One of the most interesting parts of the meeting occurred when council members had the opportunity to raise any issues and ask any questions they wished. They had quite a discussion about bass. One council member questioned new rules of no size or bag limit on bass in northern Maine waters.
Fisheries Division Director Francis Brautigam responded that IFW “does not want bass in those waters.” But he also said the agency’s goal “is not reduce the bass populations in those waters,” a statement that confused me.
Advisory Council member Jeff Lewis of Hancock County complained about the spread of bass, especially largemouth bass, and cited the loss of native brook trout in many waters in his region.
Council member Lance Wheaton said, “It’s time you biologists get the hell out of the office and see what’s happening in our lakes.” Lance, a Maine guide, reported finding lots of fish with rubber or steel in them, including salmon. He does not let his anglers use rubber or steel lures. “It’s killing our fish,” he said. Instead he uses lures that deteriorate if they are lost in the water.
“I don’t think the bass industry should be able to kill all our fish,” he said. “We need to protect our bass.” He also said lots of bass have been lost since the introduction of alewives to his Grand Lake Stream area waters. Turning to the fisheries biologists, Lance said, “You guys got a lot to learn.”
Councilor Lawrence Farrington of Piscataquis and Somerset Counties lamented “There’s probably more bass boats on Moosehead Lake than trout and salmon boats.” Bass were illegally introduced to Moosehead Lake some years ago.
“I hate bass in Moosehead Lake,” said Farrington, arguing for more protection of trout by placing more trout ponds on the state’s Heritage list. “If you are going to make a mistake, I’d prefer to make it on the conservation side,” he said. “The brook trout is the one thing that anglers come to Maine to catch.”
In general, we learned that the department has changed its approach to focus on no length or bag limits with special rules on some waters.
Commissioner Chandler Woodcock reported that the agency is working to simplify fishing rules, focusing on waters where they want to remove more fish.
Brautigam said, “What we find on remote waters is no fishing pressure, resulting in smaller fish.” They want to encourage anglers to take more fish out of those waters. “I honestly think we could take more than five fish from some of those remote waters,” Francis told council members.