Meeting Minutes

June 20, 2023 @ 9:30am
353 Water Street, 4th floor conference room
Augusta, ME
(and virtually via Microsoft Teams)

Judy Camuso, Commissioner
Timothy Peabody, Deputy Commissioner
Christl Theriault, Assistant to the Commissioner
Mark Latti, Communications Director
Nate Webb, Wildlife Division Director
Francis Brautigam, Fisheries Division Director
Joe Overlock, Fisheries Management Supervisor
Kory Whittum, Fisheries Planner
Dakota Stankowski, Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder

Kristin Peet (Chair) - via Teams
Ed Pineau via Teams
Jennifer Geel via Teams
Eric Ward
Al Cowperthwaite

Bob Duchesne
Tony Liguori

Roger Grant

4 in person
5 additional staff and public online

I. Call to Order

Kristin Peet, Council Chair, requested that Mr. Duchesne chair the meeting as she was attending virtually. Mr. Duchesne called the meeting to order.

I-A. Pledge of Allegiance II. Moment of Silence

III. Introductions

Introductions were made.

IV. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting

A motion was made by Mr. Ward to approve the minutes of the previous meeting and that was seconded by Mr. Liguori.

Vote: unanimous in favor minutes approved.

V. Rulemaking

A. Step 3

There were no items under Step 3.

B. Step 2

1. Furbearer Rules

Mr. Webb stated this was the annual furbearer rule proposal which consisted of changes to the beaver closures. These were in response to landowner requests. The proposal was to remove closures in portions of WMDs 17 and 23 and add a couple of closures in WMD 23. A public hearing was held on May 30th with no members of the public attending. The comment deadline was June 9th and no written comments were received. The Department was recommending moving forward with the original proposal.

There were no further questions or comments, and a motion was made by Mr. Cowperthwaite to move the proposal to Step 3. The motion was seconded by Mr. Ward.

Vote: Unanimous proposal moved to Step 3.

A motion was made by Mr. Cowperthwaite to accept the proposal as presented and that was seconded by Mr. Ward.

Vote: Unanimous in favor motion passed.

2. Antlerless Deer Permits 2023

Mr. Webb stated there were no substantial changes from last year. We were recommending a 12% increase to the total number of permits statewide. That was primarily due to the mild winter we had experienced. A handful of WMDs in the northern part of the state that were closed to harvest were issued a few permits. There was a bill working its way through the legislature, LD 482 which directed the Department to establish a 2-day youth hunt beginning in 2023. This would be the Friday and Saturday prior to the resident only day. The rule proposal also included that change. The bill had passed the House and Senate and was waiting for the Governor's signature. It was an emergency bill and would become effective once signed. Mr. Bieber, the deer biologist, did an extensive analysis looking at potential antlerless harvest across the state and he and the regional biologist felt comfortable allowing youth on both days to harvest an antlerless deer statewide. The same applied for archery hunting. A public hearing was held on June 1st with no members of the public in attendance. The comment deadline was June 12th and no written comments were received. The Department was not recommending any changes to the proposal and was ready to move forward if the Council agreed.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Ward commented that it would be all WMDs for youth days and archery?

Mr. Webb stated Mr. Bieber had taken a close look and the harvest of antlerless deer on youth day was essentially very low.

Commissioner Camuso stated that swaps and transfers had also been eliminated. We were still trying to promote youth hunting.

Mr. Duchesne stated a constituent commented to him there were no does in WMD 18.

Mr. Webb stated we had not received any public comments.

Mr. Ward asked if we had looked at bordering states when formulating the lottery.

Mr. Webb stated the system we had previously that allowed hunters to shoot a doe instead of a buck, he was not aware of any other states that had a system like that. The system we currently had in place was very similar to what other states were doing.

Mr. Liguori asked what the maximum number of antlerless permits an individual could get.

Mr. Webb stated aside from expanded archery permits, you could get one antlerless permit in the lottery and then there would be extra permits (those not issued in the lottery) and those would be available for purchase, one per person. Depending on the sale a second round may be offered. There was potential for two permits. The number of people harvesting two deer was very low.

