milton, Rochester, Somersworth, and Rollinsford, New Hampshire. Included is the upper reach of the Salmon Falls River beginning at the outlet dam of Great East Lake, also known as State Line Canal, to a point downstream marked by signage indicating the northern terminus of Horn Pond.
- Spaulding Pond, Lebanon, Maine and Milton, New Hampshire.
- Townhouse Pond, Lebanon, Maine and Milton, New Hampshire.
- Umbagog Lake, Upton, Maine and Errol/ Cambridge, New Hampshire. Waters of Umbagog Lake include the waters of the Androscoggin River downstream to the Errol Dam, the waters of the Magalloway River upstream to coordinates 44.795602°-071.062732° to 44.795602°- 071.061793° using WGS84 map datum, and the waters of the Rapid River upstream to the red markers at Cedar Stump in the State of Maine.
General Fishing Laws listed below apply to New Hampshire border waters that do not have Special Fishing Laws. If a water has Special Fishing Laws that differ from the General Fishing Laws listed below, they will be listed in the Special Fishing Laws section.
- January 1 to March 31: Lakes and ponds are open for all species except landlocked salmon and cusk.
Open Water Fishing:
- April 1 to September 30: Lakes, ponds, rivers, streams and brooks are open to open water fishing for all species.
- October 1 to December 31: Lakes and ponds are open to open water fishing for all species; all trout, landlocked salmon, and togue must be released alive at once.
- October 1 to March 31: Rivers, streams and brooks are closed to all fishing (except Salmon Falls River).
- Ice Fishing: Not more than five (5) lines per person (except Great East Lake).
- Open Water Fishing: Not more than two (2) lines per person.
- From May 15 to June 30: Black bass (largemouth and smallmouth) may be taken only with artificial lures and flies.
No dead or living pickerel, goldfish, yellow perch, white perch, black bass, sunfish, crappie, horned pout (bullhead), carp, or any spiny finned fish shall be taken, sold, or possessed for use as bait for fishing in New Hampshire-Maine interstate waters.
|Species||Daily Bag & Possession Limits||Minimum Length Limit|
|Brook Trout||2 fish||6 inches|
|Rainbow Trout||2 fish||10 inches in lakes and ponds.|
6 inches in rivers, streams, and brooks.
|Brown Trout||2 fish||10 inches in lakes and ponds.|
6 inches in rivers, streams, and brooks.
|Landlocked Salmon||No Landlocked Salmon through the ice|
2 fish during open water fishing
|Togue (Lake Trout)||2 fish||18 inches|
|Large and Smallmouth Bass||May 15 to June 30:|
All Bass must be released alive at once
|No minimum length limit.|
Only 1 may exceed 14 inches.
|July 1 to May 14: 2 fish|
|Smelts||2 quarts by hook and line only||No length limit|
|Pickerel||10 fish||No length limit|
|All other species: No daily bag, possession, or length limits.|
Any pond 10 acres or less within Indian Territory is regulated by the Tribe in whose territory the pond is located. Anyone wishing to fish in one of these ponds in Indian Territory should contact one of the following:
Penobscot Nation (207) 817-7331
Department of Natural Resources
12 Wabanaki Way
Indian Island, ME 04468
Passamaquoddy Warden Service
Indian Township (207) 796-2677
PO Box 446
Princeton, ME 04668
Pleasant Point (207) 853-2551
PO Box 343
Perry, ME 04667
As a result of the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980, the Maine Tribal-State Commission has exclusive jurisdiction over fishing on any pond of greater than 10 acres with 50% or more of its shoreline within Indian (Passamaquoddy or Penobscot) territory and any section of a river, brook, or stream both sides of which are in Indian territory or one side of which is in Indian territory for a continuous length of 1/2 mile or more. M.R.S.A SS6207(3) The Maine Tribal-State Commission has adopted rules which affect any waters meeting the above criteria. Anyone wishing to fish in these waters should contact:
Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission
P.O. Box 35
Whiting, ME 04691
10 Commissary Point Road
Trescott Township, ME 04652
General Fishing Laws listed below apply to tribal waters in Passamaquoddy and Penobscot territories that do not have Special Fishing Laws. If a water has Special Fishing Laws that differ from the General Fishing Laws listed below, they will be listed in the Special Fishing Laws section.
