August 23, 2019
Sports Column

Snow, fish, top warden lead list for outdoors

On another seasonable spring day in Maine, the fish are biting, the bugs are starting to swarm, and as-yet-unsuccessful turkey hunters are enjoying the third week of the season.

And as you might expect, there’s plenty of outdoor information to pass along. Here’s a quick trip around the barn with some news and notes:

Snow business booming

You’ve finally recovered from “shoveler’s shoulder,” and chance are, the last thing you want to talk about is more snow.

But the record winter we all endured was important for many seasonal businesses, which finally got the winter they’d been waiting for.

Earlier this week I received news from Ski Maine Association that heralded a banner year on the slopes.

According to Ski Maine, the record snowfall led to 1.42 million skier visits during the ski season. That’s a record, topping the previous high of 1.36 million visits in 2000-2001, and it represented a 25 percent increase over last winter.

We all know that winters hold their grip for a long time in these parts, and Ski Maine has the facts to prove it: Maine’s resorts offered lift service to its slopes during eight months during the most recent season – from October until May.

Saddleback set a Maine record for natural snowfall with 275 inches of the white stuff, while Sugarloaf/USA in Carrabassett Valley received 224 inches and Sunday River in Newry got 211. Shawnee Peak in Bridgton, Big Rock in Mars Hill and Lonesome Pine Trails in Fort Kent each received more than 200 inches of snow.

Good for them.

And good for us, that we no longer have to plow, shovel and salt our way to the street before heading to work in the morning.

Stocking reports available

Each spring, the state’s hatchery workers, in conjunction with biologists, stock several thousand fish into Maine waters.

And each year, the arrival of the stocking truck serves as a signal to some that it’s fishing season again.

While chasing the hatchery truck to a local fishing hole and immediately fishing for those fish raises some ethical questions, there are plenty who do just that.

Others choose to wait a day or two for the fish to acclimate themselves, and then grab their fishing rods for a day of fun.

In many locations, fish are stocked with the full expectation that they’ll be caught and kept. In fact, in many of those waters, mid-summer temperatures make survival of cold-water species an iffy proposition. Further stocking in the fall, after the water cools back down, assure anglers have fish to target during the winter months.

All of which makes the arrival of the stocking trucks a much-awaited spring event in many areas.

In past years, determined anglers could call Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife biologists to ask when their local fishing hole was going to be stocked. Many, however, didn’t bother, but paid special attention to stocking lists that appeared in the state’s sporting newspapers months later.

Thanks to the DIF&W, anglers can now get their hands on real-time information that may make their fishing trips more productive.

The DIF&W is posting daily updates that list the waters stocked, including the date and species of the stocking effort. Anglers can tell how many fish were stocked, and how large they were.

According to DIF&W Director of Fisheries John Boland, the department is responding to a public demand for more information about where anglers could catch legal-sized trout.

“Since most of these fish are stocked to provide an immediate fishery, it’s in everyone’s best interest to inform anglers as to the stocking dates and locations,” Boland said in a news release.

If you’re interested in finding out where the stocking trucks have been, you can go to

Then, just look for the county you’re curious about, and you’ll find all the waters that have been stocked thus far.

The daily report will be updated by 8 a.m. when new information is available.

Wilkinson new top warden

Soon after I first met Joel Wilkinson several years ago, I began hearing rumblings about the friendly young game warden.

Keep your eye on Wilkinson, several people told me. Some day, they said, he’s going to be running the whole show.

As it turns out, those prognosticators were right: Earlier this week, Wilkinson was promoted, and he’s now Col. Wilkinson, chief warden of the Maine Warden Service.

Wilkinson, a 16-year veteran of the warden service, has worn a number of hats during his tenure.

He has overseen the Wildlife Crime Investigative Division, the personnel complaint investigative process, the service’s training bureau, white-water boating enforcement and safety, and landowner relations.

He has received several honors, including the William Twarog “Manager of the Year” Award from the DIF&W in 2006, an outstanding supervisor award in 2006, an exemplary service award for his work as an investigator in 2004, and a State Police Colonel’s award in 2001.

Congratulations to Wilkinson, and best of luck in his new post.


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