Meeting Minutes

Advisory Council Meeting
August 6, 2015 at 10:00 a.m.
Maine Youth Fish & Game Association
Pickerel Pond, T32 MD

Attending:

Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner
Jim Connolly, Director of Bureau of Resource Management
Judy Camuso, Wildlife Division Director
Cory Mosby, Furbearer Biologist
Kelsey Sullivan, Game Bird Biologist
Mike Brown, Fisheries Division Director
Keel Kemper, Regional Wildlife Biologist
Kevin Adam, Lieutenant, Warden Service
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder

Council Members:

Jeff Lewis (Chair)
Don Dudley (Vice-Chair)
Lance Wheaton
Dick Fortier
Larry Farrington
Sheri Oldham
Cathy DeMerchant
Gunnar Gundersen

Guests:

Travis Roy, Vice-President, MYFG
Mike Reagan, President, MYFG
Adam Reagan, Youth Board President, MYFG
Nancy Ash, Treasurer, Penobscot County Conservation Assoc.
Will Higgins, Vice-President, Penobscot County Conservation Assoc.
James Cote, MTA
Gary Corson, New Sharon
Ken Smith, Islesboro

I. Call to Order

Council Chair Jeff Lewis called the meeting to order.

II. Introductions

Introductions were made.

III. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting

A motion was made by Mr. Fortier to approve the minutes of the previous meeting and that was seconded by Mrs. DeMerchant.

Vote: 7 in favor; 1 abstained (Mrs. DeMerchant) – minutes approved.

IV. Rulemaking

1. Step 3

1. Any-deer permits 2015

Ms. Camuso stated this was an overall decline from last year’s permit numbers. It had been a difficult winter for deer so the total permit allocations were 28,770. We had very little in the way of public comments and there were no changes from the original numbers that were presented.

A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham to accept the proposal as presented, and that was seconded by Mrs. DeMerchant.

Vote: unanimous – motion passed.

2. Migratory Bird Seasons 2015/16

Ms. Camuso stated that the Waterfowl Council had met and then we held a public hearing. The Waterfowl Council then met again after the hearing and voted on the proposal. There were some minor changes to what was originally presented. The changes were outlined in red in the Advisory Council packets.

Mr. Sullivan stated the bag limit for canvasback, based on population data received post proposal, allowed for a canvasback bag limit to go to 2 birds instead of 1. The second change was for regular goose season. We were allowed a 70 day season, and had proposed the full 70 days in the original proposal but after discussion, we modified for more opportunity in October and to take out 2 weeks in the beginning of November. The only change was in the south zone and coastal zone. The third change was the brant bag limit from 2 to 1 based on population data from the USFWS.

Commissioner Woodcock stated this process was unlike others in the Department in that it was very condensed. The Waterfowl Council met prior to the public hearing process to have the presentation from Mr. Sullivan regarding proposed changes, the alterations in red in the packet. The public hearing was held, about 20 in attendance. They were familiar with the arena and very few comments were made. After the hearing the Waterfowl Council met again and approved the changes that were being presented. Next year the process may be different. The USFWS was considering some changes in proposals and shortening the season for sea ducks.

Mr. Connolly stated there was going to be a change in the way the waterfowl seasons were set for 2016. There had been issues with the USFWS being able to do their portion in a timely fashion so they were going to implement a different regulatory framework. The technical committees for the Atlantic flyway council meet and interact with the Service and develop recommendations and a framework was published. That was going to happen in October 2015. They were going to start setting the 2016/2017 season before the 2015/2016 season took place. In October they would begin talking about the framework for the following year and the Atlantic flyway council would meet to vote on that and then the framework would be published in the Federal register. The State of Maine would begin rulemaking in February 2016 instead of in July and create the season by April. The USFWS had difficulty getting all the data analyzed and when they looked at the differences between the 2 year trends and a single year trend there was no real impact so they were going to go ahead and advance it. They would still have the ability if something happened in the winter surveys that they could go ahead and do something through the Flyway council meeting in July and do a special regulation afterwards to change things.

A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham to accept the proposal as amended, and that was seconded by Mr. Gundersen.

Vote: unanimous – motion passed.

