AUGUSTA — Spring has sprung and, for many, that means hiking season season is nearly here while fishing season continues.

The following are outdoor news items from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:

Hiking

Before lacing hiking boots, the Maine Warden Service has a few reminders:

• Always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return. Should something happen, this will be key to helping the Maine Warden Service and other search and rescue personnel help find you.

• Know conditions will significantly vary across the state and at different elevations. It might feel like spring in southern Maine, but in northern parts and at higher elevations, there is still plenty of ice and snow. Some trails are extremely muddy and closed to prevent trail damage — research a trip.

• Dress for the weather and in plenty of layers.

• Hiking boots with ankle support and tread are ideal. It is best to avoid icy conditions altogether, but just in case, pack a pair of crampons or ice creepers.

• Be prepared for no cell phone service. Know the route without the help of a cell phone.

• Remember it gets dark much earlier in the spring than the middle of summer. Plan accordingly, and always pack a flashlight.

• Pack essential items, including high-protein snacks, water, and a fire starter.

• Roads may be impassable due to mud, snow, or a combination. Have a plan B, and stick to the places you know in the spring. Save your greater adventures for later in the season.

• Respect the land by picking up and staying on the trail. Ninety-four percent of Maine’s forest land is privately owned and more than half of that area is open to the public. This access is a gift, and in order to preserve it, all need to do their part.

Whet appetite for fishing and go wet a line. Photo courtesy of Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

Boating survey

Take a few minutes to share information with MDIFW about fishing and/or boating activity on inland waters in Maine.

Maine’s open water fishing and boating season has begun and the organization asks boaters and anglers to complete a short survey to help it better understand current participation and/or use on Maine’s inland water bodies.

Fishing

Dreaming of casting a line? Many anglers are. No matter how much one loves fishing through the ice, the anticipation of a first open water cast always is enjoyable.

For many anglers, ice-out is a favorite time to fish for landlocked salmon and lake trout, while others wait for the streams and rivers to warm before casting a line. The old saying trout bite when “the leaves on the alders are as big as a mouse’s ear” is still weeks away in most parts of the state, but for those who cannot wait longer, the organization has a few suggested places and tips to try in the April Fishing Report.

In some parts of the state there is still opportunity to set a tip-up and enjoy the last days on the hardwater.

If one has not checked the map-based display of special fishing laws, one is missing out. The Fishing Laws Online Angling Tool (FLOAT) is a way to see which waters are regulated under Special Fishing Law. Just do not forget to read the general laws, too.

Remember the water is extremely cold this time of year, and water levels are often high and fast — always wear a lifejacket. If ice fishing, use extreme caution on the ice.

Kayakers on the water. Photo courtesy of Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

Early-spring fishing tips

“Fish slowly. The very cold water makes fish sluggish and trolling too fast with either live bait or lures is a sure way to miss hook-ups. Take your time and your patience may be rewarded,”  said Nick Kalejs, fisheries resource biologist.

“For anglers looking to fly fish in the month of April we suggest using a ‘dropper’ fly or a tandem streamer rig. Whether you are trolling, nymphing, swinging or casting streamers, adding a dropper fly allows you to cover multiple depths, presentations, colors, and sizes all at once. Experiment using streamers, wet flies, and nymphs until you find a tandem rig that works, just make sure the smaller of the flies is the second one tied on,” said Colin Shankland, fisheries resource biologist, and Jake Scoville, fisheries resource technician.

“If you’re fishing in a river or stream let the current do most of the work. Let your bait or lure drift a bit. Fish are still a bit lethargic due to the cold temps so a fast presentation could lead to striking out for the day,”  said Jason Seiders, fisheries resource supervisor.

Remember most of Maine’s lakes and ponds open to ice fishing remain open through April.

South Zone: Under General Law in the South Zone, lakes and ponds are open to ice fishing and open water fishing year-round (unless otherwise stated in the special fishing laws section).

North Zone: In the North Zone, lakes and ponds with special season code “A” are open to ice fishing and open water fishing year-round; lakes and ponds with season code “B” are open to ice fishing through April 30. Click here to search Maine’s special fishing laws (Search “A (Open” or “B (Open” in the regulation column to find which waters are open to ice fishing) or use the map-based Fishing Laws Online Angling Tool (FLOAT). After April 1, once the ice disappears, one can open water fish on most lakes and ponds in the North Zone.

Enjoy time on the water, and remember:

• Leave no trace — Carry out what one carries in.

• Park in public or designated areas — Do not block paths or other roads. Be mindful of muddy and soft roads.

• Respect private property — Utilize public access sites or areas where one has permission to park or access.

• Be prepared — Check the weather, bring what one needs for the day, and let someone know where one is going and when the person expects to return.

• Take care of catch — If one is practicing catch and release, do so quickly and responsibly. If one harvests the catch, bring it home.

Black-capped chickadee in flight. Photo courtesy of Joe Alvoeiro/Shutterstock

State taxes support wildlife

Filing Maine state income taxes? Check the chickadee. By donating to the Chickadee Check-Off, one helps Maine’s non-game, threatened, and endangered species.

Here are a few updates from projects that depend on funds from the Chickadee Check-off and the Loon Conservation Registration Plate:

The black tern is the rarest tern in Maine and has been continuously declining since 2007. To better understand the return rates of Maine’s black terns to their breeding wetlands, MDIFW began color banding adults this past summer. In addition, to contribute to a larger migratory connectivity project in partnership with the University of Saskatchewan, MDIFW also equipped five adults with geolocators. The geolocators have a light sensor and use changes in ambient light levels to estimate the times of sunrise and sun set, from which latitude and longitude can be calculated. The derived locations will shed light on where the birds go during migration, identify areas of mixing of different sub-populations, highlight important stopover and overwintering locations, and potentially discover priority conservation issues at these sites.

Bumble bees are one of the most valuable pollinators of flowering plants, including many of our favorite wild and cultivated flowers, as well as important Maine crops like apples and blueberries. Unfortunately, over the past 25 years, some species of bumble bees have all but disappeared and others are in significant decline. Habitat loss, pesticides, intensive agricultural practices, and diseases and parasites introduced by commercially raised bumble bees all likely play a role in bumble bee declines worldwide.

In Maine, we know much more about our native bumble bee fauna thanks to the Maine Bumble Bee Atlas (MBBA), a six-year citizen science project that documented which species live here with us, where they are found, and what their conservation status is.

One can help support projects like MBBA that provide valuable information about Maine’s nongame and endangered species by contributing to the “Chickadee Check-off.”

Record numbers of peregrine falcons, 41 pairs, were documented in Maine during 2021. Peregrines that nest further north in Canada and Greenland always pass through Maine during fall migration, but the state’s breeding population disappeared from 1962 to 1986. During the period of 1984 to 1996, MDIFW reintroduced 154 young falcons from captive breeding programs led by The Peregrine Fund.

Thanks to the MDIFW’s partners at Acadia National Park, Baxter State Park, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, and U.S. Forest Service — White Mountain National Forest, restoring peregrines to Maine after its 24-year absence has been a success.

MaineStay Media/VillageSoup sports staff can be reached by email at sports@villagesoup.com.