Are you a fishing fanatic? Do you constantly dream of catching that trophy fish, and do you spend countless hours pouring over catalogs from Cabela’s, L.L. Bean and Bass Pro Shops?

If you exhibit any of these symptoms, plus go fishing at every opportunity regardless of the weather, you might be a fishing fanatic. Up until now, you could only ice fish certain months of the year and open-water fish certain months.

Now, thanks to new fishing laws that go into effect on April 1, 2010, local anglers can – for the most part – fish lakes and ponds all year long. If you live and fish in the newly established “Southern and Eastern Zone” and there is ice on the water you can ice fish, and if there is open water you can fish with open-water tackle.

Now that should make all fishing fanatics sit up and take notice. Just don’t jump the gun as some anglers have – these new laws don’t go into effect until April 1. The cost of a Maine resident fishing license went from $21 to $25 this year. But, with all the added opportunity anglers will soon have, that’s still one of the best deals in town.

Under the new regulations the state is divided into two fishing zones – The Southern and Eastern counties (including Androscoggin, Cumberland, Hancock, Kennebec, Knox, Waldo, Lincoln, Penobscot, Sagadahoc, Washington, York and Oxford south of the Androscoggin River) and the Western and Northern counties.

The fishing rules for the Western and Northern counties are very different and you need to carefully read the new law books. There are fewer changes in this zone, with rules and regulations that are similar to current rules, with some waters closed to ice fishing and specific dates for open water fishing.

No matter which zone in which you live or fish, you need to check the law book for special rules that pertain to the body of water you are fishing.

Brooks, streams and rivers are still open from April 1 to Aug. 15 under general law; from Aug. 16 to Sept. 30 they are restricted to artificial lures or flies; and from Oct. 1 to March 31, most brooks, rivers and streams are closed to all fishing.

One of the changes in Knox County is the opening of the Megunticook River to year-round fishing. The Megunticook River joins the St. George River in this year-round fishing status, yet the specific rules are slightly different.

Even though many waters will be open year round, the general law, gear provisions and length and bag limits still apply, and many waters have special rules that differ from the general law.

The best way to use the new fishing law book is as follows:

Determine the town and county of the water body you will be fishing. The use of a Maine map or atlas will help you locate that body of water. If a body of water is not listed, then the general law (page 5) and county regulations (page 16 to 44) apply. If the body of water is listed, it will be followed by special rules that apply (see S-Codes on page 7).

Fishing conditions

There were a few die-hard anglers on the ice this past weekend, but most have removed their ice shacks and are staying away from the rapidly disappearing ice pack.

Once the ice is officially out, and April 1 arrives, there will be some tremendous early-season opportunities for Midcoast fisherman. There is still the chance of some not-so-nice weather ahead; after all it’s still March.

Jon Keller of Hope was fishing at one of his favorite local ponds last weekend and pulled in two largemouth bass that tipped the scales between 7 and 8 pounds. They also caught a number of smaller fish that day.

“It seems like the bass are biting a lot more in mid to late March,” said Keller. “The fishing is much more enjoyable when the temperatures are reaching near 50 degrees, if you are lucky enough to still have ice on the lakes and ponds. On good days three of us managed to go through over 100 pieces of bait.”

Now that’s some great fishing any time of the year.

Free Family Fishing Days

The state will again hold special free fishing days. For 2010, they are May 29 and 30, and for 2011 they are Feb. 19 and 20, and May 28 and 29. 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 those days.

The new fishing law books are hot off the press and cover both ice fishing and open water fishing, and the books are valid from April 1, 2010 through March 31, 2012. So hold on to the books and don’t throw them away at the end of the season.

The earliest official ice-out date for Megunticook Lake was March 23, 1903. Will we beat that date this year?

Happy fishing, and stay safe in your part of the great outdoors.