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Fishing In Maine – What You Can Catch, and Where

For many people, there’s no better escape from the grind of daily life than to pack up the fishing rods and head for the lake. In a state like Maine, where the outdoors are such a great place to relax and there’s so much of it to enjoy, fishing is a popular pastime. However, if you don’t know the state’s fishing laws, taking a trip to one of Maine’s nearly 6,000 ponds can quickly lead to the trouble and headaches that you’re looking to get away from.

Faced with having to find a balance between letting people enjoy the outdoors now, and keeping enough fish in the waters for future generations to enjoy, as well, Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife regulates various aspects of fishing, such as the number and size of fish that can be caught, as well as when and where you can fish. The complexity of making sure that there will be enough for everyone, both now and years from now, is daunting, and has created a haze of regulations, with many lakes, ponds, and rivers having their own, specific rules.

Generally, there are rules that regulate the fish you can catch by species, number and size:

Minimum Length
Type of Fish Daily Bag Lakes & Ponds Rivers, Streams & Brooks
Brook Trout (includes Splake and Arctic char) 5* 6 inches 6 inches
Landlocked Salmon 2 14 inches** 14 inches**
Togue (Lake Trout) 2 18 inches 18 inches
Brown Trout 2 14 inches** 6 inches**
Rainbow Trout 2 12 inches 6 inches
Bass (large and smallmouth) 2 10 inches, with only 1 exceeding 14 inches
Pickerel 10 None
Whitefish 3 None
Smelts 2 quarts None
Northern Pike Unlimited None
Muskellunge Unlimited None
American Eel 25 9 inches
Shad 2 None
Striped Bass 1 20-26 inches in total length, or 40 inches or greater in total length
Atlantic Salmon Federally endangered species – no fishing allowed
Alewife 25 None
Other species Unlimited None

*On lakes and ponds in Androscoggin, Cumberland, Franklin, Hancock, Kennebec, Knox, Lincoln, Oxford, Penobscot, Sagadahoc, Waldo, Washington and York counties the daily bag limit on brook trout is 2 fish.

**Several counties are exempt from this rule. Additionally, in Hancock and Washington counties, there is also a maximum length of 25 inches.

These regulations, though seemingly complex enough, are only the general rules: Each body of water can have its own set of rules, governing what kinds of fish can be pulled from them, and how. These rules have been compiled online, and are divided between water in the southern and eastern counties, and in the northern and western counties of Maine. Some bodies of water follow the general rules, set in the table above. Other bodies of water are given an “S Code” and a “Season Date Code.” Each of the 33 S Codes is a special rule for fishing in that body of water, while Season Date Codes can affect when it’s permissible to fish there. Some bodies of water are further split, with one S Code given to one part of the waterway, and another S Code given to another part.

Knowing the rules and regulations of a fishery that you want to enjoy is your responsibility, so be sure to look up that body of water and see if it has its own S Code or Season Date Code. If it does, make sure to abide by it, or you could face penalties for poaching. If there’s no S Code specific for that body of water, you still need to abide by the general rules.

If you’ve been accused of violating Maine’s fishing regulations or want to make sure that you’re following them correctly, contact The Maine Criminal Defense Group today to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced attorneys. We have experience with the state’s conservation laws as a defense attorney which gives us invaluable experience and allow us to protect you against unreasonable charges.

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