Thursday, November 9, 2023

Trap Bait and Save Money

Once the snow starts flying, my mind turns to ice fishing season as I know that soon the lakes will once again freeze and we will return to the hardwater for winter fun. Here is an article to get your thoughts on the approaching ice fishing season!

The state of Maine allows anyone who holds a valid fishing license permission to take live bait for their own use with hook and line or bait trap. Baitfish traps must be marked with the name and address of the person who is taking or holding the baitfish, and must be checked at least once every 7 calendar days by the person who set them. It is also important to note that not all bait sized fish are legal to possess only; Smelt, Lake chub, Eastern silvery minnow, Golden shiner, Emerald shiner, Bridle shiner, Common shiner, Blacknose shiner, Spottail shiner, Northern redbelly dace, Finescale dace, Fathead minnow, Blacknose dace, Longnose dace, Creek chub, Fallfish, Pearl dace, Banded killifish, Mummichog, Longnose sucker, White sucker, Creek chubsucker, and American eel. To ensure anglers harvest only legal baitfish, IFW maintains a website ( listing most of the above species along with full color pictures.

To trap bait in the winter, it helps to have both an auger, ice scoop and chisel. The auger quickly drills the large hole needed to accept the bait trap, the ice scoop cleans slush from the hole and the chisel chips out ice on future visits, when the hole is frozen over. The best place to locate baitfish is on weed edgings in close proximity to the shore where small fish tend to feed and hide from larger fish. Start by drilling a single hole and using sounder to check the depth. I prefer bait fishing in 4 feet of water or less. If the depth seems right, drill three more holes (for a total of four) all touching each other, then use the chisel to connect the four holes thus creating the one large hole needed to accept the bait trap. Lastly, use the ice scoop to clean out the slush and large ice chunks so the bait trap can be easily lowered through the hole. Always start out with a larger hole, than seems necessary as it helps immensely later as in Maine’s extremely cold weather the edging of the hole closes in quickly with ice, becoming rapidly smaller with every visit.

I bait my Gees minnow traps with a cup of dog food and a slice of bread. The two choices seem to encourage more baitfish to enter the trap than just the one choice. Other anglers swear by Cheetos, spearmint gum, hotdogs, corn, dry cat food and even Styrofoam! Half of the fun with bait trapping is working to find that perfect combination that will lead to big hauls. Once baited, the traps are lowered down the ice hole on a rope until the trap rests about a foot off the bottom. The other end of the rope is then tied to a long straight branch suspended above the hole using two forked sticks. The sticks help keep the rope and the branch from freezing into the ice directly above the hole. I then mark the opening with a small spruce tree, warning people of the large opening in the ice and also ensuring that in even after the deepest snowfall it can still be easily found.

Pike Fishing Messalonskee

This summer while trolling the waters of Messalonskee Lake, the kids and I succeeded in hauling in several sizeable Northern Pike. This success has me very excited about fishing Messalonskee again this winter season. Winter access to the lake, and some of the best pike fishing, is via the Sidney boat landing. The landing is well plowed during the winter season and when the ice is safe, trucks typically plow roads up and down the lake to some of the popular fishing locations.

Vexilar Transforms Fishing

At the beginning of the 2019 ice fishing season, I purchased the Vexilar FL-18. At a whopping $400, it was a decision that I did not make lightly. For years, I had read about the effectiveness of these units but had never had an opportunity to actually physically see one in operation. After checking out all of the positive reviews on Amazon, I finally came to the conclusion that I simply had to buy a Vexilar. I’m not saying I’m cheap, however, forking over the money hurt a little and I really hoped that this little unit was as good if not better than the reviews. 

After receiving the unit, I watched a few YouTube videos on how to use the device effectively. I strongly encourage others to do the same. The unit isn’t excessively complicated but fine tunings the unit to properly identify lure, fish, bottom, etc. takes a little practice. Plus the videos showed how not only how to find fish but also how to catch fish. One of the best pointers, I learned, was to slowly raise the lure, as a fish swims by, this creates a situation where the fish believes dinner is swimming away and a strike almost always occurs. 

If you want to hook kids into ice fishing, a Vexilar is the ticket. Watching the small screen is almost like participating in a video game. It’s quite honestly mesmerizing, and the kids and I enjoyed many, many hours staring intently at the small screen and catching perch after perch. 

Last February, my son and I rented a shack at Bakers smelt shacks in Pittston. Next to us were my brother, dad and two friends that they had brought along to participate in the fun. I brought along my Vexilar and thought maybe it would be as effective smelt fishing as it was ice fishing. Boy was I right! My son and I out fished my brother, dad and friends 30 to 1! The biggest advantages with the Vexilar are first, determining the correct depth where the smelts are located and second, exactly when the fish are schooling under the shack. Once, during the evening, when my son was about to eat a handful of pretzels, I noted the Vexilar was indicating a large school of smelts right under the shack. I told my son to wait on his snack and to immediately grab his jig pole, seconds later he felt a strong tug and pulled up three! 