3. Trapping Season

Ms. Camuso stated the proposed changes were steps that the Department had taken to be sure there was no additional take of lynx during the upcoming trapping season. We had been working with the Maine Trappers Association through the process and we had 2 public hearings, one in Portland and one in Bangor. We had a fair amount of public comment and most were positive. Some suggested we could do a little bit more. We had initial conversations with the USFWS and they were favorable of the proposal. There were some minor changes from what was originally proposed. The majority of the changes were very minor such as typos and a couple of sentences were clarified. We clarified the language around the foothold traps. There were 3 main changes in the trapping proposal. One was any killer type trap set on land using bait had to be set in an exclusion device and that change was statewide. We still allowed for killer type traps which would typically be used for muskrat as long as they were set completely underwater, or had a jaw spread not to exceed 5” and set partially underwater or under overhanging stream banks or when used as blind sets. Other than that, all killer type traps statewide would have to be in an exclusion device.

Ms. Camuso stated the second main change was in the lynx zones we no longer allowed drags and would require foothold traps be staked. We did that to be extra cautious, we did not have any additional data suggesting they were an additional threat to lynx, but the 2 lynx in the past 8 years that were injured were caught in drag sets. The third change was statewide and that was requiring all foothold traps to have 3 swiveling points. One toward the base of the trap, one midway and one further down so that allowed good flexibility and movement. We changed the language so that the chain had to be adhered to the central portion of the foothold trap. There was some concern from an enforcement perspective the center would be difficult to determine and enforce so we changed the language. We wanted it to not be on one of the sides of the base of the trap but towards the middle. That change was from feedback from the MTA.

Ms. Camuso stated we clarified the dimensions and the structure of the exclusion device. There were basically 3 types of traps being used. One would be for marten, and the marten trap could have an opening 4” x 4” and the marten trap opening could be set either on the face or the side or the top because that size was small enough so the lynx physically couldn’t get in. This was true of all the exclusion device designs, the leading edge of the trap from the opening had to be at least 18” from where the trap itself was so that a lynx could not reach his paw in and get caught. If you were trying to trap for fisher you would have a bigger opening and had to have a baffle. The baffle had to be 6” back and offset so there was no clear shot for the lynx to get back to the trap. A couple of other adjustments that were made based on discussions with the trappers, the material that the device could be made of could be 1 ” x 1 ” gauge wire or 1” x 2”. The trouble with the smaller gauge, it was more difficult to acquire and was more expensive.

Ms. Camuso stated following the meeting and adoption of the rule we would proceed with the ITP amendment with the USFWS and USFWS was obligated to have a response to us within 30 days of us notifying them.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Fortier stated the trappers would have to build their own exclusion devices, other than the video would they be able to get diagrams or specs on how they were to be built?

Ms. Camuso stated we would provide in the trappers handbook drawings and photos of the exclusion devices. As long as they met the criteria (gauge of wire, opening size, etc.) trappers could be creative.

Mr. Fortier stated he assumed the trappers had a lot of input on how it was going to be designed.

Ms. Camuso stated yes. So far there was not a lot of concern with marten traps, the marten trap was small enough the marten could go straight in. The feedback they had so far was not around marten sets but there was some concern with fisher sets and if the fisher would refuse to go in the trap. That was something we would be looking at and monitoring.

Mr. Fortier asked about the concerns with drags.

Ms. Camuso stated in the lynx zones where the traps were required to be staked, the catch circle around the trap was required to be free of debris. The trapper would have to clear the catch circle to prevent entanglement. The reality was the exclusion devices we felt pretty confident there was no risk the lynx could get in those traps. Our highest risks for an additional mortality or take was that we would injure a lynx in a foothold trap that was not able to be released into the wild. We did everything we could to ensure that third take would not happen due to foothold trapping. That was why we had additional requirements of the clear catch circle, the 3 swiveling points that were center mount based and in the lynx zones we eliminated the use of drags. In our experience the 2 lynx that were injured were from being entangled in a drag. The animal walked off and got tangled in a bush and was injured. We were doing everything we could do to minimize any exposure to a third take.

