With so much confusion and uncertainty this spring about what you can or cannot do and stay within the law, there isn’t a trout or salmon angler in Maine or elsewhere who isn’t asking this question: “Will I be able to access the woods and go fishing?”

North Maine Woods, a recreational land management group that controls access to thousands of acres of woodlands and fishing waters in northern Maine, has announced that it will open its gates, but with conditions.

The press release is below. Unless the governor feels the pressure and loosens up, the takeaway is this: Maine residents will be able to camp and fish behind North Maine Woods’ gates beginning June 1st. (Only non-residents who have quarantined themselves for 14 days in Maine will be allowed by the gates.) Purportedly, Game Wardens will enforce. Good luck overseeing that one!

Here is the plan from the desk of Al Cowperthwaite, NMW’s director:

“From May 1st to May 17th, with permission from the Governor’s office, North Maine Woods (NMW) and the KI Jo-Mary Forest (KIJM) will open for day use, and with the approval of the private landowners, private roads will be open to public use to allow day use access for fishing, hiking and riding,” Cowperthwaite said in the press release. “We still ask that visitors refrain from driving on soft side roads. During this time, checkpoints will not be staffed so registration and visitor fees will not be required.”

“On May 18th,” the release continues, “we plan to start opening checkpoints, but it will not be business as usual. In an effort to protect our employees from exposure, during weekdays visitors will be asked to self-register using the forms available and with assistance from our staff using telephones installed at each location. During weekends and at other random times, checkpoints will be staffed. Instructions on registration procedures will be available soon on our website at northmainewoods.org and on our Facebook page.”

“We are required to follow the new statewide guidelines relative to overnight camping. Compliance requires that campsites and campgrounds remain closed until June 1st, and then only allowing Maine residents to camp (and non-residents who have self-quarantined for 14 days). Until June arrives, Maine’s Game Wardens, Forest Rangers and landowner representatives have been asked to report illegal camping activity. Should anyone be found camping illegally, they risk being banned from using North Maine Woods managed properties in the future.”

“We will continue to post information on our website and Facebook page as this situation changes.”

The statement concludes “We hope that this pandemic ends soon so we can welcome our friends from other parts of the country and get back to normal operations”

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.net.

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