Legislature considers bill to simplify fishing rules

2017fishinglawsMy proposal to establish a commission to simplify Maine’s complicated fishing rules is scheduled for a public hearing by the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee on Tuesday, February 14, at 1 pm in Room 206 of the Cross Building next to the Capitol.

LD 187, sponsored by Representative Michelle Dunphy of Old Town, would organize a 10-member Commission to recommend changes that will simplify the laws and rules governing fishing.

Over the years I probably got more complaints about the complexity of fishing rules than any other issue.  I wrote an Outdoor News column last year, as I fished through the law book for the rules governing some of my favorite waters. Frustrating doesn’t begin to describe my search.

Last year, Commissioner Chandler Woodcock informed the committee that in 2017 they would simplify the law book, and then work to simplify the rules. That seemed backwards to me. If they would simplify the rules, then the rule book would be a lot simpler and easier to navigate.

During my years at the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, we sponsored regular reviews, by our Pickering Commission, of hunting, trapping, and fishing laws and rules, and came up with lots of recommendations, most of which were enacted by the legislature. DIF&W always participated in that work.

Well, it’s time to take another stab at simplifying the fishing rules. And I believe it is important that outside interests participate. We should not leave this up to the agency. The 10-member commission would be composed of two legislators, DIF&W’s Commissioner (or his representative) and Fisheries Division Director, a member of the F&W Advisory Council, representatives of a fish and game club and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, and three licensed anglers.

Now, I do want to acknowledge that DIF&W simplified the rule book this year, including listing special regulations alphabetically, and creating what they call a “simple and easy how to use this book” section. And I applaud them for their effort, while encouraging you to take some time to look through the 2017 law book. They have made it easier to navigate, but it is still not easy to figure out the rules that govern your favorite waters. The book is 64 pages long, crowded with all the rules that govern fishing inland waters in our state.

Consider this statement: “Our code of Fish and Game Laws is complicated, unfair and in some places contradictory. It really makes lawbreakers unknowingly owing to its uncertain phrasing and its complex rulings. What Maine needs is a simple code, easily understood and practically universal in scope. The law should treat all parts of the state with equality and must do away with sectional selfishness and spite legislation.”

This statement by Robert Maxcy, a well-known sportsman and prominent Maine businessman, was published in 1928. My, how things have not changed!

Other Bills

Also being heard that afternoon are these bills.

LD 188, An Act to Allow Dipping for Smelt on King Pond in Hancock Country, sponsored by Representative Peter Lyford.

LD 190, An Act to Allow Spearfishing for Northern Pike in Sebago Lake, sponsored by Representative Lester Ordway.

LD 276, An Act to Require a Game Warden’s Certificate to Kill Wild Animals Causing Damage to Crops or Orchards and Notification to Nearby Residents, sponsored by Representative Jeff Pierce.

(Currently, unless the landowner wants someone else to kill wild animals that are damaging his or her crops, that landowner can kill the animals without a permit).

LD 278, An Act to Amend the Hunting Laws as They Pertain to the Training of Dogs, sponsored by Representative  Robert Alley.

(This bill would remove the prohibition on training hunting dogs on bear in those portions of Washington and Hancock Counties that are situations south of Route 9).

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. 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.