Opening day of Maine’s fishing season is traditionally April 1, April Fools’ Day. But if you’re a serious angler, opening day is no joke. It’s been decades since an old college buddy and I portaged into Minnesota’s Boundary Waters, midlife, and we tried to fillet a northern pike — the boniest fish in God’s creation. But I have great respect for folks who are, shall we say, hooked on fishing. At this very moment, there’s a serious angler somewhere in Lincoln County who’s dusting off their fishing gear, lubricating a reel, spooling on new line, reorganizing their favorite lures — or getting a new fishing license online at tinyurl.com/v27v2x6k.
So I’ll remind anglers to wear a personal flotation device whenever you’re on the water. As Capt. Jim Williams, a U.S. Coast Guard-licensed captain and Maine master tidewater guide, told me recently, “The boating public should look at a PFD like a seat belt!”
Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife goes one step further: “Even if you plan to fish from shore, bring along a lifejacket. Rivers, brooks, and streams can be very dangerous to navigate on foot. Wearing a lifejacket while standing in any of body of water increases your safety and may save your life should you fall and be swept downstream.”
Not convinced? Well, about 80% of all boating deaths are drownings — and almost 90% of those who drowned were not wearing a personal flotation device. See safeboatingcampaign.com/wear-it-pledge.
Maybe you heard the story about some poor soul who was fishing from his Lund and fell overboard. They found him with his fly unzipped. No personal flotation device. After hours of waiting for a bite, the fisherman probably stood up to answer “nature’s call,” then lost his balance and fell overboard. You might use a coffee can, but the point is to wear that personal flotation device, because every accident is unforeseen and you need to be prepared.
Kayaker’s note: Capt. Williams says, “In spring, we’ll get a really nice day, maybe even 70 degrees, and see a kayaker out on the water. Everyone’s been holed up over winter (especially this year) and is anxious to get out of the house and onto the water, but the water temperature could be 45 or 50, which is deadly if their kayak tips over.
“Most kayakers we see are wearing a PFD. But I wonder if they know the danger of hypothermia if they go into the water? Wearing a wet or dry suit is the only way to kayak in April or May.”
Well, if you’re daydreaming about getting back out on the water, check out the special display of books about boating and fishing in the Skidompha Library this week. Here are a couple of my local favorites: “Twelve Miles From the Rest of the World: A Portrait of the Damariscotta River” (2005) by Barnaby Porter with photographer Al Trescot; “Into the Light: A Family’s Epic Journey” (2002) by Jaja and Dave Martin; “Upwards: The Story of the First Woman to Solo Thru-Paddle the Northern Forest Canoe Trail” (2017) by Laurie Apgar Chandler; and anglers will like this book by Randy Spencer, a master Maine guide — “Wide and Deep: Tales and Recollections From a Master Maine Fishing Guide” (2017).
Speaking of Maine guides, why not hire one? Maine guides are recognized worldwide and certified by the state of Maine for one of these activities: fishing, hunting, recreation, sea kayaking, and whitewater rafting. Find a guide online through the Maine Professional Guides Association: maineguides.org/find-a-guide.
And if you’re still looking for something to do while you wait for the water to warm up, why not take the America’s Boating Club boating course online? Go to tinyurl.com/yxr2dyny.
Safe journey and always a handsbreadth of water under your keel!
(William Anthony is a member of America’s Boating Club — Mid Coast Maine. He lives most of the year in Edgecomb on the Damariscotta River, whose waters he explores in a wooden boat built in Maine.)