DIF&W recently presented their plan to expand protection of our native brook trout to members of the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee. Today I want to share with you the reaction of committee members.
This all began with a bill I submitted in the last legislative session to expand protection to the tributaries to our heritage waters where brook trout are protected. The department opposed that bill but when they discovered that the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee was very supportive, the department promised to get the job done.
They formed a working group of a few people to help them with the project and I’m very pleased with the result. As were these legislators. DIFW is expanding protection well beyond what I proposed.
Rep. Bob Duchesne is a house chair of the IFW Committee. Here’s what Bob told me.
IFW biologists really stepped up to the plate. The proposal changes the northern zone to no-live-bait, but preserves live bait fishing in all the major water bodies that have always been used for live-bait fishing. This effectively removes live-bait fishing from all the streams and small water bodies that weren’t being fished that way anyway. It means that IFW biologists don’t have to do a stream-by-stream rule review, which would certainly have expanded the law book. This should reduce the size of the law book, while preserving most of the current angling opportunities. Furthermore, since all changes must be done through rule-making, the public is welcome to comment on any water bodies that they think should be preserved for live bait fishing. The live-bait industry reportedly agrees that this should not affect their businesses. This appears to be a much more efficient way to preserve Maine’s heritage fish.
Rep. Paul Stearns also shared his reaction with me:
I was very impressed with not only the results but the process. IF&W took a hard look at the resource, and determined that we were “posting the wrong way”. Why have so many NLFB waters? – Why not simply say, in the Northern Zone “these waters are open to live bait fishing”? There is no water currently open to live bait that will not be open if the rule change is finalized. The wardens like it because it’s simple – if the body of water is not on the list – live bait is illegal. Also they intend to hold regional info sessions. If you remember- during the workshop on this – I made this exact suggestion.
If you are not yet familiar with DIFW’s proposal, here is their explanation:
All waters in the northern zone (Franklin, Somerset, Piscataquis, Aroostook, and northern portions of Oxford and Penobscot Counties) that are currently open to ice fishing, where live fish may be used at bait, would remain unchanged.
The strategy would result in a change to the general law in the northern zone that would prohibit use of live fish as bait, except where designated by special rule. For example, under this approach, waters currently open to ice fishing and use of live fish as bait would be assigned a special regulation that would allow use of live fish as bait. A change to General Law will be easy to understand by the public and should increase compliance. This change also eliminates most of the “no live fish as bait” special s-code listings currently applied to waters in the northern zone.
This strategy would further reduce new introductions of baitfish and other fish in the vast majority of flowing waters, including dead-waters, small ponds, as well as tributaries and outlets of heritage ponds, while preserving meaningful opportunities to fish with traditional live bait methods in northern Maine.