Even though I knew from the outset that I wouldn’t be catching fish today – – it was the hottest part of the day when I set out, and fish bite mostly during the coolness of early morning or at dusk – – I took my kayak along with my dog Truman for a paddle around Kewaydin Lake. I did bring my fishing pole because my kayak has a holder, so it’s not too difficult to fish while paddling. Basically, one puts the worm on the hook, releases some fishing line from the pole, sticks the pole in the holder and then proceeds to slowly paddle around the lake (this is called “trolling”).
Truman, our Standard Poodle puppy, is now 9 months old, and he has really grown! I should have gotten the dog before the boat and not the other way around, because it’s a very small kayak with barely room for one, much less a giant of a dog. It leaves me completely squished and slowly but surely my legs lose all feeling as he blocks my circulation while he fights for space. He loves the ride but it takes him a while to find a comfortable position, and as he shifts from side to side I can barely keep from capsizing.
We did manage to paddle the circumferance of the entire lake, and I was on my way back to our point of origin, when 100 feet from shore a motorboat sidled up next to me, seemingly appearing out of nowhere.
“Is your fishing line in , or out?”
It was a Game Warden, the equivalent of Law Enforcement rangers, and he wanted to make sure I had a valid Maine fishing license. His question was rhetorical, because he could see that my line was in the water. But he asked this for two reasons: to see if I’m truthful, and to establish guilt or innocence. The definition of fishing in Maine is not catching a fish, it’s putting a fishing line in the water. If I didn’t have a license but had my fishing pole in its holder but the line was not in the water, I would not be considered fishing and I could not be cited for fishing without a license.
“In,” I said.
“May I see your fishing license, please?”
I’ve been fishing many times a week in many different lakes in Maine for the past five years, but this was the first time I’d been asked to show my license. Uh-oh.
“Umm, I do have a license, but it’s in my car, and I’m actually heading that way now. Would you mind waiting until I get back to shore, so I can show it to you?”
Theoretically I am supposed to keep the license on my person while fishing, but I didn’t have a waterproof bag, so I hadn’t brought it with me. Fortunately he was a nice guy, and since by now I was only 50 feet from shore, he followed me to the launch area. Leaving my kayak, I ran to the car, and ran back to the warden. He looked the fishing license over very carefully and pronounced me good as my word.
Fishing licenses cost $64 for non-residents and $22 for Maine residents. They are good for a year starting January 1, although there is a period of some weeks in the Fall and early winter where fishing is illegal, primarily so that the fish can establish and stabilize their population before the lakes freeze. The license includes the ability to go ice fishing, something I have not yet tried (I lack an auger to cut through the ice on the lake, nor do I have the special traps).
While the chance of being stopped by a Game Warden in Maine’s quieter backwoods lakes and ponds are slim, the penalties for not having a license are severe and not worth the risk. The base fine for fishing without a license is $75. An amount equal to two times the cost of the required license and permit is added to the base fine. A violator also may be sentenced to pay an additional fine of $20 per fish taken illegally. And they have the right to revoke your fishing license for one full year for certain fishing-related offenses.
“I’m really sorry you had to follow me back to shore,” I said apologetically to the Game Warden. He said he didn’t mind. We then spent the next 15 minutes swapping fish stories and sharing favorite secret fishing holes before he returned his boat to the water, in search of other little old ladies who might flaunt the law.