Open Water Fishing Season
April 1 – September 30: Lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, and brooks are open to open water fishing.
Ice Fishing Season
January 1 – March 31: Lakes and ponds are open to ice fishing. Rivers, streams, and brooks are closed to ice fishing.
Use of all legal forms of bait (including live baitfish/smelts), artificial lures, and artificial flies is PERMITTED.
|Species||Daily Bag & Possession Limits||Length Limit|
|Lakes/Ponds||Rivers, Streams, Brooks||Lakes/Ponds||Rivers, Streams, Brooks|
(incudes Splake & Artic char)
|North Zone: 5 fish||5 fish||6 inches minimum||6 inches minimum|
|South Zone: 2 fish|
|BrownTrout||2 fish||2 fish||14 inches minimum||6" min & 25" max|
|Rainbow Trout||2 fish||2 fish||12 inches minimum||6 inches minimum|
|Landlocked Salmon||2 fish||2 fish||14 inches minimum||14" min & 25" max|
|Togue (Lake Trout)||2 fish||2 fish||18 inches minimum||18 inches minimum|
|Species||Daily Bag & Possession Limits||Length Limit|
(Largemouth & Smallmouth)
|North Zone: Unlimited||None|
|South Zone: 2 fish||No minimum length. Only 1 may exceed 14 inches.|
|Sea-run Atlantic Salmon||Federally Endangered Species - No Fishing Permitted for this Species|
|Inland species not listed above||Unlimited||None|
|Striped Bass, Shad, River Herring, American Eel, Sturgeon||See Recreational Angling for Migratory Fish|
|Inland species not listed above||Unlimited||None|
Freshwater Fish Safe Eating Guidelines
For more information visit the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention website: maine.gov/dhhs/fishandgamesafety.
Mercury in Fish Guidelines
Mercury in Maine freshwater fish may harm the babies of pregnant and nursing mothers, and young children.
- Pregnant and nursing women, women who may get pregnant, and children under age 8 SHOULD NOT EAT ANY freshwater fish from Maine’s inland waters, except, for brook trout and landlocked salmon, one meal per month is safe.
- All other adults and children older than 8 CAN EAT two freshwater fish meals per month. For brook trout and landlocked salmon, the limit is one meal per week.
PFAS in Fish Guidelines
Fish tested in several locations found levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) above Maine CDC's recommended levels for regular consumption. Exposure to certain PFAS chemicals has been associated with:
- changes in liver and kidney function,
- changes in cholesterol levels,
- decreased immune response to vaccines in children,
- complications during pregnancy, and
- increased risk of kidney cancer and possibly testicular cancer.
Limit or eliminate consumption of all fish or certain fish species from the waterbodies listed in the table below.
Safe Eating Guidelines: PFAS
|Police Athletic League (PAL) Ponds in Fairfield||Do not eat any fish from these waters.|
|Fish Brook in Fairfield, including any tributaries, from the headwaters to the confluence with Messalonskee Stream||Do not eat any fish from these waters.|
|Messalonskee Stream from the Rice Rips Dam in Oakland to the Automatic Dam in Waterville||No more than 3 fish meals per year of any fish species.|
|All of Durepo Pond and Limestone Stream from Durepo to the dam near Route 229 in Limestone||No more than 3 fish meals per year of brook trout and do not eat smallmouth bass from these waters.|
|The Mousam River from below the Number One Pond Dam to Outlet Dam on Estes Lake, including all of Estes Lake in Sanford||No more than 3 fish meals per year of any fish species.|
|The Presumpscot River from Saccarappa Falls in Westbrook to Presumpscot Falls in Falmouth||No more than 4 fish meals per year of any fish species.|
|Unity Pond in Unity||No more than 6 fish meals per year of black crappie and no more than 12 fish meals per year for all other fish species.|
Additional Fish Guidelines: PCBS, DIOXINS, AND DDT
- Fish caught in some Maine waters have high levels of PCBs, Dioxins or DDT in them.
- These chemicals can cause cancer and other health effects.
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends additional fish consumption limits on the waters listed below. Remember to check the mercury guidelines. If the water you are fishing is listed below, check the mercury guideline above and follow the most limiting guidelines.
