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Few anglers fishing on April Fool's Day

Apr. 1—OXFORD — Big crowds were nowhere to be seen Monday — from Wilton, where it's not yet ice-out on Wilson Lake, to Rumford, Dixfield, Newry and Bethel. Not a single angler.

What people can count on opening day is the Maine Warden Service to be out checking.

"Basically licenses, bag limits, you know, proper length and size of fish and then any boats that are coming in ... safety equipment associated with that," Warden Tony Gray said.

Friends Justin Blouin and Nils Lundberg, both of Lisbon, started early Monday morning on Thompson Lake in Oxford. Before noon, they were all smiles.

"Well, it was cold. We got out this morning and it was 30 degrees," Blouin said recalling their fish tale. "We bought a bunch of live bait this morning and started our troll. We didn't do much early. We had a couple of hits and no fish. But as the day went on, we did pick up a couple extras. So, nothing huge, but we have one in the live well to take home."

It was not a record breaker, but a lake trout nonetheless.

For some anglers, it's about the fish, but there's more to it than that, Lundberg said. "I'm fortunate enough that I was able to take today off and he's fortunate enough to be able to take today off and we could spend some time together. You know, it's really what it's all about. I like catching fish, but I like hanging out with my buddies from high school too."

Lundberg told Blouin he could take the trout home because what they really were angling for was something tastier. "Salmon," he said. "We usually do really well here, but the water's real cold. It's the first day."

A few miles down the road, a group of anglers had a prime spot next to Thompson Lake Marina in Oxford. Chris Carter and his son and friend Brian Stevens, all from Mechanic Falls, were enjoying the breeze and sun as the temperature pushed up toward 50 degrees.

Asked if they'd had any bites after a couple of hours, Carter responded, "Nope. No, so far." He was hoping for "some largemouth bass, some trout."

Back in the marina parking lot, Warden Gray and his partner were talking with another angler.

"The salmon fishing I think is what draws most of the crowd," Gray said. "But you will catch lake trout out here."

Sizing up the season so far, Gray said, "There were actually quite a few boats out fishing here on Thompson prior to this snowstorm we got a few days ago. And that seemed to pretty well shut it down until, I would say this weekend. This weekend boats started popping back out."

He admitted that with the forecast calling for a nor'easter this week, the boats and rods will get a few more days rest.

Traditionally, April 1 is a day many anglers in Maine looked forward to. Nowadays, it depends on the weather and the zone.

April 1 is the first legal day of open water fishing in the state's north zone, which includes part of Oxford County and all of Franklin County, as well as Somerset, Piscataquis, part of Penobscot and all of Aroostook counties. Open water fishing in the state's south zone is allowed year-round.

"Well, it's definitely changed from years ago when there was no open water fishing until April 1 anywhere in the state," Gray explained. "It was kind of more of an opening day. You could expect a much bigger crowd."

According to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife rules, all inland fisheries in the north zone are closed to all fishing from October through March. In the south zone, rivers, streams and brooks are closed to fishing from October through March, while lakes and ponds are fishable all year.

Jim Pellerin, a fisheries biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, estimates smelt runs, a true sign of spring, are a few weeks away.

He said there are no changes to the fishing rules this year, but there may be some small changes coming for the 2025 fishing season.

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