Woodcock Wins Brook Trout Protections

Commissioner Chandler Woodcock won a key vote yesterday in his long march to protect Maine’s remaining wild and native brook trout. The nearly unanimous vote of the Fish and Wildlife Advisory Council to ban the use of live fish as bait on 9 wild brook trout waters was also a significant victory for John Boland, DIF&W’s Resource Bureau Director, and Mike Brown, Fisheries Division Director.

The proposal received strong criticism from some Maine bait dealers and at least one sporting camp owner. Other sporting camp owners supported the measure that got many positive comments at public hearings and in written comments submitted by individuals and organizations including the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and Maine Audubon.

Chandler took the unusual step at the Council meeting of reading a prepared statement that explained his agency’s initiatives including changes to the lengthy list of fishing rule proposals on the Council’s agenda for final action.

 Because many have indicated an interest in what he said, I am including his remarks in this post.

You can also read my report, written at the Council meeting, that was posted yesterday on my website: www.georgesmithmaine.com.

Commissioner Chandler Woodcock’s Statement

December 20, 2012

The proposals included in this packet are varied in nature. They attempt to address several important management objectives for the fisheries of Maine. The proposals include, but are not limited to:

Protecting and enhancing the important Smallmouth Bass fishery in several Washington County lakes by encouraging the removal of the invasively introduced Largemouth Bass population while continuing  a “catch and release” provision for Smallmouth Bass. This fishery has historically represented a vital enhancement for the area’s economy and we feel that the Smallmouth Bass needs protection.

Protecting the Atlantic Salmon and reducing the probability of unintentional violations in a few coastal Hancock county waters by setting the maximum length limit for Landlocked Salmon and Brown Trout at 25 inches, which is the standard for “grilse.” Identifying LLS, BT and “grilse” can often be challenging and Atlantic Salmon are a federally protected species.

Promoting the increase of smelt and the potential for growth of Landlocked Salmon by allowing a more liberal Togue harvest on specific waters.

Increasing opportunity for anglers, with a focus on youth, in the Moose River. This proposal extends the time period of the “no special terminal tackle restrictions” rule by an additional 16 days, until August 31.

Increasing opportunity for ice fishing on a couple bodies of water by allowing 5 lines instead of the current regulation of 2.

Allowing the use of live fish as bait in Attean Lake. We continue to re-examine the lakes and ponds on the “B” list of Brook Trout waters to validate that important list.

Instituting “No Live Fish As Bait” regulations on specific lakes and ponds which will be managed for protection of wild Brook Trout, Maine’s “Heritage” fish species. The biological concerns relating to “competing fish species” have been expressed by researchers in Maine since 1939. The focus on protecting wild Brook Trout emphasizes both the biologic and economic perspectives. If we are able to successfully protect this unique lake and pond fishery, we will be investing in the future of Maine’s natural resources and our sporting heritage. (96% of the remaining wild Brook Trout in America’s lakes and ponds exists here in Maine.)

The proposal being brought forward today has been arrived at after much consideration of and conversation about the many offerings made during the public comment period. (A special note: two bodies of water, Carr Pond and Fish River Lake, have been removed from the proposal by me in order to maintain the integrity of a comment which I made prior to the proposal being submitted. No other consideration was given to those two waters.)We have heard from, and listened to, sporting camp owners with a vested interest in these resources, fishermen who prefer varying modes of tackle and pursuit, camp owners with ownership of property on one of the specific bodies of water and citizens who simply value Maine’s outdoors. Several important opportunities have come out of the discussions.

IF+W will be cooperating with sporting camp owners, the Bureau of Parks and Lands and others on a survey of ice fishing participants in the Allagash on Chamberlain, Eagle, Churchill and Telos lakes. This survey will assist MDIF+W with evaluating fishing regulations for those critically and historically important waters.

A discussion has been initiated which will hopefully assist in resolving many of the important issues involving the commercial and recreational use of bait.  We will form a bait focus group which will address and work toward a better understanding of differing perspectives. The primary goal for the group will be to revise bait regulations in Maine.

IF+W will continue to re-examine the lakes and ponds currently on the “B” list of Brook Trout  waters.

We want to thank all who have contributed to this process. It has been of significant value to MDIF+W and we remain respectful of the many viewpoints. The proposal before you is meant to protect our resources and offer the most viable opportunities for future generations.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. George also hosts, with Harry Vanderweide, a TV talk show called Wildfire, now in its 13th year and focused on hunting, fishing, environmental, and conservation issues. The show is owned and produced by Maine Audubon and seen on its website as well as on the Time Warner cable TV station throughout the state.