Advisory Council Meeting Minutes

December 14, 2011 @ 1:00 p.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
650 State Street, 1st Floor Large Conference Room
Bangor, ME

Attending:  

Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner
Andrea Erskine, Deputy Commissioner
John Boland, Director, Bureau of Resource

Management:

Lee Kantar, Wildlife Biologist
Lieutenant Dan Scott
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder

Council Members:
                       
Steve Philbrick, Chair
Cathy DeMerchant, Vice-Chair
Mike Witte
Dick Thurston
Lance Wheaton
Jeff Lewis
Wade Kelly
Lila Ware

Guests:   
                       
Judy Finley
Gary Corson, New Sharon
Dennis Smith
Bill Manahan
Sandy Manahan
Laurie Previn
May Cousins
Elwood Kingsbury
Dave Cousins
                                   

I. Call to Order 
                                   
Steve Philbrick, Council Chair, called the meeting to order.

II. Introductions

Introductions were made.

III. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting

A motion was made by Mrs. DeMerchant and seconded by Mr. Witte to accept the Council minutes for the last meeting.

Vote:  unanimous – minutes accepted.

IV. Rule Making

A. Step 3

1. Fishing Regulatiion Changes

Mr. Boland stated he wanted to go over the mailing the Council had received regarding the amendments to the original proposals.  With the exception of those, the original proposals would stay in tact.

Fish River throughfares – There were a couple of proposals, one dealt with salmon, one with brook trout.  The one that dealt with salmon was to make the regulation 3 salmon with a minimum length of 12”.  That would be consistent with the Fish River Lake.  There was an overpopulation of wild salmon stunting the growth.  Comments received during the comment period was the fact that there were people catching significant numbers of large salmon, 3 – 6 lbs. so the concern was that they could take 3 fish in the fall during the spawning runs.  We were suggesting to keep the 3 fish, 12” in tact and restrict the take of salmon over 16” to 1 fish.  The brook trout proposal stays the same.

Bemis Stream – It’s a little trout stream that flows into Mooselookmeguntic.  There was a proposal to close it during the last part of the open water season to protect spawning brook trout.  Essentially there was not a lot of data. We decided to pull the proposal and do some follow up and perhaps a study on the spawning trout population in the stream to see what necessary regulations might be in order.

Little Wilson Pond – This body of water is in Turner.  Closed to ice fishing currently and no public access.  There was a petition to open it to ice fishing and many comments were received.  We were recommending to open it to ice fishing with a 1 year sunset.

Sebago Lake – Francis Brautigam pulled together a focus group at Sebago Lake and they explored the history of the management of Sebago, the current situations and decided what direction the angling public should go.  It was aimed at protecting and enhancing the landlocked salmon.  One of the major obstacles is the burgeoning lake trout population.  The proposal that came from the focus group with regards to the lake trout population was that there is science to show that if you can weight that population of lake trout toward larger individuals, they will control the number of smaller lake trout which are so abundant in Sebago right now.  The focus group recommended no size or bag under 23” on lake trout and nothing over 23”.  We received a lot of public comments regarding that with concerns about catching a trophy fish.  We decided to accept the cut off at 33” so there would be no size or bag under 23”; 23” – 33” mandatory release, but could keep 1 fish over 33”.

The other part to the Sebago regulations, Region A opened most of their waters to fall or year round fishing.  Sebago was not opened early on because we were concerned about the salmon population and didn’t want to create any undo pressure on the salmon.  A large portion of that fishery is supported by natural reproduction.  They swim up the Crooked River and spawn and that is producing about 50% of the catch at Sebago.  Francis opened Sebago a couple years ago with the intent of directing fishing for harvest of togue.  In the fall if you fished in October/November you could keep your limit of togue, C&R on salmon.  During that time many people were fishing for salmon and congregated in the upper end of the lake at the mouth of the Songo and Crooked River where the wild spawning salmon concentrate.  They were very vulnerable and Francis proposed to close that area to fall fishing.  Another area at the other end of the lake called “the Basin” there was also a concentration of fish that were targeted, principally by fly fishermen, but those were all stocked fish and honing to flowing water.  We decided to recommend that closing that area at the upper end of the lake was consistent with our wild trout and salmon management, but we’d like to keep that area at the Basin open.  Francis would be monitoring the fishery over the next couple of years and would report any issues.

Stanley Brook – A little sea run brook trout stream on Mt. Desert Island.  We closed it about 3 years ago so the University of Maine and UFWS could do a study on sea run brook trout.  It was sunsetted to open this coming year, and we were asked to close it for an additional year so they could complete their study.  We would like to put a sunset of 1 year on it.

