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Advisory Council Meeting Minutes
December 20, 2012 @ 9:30 a.m.
Attending: Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner
Cathy DeMerchant, Council Chair, called the meeting to order.
Introductions were made.
III. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting
A motion was made by Mr. Brown and seconded by Mr. Savage to accept the Council minutes for the last meeting.
Vote: unanimous – minutes accepted.
A. Step 3
1. Fishing Regulation Changes
A motion was made by Harold Brown and that was seconded by Mr. Savage to accept the proposal as amended.
Vote: 8 in favor; 1 opposed (Mr. Kelly) – motion passed
2. Deer Feeding Regulations
Mr. Connolly stated the initial regulation when it was proposed was not intended to prohibit deer feeding, but it was evident from our interactions with the public at the hearings and communication that we received that wasn’t clear. Based on feedback we amended the rule to address those concerns. It narrowed the focus down into two specific areas, CWD and the public safety issue. It also clarified the Department’s intent and recognized the interest from the public to feed wildlife.
A motion was made by Mrs. Ware and that was seconded by Mr. Savage to accept the proposal as amended.
Vote: unanimous – motion passed
3. 2013/14 Crow Season
Mr. Connolly stated the crow season proposal remained as originally presented and we had not received any public comments.
A motion was made by Mr. Savage and that was seconded by Mr. Thurston to accept the proposal as presented.
Vote: unanimous – motion passed
B. Step 2
1. Petition – Open First Roach Pond, Frenchtown Twp., Piscataquis County to ice fishing in February
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated the Council had received the minutes from the public hearing that was held in Greenville. The comment period ended on December 7th and was ready for discussion from the Council seeking input before advancing to Step 3.
Council Member comments and questions
Mr. Kelly asked if we had the regional biologist’s comments on the pond.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated we hadn’t obtained that yet. It would be communicated to the Council prior to Step 3.
Harold Brown stated he had attended the hearing. He had a problem with the proposal going to Step 3. What he heard at the hearing was that it was a small group of people who had built homes on the pond and lived there and who during February wanted to have grandchildren come up and ice fish right off the end of their docks and watch the traps from sitting in their camps. They were surrounded by some ice fishing waters, they just didn’t want to have to get on their snowmobile and go there. He also heard a fair number of camp owners on the pond who were not in residence, just had camps there, and they had concerns that if it was opened to ice fishing and people got out there with snowmobiles, there was potential for property damage. His concern was that his family had a place on that body of water since WWII. The fishery had started to show some real improvement. He would hate to take a chance in doing anything to endanger the brook trout and salmon there. He would be in favor of doing things to enhance the brook trout and salmon by somehow liberalizing some regulations with respect to cusk and togue. In the 40’s and 50’s Roach Pond was a fine brook trout and salmon fishery, and then it went downhill. It was now starting to come back and he would like to see us do some things to enhance that. Maybe this had to go to Step 3, he did not know.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated the proposal may not move to Step 3, they had not taken everything into consideration yet and discussed it. If it was determined not to move forward, the Council would not see it at Step 3.
Mrs. Ware stated she would support a decision not to take it to Step 3.
Mr. Savage stated it was critical for him to hear the regional biologist’s perspective and what the impact of opening the lake to ice fishing, even though it was only a month long and had a no live fish as bait restriction. He felt there had been a balanced public response and he understood their concerns about camps being broken into although given the amount of snowmobile access in the area if somebody wanted to break into a camp they could do so without going there to ice fish.
Mr. Lewis stated last year we had a similar regulation on a pond in Turner where the big concern was camps were going to be broken into. Was there any information that any of that had happened?
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated we had not heard of any issues. There was a pond we were petitioned to open several years ago in Caratunk, Pleasant Pond, and there was huge outcry from the people that lived there and there had been no issues.
Harold Brown stated the people opposed were business owners. The fishing was improving and they didn’t want to take any risks in doing anything biologically that would impose on that. One business owner stated she would like to see the Department really manage the salmon and trout fishery and do it from a standpoint of getting control over the togue and cusk fishery. He would like to hear the biologists reaction to that. If we were to open it to ice fishing he would push that they could only fish for togue and cusk.
