Comprehensive Guide to Fishing Regulations

General Fishing Laws and Definitions

Overview of Advanced Baiting Rules

Depositing materials such as meat, bones, or dead fish into inland waters with the intent to attract fish is illegal. However, using food particles within baitfish traps for the purpose of capturing baitfish is permitted under Title 12, §12657. This distinction ensures ethical fishing practices while maintaining the natural balance of aquatic ecosystems.

Bag Limit Regulations for All Fish

Fishermen are obligated to either release any caught fish, excluding baitfish and smelts, back into the water alive or to humanely euthanize them immediately. Any fish that is euthanized counts towards the angler's daily bag limit, as stated in Title 12, §12611, promoting sustainable fishing practices.

Restrictions on Bait Container Materials

Selling bait in polystyrene foam plastic containers is prohibited to mitigate environmental impact. This regulation, detailed in Title 12, §12553-2, applies universally except in cases involving baitfish, underscoring the commitment to reducing pollution.

Baitfish Usage Guidelines

Regulations concerning the use of baitfish, both live and dead, are comprehensively outlined on pages 53-55, designed to prevent the spread of invasive species and protect native fish populations.

Closed Waters and Ice Fishing Regulations

All inland and Indian Territory waters are closed to ice fishing unless explicitly opened, as per Titles 12, §§12453 and 12454. This policy is in place to protect aquatic environments during vulnerable periods.

Cusk Fishing at Night

Anglers fishing for cusk through the ice from sunset to sunrise must check their lines hourly, according to Title 12, §12659-A-4, ensuring responsible fishing practices are upheld throughout the night.

Eligibility for Complimentary Fishing Licenses

Maine provides complimentary fishing licenses to various groups, including blind residents, Native American tribe members, disabled war veterans, individuals with severe mobility impairments, people with developmental disabilities, individuals with head injuries, and youths in state custody. These provisions, found in Title 12, §§10853-2 to 10853-17, aim to make fishing accessible to a broader segment of the population.

Labeling Requirements for Kept Fish

It's illegal to store certain fish types at any place other than one's residence without proper labeling, as mandated in Title 12, §12608. This law helps in tracking and managing fish populations.

Fishing Near Fishways

Fishing is prohibited within 150 feet of operational fishways to ensure unobstructed fish passage, as per Title 12, §12457, safeguarding critical migration routes for aquatic species.

Fly Fishing Restrictions

The use of more than three unbaited artificial flies on a single line is prohibited, and trolling a fly in fly-only waters is illegal, reinforcing ethical angling practices under Title 12, §§12654-A and 12658.

Special Free Fishing Days

Designated free fishing days allow individuals to fish without a license, encouraging public participation in fishing while maintaining respect for all other fishing laws and regulations, as detailed in Title 12, §12503-3.

Ice Fishing Shack Regulations

Owners of ice fishing shacks must adhere to specific removal timelines and labeling requirements to prevent environmental and navigational hazards, as outlined in Title 12, §12661.

Prohibitions and Restrictions

  • Illegal Fishing Methods: The law restricts fishing to specific methods, primarily to protect fish populations and ensure the integrity of the sport, as specified in Title 12, §12654.
  • Antifreeze Use: Adding substances like ethylene glycol to state waters is prohibited, protecting aquatic life from harmful chemicals, as per Title 38, §413.
  • Importation of Fish: Importing live freshwater fish or eggs without permission is illegal, as stated in Title 12, §§12509 & 12556, preventing the introduction of non-native species.
  • Lead Sinker and Jig Regulations: Restrictions on the sale and use of certain lead fishing gear are in place to minimize environmental toxicity, detailed in Titles 12, §§12663-B & 12664.

Line Fishing and Litter Regulations

Line Restrictions and Ethical Fishing

Fishing regulations limit the number of lines an angler may use at one time to two lines in open water and five lines in ice fishing conditions, as per Title 12, §12652 and §12659-A. This rule ensures responsible fishing practices by preventing overfishing and reducing the risk of entangling wildlife.

Environmental Protection Through Litter Laws

Disposing of litter, including abandoned ice fishing shacks, in unauthorized locations is strictly prohibited, with fines escalating up to $500 for first offenses and $2,000 for subsequent violations, according to Title 17, §2264-A. These measures are critical for preserving the natural beauty and ecological health of fishing areas.

Fish Handling and Conservation Measures

Fish Tagging and Identification

Tagging, fin clipping, or marking fish for release without written consent from the Commissioner is illegal, safeguarding fish populations and the integrity of scientific research as outlined in Title 12, §12601.

Night Fishing Supervision

Fishing is allowed 24 hours a day in waters open to fishing, with the caveat that lines must be under the immediate supervision of the person who set them, ensuring humane treatment of caught fish and compliance with fishing regulations, especially for cusk fishing at night as specified in Title 12, §12659-A-4.

Vehicle Submersion Notification

Owners must notify the Commissioner immediately if a vehicle becomes submerged in state waters, with legal responsibilities for removal and damages, as mandated by Title 17, §2267-A. This law protects water quality and public safety.

Legal Possession and Transportation

Possessing Gift Fish

Individuals without a fishing license may possess a fish given to them if it is stored at their domicile and labeled with the donor's details, as per Title 12, §12613, ensuring traceability and legal compliance.

Possession Limits Enforcement

Fishermen are prohibited from possessing more fish than the legal daily catch limit, reinforcing sustainable fishing practices and species conservation efforts, as stated in Title 12, §12602-2.

Special Regulations and Prohibitions

Railroad Track Safety

Unauthorized presence on railroad tracks or bridges is penalized, emphasizing safety and trespassing concerns, according to Title 23, Chapter 611, § 7007.

Regulations on Fish Alteration

Modifying the length of specific fish species or possessing unidentifiable fish species is illegal, ensuring species protection and legal compliance in fish handling, as outlined in Title 12, §12601.