Mr. Dudley stated basically the sets Ms. Camuso was referring to were fox and coyote sets. In the phone calls he had received probably there would be many more foothold traps this year than past years because of the exclusion devices, the complexity of them, and the fact that it may be a temporary use. Footholds set for fisher, you normally would not use a drag with anyway. The basic sets that the drags were used in were fox and coyote sets.

Mrs. Oldham stated the phone calls she had and sit downs with trappers, they were not going to the expense of trying the fisher exclusion device. Nobody knew if it was going to work. The same thing with no drags for coyote traps, there may be fewer coyotes harvested. She guessed the approach we’d taken was to throw everything at the problem, but she thought we needed to acknowledge that there may be some very bad unintended consequences from this. Fisher were predators of lynx and there may be more lynx lost due to the increase in fisher population. Ms. Camuso had stated at the last meeting that making the trapping regulations statewide may increase the risk of rabies in some areas. If there was less coyote trapping that could injure our deer herd. The biggest complaint she heard personally was the no drags. To try to say that we were having trapping and we were going to eliminate risk to lynx was not true. If we wanted trapping there was a risk. We could not mitigate all risk and allow trapping and we wanted trapping to continue. The lynx were injured in the drags but returned to the wild. She thought there may be unintended consequences from the proposal.

Ms. Camuso stated we did have that discussion with the USFWS and talked about both the species for rabies in southern Maine and the fisher issue and that decreased fisher harvest could have some negative impacts on the lynx population. We met with our attorney and her understanding was that should the Department decide that we were going to eliminate the use of the exclusion devices in say York and Cumberland counties, we wouldn’t need to go back to the USFWS for an additional amendment. That was a change we could make on our own and just advise them with the rationale. It wouldn’t require an amendment to the ITP. The fisher issue was troublesome in that everyone acknowledged that fisher preyed on lynx, but the USFWS currently did not have, or we did not have data to support that trapping of fisher happened on a level that would cause a population impact on lynx. We needed to collect additional data on fisher populations and their potential impact to lynx so we could address those.

Mr. Farrington stated the comments he heard were that IF&W was really less likely to hear from any trapper that caught a lynx now. They were scared that if a lynx was caught everything would stop.

Ms. Camuso stated we had advocated all along that we had a good relationship with the trappers and that we needed them to tell us and we needed the USFWS to understand that the trappers were going to report for the ITP to work. We assured the USFWS that the trappers were talking to us and reporting when we had the incidental capture of lynx and we certainly hoped that would continue. We still had game wardens doing compliance checks and they would be doing that as part of our ITP requirement.

Mr. Wheaton stated if we were going to impose something like that with the 4” hole and weren’t sure and we did catch one, was it the trappers fault or was it our fault for going along with it. He hated to think it would be our fault for making the law and yet one more and it was all over. Who took the hit, us or the trapper?

Ms. Camuso stated in the past, exclusion device design was based on behavior. We did not believe lynx would climb in. We got beyond that and now we designed the exclusion devices so that they physically could not get in. We did tests with the lynx kittens at the Wildlife Park to see if they would get in. The devices now were not based on the behavioral avoidance, but that they physically couldn’t get in them. If they were designed properly and the holes were the right size the lynx could not get in.

Mr. Wheaton stated in nature there were always exceptions to the rule. We only needed one exception and it was over. Would we blame the trapper for that or the Department?

Ms. Camuso stated if the trap was legal and designed according to the specifications that we put forward we would bear that responsibility.

Commissioner Woodcock stated the proposal had been diagnosed adnauseam and a lot of communication with the trappers and public in general and USFWS. It was our responsibility to be cautious and protect the species and the rights of the trapper. We were all worried about trapping. He was comfortable saying we were not 100% comfortable with the proposal. The trappers thought all of the proposals should be statewide. We were being cautious and would be hopeful.

A motion was made by Mr. Fortier to accept the proposal as amended, and that was seconded by Mrs. Oldham.

Vote: 7 members present, 6 in favor; 1 opposed (Mrs. DeMerchant); Mr. Gundersen absent – motion passed.