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Time Slips Slowly

November 2, 2020 was the last time I posted to blogger. Today marks exactly three years since I have written for the blog. Not only have I been absent, from what used to be regular posting, I haven't even looked at the site much over the last 3 years. 

Since I started the blog in 2008, over 1,744,726 have visited the site to read tall tales, find information on hunting and fishing in Maine or see my posted photos and videos depicting Vacationland. 

Thanks to my dedicated readership for following me all of these years, I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the emails and I have been happy to help facilitate your trips to Maine when able. 

Though this may sound a bit like a goodbye, it's not, I'm looking forward to hopefully becoming more active on the blog in the future and look forward to restarting what has been a great writing adventure. 

As they say the most difficult journey starts with a single step and mountains aren't climbed by the faint of heart. Maybe this first post will lead to greater things. 

Take care all and thanks again for following!

Monday, November 2, 2020

Game Cameras, Laws Rules and the Ethics of Fair Chase

For the sportsman who regularly uses game cameras, to track the movements of deer and other game animals, there is no arguing that they are extremely effective tools. Proper positioning and use of these devices have over the years put me in front of deer time and time again. As deer tend to be creatures of habit, frequently their movements can be predictable. It certainly isn’t an exact science, however, these devices can take the guess work out of when to hunt and when not to hunt a particular location. A few years ago, I noted that a large doe was walking through a section of my property in the afternoon around 5-6:00 pm about every two to three days. The camera showed no sign of the deer moving through at any other time other than this narrow window. Positioning my climbing stand in a tree about 20 yards from this thoroughfare, I was not entirely surprised when the doe walked right past my stand at 5:45 pm on the second day of my sit. 

When hunting with youth hunters, many of whom lack the ability to sit for more than a few hours, game cameras become invaluable. Why sit in a stand in the morning, if the deer are only being seen on camera in the evening or vice versa. If deer are only coming through at 9:00 am why get up at the crack of dawn and sit for hours in the cold. Using modern game cameras to precisely pinpoint deer movements really allows hunters the ability to put deer in the crosshairs much more effectively than any previous scouting technology.

Remotely Monitored Game Cameras

One of the biggest advances in game cameras has occurred over the last few years with the invention of remotely monitored game cameras. These devices allow sportsman to receive instant notification to their cell phone when the camera is triggered. Hunters no longer have to disrupt an area with scent or sound to alert deer or other game animals to their presence. Instead, camera settings can be changed, battery life monitored and photographs received in real-time from the comfort of your easy chair. While this “real time” data, can provide a distinct advantage for sportsmen, some states are making the use of these devices illegal for hunting.

Laws, Other States

Some state lawmakers believe game cameras give hunters an unfair advantage. The state of Montana, for example, has made scouting camera use illegal during the hunting season. A Montana wildlife law enforcement official confirmed that the driving force behind the law was “for fair chase reasons, not game management reasons.” And, their regulations state the following: “It is illegal for a person to possess or use in the field any electronic or camera device whose purpose is to scout the location of game animals or relay the information on a game animal’s location or movement during any Commission-adopted hunting season.”

Fair Chase and Ethics

Probably no one spends more time on deciding what is fair chase and what is not than the Boone and Crockett Club and the Pope and Young Club. According to the presidents of both B&C and P&Y, neither have any issue with the use of traditional trail cameras that require hunters to visit the camera site to retrieve data cards or film (as far as fair chase goes). But, both oppose the use of cameras that transmit images directly to a location where they may be viewed by a hunter. Animals taken with the use of a direct transmit camera are not eligible for inclusion in their record books. B&C provided this statement: “Trophies taken with the use of trail cameras, including scouting, are eligible for entry in B&C, but only if the hunter has to manually remove film and/or a card from the trail camera itself to retrieve the images. Trophies taken with the use of trail cameras, including scouting, that transmit images to a computer/base station for viewing are not eligible for entry in B&C.”

High Tech Remotely Monitored Game Cameras

No question, properly used, game cameras put more deer on the ground. A sportsman’s chances of success increase even more dramatically, when hunters employ the use of some of the latest remotely monitored game camera technology. The CreativeXP 3G Cellular Trail Camera ($299.27 on Amazon) ranks as one of the highest rated remote game cameras on the market. The camera operates on the AT&T data network and provides a data plan allowing 1,500 photos for only $8.00. 

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