River Herring Conservation

Licensed fishermen may harvest up to 25 river herrings for personal consumption using specified methods, promoting sustainable practices and species conservation, detailed in Title 12, §12506 -5-A.

Prohibition on the Sale of Certain Fish

The sale of trout, togue, landlocked salmon, bass, white perch, or pickerel is banned to protect these species from commercial exploitation, as per Title 12, §12609-A.

Bait Regulations and Seasonal Restrictions

The use of commercially prepared salmon eggs from non-native species as bait is permitted, facilitating fishing while preventing ecological imbalance, according to Title 12, §12553. Additionally, season dates and smelting regulations are established to manage fish populations effectively, as indicated in Title 12, §12456.

Responsible Fishing Practices and Environmental Stewardship

Snagging and Special Bag Limit Laws

Snagging fish, except for suckers, is prohibited, and special bag limits for certain waters must be adhered to, ensuring ethical fishing practices and the conservation of fish populations, as stated in Title 12, §§12651 & 12602.

Species Identification and Sucker Harvesting

Laws require that fish be identifiable unless being prepared for immediate cooking, with specific allowances for sucker harvesting to balance recreational fishing with species protection, as outlined in Title 12, §12506-7.

Supervision and Ten-Acre Pond Regulations

Fishing lines must always be supervised, and ponds of 10 acres or less follow the same fishing laws as the river, stream, or brook they are part of, ensuring consistent regulatory enforcement and protection of aquatic habitats, as specified in Title 12, §§12451 and 12659-A.

Illegal Fishing Implement Use and Explosive Prohibitions

The possession and use of certain fishing implements are restricted to protect fish populations from harmful practices, and the use of explosives or poisonous substances for fishing is banned, reflecting a commitment to environmental stewardship and public safety, as per Title 12, §12653.

Essential Definitions for Anglers

Artificial Lure

Defined as any human-made fishing lure designed to mimic natural bait or fish forage. This includes a wide variety of items such as artificial flies, spinners, spoons, and synthetic imitations of natural bait. The rule specifying "artificial lures only" prohibits the use of live, dead, or preserved natural baits, ensuring a more skill-based fishing experience (Title 12, §12655).

Baitfish Trap

A baitfish trap is a device designed for capturing baitfish, characterized by rigid entrance or exit holes and a maximum volume of 50 cubic feet. This specification allows for the ethical capture of baitfish while minimizing environmental impact (Title 12, §10001-7).

Bass Identification

"Bass" refers collectively to largemouth and smallmouth bass species, two of the most popular and widely sought-after game fish in freshwater angling.

Brook Trout Classification

Brook trout, along with splake and Arctic charr (including Sunapee trout and blueback trout), fall under this classification, reflecting the diversity within trout species and the importance of specific conservation measures tailored to each.

Dip Net Description

A dip net consists of a rigid frame and netting attached to a handle, operated manually by a single person. This fishing gear is primarily used for the capture of certain fish species in a selective and controlled manner (Title 12, §10001-12-A).

Fly (Artificial Fly)

An artificial fly is a single-pointed hook dressed with materials such as feathers or hair, without additional hooks or devices. This definition underscores the craft and tradition of fly fishing, emphasizing skill and technique (Title 12, §10001-26).

Fly Fishing Technique

Fly fishing involves casting a fly onto the water and retrieving it in a way that the weight of the fly line propels the fly. This method distinguishes fly fishing as a distinct and refined angling technique (Title 12, §10001-27).

Hook Configuration

A hook may feature 1, 2, or 3 points, providing versatility in fishing tactics while ensuring ethical catch methods are maintained (Title 12, §10001-30).

Ice Fishing Practice

Defined as fishing through man-made ice openings using specific ice fishing gear. This method is regulated to ensure safety and sustainability during the ice fishing season (Title 12, §12601).

Inland Waters Scope

All waters within the state's territorial limits that are above tide influence are considered inland waters, encompassing a wide range of freshwater environments for fishing activities (Title 12, §10001-35).

Minimum Legal Length

This measurement standard ensures that fish are given a chance to mature and reproduce before being harvested, critical for maintaining healthy fish populations (Title 12, §12601).

Open Water Fishing Season

Describes fishing in freshwater during non-ice periods using traditional methods, highlighting the seasonal nature of fishing activities and the different techniques employed (Title 12, §12601).

Residency for Fishing Licenses

Distinguishes between residents and nonresidents for license purposes, based on domicile status and compliance with state regulations, ensuring fair access and resource management (Title 12, §10001-53).

River Herring Identification

Includes Alewife or Blueback Herring, important for their ecological role and as a valuable resource in recreational and commercial fishing (Title 12, SS 6001- 37-B).

Salmon and Trout Varieties

Salmon refers to landlocked salmon, while trout encompasses a variety of species such as brook, brown, and rainbow trout, along with Arctic charr and splake, reflecting the rich diversity of these fish families in freshwater ecosystems.

Set Line and Snagging

Set line is a method of fishing with a line fixed to a point, while snagging involves hooking fish outside the mouth, both practices regulated to ensure ethical fishing (Title 12, §§10001-56, 10001-58).

Terminal Gear and Thoroughfares

Terminal gear refers to the end tackle used for fishing, and thoroughfares are waterways connecting larger bodies of water, both critical for understanding fishing techniques and the interconnected nature of aquatic habitats.

Definitions of Fishing Actions

"To fish" encompasses a broad range of actions aimed at catching fish, underscoring the comprehensive nature of fishing activities and their regulation for conservation purposes (Title 12, §10001-23).

Guide to Baitfish and Smelt for Maine Anglers

Maine General Fishing Regulations

Legal Baitfish Species in Maine

Maine law specifies a list of fish that are legally recognized as baitfish. This list includes species such as the Lake chub, Eastern silvery minnow, Golden shiner, and several others, notably excluding rainbow smelt from the baitfish category. Baitfish, as legally defined, encompasses only those species listed in §10001-6, ensuring anglers adhere to sustainable practices by utilizing approved species for bait.