Henderson Pond – A little wild brook trout pond in the Greenville region, suffering from an over population resulting in a little bit of a stunted population.  Tim Obrey had proposed to go from a 2 fish limit to 5 fish, 6”.  We received comments and were recommending to keep the 5 fish, 6” but go with S-20, 5 fish, 6”; can’t keep any fish over 12”.

Nesourdanahunk Stream – Proposal to take a short section of the stream near the campground and make it more fishable by families and kids.  There was a proposal to restrict it, instead of FFO to the use of artificial flies so you could have used spinning gear.  That generated many comments so we were now recommending making that section ALO.

Cold Stream Pond – The bulk of the proposal was aimed at managing lake trout population and Nels had a very liberal bag limit there now of 8 fish and he proposed to back to general law on lake trout.  That was a plan from several years ago.  He also had proposed to close it to fall fishing.  In that particular case the fall fishing was aimed at stocked landlocked salmon, stocked brook trout, very light use so we were proposing to keep it open to fall fishing.

Duck Lake – Similar to Cold Stream Pond, stocked brook trout.  Nels proposed to close it to fall fishing because there was a relic wild population of lake trout.  Very light use in the fall and all of it targeted at salmon and trout which were stocked so we were proposing to keep it open in the fall.

Mr. Boland stated that was a summary of the amended changes to the proposals.

Mr. Philbrick stated the fishing proposals were now at Step 3.  What he’d like to do was take the summary of changes and entertain a motion to accept the amendments first.

Motion made by Mrs. DeMerchant and seconded by Mr. Thurston to accept the amended proposals as presented.

Vote:  Unanimous – motion passed.

Mr. Wheaton stated at the last meeting he had brought up West Grand Lake and the 8 whitefish limit and he did not see that here.

Mr. Philbrick stated the summary had been voted on.  The next step was to amend the remainder of the packet.  He suggested that before they made a motion, it was to include the component with which they had issues in the packet that needed to be amended and then vote in the remainder of the packet.

Mr. Kelly made a motion to accept the packet with amendments.

Mr. Kelly stated he had 8 waters in his packet that were dealing with the no live fish as bait rule. Togue Pond and tributaries and outlets; Sly Brook Lake 3rd; Munsungan Lake including Little; Mud Lake; Fish River Lake; Chase Lake; Long Lake and outlet to Long Lake Dam including Harvey Pond and tributaries and Umsaskis Lake (including throughfare to Long Lake) and tributaries.

Mr. Wheaton stated he wanted to include West Grand Lake, the 8 whitefish limit.

Mr. Kelly stated he wanted to include Jellison Hill Pond.

No other changes were requested.

Mr. Philbrick asked if there was a second for Mr. Kelly’s motion.  The motion was seconded by Mrs. Ware.

Mr. Philbrick stated when the Council voted they would be extracting what they just spoke about and voting in the remainder of the packet.

Vote:  Unanimous; packet accepted with amendments

Mr. Philbrick stated those waters would need to be described and then Mr. Boland would have an opportunity to answer and they would vote whether to accept the changes.

Mr. Kelly stated the reason he listed those ponds, the overall packet on waters in his region that were going to be affected by the no live fish as bait rule, when you looked at those waters you had waters above and below that were open to ice fishing that were also live bait use.  The rule itself on the waters in the packet would not actually protect the brook trout because they were all interconnected.  Mr. Kelly stated he took out ponds that were togue or salmon fisheries as well as brook trout.  Those were the 8 waters he took out.  The other waters he left in the packet were brook trout fisheries.  Even though the S-4 rule still wasn’t going to protect them, they were brook trout fisheries.  People did not take live fish as bait with them there anyway.

Mr. Wheaton stated West Grand Lake was home to many fresh water guides that fished for salmon in the lake.  The proposal was to stop the netting of smelts, and the hook and line fishery for smelt.  The smelt numbers were gaining in great numbers and would continue if the netting was stopped and the hook and line fishery.  He had talked with the biologist in the area and evaluated all the lakes.  The biologist’s concern was that nothing had been studied to go from 8 whitefish to 3 whitefish and how that may affect the lake. Mr. Wheaton stated he was nervous to make that move knowing the hatchery was fed by that lake and he didn’t want to do anything to change the hatchery and the production of salmon the State had.  He felt it was critical and there should be science behind it to make the decision.

Mr. Lewis stated Jellison Hill Pond was a small pond in Amherst.  Mostly it was an issue from going to having it currently open to ice fishing (there’s very limited access, it’s a couple mile walk in on a gated road) and now closing it to ice fishing.  Several of the people in attendance at the meeting had camps there.  The pond used to be stocked with brook trout but no longer.  The trout were getting larger and fell under the category of one of the wild brook trout ponds.  He would like to see more research done and postpone it to see if an S-code couldn’t be put on it to allow maybe 2 traps, 1 fish limit ice fishing or something as opposed to just closing it altogether.

