WILD WOMEN: Becoming an Outdoors-Woman in Maine

DSC_0090_zps092286ad Each year, more and more women are getting involved in outdoor activities.  I find their reasons range from wanting to be more active to a desire to learn outdoor skills so they can pass them on to their children or grandchildren to gaining their own independence and strength.  Some want to get involved so they may join a loved one on their next outdoor adventure. Whatever the reason, I love to see more women in the outdoors.

Becoming an Outdoors Woman is a non-profit national program that is used through the United States and Canada and provides opportunities for women who are 18 years or older to learn, improve or gain skills related to hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation.  Here in Maine, the program (usually referred to as BOW) is sponsored by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife and the Friends of Maine BOW.  We work with a number of highly skilled and ambitious volunteer instructors to provide a low-cost, high action and hands-on weekend for women to learn to love being in the outdoors in Maine.

We consider the barriers that may prevent some women from learning to hunt, fish, hike, bike or kayak.  For many years, a lack of adequate equipment and gear stood in the way.  Now, companies like She Outdoor Apparel are selling outdoor clothing for women.  You can even find firearms, bows, kayaks and fishing equipment specifically designed for women. Another barrier is the stigma associated with the tradition that only men go hunting or fishing.  At the Becoming an Outdoors Woman Intro Skills Weekend we work to overcome that barrier by providing the chance for women to try the activities of their interest in a safe, comfortable and relaxing environment.

This year, the Intro Skills Weekend is scheduled for September 12-14 at Camp Caribou in Winslow, Maine.  The facility is centrally located within the state and is absolutely beautiful.  Participants stay in bunk style cabins with 8 or so other female participants and have the opportunity to complete four 3  hour sessions throughout the weekend.  Topics range from canoeing, kayaking, camping, outdoor cooking, archery, firearms, ATV operation, fishing, fly casting, wood crafts, wilderness first-aid and so on.  You can visit our website at www.mainebow.com to learn more.

If nothing else, attending the BOW Intro Skills Workshop is an opportunity for participants to escape the rigors of daily life, take on new challenges and find they can do anything they set their mind to. If you would like to join us this fall you may download the registration form or contact me for more information at emily.maccabe@maine.gov.

The cost to attend is $245 and includes all meals, lodging, equipment and instruction.  Limited scholarships are available. Additional Becoming an Outdoors Woman workshops include the popular Winter Skills Weekend held each February and the Spring Mini held each April both at the University of Maine 4-H Camp and Learning Center in Bryant Pond.

Check out some of the photos from the 2013 Introductory Skills Weekend

So take a chance, learn something new, meet some new people and have a blast.  I hope to see you in September! -EQM

Free Fishing Days and Tips For Taking Kids Fishing

DSC_0142The weekend is approaching and Maine’s free fishing days are finally here! On Saturday May 31 and Sunday June 1 the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is promoting free fishing days to encourage people to get out and enjoy Maine’s waterways.  This free fishing event is open to any person except those whose license has been revoked or suspended. All fishing regulations apply. For a complete list of fishing regulations, including limits and sizes, visit http://www.mefishwildlife.com

What better opportunity to introduce a youngster to the sport?

Here are some tips for taking kids fishing for the first time:

First, understand that fishing with children is not the same as fishing with your buddies.  The trip needs to be centered on them.  In fact, I recommend you leave your fishing equipment at home so you can focus solely on assisting them with their own.

Keep it simple.  Use a basic spincasting rod/reel combo such as a good ol’ Zebco 22.  Look for one with a smaller reel so their hands can comfortably control the “button” to release the line.  Fish with a bobber, a hook and a worm and target species such as perch, bass, crappie or other pan fish that are often easy to catch and abundant.  Consider saving the trout fishing for a trip later on.

Make it a shore thing.  If you fish on shore kiddos have the freedom to move around and don’t feel isolated or confined, which will surely lead to boredom quickly.  If they want to take a break, let them take a break! Chase butterflies, tadpoles, splash in the water; if they’re having fun in the outdoors then the trip is a success.

Make sure you teach skills.  Allow them to do as much of the work as they are willing or able to do.  Teach them how to put the worm on the hook, how to cast properly and accurately, and even how to handle their fish.  If they are game right away, make sure you explain what you’re doing while they watch.  If they’re really not interested then take a break and go throw a frisbee around for a minute.

The goal is that eventually they will have the skills and independence to enjoy fishing on their own.

Stress the importance of safety.  Teach them to look around before each cast and always be aware of where their hook is.  Also, I suggest making sure you both wear a hat with visor and eye protection (sunglasses or youth size shooting glasses work great).  It’s not a bad idea to have them wear a PFD even on shore if they’re nervous around the water or they are not a strong swimmer.

Most importantly, be relaxed and make it fun.  As you head out leave behind the tension and take along an open mind and a lot of patience.  Don’t measure the success of your trip by the number of casts made or fish caught.  Remember to praise children for their patience and cooperation and do what you need to do to make the day a positive memory even if that means stopping for a special treat on the way home.

I hope you take the opportunity to head outdoors with a young person in your life and discover all there is to benefit from fishing as a family.

For more information about fishing as a family check out www.takemefishing.org. Learn more about Maine’s Hooked on Fishing program by contacting me at emily.maccabe@maine.gov.

