DIFW fisheries biologists think that catch and release is hurting our fish. Deirdre Fleming’s story about this, in the Maine Sunday Telegram on August 11, was very provocative.
Deirdre wrote: The widespread practice of catch-and-release in waters across Maine has thrown many ecosystems off balance, creating a vicious cycle; an overabundance of fish that leads to a lack of forage, resulting in scrawny catches that no one wants to keep. And so, the fishermen throw them back – usually under the assumption that they’re helping.
I think it is odd that Deirdre wrote nothing about the fact that DIFW is still stocking those waters.
In many waters throughout the state the department is increasing bag limits and encouraging anglers to kill more fish. For example, on Sebago Lake they are proposing the most liberal daily bag limit on togue since they introduced the species in 1972.
While urging anglers to kill the fish, there was nothing in the article which indicated the department will stop stocking those waters.
Since the story was published, I received lots of messages questioning DIFW’s plans. And asking why they seem to think that stocking is not part of the problem.
Many questioned this statement in Deirdre’s story: in Aroostook County and Western Maine, two of the state’s premiere wild trout regions, state regional biologists estimate 50% of the lakes and ponds suffer from an overpopulation of fish that they say is largely due to catch and release.
According to Deirdre, one thing Brautigam does not foresee happening is a state-mandated requirement for fishermen to kill certain non-native fish species, a measure rarely taken, though it is used by the federal government in Yellowstone national park.
I wrote a column about that federal initiative which pays anglers $10 for every northern pike they catch and kill.
And I was really astonished by this statement from Francis Brautigam, DIFW’s Director of the Fisheries Division, speaking about his department asking people to kill non-native fish species: “Some people might view it as unethical. It’s an area we tread lightly,” he said.
So here’s where we are today. DIFW is asking anglers to kill stocked and native fish, while they have, for many years, refused to do the same thing for illegally stocked fish including northern pike which have been spread throughout the state.
Long Pond, just 10 minutes from my house, used to be one of the state’s best landlocked salmon fisheries. And then somebody illegally put northern pike in the pond. DIFW failed to respond and today, the salmon are gone and the lake is full of pike and about a dozen other invasive species.