Survey finds Maine anglers very happy. Are you?

a0013930-884a-410a-8683-6a98aaa4df84Good news! You are very happy with your fishing experiences in Maine. You think the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife does a superb job of managing fisheries. You have no problem understanding the fishing rules. And many of you don’t even care if you catch a fish – it’s all about the outdoor experience.

Unbelievable, you say? Well, those were some of the surprising survey results presented by Mark Duda of Responsive Management to DIF&W’s Fisheries Steering Committee, the group that is working with the agency to create new management plans for all fish species.

Steering Committee members were very skeptical of the survey results. “I think this satisfaction level is unbelievable,” said Committee member Fern Bosse, representing the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. “Where are all those people who think the agency is doing great? I don’t see them.”

At the end of this column, you’ll find a link to my Sportsmen Say Surveys which give you a chance to express your opinions on some of these issues.

Duda surveyed Maine and nonresident anglers by telephone and mail, breaking out his results into northern, downeast, central, and southern regions, and nonresidents. The survey was conducted in January and February. Fifty eight percent  of those surveyed fish for trout (includes togue and rainbows), 48% for bass, 22% for salmon, 11% for perch,7 percent for pickerel, and 8 percent don’t care what they catch. Interestingly, given the amount of money DIF&W spends on the species, less than 1 percent fish for hatchery-produced splake.

Twenty two percent rated the quality of open water fishing as excellent, 48% good, 21% fair, 8% poor, and 2% didn’t know. “Great numbers,” reported Duda. Seventy one percent of nonresidents gave Maine fishing excellent and good ratings. Nothern Maine anglers are the least satisfied, with 42.4 percent rating fishing as poor.

The Outdoor Industry

Nowhere in these plans or process is there any recognition of the importance of – or the needs of – our outdoor industry.

Don Kleiner, lobbyist for the Maine Guides Association and a member of the Fisheries Steering Committee, told Mike Brown, DIF&W’s Fisheries Division Director, “My guys are working for you, and you are not fostering that relationship. We’re not feeling the love. You’ve always been anathema to any kind of marketing or sales, and that’s part of the reason I’m not still there.” At one time, Kleiner served as DIF&W’s Information and Education Director, where he did an exceptionally good job.

Our outdoor industry certainly needs some consideration in these plans. Fourteen of 16 sporting camps in Washington County are for sale, some at very low prices. “We have not probed, in any way, the industry side,” noted Kleiner. Sarah Medina, a Steering Committee member who works for Seven Islands Land Management Company, and Igor Sikorsky, owner with his wife of Bradford Camps and also a Steering Committee member, agreed that nonresidents and the outdoor industry are important in this process.

Public meetings

If you are not happy with your fishing experiences, and/or would like to see better fisheries management, there are two ways you can let the agency – and the Fisheries Steering Committee – know your thoughts. Sometime soon DIF&W will offer an online opportunity to express your opinions. And they will be hosting four public meetings to brief you on the issues and hear your opinions. Here’s the schedule:

  • March 17, 2016 6-9 pm
    Embassy Suites by Hilton – Katahdin Room, 1050 Westbrook Street, Portland
  • March 17, 2016 6-9 pm 
    Northeastland Hotel – Red Room, 436 Maine Street, Presque Isle
  • March 31, 2016 6-9 pm
    Black Bear Inn – Blue Room, 4 Godfrey Drive, Orono
  • April 5, 2016 6-9 pm
    University of Farmington – Lincoln Auditorium, 224 Main Street, Farmington

My Thoughts

In DIF&W’s current fisheries plans, they note that they can’t achieve their goals due to lack of staff and money. So shouldn’t they be focusing on what they can achieve? Or rethinking how they spend their money? For example, rethinking spending almost all their funds on expensive hatchery fish instead of focusing on self-sustaining wild fish.

And here are questions I have posed to the agency: You don’t have the funding or staff to achieve any of these plans. So what good are they? Wouldn’t it be better to focus the plans on what can be achieved? Why aren’t we looking at costs of current management, including the almost total focus, and high cost, of hatchery produced stocked fish?

And yes, I’ll be at one of these public meetings – probably the one in Farmington – to express my opinions! Perhaps I’ll see you there.

No, that photo of me and the fish at the top of this column was not taken in Maine. It was in Alaska.

What do you think?

Please click on this link to three questions I’ve posed in my Sportsmen’s Say Survey:

Fish Stocking

Rate your fishing experiences

Rate the quality of open water fishing

I will share your opinions with DIF&W and the members of the Fisheries Steering Committee. Thanks!

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,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.