Rainbow Smelt: Distinct Regulations

Rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) hold a unique status separate from baitfish, subject to specific harvesting restrictions, bag limits, and conservation goals. Their distinct classification underscores the importance of tailored management practices to support their populations and the ecosystems they inhabit.

Baitfish Usage: Legal Considerations

For fishing in Maine's inland waters, only legally defined baitfish and rainbow smelt may be used as bait, whether live or dead. It's crucial for anglers to review both General Fishing Laws and Special Fishing Laws to understand where and how live or dead fish can be used as bait, ensuring compliance with regulations designed to protect aquatic resources.

Harvesting Baitfish and Smelt for Personal Use

Baitfish Harvesting

  • A valid Maine fishing license is required to harvest baitfish for personal use.
  • Baitfish traps must be clearly labeled with the owner's name and address and checked at least once every 7 days.
  • Specific trap size and construction standards apply to minimize unintended catch and environmental impact.
  • It is illegal to sell baitfish without a bait dealer's license.

Smelt Harvesting

  • Anglers can harvest rainbow smelt using hook and line or dip nets under specific conditions and within established bag limits.
  • Dip net usage is regulated to ensure sustainable catch methods, particularly in tributaries or near their mouths.
  • Like baitfish, smelt harvesting for sale requires a bait dealer's license, emphasizing the importance of regulated commercial activities to conservation efforts.

Importation and Transport of Fish

Introducing live fish or gametes, including baitfish and smelts, into Maine without a permit is prohibited. This regulation is vital for protecting Maine's aquatic ecosystems from invasive species, diseases, and other ecological threats, preserving the natural balance and health of these environments.

Storing Live Baitfish and Smelts

Storing or holding live baitfish or smelts in waters where their use or possession is banned throughout the fishing season is not allowed. This includes areas designated for artificial lures only, fly fishing only, or other restrictions on live bait use. Compliance with these storage regulations is essential for maintaining the integrity of Maine's fishing laws and conservation objectives.

Regulations and Conservation Efforts for Maine's Bait Dealers

Necessity of a Bait Dealer’s License

Engaging in the commercial activity of harvesting, selling, or reselling live baitfish and smelts in Maine requires a valid bait dealer’s license. This includes Bait Retail License, Bait Wholesale License, and Smelt Wholesale License. To ensure compliance with Maine's fishing regulations and to obtain the necessary licensing, individuals and businesses should contact the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife (MDIFW) directly or visit their Bait Dealer's License webpage for detailed information and application procedures.

Combatting Illegal Stocking: A Call to Action

Maine's aquatic ecosystems face significant threats from the illegal introduction of exotic species, an act carried out by individuals who prioritize personal preferences over environmental well-being and communal rights. Such actions not only jeopardize the future of Maine's native fisheries but also disrupt the ecological balance, potentially causing irreversible damage to the state’s water resources.

Legal Stipulations Against Unauthorized Fish Transport

  • Transporting live fish without a permit, excluding legal baitfish or smelts, is against the law.
  • Releasing unused baitfish into waterways is prohibited to prevent the spread of non-native species.
  • Illegal fish stocking carries severe penalties, including a $10,000 fine upon conviction, underscoring the gravity of such actions.
  • The revocation period for licenses has been extended from 1 to 5 years for those convicted of illegal stocking, reflecting the increased efforts to deter such activities.

Reporting and Prevention of Illegal Activities

The community’s vigilance plays a crucial role in protecting Maine's water bodies from ecological harm. MDIFW encourages everyone to remain alert and report any suspicious activities related to illegal fish introduction through the dedicated hotline, 1-800-ALERTUS (253-7887), facilitating swift action and conservation measures.

Preventing the Spread of Aquatic Invaders

Maine law strictly prohibits the transport or possession of invasive plant species or parts on watercraft or fishing equipment. Anglers and bait dealers are responsible for inspecting and cleaning their boats and gear to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species into Maine's waters. Non-compliance with these preventative measures could result in financial penalties and the confiscation of equipment, emphasizing the collective responsibility in safeguarding the state's aquatic environments.

Education and Awareness: A Key to Conservation

Understanding and adhering to Maine's fishing regulations, including those specific to bait dealers and the prevention of invasive species spread, are essential steps toward preserving the state's natural resources. By fostering a culture of compliance, education, and vigilance, Maine's anglers and commercial bait dealers can contribute significantly to the conservation efforts, ensuring the sustainability and enjoyment of the state’s waterways for generations to come.

Safeguarding Maine's Waters from Aquatic Invasive Species

Maine's waters are among the nation's most cherished natural resources, offering unparalleled habitat for diverse fish and wildlife species and providing countless recreational opportunities. The state's pristine inland waters are home to native brook trout, Arctic charr, landlocked salmon, lake trout, and many more, contributing to Maine's rich biodiversity and outdoor heritage.

The Threat of Aquatic Invasive Species

However, the ecological balance of these waters is under constant threat from aquatic invasive species. These unwelcome organisms—ranging from non-native fish and plant species to harmful diseases and parasites—pose significant risks to Maine's native ecosystems. Once established, invasive species can outcompete native species for resources, alter habitats, and disrupt the food chain, leading to long-term ecological and economic consequences.

The Challenge of Eradication

Eradicating established invasive species from a body of water is an enormous challenge that is often fraught with difficulties. Removal efforts can be costly, involve substantial risks to the ecosystem, and may not always lead to success. Furthermore, the irreversible changes caused by invasive species can alter natural landscapes and impact recreational activities, potentially changing how residents and visitors experience Maine's outdoors.

Emphasizing Prevention

Given the difficulties associated with controlling invasive species once they've taken hold, prevention is undoubtedly the most effective strategy. Much of the spread of these species is unintentional, often occurring through routine outdoor activities. As stewards of Maine's natural resources, it is incumbent upon all who enjoy the state's waters to be vigilant, informed, and proactive in preventing the spread of invasive species.

