Maine NFC Testifies at North Region Live Bait Proposal Hearing
The Maine chapter of Native Fish Coalition recently testified at a public rule-making hearing in regard to the proposed ban on live bait, minnows, in the North Region of Maine.
While NFC supports the concept and general proposal, we have some concerns regarding the proposed “open water”, or non ice fishing, lake and pond exceptions. While the basis for exempting waters was supposed to be prevalent use, at just short of 100 waters we believe the number to be excessive:
NFC also is concerned that there are some glaring inconsistencies between regions, with Region G having 2.5 times as many proposed lake and pond exceptions than the other four regions combined:
The high number of non ice fishing lake and pond exceptions being proposed by Region G cannot be explained by a higher than average baseline, or total number of waters, or even a higher number of ice fishing waters which would imply a higher preference for live bait:
Another concern is that of the 30 non-ice-fishing lake and pond exceptions being proposed that are Principal Brook Trout fisheries, 20, or 2/3rds, are in Region G. These are waters where brook trout are the primary species of gamefish. Of those under 50 acres, 7 of 8 are in Region G:
NFC has the same concerns regarding the proposed river and stream exceptions. While challenged at the initial legislative hearing by MDIFW as being a non-issue due to very low occurrence, we are now looking at 66 proposed river and stream exceptions totaling hundreds of miles of moving water.
Like the proposed non-ice-fishing lake and pond exceptions, a disproportionate number of proposed river and stream exceptions are in Region G. Specifically, the number of moving water exceptions being proposed for Region G is 1.75 times higher than the aggregate of the other four regions:
There are also issues at the water level. Consider Rideout Pond in T19 R12 WELS, a proposed exception in Region G. This 1-acre pond is very unlikely to have a “prevalent” and “traditional” use of live fish as bait, the fundamental reason for exceptions, especially when you consider what MDIFW said about it in a recent stocking proposal:
At a minimum, the proposed live bait prohibition exemption for Rideout Pond is contrary to the intent of such - to protect “traditional” fishing methods. Is there a connection between this and the proposed stocking program? Was the intent to “allow” live fish as bait versus “protect” the current use of it?
It is also unclear if any of the “tributaries” to State Heritage Fish waters, legally defined as inlets and their tributaries up to the first great pond, the impetus of the proposal, have been proposed for exemption. This needs to be looked at to ensure that we are protecting these invaluable resources as requested by the legislature and agreed to by MDIFW.
It is clear that mistakes were made in regard to the proposed exceptions to this critically important resource-protection initiative. At step-1 of -3 in the rule-making process, and eight or so months from the time when any changes can actually be implemented due to the Fishing Law Book, we still have time to get this right.
Note that while started under former MDIFW Commissioner Woodcock, the proposal is now the responsibility of recently appointed Commissioner Camuso. Ms. Camuso was in attendance at the hearing and received a copy of NFC’s graph package showing the regional discrepancies. She also heard about water-level concerns from others in attendance.