In downtown Lewiston, people are discovering their own fishing hole; but there’s no secret to it. It is the mighty Androscoggin River, a 178-mile waterway that begins in Errol, New Hampshire and winds its way through many and varied mill towns on its way to meet the Kennebec River before heading to the Gulf of Maine.

Today’s L/A riverfront is an open invitation to the sport of fishing.

“Growing up in the 1980s, there were no fish in the Androscoggin and if there were, they were better off dead,” said Jonathan Labonte, mayor of Auburn and former executive director of the Androscoggin Land Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the environment, natural areas, and outdoor experience along the Androscoggin River. “Today, the river is clean and accessible. That makes a difference. Build it and they will come.”

So who is coming to downtown Lewiston to fish?

“Everybody is fishing there; kids, parents, whole families,” said Macauley “Mac” Lord of Brunswick. “They are people who want to catch a lot of fish.”

And Lord would be the one to know.

In addition to being an avid fishing enthusiast, Lord has spent his career teaching others the art of fly casting. He’s the author of the “L.L. Bean Fly Casting Handbook” and a co-author of the “L.L.Bean Ultimate Book of Fly Fishing.” His fly-fishing techniques have trained and tested fly-casting instructors in more than 36 countries.

“I’ve seen people fishing from power boats and I’ve seen some fishing from kayaks,” said Lord, who claims that the downtown fishing is great.

“You can catch lots of small mouth bass — sunfish sometime — and there’s yellow perch,” said Lord. “You can also catch very large northern pike even up to the 30-inch range. Because they feed on small mouth bass, I wish they weren’t there. But they get huge and are fun to catch.”

Lord attributes the abundance of fish in the inner city section of the river to history, geography, and a riverside economy based on mills and dams.

“The river had the gradient to harness river power and that’s where mills and dams were built,” said Lord. “A gradient drop in a river creates a rocky habitat, good turbulence, and good oxygen levels. This is good for large predators.”

For the best fishing, Lord advises to go where there are drops in the river, usually found at any town where there’s been a mill, noting Rumford, Livermore Falls, Brunswick and Lewiston as prime locations. “Fish below the dams and where there’s decent current.”

As for the best times to fish, Lord said that fall and spring are best usually between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. For summer fishing, think morning and evening, and stay away from the times when the sun is at its warmest overhead.

And Lord cautions not to start menu planning for the fish caught in the Androscoggin. “I’ve never seen anybody eat one and I never will,” said Lord. “Fish from the river have mercury and other heavy metals in them. Urban bass fishing is a catch and release sport.”

Labonte believes that fishing in the Twin Cities’ downtown is one small step toward bigger and better ventures.

“It embraces outdoor activities that can bring economic development, workplace wellness, and that can highlight the great things happening in the downtown,” said Labonte, who is known to kayak frequently in the downtown area.

Lord agrees that there is a special attraction to inner city fishing that is catching on. And he’s quick to remind enthusiasts about a couple of basics before bringing out the fishing pole.

“Pinch all the barbs down on your hooks. The barbs are an impediment to catching fish. They will be much safer and you will catch more,” said Lord. “I always recommend wearing polarized sunglasses that will cut though the glare on the water. If you always fish with eye protection, that means you are not going to get a hook in the eye.”

Lord has one final recommendation, not wanting to miss the obvious.

“Always have a fishing license; you need one to fish.”

Who needs a fishing license?

A person is required to obtain a valid fishing license prior to fishing in inland waters or transporting fish taken from inland waters. A person is required to keep his/her fishing license with him/her at all times while fishing or transporting fish and must exhibit their license for inspection by any warden, department employee, guide or landowner upon request.

Possession of fishing tackle in the fields or forest or on the waters or ice of the state of Maine without a fishing license is prima facie evidence of fishing in violation of the law.

When obtaining a resident license, it is the responsibility of the applicant to submit proof of residency.

Maine residents under 16 years of age and nonresidents under 12 years of age may fish without a license.

Maine residents (and immediate family members who live with that person ) may fish without a license from their own land if that person owns more than 10 acres of land, lives on that particular piece of land, and the land is used exclusively for agricultural purposes.

In-patients at the Veterans Administration Hospital at Togus may fish without a license within 25 miles of Togus Note: Patients not under immediate supervision of a hospital representative must have a valid hospital pass while fishing.

Source: Maine Inland Fish & Wildlife, http://www.maine.gov/ifw/licenses_permits/fishing.htm


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