Actions You Can Take to Protect Maine's Waters

  • Inspect and Clean: Before and after using watercraft or equipment in Maine's waters, thoroughly inspect and clean everything to remove any visible plants, animals, or mud. This includes boats, trailers, paddles, fishing gear, and any other equipment that comes into contact with water.
  • Drain: Always drain any accumulated water from boats, motors, and other equipment away from water bodies to prevent the transfer of invasive species.
  • Dry: Allow your gear to dry completely before using it in a different water body. Drying can kill many types of invasive species that are not visible to the naked eye.
  • Educate Yourself and Others: Learn about the specific threats posed by invasive species in Maine and share this knowledge with fellow outdoor enthusiasts. Awareness is a critical component of prevention.
  • Report Sightings: If you suspect you've encountered an invasive species, report it to local authorities or through designated reporting systems. Early detection can be key to preventing the establishment and spread of these species.

Protect Maine Waters: A Guide to Preventing Aquatic Invasive Species

Maine's waters are a treasure, offering exceptional habitats for fish, wildlife, and providing numerous recreational opportunities. To preserve these precious resources, it's crucial to prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species. Here's how you can contribute:

1. CLEAN: Stop Invasive Species at the Source

  • Gear and Equipment: Before leaving any water access, thoroughly clean off plants, animals, and mud from gear, including waders, footwear, ropes, anchors, bait traps, dip nets, downrigger cables, fishing lines, and field gear.
  • Footwear: Use a stiff brush to remove any visible material from your footwear.
  • Disposal: Responsibly dispose of any debris in trash receptacles or locations away from the water to prevent re-entry into aquatic environments.

2. DRAIN: Eliminate Water that Could Harbor Invaders

  • Watercraft Draining: Before entering and upon leaving a water body, drain water from your watercraft. Maine law mandates the removal or opening of devices like hull drain plugs, bailers, live wells, and ballast tanks (excluding live bait containers) to facilitate draining without allowing water to return to any inland water.
  • Boat Launch Protocol: Avoid draining boats on the launch ramp. Instead, prevent direct draining back into the water body, especially in high traffic areas, to avoid spreading invasive species.

3. DRY: Ensure Equipment is Completely Dry

  • Drying: Before reusing any equipment, ensure it is thoroughly dry. This simple step can kill many aquatic invaders that are invisible to the naked eye.

Legal Compliance and Best Practices

  • Fish Handling: Immediately kill any fish you intend to keep, and never transport live fish (apart from legal baitfish or rainbow smelt) to prevent accidental introductions.
  • Permit for Stocking: Never introduce fish or fish eggs into any water body without a permit. MDIFW issues permits for private pond stocking under strict conditions to protect native species.
  • Baitfish Use: Only use legal baitfish species. Dispose of unused baitfish on land or in the trash, never releasing them into water bodies.
  • Boot Hygiene: Consider alternatives to felt-soled boots or ensure they are thoroughly dried or disinfected before moving to another water body to minimize the risk of spreading invasive species.

Reporting and Education

  • Reporting Violations: If you observe or suspect illegal fish transport, contact the Maine Warden Service at 1-800-ALERT-US or report at
  • Invasive Plant Awareness: For information on invasive aquatic plants, visit the Maine Department of Environmental Protection's website.

Responsible Fishing with Soft Plastic Lures

Soft plastic lures are a favorite among anglers for their versatility and effectiveness in mimicking live bait. However, their improper use and disposal pose significant environmental hazards, such as polluting water bodies and harming aquatic life. To maintain the health of Maine's waters and its fisheries, it's crucial to use and dispose of soft plastic lures responsibly.

1. Proper Disposal of Soft Plastic Lures

  • Environmental Impact: Discarding soft plastic lures in the environment is considered littering, which can harm wildlife and pollute waterways.
  • Recycling Programs: Utilize bait recycling canisters available at many Maine boat launches, or participate in recycling programs offered by local fishing clubs and retailers.

2. Secure Your Lure

  • Importance of Security: A loose soft plastic lure can easily become detached and lost in the water, posing risks to fish health and contributing to pollution.
  • Retention Devices: Employ hooks with built-in retention devices, such as twist locks and bait keepers, to ensure lures stay attached during fishing.

Techniques to Secure Soft Plastic Lures

Utilizing O-Rings

  • O-rings provide an effective method for securing wacky rigged soft plastic worm baits, reducing the risk of lure loss.
  • The process involves using an applicator tube to position the O-ring at the bait's midpoint, ensuring a secure attachment to the hook.

Zip Tie Method

  • Zip ties offer an alternative to rubber O-rings for securing soft plastic worms in a wacky rig setup, prolonging bait life and minimizing loss.

Hooks with Twist Locks

  • Specialized hooks, like Mustad Ultra point Impact soft plastic hooks or Owner Twistlock hooks, are designed to keep soft plastics securely attached, extending their usability.

Bait Stop and Heavy Monofilament Line

  • Bait stops and heavy monofilament lines can prevent soft plastics from sliding down the hook, ensuring a secure attachment.

Super Glue for Jig Trailers

  • A dab of super glue can further secure soft plastic lure trailers to jig hooks, preventing displacement during use.

3. Regularly Check Your Bait

  • Inspection: Regularly inspect your soft plastic lure for wear and tear, and replace or repair it as necessary to prevent loss.
  • Durability: Modern soft plastics are made with durable materials and often include built-in retention devices, enhancing their lifespan.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Biodegradable Lures Safer?

  • While marketed as environmentally friendly, biodegradable lures may not meet existing standards for biodegradability, and their impact on ecosystems is still under scrutiny.

Impact on Fish Health

  • Research indicates that fish ingesting soft plastic lures may face health issues, as these materials do not decompose easily and can cause internal blockages.

