Maine Department of Marine Resources Brown Trout Regulations
While working with Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) on a project involving their Sea-Run Sportfishing Regulations web content/print media, the Maine chapter of Native Fish Coalition (NFC) discovered an inconsistency between how DMR and Department of Inland Fisheries (DIFW) were managing brown trout in coastal waters.
Specifically, while DIFW has a 25" maximum length limit on brown trout in rivers, streams and brooks, DMR does not have one on coastal waters. While applied to brown trout, this regulation is intended to protect adult federally endangered Atlantic salmon where the two species overlap.
While DMR has a 14" minimum length limit on brown trout which unlike the DIFW 6" minimum helps protect Atlantic salmon smolts, the lack of a 25" maximum length limit puts adult Atlantic salmon at risk of accidental harvest due to species misidentification.
Note: Both DMR and DIFW have a 25" maximum length limit on landlocked salmon. The DIFW restriction applies to rivers, streams and ponds only.
While brown trout are rare, or non-existent in the Penobscot drainage and Downeast rivers and streams, they are common in the Kennebec River watershed and present in the Saco River watershed. Therefore, while somewhat limited geographically, the opportunity for misidentification is possible.
After discussing the lack of a 25" maximum length limit on brown trout in coastal waters with Downeast Salmon Federation and Atlantic Salmon Federation, we all agreed that this is something that needs to be addressed.
Imposing a 25" maximum length limit on brown trout in coastal waters would need to go through the formal rule-making process. However, the changes to the DMR brown trout regulations and website and print media would be simple:
We spoke with DMR on 4/5 and they agreed to pursue the change through the normal channels. If all goes well we should see a revised regulation and associated documents prior to the beginning of the 2019 fishing season.
Adding a 25" maximum length limit of brown trout would help protect biologically important adult Atlantic salmon from accidental harvest due to species misidentification, while gaining consistency with IFW regarding regulations on brown trout on coastal streams to help with law enforcement.
Maine’s Atlantic salmon are a federally endangered species and a Maine Tier 1 Species of Greatest Conservation Need. At this point in the recovery process every fish matters, especially breeding age adults. We should do everything we can to protect these iconic fish.
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