Mr. Savage stated that would be difficult to enforce.
Mr. Thurston asked if this could be on a trial basis. It would only be open for a month and there were people that thought the fishery would improve with ice fishing.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated we had done that for several other bodies of water, Long Pond in Belgrade for example.
Mr. Kelly stated the proposed bag limit would be 2 trout and closed to the taking of salmon. What if we opened it so the only fish you could keep were togue and cusk?
Mr. Wheaton stated when it came to litter and law breaking that was a law enforcement issue. To enhance the salmon and trout fishing would be good. With regards to the fishing regulations packet they did not see a regional biologist testifying. He saw no winter reports on numbers of people fishing each lake. He was not going to stop people from fishing when otter, mink, cormorants, loons, etc. ate their weight in trout. If Maine had the best trout fishing in the world, what good was it if no one could use it? He felt this was a start in working on brook trout. In Eastern Maine they were for all the bass regulations and it worked out good.
There were no further comments or questions.
C. Step 1
1. Commercial Harvest of Amphibians and Invertebrates
Mr. Connolly stated we were continuing to develop the language for the proposed rule and it would be in the packet for the next meeting.
V. Other Business
1. Opening WMD 7 to fall turkey hunting (request by Sheri Oldham)
Mr. Connolly stated we would like to suggest that we bring this before the turkey working group. We were reassembling the turkey working group and found that bringing together different user groups gave us the best decisions on managing wildlife in Maine for the people. The working group would be going back and looking at all the turkey regulations.
Mrs. Oldham stated when she mentioned this at last month’s meeting, Mr. Connolly stated we would have to look at spring harvest numbers. Turkey hunting really hadn’t caught on in that region and harvest numbers may not be the best way to determine the population. There was a significant population there and calls were increasing.
Mrs. Ware asked about the schedule for the turkey working group.
Mr. Connolly stated we could forward a memo when the members were chosen and they could follow along by reading the minutes of the meetings if they desired.
Mrs. DeMerchant stated Mr. Kelly would like to say a few words about the coyote hunt.
Mr. Kelly stated he had received an update on how the coyote predation program was working and he had some thoughts about things they should be looking at. The only harvest in so far was trappers, and they caught 104 coyotes at a cost of $22,356 out of that $150,000; $215 per coyote from trapping. In WMDs 1, 2 and 3 where he was, there were no hired trappers in that area. He wanted to find out how they could get on the trapping program.
Mrs. Ware stated before the group convened, there were people in her area that were interested in participating and she couldn’t get the answer.
Mr. Kelly stated the Aroostook County Conservation Association (ACCA) last year had a coyote contest. They brought in 155 coyotes for a cost of $3,300. Why weren’t we trying to work with groups like that with the $150,000 to reduce more coyotes and more incentive? He knew the Department was trying to stay clear of bounties, but they were using bounties in other states. He would like whoever was running the coyote program to come to a Council meeting. He felt this could be made more cost effective. No disrespect to trappers, but if that was the least effective method; other comments on the update were some areas had minimal to no coyote activity. Why were we in that area spending time and money trying to catch coyotes?
Commissioner Woodcock stated Mr. Kelly’s concerns had been discussed before. The key to our program was that we designate deer yards. For some of those deer yards in the northwestern part, it was pretty hard to find someone that would go back there and trap. We hadn’t distributed the program to every place that you wanted to go. The bounty was a very controversial subject. People in Maine were moving more towards an understanding of how valuable the deer herd was in general, not just the hunters. Deer were of economic and social value to all Mainers. We were designating the most valuable deer yards as the starting point and we had 23 deer yards designated as opposed to 9 in last year’s program. We had been communicating with some of the clubs.
Mr. Kelly stated with the ACCA it was not a contest, it went to anybody that brought in a coyote.
Commissioner Woodcock stated the clubs had contests in various forms. We were trying to lower the number of coyote density in the deer yards. We were expanding it, but he was not comfortable with bounties.
Mr. Kelly stated he lived in Allagash. All their deer were in the town, it was not a designated deer yard. There was no one in the coyote program there. How did he get on the list? People wanted to participate but could not get on the list. The program could be more effective by letting people move/participate in the program where the coyotes were.