Addressing Soft Plastic Lure Pollution

  • The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) focuses on educating anglers about the proper use and disposal of soft plastics to mitigate environmental impacts.

Guide to Recreational Angling for Migratory Fish in Maine

Maine offers diverse opportunities for recreational fishing, including angling for migratory fish species that traverse its inland waters. Managed by the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR), these species include American eel, river herring (also known as alewives), shad, and striped bass. It's essential for anglers to be familiar with the specific regulations governing the fishing of these species to ensure sustainable practices and conservation.

Regulations Overview

Where to Find Regulations

For the most comprehensive and up-to-date information on recreational angling regulations for migratory fish and others, visit the Maine DMR's website or contact their office directly. This ensures that anglers are informed about any changes or updates to fishing rules.

Species-Specific Regulations

  • American Eel
    • Daily Bag & Possession Limit: 25 fish
    • Length Limit: 9 inches minimum
  • River Herring (Alewives)
    • Daily Bag & Possession Limit: 25 fish
    • Length Limit: None
  • Shad
    • Daily Bag & Possession Limit: 2 fish
    • Length Limit: None
  • Striped Bass
    • Daily Bag & Possession Limit: 1 fish
    • Length Limit: Minimum of 28 inches; all fish larger than 31 inches must be released alive
  • Sturgeon
    • Fishing Status: No fishing permitted

Conservation Measures

Adhering to these regulations is crucial for the conservation of migratory fish populations in Maine's waters. These measures are designed to maintain healthy fish stocks, ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy recreational fishing. For striped bass, in particular, the slot limit is implemented to protect larger breeding individuals, critical for the species' reproduction and sustainability.

Additional Considerations

  • Reporting: Anglers may be required to report their catches for certain species, contributing to the DMR's research and management efforts.
  • Habitat Protection: Be mindful of fishing in areas that serve as critical habitats for migratory species, especially during spawning seasons.
  • Catch and Release: Practice ethical catch and release, especially for species with specific size restrictions or for those not intended to be kept.

Contact Information

For further details or inquiries, contact the Maine Department of Marine Resources:

Understanding the S-33 Code for Maine's Inland Waters

The S-33 Code plays a crucial role in protecting endangered sea-run Atlantic salmon in Maine's inland waters, where they coexist with landlocked Atlantic salmon and brown trout. This regulation is part of a broader conservation effort to safeguard these vulnerable fish species.

Key Aspects of the S-33 Code

  • Maximum Length Limit: The S-33 code establishes a 25-inch maximum length limit for landlocked salmon and brown trout in specified waters. This measure is designed to prevent the accidental capture and retention of endangered sea-run Atlantic salmon, which may share similar habitats and coloration with these other fish species.

  • Protection of Sea-run Atlantic Salmon: Sea-run Atlantic salmon are listed as endangered and are therefore protected under U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulations. Fishing or harvesting these salmon is prohibited to aid in their recovery and ensure their survival.

  • Identification Challenges: Due to the color phase variations of sea-run Atlantic salmon, which range from black to silver to brown, they can be easily mistaken for landlocked salmon or brown trout. The S-33 code helps anglers avoid unintentionally "taking" a misidentified endangered fish.

Conservation Measures

  • Immediate Release: Any sea-run Atlantic salmon that is incidentally caught must be released immediately, alive, and uninjured. This practice helps minimize stress and potential harm to these endangered fish.

  • Handling Practices: At no time should sea-run Atlantic salmon be removed from the water. Proper catch-and-release techniques are essential to ensure the fish's survival and contribute to the conservation efforts.

The Role of Anglers in Conservation

Anglers play a vital role in the conservation of endangered sea-run Atlantic salmon and the health of Maine's inland water ecosystems. By adhering to the S-33 code and practicing ethical fishing methods, anglers can help protect these important species for future generations. Awareness and compliance with these regulations not only support conservation efforts but also ensure that fishing remains a sustainable and enjoyable activity in Maine's rich natural environments.

Licensing for Angling in International Waters Between Maine and New Brunswick

Fishing in the international waters shared between Maine and New Brunswick comes with specific licensing requirements designed to respect the jurisdictional boundaries while allowing anglers to enjoy the rich fishing opportunities the region offers. Whether you're casting a line in the main body of these waters or navigating the intricate network of rivers and lakes that crisscross the international boundary, understanding the licensing requirements is essential for a legal and enjoyable fishing experience.

Licensing Requirements Overview

  • Main Body of Waters: Anglers fishing in the main body of the specified waters may use either a Maine or New Brunswick fishing license. This reciprocal agreement facilitates easier access for fishermen from both sides of the border.

  • Specific Areas and Shores: When fishing in areas or coves where jurisdiction is clearly defined by a straight line drawn between two points of land, or when fishing from the shore or tied to the shore, the appropriate agency license (Maine or New Brunswick) is required based on the jurisdiction of the fishing location.

Waters Covered by Reciprocal Licensing

  • Grand Lake and its surrounding areas including East, Danforth, Forest City Twp, Orient, Weston
  • Glazier Lake in T18 R10 WELS
  • Grand Falls Flowage, particularly east of the line between red markers on McAllister Point and Abbott's Point, extending north to Spednic Falls
  • Monument Brook in Amity and Orient
  • Mud Lake in Forest City
  • North Lake in Orient, and the thoroughfare connecting North Lake and East Grand Lake
  • Saint Croix River, covering its entire length
  • Saint Francis River in specified townships
  • Saint John River from its confluence with the St. Francis River to the easternmost border of the town of Hamlin
  • Spednic Lake across various townships
  • Woodland Flowage (St. Croix River Flowage) in Baileyville

Tools for Identifying the International Boundary

To accurately determine the international boundary and ensure compliance with licensing requirements, anglers can utilize the Fishing Laws Online Angling Tool (FLOAT) or consult a Maine Atlas. These resources are invaluable for planning your fishing trip and ensuring you have the appropriate license for your chosen fishing spot.

