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Outdoor news

Potpourri: Black bears to spring fishing, life jackets to animal updates

By Staff | Apr 16, 2021

Augusta — With spring in the air as the great outdoors comes alive, there is plenty of information to share from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Black bear nuisance

Spring has sprung early  and wildlife is wasting no time shedding winter’s grip to enjoy the nice weather.

Many animals, such as black bears, have lost a significant amount of body weight and are on the move as they look for food after emerging from their winter dens.

While in their dens, black bears enter a state of torpor, slowing their metabolism and respiration, breathing only once per 15 to 45 seconds, and drop their heart rate to eight to 21 beats per minute.

Even with a lowered metabolic rate, bears still lose significant body fat. Unlike true hibernators, bears do not eat, drink, urinate, or defecate during this time.

Once spring comes and bears emerge from their den, for two to three weeks the animals work to regulate their bodily functions slowly until normal activity ensues. At this time of year, natural foods are limited, and bears may take the risk and wander into backyards in search of easily accessible food.

Take steps to prevent bears from coming to your yard:

• Rake up unused bird seed from the ground.

• Remove birdfeeders between April 1 and Nov. 1.

• Keep pet food and trash inside or in fenced areas.

• Clean grills thoroughly after use.

Best fishing days

Some of the best fishing days of the year approach — so, it is time to get rods, lures, and flies ready.

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 that the 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 just cannot wait longer, here are a few suggested places and tips to try. In some parts of the state there is still opportunity to set a tip-up and enjoy the last days on the hardwater.

Early-season fishing tips

"Choose your bait. If you are going to fish for salmon or lake trout in the earlier part of the season, I recommend passing on trolling lures and flies. Live bait, smelt or shiners, trolled slowly likely will be much more productive. Always check the laws to see if live bait is allowed." — Fisheries Resource Supervisor Jim Pellerin, Sebago Lake Region.

"Fish slowly. While the ice may be gone or in the process of leaving, remember the water is very cold. Many fish will still be lethargic so it’s critical to fish slowly. Slow down your retrieve if you want to maximize your catch in the early spring. If you’re fishing rivers or streams, let the flow do most of the work for you. Look for velocity breaks or slightly slower flow, and remember to fish close to bottom. As the water warms and we start seeing insect hatches, fish will be more likely to strike throughout the water column. For now, low and slow is the way to go."  — Fisheries Resource Supervisor Jason Seiders, Belgrade Lakes Region.

"Hug the shoreline. Ice-out fishing is some of the best fishing of the year. The big brook trout are cruising the shallows and have a voracious appetite. In the ponds, the mayfly nymphs will be active along with leeches. In bigger lakes, salmon and lake trout will be tight to shore chasing smelt that typically spawn just as the ice is clearing the lakes. So, use your streamers and smelt imitations, if not the real thing, during the first week or two of open water fishing and hug the shoreline." — Fisheries Resource Supervisor Tim Obrey, Moosehead Lake Region.

Be good land user

Enjoy time on the water, and remember:

• Leave no trace — Carry out all that you carry 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 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.

• Bring some of your catch home — In certain waters, the Department encourages the harvest of fish in order to maintain healthy fish populations and improve the fishery. Bring some of your catch home for dinner or share it with a friend.

Always wear lifejacket

If one thinks they will have time to find and put on a lifejacket after one is in the water, think again. A lifejacket can only help save a life when it is worn.

Fifty-five degree water may not sound very cold, but the sudden shock of your body plunging into cold water can cause dramatic changes in breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. If you survive the initial threats of cold shock, you may start to lose control of your muscles, making swimming and staying afloat nearly impossible without the help of a lifejacket or other personal flotation device.

Wear a lifejacket at all times and pay close attention to changing weather patterns. The weather can change in a matter of minutes and you do not want to be caught in poor conditions.

Register boat

Boat registrations are valid Jan. 1 through Dec. 31.

The easiest way to renew a boat registration is online at mefishwildlife.com, but not all towns have signed up with the state’s internet vendor, InforME, to do registrations.

First-time boat registrations cannot be completed online or at MDIFW offices, they must be done at the town office so the town can collect sales and excise tax.