There were no further questions or comments, and a motion was made by Mr. Liguori to move the proposal to Step 3. The motion was seconded by Mr. Cowperthwaite.

Vote: Unanimous proposal moved to Step 3.

A motion was made by Mr. Ward to accept the proposal as presented and that was seconded by Mr. Cowperthwaite.

Vote: Unanimous in favor motion passed.

C. Step 1

1. Ch. 1 & 1-A Fishing Regulations/State Heritage Waters 2024

Mr. Brautigam discussed the handouts that had been provided to the Council on the rule proposals.

Under Chapter 1-A, State Heritage Fish Waters (SHFW) we were proposing the following additions and removals; Beck Pond, (Somerset Co), proposed for removal from the SHFW list and remove special regulations; Big Indian Pond, (Piscataquis Co), proposed for addition to the list

Under Chapter 1, Open Water and Ice Fishing Regulations we were proposing the following in the various categories...

Special Need (2 waters)

  • Burnt Land Lake, (Hancock Co) Add S-33 Establish a maximum length limit (25") for salmon and brown trout to prevent accidental harvest of federally listed sea-run salmon. We used the S-33 around the state on waters where our resident salmon and brown trout could not exceed 25. There was a sea-run salmon caught there last year so that prompted the rule change.
  • Moosehead Lake, (Piscataquis Co) Clarify that open water fishing is also prohibited in areas currently closed to winter angling to protect spawning/staging brook trout.
  • North Zone Bass Management (14 waters) - Remove special regulations intended to enhance bass populations on North Zone waters

  • North Zone General Law (no size of bag on BSS) was changed in 2018 to support management of BSS as an invasive fish in northern Maine
  • Invasives are managed by the Department so as to not promote, popularize, or enhance their sportfish value
  • Current 14 North Zone waters with existing special regs intended to enhance BSS populations are inconsistent with management of BSS as an invasive in the North Zone.
  • Errors, Conflicts, and Confusion (4 waters) designate 4 waters split by the North/South management zones as South Zone and managed under South Zone General Law

  • East Grand, Crowell Pond, Carlton Pond & Sucker Lake
  • At East Grand the 5 BKT bag limit will be retained
  • Clarification RE: fishing for Endangered & Threatened Species (change to general laws page) - Add language prohibiting fishing for Redfin Pickerel & Swamp Darters

  • On General Law Page No size or bag limit for "Inland species not listed
  • Although State listed E&T species are already prohibited from take they are not currently listed on the General Law page

  • Recreational Baitfish and Smelt Clarification (Reorganize + clarification to pages 51-52 of printed law book)

  • Smelt are not a baitfish as defined, but are legal bait
  • Smelt may not be harvested in baitfish traps
  • Consolidating existing smelt harvest statutory language (definitions page 2 - 3) into a single place in lawbook (smelt/baitfish section page 52-53)
  • Council Member Comments and Questions

    Mrs. Peet stated it was a conflicted goal of managing bass in the south and as an invasive in the north.

    Mr. Brautigam stated in the south zone we recognized bass as a sport fish and had minimum length and bag limits and sometimes special regulations to enhance those fishing resources. We also supported bass tournament fishing, promoted bass fishing, we talked about it in a positive way in the south zone. Part of the reason is they were pretty much widespread throughout the entire south zone. The Department felt an obligation to manage that as a resource. In the northern part of the state, they were starting to creep into northern Maine, but had not established the distribution as they had in the south. In the interest to try and conserve our native coldwater fisheries in the northern part of the state, we felt compelled, and it was expressed in our fisheries strategic plan that we manage them as an invasive species in that part of the state. They would have a significant impact on our ability to manage for coldwater fish in the long term.

    Mrs. Peet asked if we felt the public understood the difference and the seriousness of keeping them out of the north.