Licensing for Angling in Interstate Waters Between Maine & New Hampshire

Fishing in the shared waters between Maine and New Hampshire offers unique opportunities for anglers from both states. To facilitate this, both states recognize each other's fishing licenses under certain conditions, streamlining access to these shared resources. Here's what anglers need to know about fishing in these interstate waters.

Licensing Recognition

  • Mutual License Recognition: Fishing licenses issued by either Maine or New Hampshire are valid for use in lakes and ponds that straddle the state boundary. This agreement allows anglers to fish in shared waters without needing to purchase additional licenses from both states.

Waters Covered by Reciprocal Licensing

The following are key lakes, ponds, and rivers affected by the interstate licensing agreement, offering diverse fishing environments for various species:

  • Balch and Stump Ponds: Located in Acton, Maine, and Wakefield, New Hampshire, these ponds offer scenic fishing spots.

  • Great East Lake: Spanning Acton, Maine, and Wakefield, New Hampshire, it's a popular destination for fishing enthusiasts.

  • Horn Pond: Nestled between Acton, Maine, and Wakefield, New Hampshire, with boundaries defined by signage at the Great East Dam Outlet Canal.

  • Kimball Pond, Lower: A serene fishing location in Fryeburg, Maine, and Chatham, New Hampshire.

  • Milton Pond: This waterbody bridges Lebanon, Maine, and Milton, New Hampshire, providing ample fishing opportunities.

  • Northeast Pond: Straddles Acton and Lebanon, Maine, and Milton, New Hampshire, offering diverse angling experiences.

  • Province Lake: Located in Parsonfield, Maine, and Effingham/Wakefield, New Hampshire, it's known for its picturesque views and fishing potential.

  • Salmon Falls River: This river runs through several towns in Maine and New Hampshire, starting from the outlet dam of Great East Lake to a downstream point marked by signage indicating the northern terminus of Horn Pond.

  • Spaulding Pond: A fishing spot that lies in Lebanon, Maine, and Milton, New Hampshire.

  • Townhouse Pond: This pond is shared by Lebanon, Maine, and Milton, New Hampshire.

  • Umbagog Lake: A large lake with areas in Upton, Maine, and Errol/Cambridge, New Hampshire, including sections of the Androscoggin River, the Magalloway River, and the Rapid River, defined by specific coordinates and landmarks.

General Fishing Laws for New Hampshire-Maine Interstate Waters

Fishing in the waters shared between New Hampshire and Maine is governed by specific regulations designed to protect and manage the fish populations effectively. These general fishing laws apply to New Hampshire border waters, except where Special Fishing Laws are in place. Here's a summary of the key regulations to keep in mind:

Season Dates

  • Ice Fishing: From January 1 to March 31, lakes and ponds are open for all species except landlocked salmon and cusk.
  • Open Water Fishing: Lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, and brooks are open to fishing for all species from April 1 to September 30. From October 1 to December 31, lakes and ponds remain open to fishing for all species, but all trout, landlocked salmon, and togue must be released immediately. Rivers, streams, and brooks are closed to all fishing from October 1 to March 31, except for the Salmon Falls River.


  • Ice Fishing: A maximum of five lines per person is allowed, except in Great East Lake.
  • Open Water Fishing: Anglers are limited to using no more than two lines per person.
  • Black Bass Restrictions: From May 15 to June 30, black bass (both largemouth and smallmouth) may only be caught using artificial lures and flies.

Baitfish Use

The use of dead or living pickerel, goldfish, yellow perch, white perch, black bass, sunfish, crappie, horned pout (bullhead), carp, or any spiny finned fish as bait in New Hampshire-Maine interstate waters is prohibited.

Species-Specific Regulations

  • Brook Trout and Rainbow Trout: The daily bag and possession limit is 2 fish with a minimum length of 6 inches in rivers, streams, and brooks, and 10 inches in lakes and ponds for rainbow trout.
  • Brown Trout: A limit of 2 fish applies, with the same size restrictions as for brook and rainbow trout.
  • Landlocked Salmon: No fishing for landlocked salmon through the ice; during open water fishing, the limit is 2 fish with a minimum size of 14 inches.
  • Togue (Lake Trout): The limit is 2 fish, each must be at least 18 inches long.
  • Large and Smallmouth Bass: All bass must be released immediately from May 15 to June 30. From July 1 to May 14, the limit is 2 fish, with only one allowed to exceed 14 inches.
  • Smelts: Can be caught by hook and line only, with a limit of 2 quarts. No length limit applies.
  • Pickerel: The daily bag limit is 10 fish, with no length restrictions.
  • All Other Species: No daily bag, possession, or length limits are specified.

Fishing in Tribal Waters in Maine

Fishing in ponds within Indian Territory in Maine is subject to regulations set by the respective Tribal authorities. These regulations apply to any pond that is 10 acres or less and located within Indian Territory. Anglers looking to fish in these areas must reach out directly to the Tribe for permission and to understand any specific rules or requirements. Here's whom to contact for fishing in Tribal waters:

Penobscot Nation

  • Contact Number: (207) 817-7331
  • Address: Department of Natural Resources 12 Wabanaki Way Indian Island, ME 04468

Passamaquoddy Warden Service

Indian Township

  • Contact Number: (207) 796-2677
  • Address: PO Box 446 Princeton, ME 04668

Pleasant Point

  • Contact Number: (207) 853-2551
  • Address: PO Box 343 Perry, ME 04667

Important Considerations

  • Permission and Regulations: Prior to fishing, it is essential to obtain permission from the Tribal authorities and familiarize yourself with any specific fishing regulations or cultural considerations.

  • Conservation and Respect: When fishing in Tribal waters, it's crucial to practice conservation-minded fishing and respect the cultural and environmental significance of these waters to the Indigenous communities.

