New fishing rules for Allagash Wilderness Waterway

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has adopted new, less restrictive length and bag limits for much of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW). These new rules take effect on Jan. 1, 2018, for: Eagle, Churchill, Umsaskis, Long Lake and Chase Rapids. Fishing regulations have not changed for Chamberlain, Telos or Allagash Lakes. Also, note that Umsaskis, Long Lake and Chase Rapids are not open to ice fishing.

IF&W Fisheries biologists did extensive research on the fisheries in the AWW during the 2016 calendar year, which included: winter and summer angler counts, winter creel surveys, trap netting, and trapping of the fishway at Churchill Dam. A couple of trends that became clear during the study were: a decline in use by fishermen over the last 25 years, and a reduction in the number of fish that were being killed.

The new fishing regulations will increase the bag limit from two trout to five, and reduce the size limit from 12” to 6”– with only one trout exceeding 14.” The goal of the changes is to grow bigger brook trout and increase the opportunity to keep fish. It is hoped that the relaxed regulations will entice more people to go fishing. For details, see the 2018 fishing law book, or go to www.maine.gov/ifw to view the complete fishing regulations for the AWW.

The AWW has some great native brook trout fishing in the winter, spring and fall, but when the water warms-up and the fish migrate to the deep cold water of the headwater lakes- they become much more difficult to catch. Many of the smaller brookies travel to the cold-water tributaries when the lakes warm. This can make for some great fly fishing in the mouths of these brooks, but you seldom catch a trout over 12” long. I, for one, would rather fry up a couple of nice fat 10” brookies than a big one.

We are so blessed to have such an outstanding native brook trout fishery in northern Maine. This resource certainly needs to be protected and utilized at the same time. IF&W biologists have done their research and proposed new bold regulations that passed through the rulemaking process, without significant opposition. As one biologist told me, “We can always change the rules again if we find that too many fish are being kept.”

Winter is a great time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. A well-prepared-for ice fishing excursion is one of the highlights of the winter for many fishermen. What could be better than to be ice fishing on the shore of one of the waterway headwater lakes on a cold crisp morning, with a warm fire, and flags that keep going off because the fish are biting?

The waterway operates a plowed 48-unit winter campground at Chamberlain Bridge with drinking water, vault privies, and groomed snowmobile trails to Chamberlain and Telos Lakes. Camping is also allowed on all the remote water access campsites on the headwater lakes. See www.maine.gov/allagash for camping fees and rules for use of these campsites.

If you require more comfortable accommodations than camping, Nugent’s Camps has rustic yet comfortable cabins on the shore of Chamberlain Lake and there are several other area sporting camps adjacent to the waterway that are open during the winter.

Early winter ice conditions can be very unpredictable. Please check-in at the Chamberlain Bridge ranger station, visit the AWW conditions and alerts webpage at www.maine,gov/allagash, or call the number below for up to date ice conditions.

Matthew LaRoche is superintendent of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. The waterway is managed by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Bureau of Parks and Lands.  For information go to: www.maine.gov/allagash or call (207) 941-4014 for an information packet.

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