Mr. Philbrick stated he was going to ask for a short recess.  Mr. Boland, Commissioner Woodcock and Deputy Commissioner Erskine would discuss the Council member’s concerns and come back with recommendations and they would vote on them.

Mr. Philbrick stated they would discuss each concern first.  He would start with Mr. Wheaton and then they would make a recommendation.

Mr. Wheaton stated many people earned their livelihood at West Grand Lake guiding for all the sporting camps.  He met with the regional biologist and the biologist had some concerns.  Mr. Wheaton also had a good friend that just retired, Rick Jordan, and he also had concerns.  He was the biologist there for 30+ years.  We were making a major change to the lake.  In Bill Vail’s day West Grand Lake only had needle size smelt, and that was one reason they couldn’t grow a lot of big salmon.  Smelt eggs were taken from Farrow Lake in Topsfield and moved to West Grand Lake.  The smelt took and now there were large smelt there.  The salmon were starting to grow.  There was no science to back up going from 8 whitefish to 3 whitefish.  With the hatchery intake right there in the lake, he would hate to take a chance on doing something to the hatchery, of something changing on that body of water. 

Mr. Kelly stated it was pretty much what he alluded to earlier about the reason for taking the waters out that he listed.  Those waters were a different fishery, they weren’t just a brook trout fishery.  The rule that would be applied to that would adversely effect the people that wanted to fish for togue and salmon in the traditional manners that they used in those waters.  If it became an issue later on those waters could be brought back individually by the people that fished those waters instead of having them in a packet where it blanketed them all.

Mr. Lewis stated Jellison Hill Pond, as he stated before, he would like to vote it down until we had better science as to a different method of fishing changing it so they were not hurting the fishery when most of the fishery was ice fishing.

Commissioner Woodcock stated this was his first time through this regulation process as Commissioner.  We took each body of water in the State and had a recommendation from a biologist according to what they felt was appropriate for that body of water.  Then it was put out to the public process which included public hearings around the state and the 3 step process with the Advisory Council.  The law book would be in effect from the spring of 2012 till spring of 2013.  The ice fishing portion of the packet would not go into effect until 2013.  If there was anything in the law book that people weren’t comfortable with they could bring it to our attention through a petition process.  It was very important to him as Commissioner that the process stayed in tact.  He was recommending that each of the proposals go through as they were originally proposed and the Council would have the chance to vote on each one of them separately.  If the public had concerns in the future they had the right to change that particular proposal through the public process.

Mr. Wheaton made a motion that the West Grand Lake 8 whitefish to 3 whitefish not go forward.

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated the Commissioner had made his recommendation.  What he was putting forward to the Council was that West Grand was going to remain as it was in the packet so now the Council should take a vote on that proposal. 

Mrs. Ware made a motion to accept the recommendation to keep the West Grand Lake regulation as proposed, and that was seconded by Mr. Thurston.

Vote:  1 in favor; 7 opposed – motion failed

Mr. Kelly made a motion that his waters not move forward.

Commissioner Woodcock stated they would need someone to make a motion that it go forth as presented (what he was recommending) and Mr. Kelly would be opposing.  That was the recommendation and needed to be the motion and same thing of Mr. Lewis when it came to that.

Mrs. Ware made a motion that Togue Pond regulations go forward as presented and that was seconded by Mrs. DeMerchant.

Mr. Philbrick asked if we were doing each pond separately?

Commissioner Woodcock stated no, it would be all the proposals.

Mrs. DeMerchant rescinded her second to the motion.

Mrs. Ware made a motion that the ponds presented by Mr. Kelly all move forward as presented by the Commissioner and that was seconded by Mrs. DeMerchant.

Vote:  1 in favor; 7 opposed – motion failed

Mrs. Ware made a motion that the Jellison Hill Pond regulation move forward as presented by the Commissioner and that was seconded by Mrs. DeMerchant.

Vote:  1 in favor; 6 opposed; 1 abstain

B. Step 2

There were no items at Step 2.

C. Step 1

1. Horsepower Restriction Petition, Travel Pond, Jefferson

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated she was hand delivered a valid petition verified by the Town Clerk for the number of signatures required.  There was a group that would like to prohibit motorboats with internal combustion engines on Travel Pond which was a 102 acre pond.  We would be trying to schedule a hearing sometime the week of January 30 in Jefferson.  The Commissioner’s authority was very clear on horsepower restriction that it’s for purposes of safety.  The entire petition process and the reasons they submitted were for wildlife habitat around the pond.  It was a valid petition, we would move forward but would make it clear to them that our authority is for safety purposes not for wildlife habitat.

