Rubber lures won’t be banned in Maine – yet

Despite finding substantial problems caused by rubber lures, Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will not recommend that these lures be banned.

rubber lures banFisheries Biologist Dana DeGraaf presented a report today from his agency that was ordered up by the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee last session, after the committee hosted a public hearing on a bill to ban rubber lures. Here’s the conclusion of the report:

“Requiring the sale and use of only biodegradable SPLs is currently not a solution. There is currently no standard national or international definition for what constitutes ‘biodegradable plastic” and SPLs specifically. Based on the information presented in this report, the Department does not recommend any legislation at this time.”

DeGraaf, the brook trout and landlocked salmon specialist at DIF&W, did a good job of putting this report together. He even did some diving to check out the bottoms of some of the waters where rubber lures are present.

Rep. Paul Davis, who has expressed concern about the fact that the bottoms some of our lakes and ponds are covered in rubber lures, after hearing the report, asked DeGraaf if rubber lures were really a problem. “It’s mostly a littering problem,” replied DeGraaf. That was the only question asked at the work session.

The legislative room was crowded with anglers, many of whom were expecting a fight over the original bill that called for a ban on rubber lures. When that didn’t happen, the room quickly emptied.

The department will post the entire report on its website soon and it is well worth reading. It includes some interesting (and alarming) research, both in and outside Maine, along with a response from the American Sportfishing Association to questions DIF&W posed to national fishing groups and rubber lure manufacturers.

The Department did propose in the report a number of educational and enforcement initiatives, which Andrea Erskine, DIF&W Deputy Commissioner, told me they would be implementing.

It is very clear, from DeGraaf’s report, that rubber lure are a problem. Here are a few statements from the report’s Executive Summary.

“Discarded soft plastic lures (SPLs) have been documented in many Maine lakes by the Department and others; the ingestion of these SPLs by salmonids is a growing concern expressed by anglers and fisheries managers.

“Soft plastic lures were documented at higher occurrences in Region A waters than in any other regional water surveyed.

“During a SPL water exposure study, after 1 week, 1 month, and 8 months post-treatment, a popular sinking minnow SPL advertised as 100% degradable showed no signs of degradation. The SPL retained the same observable physical characteristics and elasticity of a new, identical SPL.”

The good news is that everyone has committed to minimizing the use of rubber lures, educating anglers about the problems they cause, and preventing the spread of these lures along the bottoms of our lakes and ponds and into the stomachs of our fish.

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.