Maine's North Zone Bait Restriction Proposal: Status Update
As many of you know, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) has been working on a proposal to limit the use of live fish as bait in the North Region which encompasses most of the state’s wild native salmonid waters. This is the result of legislation submitted by George Smith and supported by NFC members in 2017.
Nearly two years in the making, this would be the most significant initiative to protect wild native salmonids since the State Heritage Fish law. The gist of the proposal is to impose a no-live-fish-as-bait restriction by rule not exception in the North Region.
Per MDIFW, waters currently open to ice-fishing will be unaffected by the change, as will some list of yet-to-be-determined lakes and ponds, and rivers a streams. The latter will be based on a history of “prevalent use” of live fish as bait.
In early March, MDIFW held a series of informal public hearings to get a feel for how the proposal would be received by the public. While NFC supported the concept, we needed to see the list of open-water exceptions before we could fully support the proposal.
A formal public hearing was held on March 20, where the Maine chapter of Native Fish Coalition (NFC) and others spoke about the detailed proposal. We also submitted formal written comments. While NFC was, and remains, in support of the concept, we had some issues with regard to the proposed exceptions, both lakes and ponds, and rivers and streams.
After being scheduled for “Step 2” in the formal Rule-Making process, the proposal status was changed to “Other Business," indication that there would be changes coming. Per MDIFW, the lists of exceptions were being pulled back to consider possible revisions.
Once MDIFW finishes their analysis and revisions, the packet will be resubmitted for review and processing. Something should be presented in late May or early June.
While we all want to see this come to closure, NFC sees this as a positive step forward that will not delay implementation due to the fact that nothing can change until the new fishing law book is printed.
As we did before, NFC will be requesting the new exception lists and will perform an analysis to see what has changed.