HALLOWELL (AP) — Traditional Maine smelt fishing is banned in the lower half of the state this spring from Stonington to the New Hampshire border.

Battered and fried, the small fish is a spring staple in Maine.

The Department of Marine Resources says in a press release that the closure will protect smelt at a vulnerable life stage when they are spawning. Fishing camps on the Kennebec River as well as small tributaries are exempt from the closure on March 14.

The closure will last 90 days during the spawning period through an emergency rulemaking.

State studies show runs of smelt have declined fifty percent in the last few decades in the closure area.

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