Fisheries Group Making Progress on Important Initiatives

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 “I’m quite comfortable. I think we’re making good progress.”

Those were the words of Steve Brooke, a member of DIFW’s new fisheries working group, organized in response to legislation I submitted to expand protection of our native brook trout. I attended the group’s meeting on October 26, and I have to agree with Steve.

Fisheries Division Director Francis Brautigam has embraced this challenge, and is working hard to get his entire staff on board to achieve our objectives which include adding more trout waters to the state’s Heritage List, and protecting tributaries of the lakes and ponds on that list.

At one point, Francis actually said he was looking for more accountability in the regions. That was a very important statement.

Steve and Gary Corson are very active and engaged members of the working group, and Francis said at the most recent meeting that he hopes that group will continue working with DIFW in the years ahead – a great idea!

Francis did raise trust issues, saying some staff members don’t trust “some of the people involved in the Heritage waters bills.” I am sure I am at the top of that list, because some fisheries biologists really resent the fact I’ve taken these issues to the legislature a number of times including during my service to the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.

Much of the discussion at this meeting focused on the complexities of protecting tributaries, and they even discussed protecting entire watersheds. That was very interesting.

Francis said he’d sent maps to each region recently, and expected to know soon if any problems would occur in the effort to protect tributaries. Tim Obrey, DIFW fisheries biologist in the Moosehead Lake region and a member of this working group, said the tributaries in his region are “not fished, so why protect them with new rules?”

Francis predicted that there wouldn’t be many problems, and he was certain that some form of protection of the tributaries would be proposed.

The group also discussed a proposal from Gary Corson to add waters to the Heritage list. My thought on that is that we should protect all possible native trout waters, until they have been surveyed and studied. They could then be removed if the research justified that decision.

I also have a problem with the department’s “assessment criteria” for adding a water to the Heritage list. The criteria includes “fishing quality.” But this is not about anglers, it is about brook trout.

One interesting side note was a comment by Francis that turnout at their public hearings has been poor, and those hearings take up a lot of staff time. Seems to me, with today’s technology, the agency could come up with much better – and easier – ways for the public to weigh in on the agency’s proposed rules and other issues, than their dependence on poorly attended public hearings.

Maybe Francis should start an outdoor news blog!

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