Twice a year, the State of Maine holds a free fishing weekend where anyone can fish on Maine waterways without needing a fishing license. Grab your gear, because the first of those weekends for 2017 is here.

According to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, on Saturday, February 18 and Sunday, February 19, any person may fish for free without a license on Maine’s waterways, except those who have had their license suspended or revoked. All other rules and regulations, including bag and possession limits, apply.

Before you head out though, be warned that this winter has been kind of crazy. Temperatures have been all over the place so you should check the thickness of the ice on lakes and ponds before you venture out to drop your line. How do you do that you ask? Here's what Major Chris Clouter of the Maine Warden Service advises:

Test the thickness of the ice using an ice chisel or ice auger in several locations on the lake or pond. Remember that new ice is usually stronger than old ice and ice seldom freezes uniformly. Ice that forms over flowing water and currents, especially near streams, bridges and culverts, can be particularly dangerous.

So be cautious, be safe, but enjoy the free fishing this weekend. If you'd rather take advantage of a free fishing weekend in warmer weather, the next free weekend will be June 3 and 4.