Police in this neck of the woods may be non-existent, but woe to the smart aleck who tries to fish without a license. Game wardens (rangers that carry big guns and arrest poachers) patrol lakes, ponds, rivers and hidden fishing holes seeking the less-than-law-abiding, who get slapped with a hefty fine.
For Maine residents, a fishing license is a very small expense, and probably 99% of the population in rural Maine carries a fishing license in their wallets. For those of us who aren’t full-time Maine state residents, a year-long, non-resident fishing license is so pricey that you’d have to catch an entire pondful of trout before it paid for itself. Non-resident hunting and fishing licenses are a major source of income for the State of Maine.
I splurged and bought my husband a fishing license. This was to supplement the gift of a fishing rod he had received as a token of appreciation from his former place of employment for his many years of service (he was let go shortly thereafter; perhaps it was a sign). The problem was that he didn’t know how to fish.
To catch fish, you need bait. I wasn’t particularly interested in digging for worms, so I went to our local convenience store in search of live fish bait. Until now, the only items of interest to me at the convenience store were milk, eggs, and newspapers. Had you told me a year ago that I would be having a serious discussion with a convenience store owner about the merits of trout worms (small) vs. dillies (medium) vs. night crawlers (large), I would have thought you were crazy. The bait was packaged in those small round plastic containers that you get when you buy chopped liver and coleslaw from your local deli. The containers are kept in the store’s refrigerated section, between the soda cans and the milk. The very name “night crawlers” sounded too much like the subject of a horror movie, so I bought the dillies, whose very name implied liveliness. The dillies were fresh, all right – when I opened the lid and peered bravely inside, they were squirming robustly. I quickly replaced the lid and made my way home.
“Eeyew!” my husband cried, “I’m not touching those!” I asked him how he expected to catch a fish without putting the worm on the hook. “I never thought of that,” he admitted, “but there’s just no way.”
So we made a deal. I became the hook-baiter (at least that sounds better than “the hooker”); he would clean all the fish we caught. (Spoiler alert: my husband got the waaay better deal.)
We went to the lake closest to our house, put our kayaks in the water, and balancing the paddle and the fishing rod, my husband handed me the rod. I put the squirming worm daintily on the end of the hook, being extra gentle with its impalement.
Fortunately, the worms were odorless. Surprisingly, they weren’t the least bit slimy, either – they felt like rubber. They didn’t ooze. I could handle this!
my rite of passage: baiting the hook
But apparently my technique lacked finesse. It wasn’t long before my husband felt a tug on his line. Excitedly, he reeled in his fish only to find a hook devoid of both a fish and a worm The trout were wily, and one had nibbled the worm right off the hook.
Trying to catch a fish in Virginia Lake, Maine. One of the most unspoiled lakes in the area, almost always devoid of people.
Despite multiple attempts at threading the hook through the worm, the fish won every time. On the final worm of the day, it was so well wrapped around the hook that the fish would have needed hands to pry it off. But by then the fish weren’t biting. We came home empty-handed.
I hear worms are a useful addition to the compost pile . The next container of dillies I buy will surely die of old age.
Cooling off in Kewaydin Lake, ME: the nice thing about lakes in Maine is that there are so many of them, and most have no people around!