Posts Tagged ‘Maine Game Wardens’

Almost Busted

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.

 

Over the Mountains and Through the Woods

Pine needles coated with ice

Pine needles coated with ice

Because of an ice storm that preceded Christmas, when my husband had two days off of work, our original plans for getting out and doing something nice were drastically altered.  Even though the roads had been sanded and salted, the previous day’s sunshine and then single-digit night temperatures assured the streets would not be safe for leisurely car rides due to a half-inch coating of ice.  Once again, the sun was shining, and the weather wasn’t too terrible – it was in the 20s which was sweater weather; we didn’t even need our down coats (this may sound cold if you are from the West Coast but believe me, you build up to the cold weather and sunny, windless 20 degrees practically feels like a Spring day during a Maine winter.  Which leads me to mention another amazing thing about Maine:  there is this sort of bravado culture amongst young people in winter, and it is not uncommon to see teenagers and twenty-somethings wearing SHORTS outside in the winter – – we saw someone last week doing this when it was 9 degrees F! – – just because they can.)

We live very close to the NH border, and the White Mountain National Forest abuts our property (most people do not realize that the White Mountains stretches beyond New Hampshire into Maine).  As such, wilderness is literally in our backyard.  In winter, there are many snowmobile trails within walking distance,  but because we are in a somewhat out-of-the-way location, they are rarely used.

We do not snowmobile.  Snowmobiles are quite expensive (about $10K – $12K new), and they are also pricey to rent ($165 for a couple of hours), so we haven’t even tried it.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t benefit from snowmobile trails!

A snowmobile trail is an official winter-only backcountry “road” that is maintained by snowmobile clubs or the State of Maine.  By “maintained” I mean that they have trail markers, plus signage telling riders how many miles it is to gas, food, lodging, or various locations along the way.  They are a narrow pathway (about 6′ – 8′ wide in our area) cleared of trees and obstacles.  These trails are found throughout the northeast and there are continuous trails that stretch hundreds of miles, all the way into Canada.  After a heavy snowfall, volunteers use expensive “snow groomers” to compact the snow and ensure that the trails are safe, removing debris such as fallen branches, and covering or moving protruding rocks if necessary.

Our dog Spencer watches the snowmobile trail grooming machine in Evergreen Valley

Our dog Spencer watches the snowmobile trail grooming machine in Evergreen Valley

They also place “caution” signs so snowmobilers will be made aware of stream crossings if there are no bridges (doable only if the water has frozen and is thick enough to hold the weight of the snowmobiles and riders).  But in my area, because these trails are so underused, they are perfect for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, since one rarely encounters snowmobilers.  (Skiing or snowshoeing would be downright dangerous on a heavily used snowmobile trail:  it would be like walking on a freeway between speeding cars).   They are rare in my area, but occasionally a Maine State Game Warden (that’s a back-country law enforcement officr) will patrol by snowmobile on the lookout for drunk snowmobile drivers (as well as snowmobile accidents and wildlife poachers).

Spencer on the snowmobile trail

Spencer on the snowmobile trail

Snowmobile trail sign in Evergreen Valley

Snowmobile trail sign in Evergreen Valley

The pre-Christmas ice storm spelled disaster for the snowmobilers.  The trails had just been groomed before the storm, and now they were too icy to use safely.  But for snowshoeing, these trails were a delight.  The snow was compacted so one didn’t sink down very far while walking, and the crampons of our Microspikes (sharp pointy metal blades that attach to the bottom of one’s shoe) gripped the ice tightly to make walking easy.  We decided to take a hike in our own backyard wilderness along these trails.  On Christmas Eve we went 3.5 miles; and on Christmas Day we ventured 4.7 miles.  I wore a long-sleeved hiking shirt with a light fleece jacket, leggings, hiking boots, crampons, a wool hat, sunglasses, and I carried trekking poles.  My husband (poor guy!) also carried a daypack in the event of an emergency:  water, flashlight/headlamp, topo GPS, toilet paper, Purell, a face mask, cellphone, chewing gum, first aid kit, fire starter kit, knife, hand-warmers and foil emergency blanket, multi-tool knife, ham radio and extra crampons and gloves.  We take winter preparedness seriously, even for short distances (we were only gone for two hours)!

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Crossing a frozen marshy pond

Crossing a frozen marshy pond

We had a wonderful time.  There was no one else out and about (this being Christmas, after all) and the woods were quiet, cold and beautiful.  The ice that coated the tree branches glistened in the sun, looking like a million sparkling diamonds.  We came home to hardy, homemade soup and freshly baked whole wheat rolls hot out of the oven, and later, a wonderful, hot bath.  We still can’t believe how blessed we are that we are surrounded by so much beauty.  There is so much to do literally outside our front door, without having to drive anywhere.

Frozen pond glistens with ice

Frozen pond glistens with ice

Afternoon shadows on the snowmobile trail

Afternoon shadows on the snowmobile trail

Even though I am still very overweight, in terms of stamina and strength I am in the best physical shape that I’ve been in since my youth.   Here in the Maine woods, life is good!

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Birch tree trunks along the trail look like patchwork quilts (click to enlarge)

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