    Mr. Brautigam stated we were working on messaging. In 2018 we started that conversation going to no size or bag limit on bass in the north zone. We had a new position for an invasive aquatic coordinator, Dakota Stankowski, so we were hoping to do more through public outreach and awareness as it related to aquatic invasives.

    Mr. Liguori stated they were slowly creeping in the north, did that mean people were bringing them there and releasing them?

    Mr. Brautigam stated yes. We also had a lot of dams in Maine and they made great fish barriers. It was limited upstream movement of bass. Most of what we were seeing were deliberate illegal introductions.

    There were no further questions or comments.

    2. Ch. 2 Bass Tournament/Fishing Derby rules

    Mr. Brautigam stated Chapter 2 contained all the rules pertaining to commercial fishing, fish culture, derbies and bass tournaments. We were proposing changes concerning derbies and bass tournaments.
    Mr. Brautigam discussed the handout from the packet.

    Fishing Derby Rule Updates (Section 2.04) create consistency with other Department regulated events (Bass Tournaments)

  • Clarify events cannot obstruct ingress or egress of public water access sites.
  • Add authority for the Commissioner to place conditions on derbies.
  • Require participants to complete aquatic plant self-inspections before launching and after retrieving
  • Bass Tournament Rule Updates (Sections 2.05, 2.06, and 2.07) simplify and consolidate existing rules, capture items as rule that are currently being applied as permit conditions and incorporate strategic planning and other administrative needs.

  • Consolidate redundant requirements (special possession limits, use of livewell, etc) for each type of tournament events (opens, club, multiday)
  • Continue to allow the 7 weigh-in tournaments per year, whether a club or open event.
  • Eliminate special Penobscot River rules and regulate under statewide process.
  • Require clubs to have at least 5 members + provide contact information for all members (when not affiliated with a national bass organization)
  • Add existing permit conditions to rule: Each club must have 2 trained aquatic plant inspectors & must perform inspections before and after the event.
  • Require self-inspections for aquatic invasive species when pre-fishing and boats fishing after the event,
  • Eliminate differential maximum number of boats for club vs. open and apply 1 boat per 35 acres for all one-day events.
  • Prohibit all bass tournaments in the North Zone create consistency managing bass as an invasive fish in North Zone
  • Clarify that events cannot obstruct ingress or egress of public water access sites
  • Youth events: will now require a permit but fee will be waived

  • Council Member Questions and Comments
    Mr. Liguori asked if there was a specific training program for aquatic plant inspectors.

    Mr. Brautigam stated the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) managed training opportunities through a grant program. It was the same training received by courtesy boat inspectors. DEP provided the training. They would receive a card once they completed the training.

    Mr. Duchesne asked how we would enforce the self-inspections.

    Mr. Brautigam stated we would have a list of the participants to know who should be inspecting as a part of the event. If there was some concern about pre-fishing warden service could have a presence there and work down through the list. We were hoping to create self-responsibility and accountability and trying to integrate clean, drain, dry practices through all the activities we regulated.

    Mr. Duchesne stated it put some responsibility on the club as well to help manage it.

    Mr. Brautigam stated it did, the clubs understood the importance of the issue.

    Mr. Ward asked if tournaments could be held in the north if the fish couldnt be released.

    Mr. Brautigam stated we had informed bass tournament organizers that if they wanted to convene an event it would have to be catch and kill for bass. We gave them the opportunity multiple times and they did not like it.

    Mr. Cowperthwaite stated he lived on Nickerson Lake, and it didnt have bass in the 1980s and now they were all over. His grandchildren caught 25 in one day. They were certainly impacting the cold-water fishery.

    There were no further questions or comments.

    VI. Other Business

    Commissioner Camuso stated at the next meeting she would like have Liz Thorndike give the Council a presentation on the project she was doing in the Rangeley Lakes region tagging fish.
    Regarding the legislature, most of the bills before our Committee were done, we were just waiting for the budget to be finalized.

    Mr. Ward stated he had a question regarding LD 1319 operate a watercraft without a guide license working for a seasonal business. Would that affect someone conducting moose watching trips, or was it more like a school?