Hooked on Fishing Event- Swan Island WMA

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On Saturday, May 31 the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife will be holding a youth Hooked on Fishing event on Swan Island in Richmond.  Children who are 15 and under are invited to join us for a hands-on fishing opportunity.  All equipment, bait, tackle and instruction will be provided!  Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Space is limited so reservations must be made ahead of time by calling 207-547-5322.  Available time slots are 9am-11am OR 11am-1pm.

For more information visit http://www.maine.gov/swanisland

Special Opportunity Waters: Billy Brook (Brownfield)

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Recently I heard from a  reader saying that they had attempted to locate Billy Brook in Brownfield without any luck.   I had never visited Billy Brook myself but after reviewing the description of the section of the brook that is designated a special opportunity water and with a little help from Google maps on my smart phone, I was able to locate the access point.

Billy Brook in Brownfield from the confluence with Shepherd’s River upstream to the first bridge (pictured) is one of Maine’s special opportunity waters.  This section of the brook is open to fishing only for persons under the age of 16 or for persons holding a complimentary fishing license.  There is a restriction of two lines per person and the daily limit on trout is 2.

The brook can easily be accessed by the bridge on Main Street in Brownfield.

Billy Brook is not stocked but instead is supported by a native brook trout fishery offering a unique and rewarding opportunity for young anglers.

 

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Maine’s Special Opportunity Fishing Waters

In a day and age when there are so many distractions and negative influences facing our youth any opportunity for getting kids involved in a natural, healthy and outdoor based activity is an advantage.  The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife works to create special opportunities for young anglers to enjoy Maine’s freshwater fishing.  Throughout Maine you can find bodies of water that are managed specifically for youth anglers and are regulated to allow only children 15 years or younger to fish. Many of these bodies of water are stocked with trout and are very accessible.

A list of youth only fishing waters is outlined below.  They are also listed in the open water fishing regulations.

Look for a youth only fishing water in your community and introduce a young person  to the life long hobby of fishing.  Just keep in mind – these are for youth and for complimentary license holders only! If you are 16 years or older or a complimentary license holder then it is unlawful for you to fish in these locations.  You can certainly be there to teach, encourage and assist.  Happy fishing!  -EQM

Maine’s Youth Only Fishing Waters

Androscoggin County
Pettingill Park Pond, Auburn

Aroostook County
Brown Pond, Houlton
Hannington Pond, Reed Plantation
Mantle Lake, Presque Isle
Michaud Pond, Fort Kent
Pearce Brook (portion of), Houlton
Rock Crusher Pond, Island Falls
Stewart Pond, Hodgon
Stiles Pond, Oakfield

Cumberland County
Aldens Pond, Gorham
Coffin Pond, Brunswick
Lower Hinckley Pond, South Portland
Stevens Brook* (Cemetery Brook) (portion of), New Gloucester

Franklin County
Haley Pond Outlet, Rangeley
Mill Pond, on Muddy Brook, Industry
Pinnacle Pond, Kingfield
Toothaker Pond, Phillps (ice fishing only)
Wilson Stream* (portion of), Wilton

Hancock County
Pickerel Pond, T32 MD
(Maine Youth Fish & Game Association)

Lincoln County
Quarry Pond, Waldoboro

Oxford County
Abbott Brook, Mexico
Aunt Hannah Brook* (portion of), Dixfield
Bill Brook* (portion of), Brownfield
Big Magalloway River* (portion of), Lincoln Plt

Penneseewasee Lake Outlet* (portion of), Norway

Penobscot County
Burlington Fire Pond, Burlington
Cold Stream* (portion of), Enfield
Giles Pond, Patten
Jerry Pond, Millinocket
Johnny Mack Brook, Orono
Lincoln Kids Pond, Lincoln
Little Round Pond, Lincoln
Mattagodus Stream* (portion of), Springfield
Mill Stream* (portion of), Dexter
O’Roake Pond, Sherman
Penobscot County Conservation Pond, Brewer
Rocky Brook, Lincoln

Piscataquis County
Drummond Pond (ice fishing only), Abbott
Dunham Brook (including Kiwanis Park Pond), Dover-Foxcroft

Sagadahoc County
Swan Island, Richmond

Somerset County
Hights Pond, Skowhegan
Mill Stream* (portion of), Embden
Tibbetts Pond, Concord Township

Washington County
Foxhole Pond, on head waters of Great Falls Branch Brook, Deblois
Meyers Pond, North Columbia
Meyers Pond, South Columbia
Middle River* (portion of), Marshfield

York County
Leavitt Brook* (portion of), Limerick
Round Pond, Lyman (ice fishing only)
Wilcox Pond, Biddeford

*See lawbook listing for water body for details on steam and river sections with youth only fishing regulations.

Family Fishing Event – Pineland Farms

The Gray New Gloucester Optimist Club is once again partnering with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife’s Hooked on Fishing – Not on Drugs program to hold the 10th Annual Pineland Farms Family Fishing Event.

The event is scheduled for Sunday, June 8, 2014 from 9am – 12pm.  This is a free event and loaner equipment will be available as well as bait, tackle and instruction.   This annual event also includes some fun raffle prizes and a casting contest.  Children will also have the chance to win a lifetime fishing license!

The event is for children ages 4-12 and the first 200 to register at the event will receive a free t-shirt!  Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Rain or shine!  Hope to see you there!