Fishing in Waters Regulated by the Maine Tribal-State Commission

The Maine Tribal-State Commission plays a pivotal role in the management of fishing activities within certain waters under the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980. This act delineates specific jurisdictional boundaries over fishing areas within Indian territories, ensuring the sustainable management and preservation of these natural resources in alignment with both Tribal and state interests.

Jurisdictional Scope

The Commission has exclusive jurisdiction over:

  • Ponds Greater Than 10 Acres: Any pond larger than 10 acres where at least 50% of its shoreline is within Passamaquoddy or Penobscot territory.

  • Rivers, Brooks, or Streams: Any section of a river, brook, or stream where both sides are within Indian territory, or one side is within Indian territory for a continuous length of ½ mile or more, as specified under M.R.S.A SS6207(3).

Regulations and Permissions

To fish in waters that fall under the Commission's jurisdiction, anglers are required to adhere to rules adopted by the Maine Tribal-State Commission. These rules are designed to balance the ecological needs of the water bodies with the cultural and economic interests of the Tribal communities.

Contact Information

Anglers wishing to fish in these regulated waters must contact the Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission for permissions and to familiarize themselves with any specific regulations that may apply:

  • Phone: (207) 726-8555
  • Mailing Address: P.O. Box 35 Whiting, ME 04691
  • Physical Address: 10 Commissary Point Road Trescott Township, ME 04652
  • Website:

Key Considerations

  • Respect and Conservation: Fishing in these territories requires a respect for Tribal sovereignty and an understanding of the cultural significance of these waters. Anglers are encouraged to practice conservation-minded fishing to ensure these resources remain abundant for future generations.

  • Legal Compliance: Obtaining the necessary permissions and complying with the regulations set forth by the Maine Tribal-State Commission is essential for legal and ethical angling within these territories.

Tribal Waters Fishing Regulations in Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Territories

Fishing within the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot territories is governed by general fishing laws, alongside any specific Special Fishing Laws that may apply to certain waters. Understanding these regulations is crucial for anglers to ensure compliance and support sustainable fishing practices within these territories.

Open Water and Ice Fishing Seasons

  • Open Water Fishing Season: From April 1 through September 30, lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, and brooks are open to fishing.
  • Ice Fishing Season: From January 1 through March 31, lakes and ponds welcome ice fishing enthusiasts. However, rivers, streams, and brooks are closed to ice fishing during this period.

Terminal Gear Regulations

Anglers are permitted to use all legal forms of bait, including live baitfish and smelts, as well as artificial lures and flies, ensuring a diverse angling experience within these waters.

Species-Specific Regulations

Brook Trout, Splake, and Arctic Char

  • North Zone: A limit of 5 fish is allowed with a minimum size of 6 inches.
  • South Zone: The limit is 2 fish.

Brown Trout

  • All Zones: Anglers may keep 2 fish, with a minimum length of 14 inches in lakes and ponds and a minimum of 6 inches and a maximum of 25 inches in rivers, streams, and brooks.

Rainbow Trout

  • All Zones: The daily bag limit is 2 fish, with a 12-inch minimum size in lakes and ponds and a 6-inch minimum in rivers, streams, and brooks.

Landlocked Salmon

  • All Zones: A limit of 2 fish is set, with a minimum length of 14 inches up to a maximum of 25 inches.

Togue (Lake Trout)

  • All Zones: Anglers can keep 2 fish, each at least 18 inches long.

Bass (Largemouth & Smallmouth)

  • North Zone: Unlimited catch is permitted.
  • South Zone: The limit is 2 fish, with no minimum length requirement; however, only one may exceed 14 inches.

Whitefish and Smelts

  • Whitefish: A daily bag limit of 3 fish applies, with no size restrictions.
  • Smelts: Anglers may harvest up to 2 quarts.

Sea-Run Atlantic Salmon

  • This species is federally listed as endangered, and fishing for sea-run Atlantic salmon is not permitted.

Other Species

  • Inland Species Not Listed: There are no daily bag or possession limits for species not specifically mentioned.
  • Striped Bass, Shad, River Herring, American Eel, Sturgeon: For regulations regarding these migratory fish, refer to the "Recreational Angling for Migratory Fish" section.

Mercury in Maine Freshwater Fish: Safe Eating Guidelines

Mercury Warning for Maine's Inland Waters

Fish from Maine's lakes, ponds, and rivers may contain mercury levels that pose health risks, particularly to unborn and young children, as well as pregnant and nursing mothers. Mercury, a toxic substance, can accumulate in fish over time, with larger and older fish and predatory species (such as pickerel and bass) typically showing the highest concentrations.

Safe Eating Guidelines Based on Mercury Content

For Pregnant and Nursing Women, Women Who May Become Pregnant, and Children Under Age 8:

  • General Advisory: Avoid eating any freshwater fish caught from Maine's inland waters to minimize mercury exposure risks.

  • Exception for Brook Trout and Landlocked Salmon: Consuming one meal per month of these species is considered safe, given their relatively lower mercury levels compared to other fish.

For All Other Adults and Children Older Than 8:

  • General Consumption Rate: It is safe to consume up to two meals per month of freshwater fish from Maine's inland waters. This guideline helps to limit mercury intake while allowing for the enjoyment and nutritional benefits of freshwater fish.

  • Brook Trout and Landlocked Salmon Consumption: For these species, the consumption limit is increased to one meal per week, acknowledging their lower mercury content.

Understanding Mercury's Health Impacts

Mercury exposure is particularly concerning for young children and fetuses as it can interfere with the development and growth of the brain, potentially leading to behavioral and learning issues. While adults and older children may also be affected by mercury, higher amounts are typically required to cause noticeable health problems, such as numbness in extremities or vision changes.

