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Free ice fishing weekend in Maine helps bring kids out on the ice

Kids are encouraged year-round to safely spend time outdoors at the Penobscot County Conservation Association's pond and trails.

BREWER, Maine — This weekend, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife held its annual free ice fishing weekend.

Everyone was encouraged to go enjoy what Maine's frozen ponds and lakes have to offer. 

At the Penobscot County Conservation Association in Brewer, for example, the weekend's focus was to encourage kids and teens to spend time outdoors and learn how to ice fish. Levasseur Pond in Brewer is open year-round for families with kids to use and enjoy.

"It's a youth pond, but the whole area is designed for the family. We have walking trails and a number of other things, so it's open to the family,"  Tony Richards, board member at the association, said. "We want people to get outdoors and enjoy Maine." 

One of the young participants explained the process. 

"They put the traps in, and then you choose a trap and you have to patiently wait for a fish. And then once you get a fish the thing goes up,"  Becket, 10, explained to NEWS CENTER Maine.

During Free Fishing Weekend, this year from Feb. 19-20, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said any person whose license has not been suspended or revoked may fish without a license.

In order to beat the slush, DIF&W offered several tips: 

  • Wear tall, waterproof insulated boots to keep your feet dry
  • Pack a pair of snowshoes to help you stay on top of the snow
  • Pack extra gloves and a hat, especially for children
  • Consider wearing rain pants over the warmer base layers to help stay dry

Here are some tips for a fun day on the ice:

  • Target warm-water species, such as perch, chain pickerel and bass, for an action-filled day to help first-timers get hooked.
  • Bring a warm drink or meal such as hot cocoa, hot dogs or chili. The experience of being on the ice is what makes ice fishing memorable for many.
  • Be sure to dress warm and pack extra mittens, hats and socks. It's better to have too many layers than not enough.
  • Cards, a football, cornhole, and ice skates make time between flags just as fun! Or, build a snowman.
  • Keep kids engaged with a task. If the child with you isn't quite ready to set a trap fully on their own, keep them engaged with their own responsibilities. It can be as simple as holding the skimmer, scooping the bait fish, or selecting where to drill the next hole.
  • Focus on the fun. For newbies, it isn't about a trophy fish. Avoid super long walks, and aim for a half-day. Anything beyond that is a bonus.

Other important reminders:

  • Leave no trace. Carry out everything that you carry in. Don't leave anything behind on the ice.
  • Park in public or designated areas. Don't block paths or other roads.
  • Respect private property. Utilize public access sites or areas where you have permission to park or access.
  • Be prepared. Check the weather, bring what you need for the day, and let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.
  • Take care of your catch. If you are practicing catch and release, do so quickly and responsibly. If you harvest your catch, please bring it home with you. 

If you missed free ice fishing this weekend, the Penobscot County Conservation Association says families with kids can come to the Levasseur Pond at its headquarters in Brewer for some ice fishing fun any of these upcoming days. All you need to do is bring your own traps and bait.

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