V. Other Business

1. Deer baiting/food plots/hunting over natural baits policy

Mr. Kantar stated he was there to answer any questions the Council may have.

Mr. Witte stated there had been a couple of instances this year with the baiting issue.  A lot of people now said food plots, which were being promoted, was a form of baiting.  Look what we did with bears.  When doing upland trapping we used bait.  He had done some research in other states that were doing it.  He had asked Lt. Scott how much time was spent running down illegal bating activities.  Warden Service spent a lot of time of it.  Three primary states that do baiting are Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan.  In some cases they say they have allowed their enforcement people to be doing other things that may be more productive than running down people that are baiting.  Of the 100% of people doing deer baiting, were we only catching 10% of them and how much warden time was being spent?  He understood there were 4 areas of consideration when you looked at deer baiting; disease, ethical concerns, artificial energy and wildlife privatization.  From a constituency standpoint would it be advantageous to say we would allow deer baiting in certain areas with certain products?  He was interested in what the Department thought about this.

Mr. Kantar stated Mr. Witte would have to be much more explicit in defining what he was talking about.  He would defer to Warden Service on the definitions and what we currently had in statute and rule on what baiting was.  You were looking at another game when you started looking at other states and the placements of bait vs. somebody seeding a food plot and growing something during the year. 

Mr. Witte stated to take the food plot out.  A lot of people were equating a food plot with baiting and he did not.  There was more and more talk of supplemental feeding.

Mr. Kantar stated there were some connections there, but they were talking about some very different issues.  One part suggested people were interested in using baiting as a technique to hunt deer and that was very different from the other issues.

Mr. Witte stated what Mr. Kantar just said was basically what people had asked.  Could they take 2 five gallon buckets of apples and put them under the tree stand and do that legally.  In several states you could.

Lt. Scott stated currently it was illegal to place bait where it was not growing naturally. 

Mr. Wheaton stated some good points had been made.  If Mike’s tree stand was in a spruce tree and very close to it there was an apple tree with no apples, if somebody dumped apples under the apple tree that didn’t have any apples is he illegal?

The group answered yes.

Mr. Wheaton asked whose job would it be to prove that the apples didn’t come from that tree?

Lt. Scott stated the burden of proof is always on the State of Maine. 

Mr. Philbrick asked if the question on the table was are food plots considered bait areas?

Mr. Kantar stated there were some jurisdictions that talked about nutritional food plots vs. hunting food plots depending on what was being planted there.

Lt. Scott stated by legislative definition a food plot wasn’t bait, that’s why you could hunt over it.  Your own garden was not a food plot.  If you picked your pumpkins up and placed them somewhere was that bait, yes.  If they’re growing there naturally because you planted them and you hunt over them, that’s perfectly legal.  That’s the delineation of what is the definition of baiting and a naturally growing crop whether it was planted by humans or not.  If it’s growing it’s not bait.  The burden of proof was always on the State.

VI. Councilor Reports

Councilors gave reports.

Mr. Kelly stated he had gotten requests from people in his area about the youth day for deer and about antler restrictions.  He would like to bring those items to the table and have discussions on them at the appropriate time.  He also requested that when they did discuss the youth day, at Step 2 he would like that meeting held in Northern Maine.  People there would like to have an opportunity to be at that meeting.  People were getting upset about the kids not being able to take either or.  Some people mentioned they were going to start posting their land if their kids could not shoot either or on youth day.

Commissioner Woodcock stated they could petition us and do what they’d like to do.

Mr. Kelly stated they had.  We had been petitioned on the antler restrictions that were brought down and a petition on youth day they sent last year. 

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated when it was discussed last time the Commissioner had brought it forward, not because of a petition.

Mr. Kelly stated the other issue he was asked to bring forward was the November moose hunt.  A lot of people were not very happy about that and we would be receiving a petition with 200+ signatures.

Lt. Scott asked why they were not happy with the November moose hunt.

Mr. Kelly stated because there were too many deer being shot by people that would not necessarily be there.

Commissioner Woodcock stated they checked on the number last year, and he thought 7 deer were harvested.

VII. Public Comments & Questions

Dennis Smith stated the biggest thing he saw through the whole situation was the fact that they stopped stocking a water and it was the best thing that ever happened to it.  He thought the Council should think a lot more than just this one water, that we’re actually hurting wild populations with hatchery fish. 

VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting

The next meeting was scheduled for Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 9:30 a.m. at IF&W in Augusta.

IX. Adjournment

A motion was made by Mrs. DeMerchant and that was seconded by Mr. Thurston to adjourn the meeting.  The meeting was adjourned at 3:00 p.m.