The Importance of Following Safe Eating Guidelines

The established guidelines aim to protect the most vulnerable populations from the adverse health effects of mercury exposure while allowing others to safely enjoy the nutritional benefits of freshwater fish. By adhering to these recommendations, individuals can help ensure the health and well-being of themselves and their families.

PFAS in Maine Fish: Safe Eating Guidelines

Recent testing has revealed levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in fish from several locations in Maine that exceed the Maine CDC's recommended levels for regular consumption. PFAS exposure is linked to a variety of health risks, including changes in liver and kidney function, altered cholesterol levels, decreased immune responses in children, pregnancy complications, and increased cancer risks. To mitigate these risks, the Maine CDC has issued specific consumption advisories for fish from affected waterbodies.

PFAS Consumption Advisories


  • Fifteenmile Stream: Limit brook trout consumption to no more than 2 meals per month.


  • China Lake: Limit to no more than 1 meal per month of any fish species.


  • Fish Brook and tributaries: Do not eat any fish.
  • Police Athletic League (PAL) Ponds: Do not eat any fish.
  • Kennebec River: Limit smallmouth bass consumption to no more than 9 meals per year.


  • Durepo Pond and Limestone Stream: Limit brook trout to no more than 4 meals per year; do not eat smallmouth bass.


  • Mousam River and Estes Lake: Limit to no more than 3 meals per year of any fish species.


  • Number One Pond: Limit largemouth bass to no more than 1 meal per month.


  • Halfmoon Stream: Limit brook trout to no more than 2 meals per month.


  • Unity Pond: Limit black crappie to no more than 6 meals per year; all other fish species to no more than 12 meals per year.


  • Messalonskee Stream: Limit to no more than 3 meals per year of any fish species.


  • Presumpscot River: Limit to no more than 4 meals per year of any fish species.

Health Risks Associated with PFAS

Exposure to PFAS can lead to serious health issues. The guidelines provided aim to minimize exposure while still allowing some level of consumption of local fish. Pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children are particularly advised to adhere closely to these guidelines due to their increased risk from PFAS exposure.

Evolution and Purpose of Fishing Regulations in North America

The Historical Progression of Fishing Laws

Fishing regulations in North America trace back centuries, marking the evolution of fisheries management from rudimentary season closures in the 1600s to the intricate, species-specific laws of today. By the 18th century, numerous statutes aimed at regulating fish harvests were already in effect. The turn of the 20th century saw the introduction of season closures and creel limits, laying the groundwork for modern conservation efforts. The pivotal shift came in the 1960s, as regulations expanded significantly, focusing on limiting both the quantity and size of fish captures. Particularly in Maine, the approach has become increasingly refined, with regulations tailored to specific water bodies and fish species, incorporating slot length limits and length-specific creel restrictions.

Why the Intricacy in Regulations?

The comprehensive framework of fishing regulations in Maine serves multiple crucial purposes:

  • Conservation of Native Species: Ensuring the survival and health of native fish populations.
  • Quality of Angling Experience: Enhancing the angling experience through sustainable fish populations.
  • Ecosystem Health: Preserving balanced, thriving aquatic ecosystems.
  • Invasive Species Control: Limiting the spread of non-native species that could disrupt local ecosystems.
  • Public Health: Mitigating health risks associated with contaminants like lead, mercury, and PCBs in fish.
  • Social Considerations: Accommodating the preferences and needs of diverse angling communities.

Rationale Behind Specific Fishing Rules

The science of fisheries management underpins the various regulations, designed to achieve sustainable fishing practices:

  • General Law: Serves as the foundational regulation, providing baseline protection, with specific exceptions tailored to individual water bodies.
  • Low Bag Limits: Aimed at extending the fishing experience over a wider timeframe and among a broader group of anglers, often accompanying other restrictive measures.
  • Slot Limits: Designed to manage fish populations more effectively by targeting harvests to specific size ranges, thereby promoting growth and survival of both younger and larger fish.
  • Catch and Release: Encourages the conservation of fish stocks by allowing fish to grow larger and be caught multiple times, crucial in waters with low natural recruitment or endangered species.
  • Terminal Tackle Restrictions: Such as fly fishing or artificial lures only, these regulations help reduce mortality rates in catch-and-release fishing, supporting the effectiveness of other restrictions.
  • No Live Fish as Bait: Prevents the introduction and establishment of non-native baitfish in sensitive ecosystems, while permitting the use of dead or artificial alternatives.

Regional Variability in Fishing Regulations

Tailoring Regulations to Local Conditions

The variance in fishing regulations across Maine is a direct reflection of the unique ecological and social landscapes characterizing different parts of the state. This bespoke approach to fisheries management is crucial, as it allows for tailored conservation efforts that address the specific needs and challenges of each area. Factors such as species diversity, habitat quality, and human demographic patterns significantly influence the crafting of fishing laws, making a one-size-fits-all strategy impractical.

The Role of Biological and Social Data

In the process of formulating and revising fishing regulations, the Maine Fisheries Division places a strong emphasis on both biological and social research. This dual-focus strategy ensures that regulations are not only ecologically sound but also align with the preferences and practices of the angling community. By analyzing data on fish populations, habitat conditions, and angler feedback, fisheries managers can create regulations that effectively balance conservation goals with user satisfaction.

Case in Point: North vs. South Maine

A prime example of this regional differentiation in regulations can be observed between the northern and southern regions of Maine. These areas differ markedly in terms of their environmental characteristics and human activity patterns, necessitating distinct management approaches. For instance, general law season dates, brook trout bag limits, and bass size and possession restrictions may vary between these regions to better align with local ecological conditions and fishing traditions.

The Dynamic Nature of Fisheries Management

The task of developing and refining fishing regulations is ongoing and dynamic. Fisheries managers continually assess the effectiveness of current laws, making adjustments as necessary to respond to changing conditions and emerging challenges. This adaptive management approach ensures that Maine's fishing regulations remain relevant, effective, and reflective of the state's diverse aquatic ecosystems and fishing communities.

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