Safe Eating Guidelines: PCBS, DIOXINS, AND DDT
|Androscoggin River Gilead to Merrymeeting Bay||6–12 fish meals a year|
|Dennys River Meddybemps Lake to Dead Stream||1–2 fish meals a month|
|Green Pond, Chapman Pit, & Greenlaw Brook (Limestone)||Do not eat any fish from these waters|
|Little Madawaska River & tributaries (Madawaska Dam to Grimes Mill Road)||Do not eat any fish from these waters|
|Kennebec River Augusta to the Chops||Do not eat any fish from these waters|
|Kennebec River from Shawmut Dam in Fairfield to Augusta||5 trout meals a year, 1–2 bass meals a month|
|Kennebec River from Madison to Fairfield||1–2 fish meals a month|
|Meduxnekeag River||2 fish meals a month|
|North Branch Presque Isle River||2 fish meals a month|
|Penobscot River below Lincoln||1–2 fish meals a month|
|Prestile Stream||1 fish meal a month|
|Red Brook in Scarborough||6 fish meals a year|
|Salmon Falls River below Berwick||6–12 fish meals a year|
|Sebasticook River (East Branch, West Branch & Main Stem) (Corinna/Hartland to Winslow)||2 fish meals a month|
The rationale behind bag limits, bait restrictions, and other fishing regulations
A brief history
In North America, fishing regulations have been implemented for centuries, with season closures for some fisheries in place as early as the 1600s, and numerous fish harvest statutes enacted during the 1700s. By 1900, season closures and creel limits were common, though often those were the only regulations in place. Since the 1960s, though, regulations have increased, with a broad trend toward restricting both the number and the length of fish that can be harvested. In the Maine, water- and species-specific regulations are common, as are slot length limits and length-based creel limits.
Why are there so many regulations?
In Maine, fishing regulations are implemented for many reasons, including:
- To protect native resources
- To enhance fishing quality
- To maintain healthy ecosystems
- To control exotic species in certain waters
- For public safety reasons (e.g. lead, mercury, PCB consumption advisories)
- For social reasons (to accommodate the desires of individual user groups)
Why do certain rules, such as catch and release, exist?
We're scientists, so we don't mind questions! Here are some of the fisheries management techniques behind the regulations:
General Law: This regulation provides a baseline level of protection to all waters. In Maine, the general law is essentially the default regulation, and from there exceptions to the general law are applied to individual waters.
Low Bag Limits: Lower bag limits are intended to distribute the catch over a longer period and among more anglers. Low bag limits usually coincide with restrictive regulations such as high minimum lengths.
Slot Limits: These regulations are bound by the upper and lower length limits, with the intent of directing harvest to specific parts of a fish population while protecting others. A slot limit may be used to "thin out" smaller fish to allow remaining fish to grow faster, and enable large fish to be caught and released or kept. The protected size slot protects fish and allows them to continue to grow and reach a larger size class. This regulation's success depends on anglers — unless they harvest fish of a given size, the regulation does little for resource management.
Catch and Release: This regulation is intended to return fish to the water alive, giving them the chance to grow larger and be caught again. This regulation can be effective on waters where natural recruitment and population size is very low and growth rates are excellent, or on waters where there is a strict need for conservation (imperiled or endangered species, for instance).
Fly Fishing or Artificial Lures Only: These "terminal tackle" regulations are applied to reduce mortalities in released fish, and are often an effective and necessary companion to restrictive bag and length limits.
No Live Fish as Bait: This regulation is typically applied to prevent establishment of unwanted bait populations in waters where they currently do not exist (often brook trout or Arctic charr waters), while still allowing the use of dead baitfish or artificial lures.
Why do regulations vary around the state?
If you've fished in different locations around Maine, then you may have noticed that the fishing regulations can vary widely. That's partially because, when implementing or altering fishing regulations and policies, our Fisheries Division uses both biological and social data.
For example, whether you are in the Northern or Southern half of the state, there are different general law season dates, brook trout bag limits, and bass bag, and length limits for fishing in lakes and ponds. These two areas of Maine vary when it comes to the fish species present, quality of habitat, and human population density; and therefore, vary in management focus.
When designing a regulation, we carefully consider the water body, location, water quality, species composition, and the desires of anglers. Then we regularly monitor for effectiveness . This ongoing process of developing, maintaining, and adjusting fishing regulations statewide is no easy task; but it's essential to the effective management of our fisheries – no two of which are exactly alike.