    Commissioner Camuso stated this was specifically around a couple of businesses in the Sebago area that were taking people waterskiing. They had a business; people were paying them, and they were transporting them in the boat. The bill was carried over to the next session. She did not think people thought of a registered Maine guide as a person that was taking you on a waterski loop. It did technically meet the definition, however. One of the holdovers was to have a group review the definition and when it would or should not apply.

    Mr. Ward stated it was a concern for people driving vans on woods roads. He also had a question regarding the bill for a second week for moose hunting in WMDs 7 and 8.

    Commissioner Camuso stated there were several carry over bills that instructed us to convene working groups. A group would be reviewing the moose season framework, success rates, etc.

    There were no further questions or comments.

    VII. Councilor Reports

    Councilors gave reports.

    VIII. Public Comments & Questions

    Gary Corson stated he had questions for Mr. Brautigam. For the north zone bass, did the proposal completely take care of that? Were there any outliers in the northern zone where we would continue having special regulations on bass.

    Mr. Brautigam stated we should have captured all 14 of them in the packet.

    Gary Corson stated Beck Pond, the information we had on the pond was there any of it that came from King & Bartlett?

    Mr. Brautigam stated the regional biologist, Liz Thorndike, prepared the summary. Whatever information she had based on her records, he did not know if she had spoken with the Thurstons more recently.

    Gary Corson stated the pond used to be their go to pond for big fish.

    Mr. Brautigam stated he thought that was why it initially made the list. People assumed it was a viable existing self-sustained population and it was hydraulically connected to other waters that have wild populations. The thought was there might have been movement of fish between Beck and it was not the case. Stocking had been suspended. Whatever was there for brook trout was no longer there.

    Christa Rose stated she offered a comment about Eastern puma recovery during the March meeting. She wanted to follow up and update everyone on the puma initiative that continues to develop in the northeast. She was representing herself, and people could learn more about her at There were a handful of groups working on puma recovery that had begun speaking with one another and messaging out to the public. Four of the groups were represented at the northeast natural history conference in Burlington. Two of them had generated peer review research on habitat stability corridors throughout the eastern U.S. The second event was a symposium on rewilding North American species at the NEAFWA conference in Hershey. The cougar research collaborative gave four talks during the symposium including on the social science aspect of cougar recovery. There was some high level and good quality work begin done exploring puma recovery east of current breeding populations out west, and just raising awareness among the groups. Before moving forward, they needed to engage state wildlife agencies and those that managed habitat. They were talking about ecological recovery and strengthening our natural systems. If pumas came to Maine, they could establish here, there was good viable habitat here. The people in the room were important, and the people in Maine were important so she wanted to bring it to their attention again.

    Larry Bastian stated he was representing the Native Fish Coalition. He asked Mr. Brautigam about the addition of Big Indian Pond to the state heritage fish waters list, were there surveys and additional native to support that addition other than not been stocked, angler counts, etc.

    Mr. Brautigam stated we had a lot of voluntary records from that water body. A lot of history and diaries. A long history of active fishing there. Ordinarily we would set gill nets on a lot of the waters to ensure brook trout were there and not just rely on angler reports. The history of record keeping was so strong there it didnt warrant that type of sample.

    Clair Perry wrote a comment in the chat feature of Teams Would it be possible to announce on your IF&W website, any Advisory Board positions that become open and also announce nominees as they are chosen with a run-down for the public to learn about who they are: Hometown, business (if any) sportsman organization affiliations (if any) and why they would like to serve on this board, etc. I ask, because it is hard currently for the public to comment at the hearing when they have none of this information made available to them. Thank you.

    Commissioner Camuso stated the process was handled through the Governors office; the seats were appointed by the Governor. The division of Boards and Commissions handled the process. We made recommendations to the Governor and the Governor ultimately selected the candidate.

    IX. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting

    The next meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, August 8th at 9:30am at IFW, Augusta.

    X. Adjournment

    A motion was made by Mr. Ward and that was seconded by Mr. Duchesne to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 10:45 a.m.