Nonresidents: Boat registrations may be renewed online, but first-time registrations cannot be done online or on the phone. If the boat will be kept in Maine waters for more than 60 days the boat must be registered in Maine in the town where the boat will be kept.

Watercraft with a valid registration in another state that are in Maine waters for less than 60 days do not require a Maine registration, but do require a "Lake and River Protection Sticker."

Live presentations

Join MDIFW fisheries and wildlife biologists for live presentations. Here are are a few future presentations:

Click here to go to presentation area.

• Contributing Your Wildlife Observations, Tuesday, April 20 at 7 p.m. There are many ways you can submit your everyday observations about fish and wildlife from across the state. Through citizen science projects, MDIFW biologists rely on community participation to help collect large amounts of data about fish, birds, reptiles, and more. Join MDIFW Education and Outreach Supervisor Laura Craver-Rogers to learn how you can be part of wildlife research and conservation in Maine.

• Earth Day: Exploring Vernal Pools, Thursday, April 22 at 7 p.m. As the spring rains fall, we begin to see frogs and salamanders migrate toward ponds and pools to lay their eggs. Join MDIFW wildlife biologists, Phillip deMaynadier and Rebecca Settele, as we learn about the importance of vernal pools and the work they do to manage these unique wetlands..

• Managing Maine's Moose: Wednesday, April 28 at 7 p.m. Moose are an important animal in the state of Maine to many different people. Tourists, locals, and hunters all want to see a moose. Join MDIFW moose biologist Lee Kantar to learn about moose in Maine, and the challenges associated with managing Maine’s moose population.

• Working with Maine's Reptiles: Monday, May 10 at 1 p.m. Despite Maine having a short warm season, there are several types of reptiles that call Maine home. Some species are facing threats such as road crossings and habitat loss. Join MDIFW wildlife biologist Derek Yorks to learn about the work the department does to monitor and conserve reptiles in Maine.

• Beginning with Habitat: Wednesday, May 26 at 7 p.m. In this presentation, Wildlife Resource Supervisor and BwH Program Coordinator Amanda Cross will introduce the Beginning with Habitat program, explore how climate change and other stressors are affecting Maine's wildlife, and discuss steps we can take to support healthy fish and wildlife populations.

Sessions are recorded and available on YouTube after the presentation. Watch a previous presentation today: Moosehead Lake: Shore-Spawning Brook Trout with Fisheries Resource Supervisor Tim Obrey; Moose Myths & Facts with Moose biologist Lee Kantar; and Turkey Management in Maine with turkey and game bird biologist Kelsey Sullivan.

Tax donation

Consider donating to the “Chickadee Check-Off” and consider yourself integral to the work with non-game, endangered, and threatened species.

Donating is simple. Download your Schedule CP Form or let your tax accountant know you would like to support the fund.

Here is one update from projects that depend on funds from the "Chickadee Check-Off "and the "Loon Conservation Registration Plate":

Restoring peregrine falcon — Record numbers of peregrine falcons, 39 pairs, nested in Maine during 2019. 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 a total of 154 young falcons from captive breeding programs led by The Peregrine Fund. Acadia National Park, Baxter State Park, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, and the White Mountain National Forest were key partners in restoring the peregrine to Maine after its 24-year absence. Peregrines now nest in Maine’s urban areas as well as remote cliffs.

Tracking endangered black racer

Northern black racers were listed as endangered in Maine in 1987. These agile snakes favor open woods or shrubby areas with sandy soils. MDIFW staff have implanted radio transmitters to better improve their understanding of these snakes’ movements and overall habitat requirements. In the Kennebunk Plains Wildlife Management Area, officials have initiated habitat restoration to help improve black racer habitat conditions. This habitat management work also benefits a range of other species of greatest conservation need.

Record piping plovers

Intensive management of piping plovers over the years has yielded record numbers of piping plovers on Maine’s southern beaches: 98 nesting pairs fledged, 197 fledgling plovers in 2020. These statistics surpass the all-time records set in 2019.

Courier Publications' sports staff can be reached by email at sports@villagesoup.com or by phone at 594-4401.

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