Commissioner Woodcock stated he agreed with Allagash and some of the other rural towns in the State. He thought we would get there eventually. We could not hunt around all towns. We were moving forward cautiously.
VI. Councilor Reports
Councilors gave reports.
Mr. Savage stated he would advocate for the formation of a bait working group and to look into certifying bait dealers. If that group was formed he would be willing to serve on that group. He also felt the Department really needed to look at the stocking program. If we wanted to protect the brook trout we needed to look at what else we were doing in those same waters.
Mr. Kelly stated he was still hearing comments regarding the November moose hunt. It was not well received in his area. He knew it was because we felt there was a data issue, it was the best time to collect certain data, but there was discussion they could get the same information earlier. He wanted to remove that November season.
VII. Public Comments & Questions
Greg Ponte – The waters selected for removal from the rulemaking proposal package, Chandler Lake, maximum depth 19 feet, average depth 14 feet, B water. Recent assessment results indicate that wild brook trout are present though in low numbers the brook trout population may not fit the current definition of principal fisheries. Fisheries staff did sample the lake in 2012. No other sport fish species were reported captured. Look at the statute for A waters. There’s no mention about principal fisheries, it’s got to do with brook trout. The Department during the meetings over the years since that legislation was passed in 2006 has discussed this principal fishery definition as part of this discussion, where a statute on “A” doesn’t exist. Here we are on “B” the only fish in the pond is brook trout. The question is, it’s a principal fishery. If you read the definition of principal fishery and a short snap of it is I’ve got a reasonable expectation of catching a particular fish. If brook trout are the only fish that was found my reasonable expectation is I catch a fish it’s going to be a brook trout. I’m really struggling to understand how the Department could put this statement out that they’re going to have to reassess this for the same reason if you look at the statute on A list waters it has nothing to do with principal fishery it has everything to do with brook trout. You read through where you were commenting on, you find where the Department tries to state that we want to do everything we possibly can. That’s my question is why is the principal fishery definition being inserted in this discussion?
Jeff Lewis – I’m familiar with that body of water and there are salmon there as well.
Mike Brown - There was some sampling done in May and they reported catching 3 brook trout there, they didn’t report catching anything else. That wasn’t unusual necessarily if they were looking to evaluate brook trout, they may not have been targeting salmon or setting bait traps. Things they would do if they were doing a full lake assessment. We want to go in and look at other species and focus more on brook trout.
Greg Ponte – You could have a multi-story water, if brook trout are the whole game fish how is it not a principal fishery if they happen to be the only one in the pond?
Mike Brown - If it’s the only one in the pond I think it would have to be a principal fishery. We have struggled with that definition, a lot of people are coming up with their best definition. I don’t know that anybody is totally happy with the one that we have.
Greg Ponte – Can you separate the two? If it’s a brook trout pond and its only brook trout don’t try to apply the other part of this and have two?
Mike Brown – We can take a look at that. I just want to make sure we have a chance to go in and do a full assessment so that we have the best data.
Rick Denico – On Webster Lake, I’m not very happy that’s still on the no live bait because I know a lot of people fish that in the winter time. How do I go about proceeding with a petition to open that back up? (Deputy Commissioner Erskine explained the petition process)
Commissioner Woodcock – Our concern remains that people identifying baitfish, it’s very complicated for them to do so.
Rick Denico – I’d like as much good data as we can get. We’re after data, it’s not perfect data but it’s something more than we have now. I am concerned about the Webster thing so I will get about 175 signatures for the petition after the rule goes in place. When does the rule go in place?
Deputy Commissioner Erskine – After this process we have to submit it to the Attorney General’s Office and Secretary of State. There were a couple of items in the regulations packet, one in particular was a petition to go from 2 to 5 lines on Mousam Lake. The petitioner’s intent was that would be in place this year, and it’s our intent to file it so that it is in place January 1st.
Commissioner Woodcock – Most of this packet is not applicable to this ice fishing season, it would be for next season.
George Smith – I’ve written a lot about the game plan for deer. Obviously at $200 for a coyote we’re not going to sustain the program. The amount of money that the Legislature appropriated is entirely inadequate for the challenge. Utah spent $2 million per year to protect elk. The Department is doing what they can with a small amount of money. I have seven bills I’ve put in legislation. Mostly to provoke a discussion about what can be done for the outdoor economy. I’d really like to see the Council and the Agency focus more on that issue. We’ve lost the nonresident deer hunters, they’re not coming back. I’ve got a bill in on deer, turkeys; we’ve lost half our turkey hunters. We have less than 1,000 nonresidents coming here to turkey hunt. The inland tourism economy is really hurting and it isn’t just hunting and fishing but that’s a big component of it. It was also very disappointing that we couldn’t find anybody to sponsor the bear cam.
Gary Corson – I’d like to thank the Council and the Department for these brook trout regulations. We heard a lot about this was going to close ice fishing, as far as I’m concerned what you’ve done here today is you’ve ensured there will be fishing for wild brook trout, ice fishing and open water season, well into the future. It works the same way for our heritage and for the economy. This is a one of a kind resource and if we can’t take care of that then we have no one to blame but ourselves. When Jeff mentioned this all coming from the heritage bill, he’s absolutely right. What we talked about then and what we are talking about now has nothing to do with bait. This is about protecting from the introduction of competing species. When you look at it from that aspect the stocking plays exactly the same role as introducing fish. What we’re doing right now is nothing more than protecting what we have. You can’t get to the other step without doing this first. I do think we can increase the size of our brook trout in the future. I think that this is a huge step in protecting that resource and you have my thanks.
VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting
Mr. Lewis stated he would like an agenda item to discuss the possibility of allowing the use of bows and arrows during the muzzleloader season.
Mr. Kelly stated he would like a report on the coyote reduction program.
The Council also requested that presentations and other meetings coincide with Council meeting dates so that members made use of the whole day.
A date for the next meeting would be forwarded to the Council once the schedule for meetings of the Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife was made available.
A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham and that was seconded by Mr. Thurston to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 11:00 a.m.
The proposals included in this packet are varied in nature. They attempt to address several important management objectives for the fisheries of Maine. The proposals include, but are not limited to:
The proposal being brought forward today has been arrived at after much consideration of and conversation about the many offerings made during the public comment period. (A special note: two bodies of water, Carr Pond and Fish River Lake, have been removed from the proposal by me in order to maintain the integrity of a comment which I made prior to the proposal being submitted. No other consideration was given to those two waters.)We have heard from, and listened to, sporting camp owners with a vested interest in these resources, fishermen who prefer varying modes of tackle and pursuit, camp owners with ownership of property on one of the specific bodies of water and citizens who simply value Maine’s outdoors. Several important opportunities have come out of the discussions.
We want to thank all who have contributed to this process. It has been of significant value to MDIF+W and we remain respectful of the many viewpoints. The proposal before you is meant to protect our resources and offer the most viable opportunities for future generations.
Waters selected for removal from the rule-making proposal package
Carr Pond (T13 R08 WELS) 307 Acres; Max Depth 72’ Ave Depth 27’
Fish River (T14 R08 WELS) 2,642 Acres; Max Depth 46’ Ave Depth 17’
Portland Lake (Bridgewater) 41 acres; Max Depth 51’ Ave depth 17’
St. Croix Lake (St Croix TWP) 416 acres; Max Depth 9’ Ave depth 7’
Chandler Lake (T09 R08 WELS) 401 acres; Max Depth 19’ Ave Depth 14’
First (Billings) Pond (Hancock) 93 Acres; Max Depth 37’ Ave Depth 18’
In 2007 and 2008 Department staff conducted electro-fishing surveys to confirm the presence of largemouth bass, though none were located during either survey. In 2009, bait dealers fishing the pond caught largemouth bass in their bait traps. Since that time Department staff has documented largemouth bass as long as 16”. Unfortunately, proposed regulation may be inadequate to preserve the wild brook trout fishery in this pond. This winter the Department will evaluate alternative management measures.
Round Pond and Outlet (T10 SD) 205 Acres; Max Depth 26’ Ave Depth 15’
Brook trout waters selected to remain in the rule-making proposal
Brook Trout Proposals:
Region C Waters
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