B. Step 2

1. Beaver Season & Closures 2015/16

Ms. Camuso stated there had been a couple of adjustments from last year. The areas that were open or closed were based on landowner requests and there were a couple of WMDs where we expanded the season a little bit sooner so they would start November 1 instead of 15 to allow for a couple of additional weeks of beaver trapping in the northern districts.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Dudley stated he understood we stretched the season to increase harvest, but it was not working. The harvest was maybe a little better than 50% of what it should be. Part of the problem with the price was the fact that we were sending fur to market that was not first grade. Fur was not prime October 19th , it wasn’t prime last year October 19th and it wouldn’t be this year. We kept setting the seasons forward and on the front end of the season the fur was just not prime. We were compounding the problem by opening the seasons so early. In WMDs 1, 2, 4 and 5, 1 and 2 were very remote who would go there when 5 was open at the same time? WMD 5 had infrastructure, you could get gas, etc. which you couldn’t do in 1 and 2.

Commissioner Woodcock asked what would be a better date?

Mr. Dudley stated it used to be December, January and February. Prior to that it was January and February. When it went to December he remembered fur buyers saying they would be checking the furs pretty close. Now we were into November and October. If WMDs 1, 2, 4 and 5 were open at the same time everybody would stop in 4 and 5. If WMDs 1 and 2 opened the 19th and 4 and 5 opened at a later date in November, he thought we might get some people up there to harvest beaver.
Mr. Fortier stated in WMDs 1 and 2 there was a snow line, and not only was the infrastructure not there like in 4 and 5, in 1 and 2 there were not a lot of full time trappers we were dealing with weekend trappers. If someone was going to travel there it would be 90 miles one way to do some trapping. In the snow season there were not a lot of roads open, and ATVs were not allowed in most areas. If it was open earlier it would allow them to go up in. He agreed with Mr. Dudley.

Commissioner Woodcock asked Mr. Dudley with the price of beaver pelts where it was right now if we were to go back to only prime time trapping, January, February, would it be impacted enough with the price of pelts where they were.

Mr. Dudley stated in WMDs 1 and 2, if they were going to be trapped probably now was not a bad time to be trapping them. That was the furthest north and they probably primed a little earlier. Were they prime in October, no. His suggestion was to split them up, 1 and 2 could be open earlier; 4 and 5 if they were opened later people might go to 1 and 2. With the price of beaver today how many people would go there regardless? We stretch the season a lot and we were not increasing the take much. If we kept dumping unprimed fur on the market it did not help. We had beaver coming out our ears and it was all because of the price. We were stretching the seasons and managing as a nuisance not as a resource.

Mrs. Oldham asked if Mr. Dudley was suggesting in WMDs 1 and 2, start early and then put it on to try to address that specific zone where the nuisance was.

Mr. Lewis asked if there was a way to relax some of the laws on the methods to make it easier.

Mr. Dudley stated they were pretty well relaxed in the northern part of the start.

There were no further comments or questions.

2. Fishing Regulations/State Heritage Fish waters 2016

Mr. Brown stated we had a successful round of public hearings, public turnout was typical. We had a lot of positive comments. Moose River proposals where we proposed fly fishing only vs. the fly casting received a lot of positive comments. There was support for the addition of 4 new heritage fish waters to the list. Our Beech Hill Pond proposal, after a number of years we’ve been able to get the smelt population back there and starting to see tremendous growth on our salmon. We expected to see some really nice salmon coming out of that water in the next couple years. There was a lot of support for a number of togue proposals that were in the packet among many different regions. We did receive some comments on the boundary waters. All of those were in favor although they were relatively few and they included some bass tournament rulemaking proposal changes and changes to the waters that we shared with New Hampshire. The New Brunswick proposals we didn’t hear any negative comments although there would likely be changes prior to going to Step 3. In talking with the folks from New Brunswick, they would likely not be allowed to approve 2 of their proposals that they thought they would be able to and those were going to 2 bass only 1 over 14” and the second proposal would be to remove bass from the aggregate bag limit. That had to do with how complicated their rulemaking process was. The Provinces were allowed some exemptions that they could do in house, but these two were required to go to Ottawa to be changed, and that process could take up to 3 years. It was very likely we’d see those two proposals come out of the boundary water section for New Brunswick.

We did have some comments that held some concern. Those fell mostly into two categories. One was allowing an S-4 regulation and kids to fish with worms on ponds in the Pierce Pond area. The other was the proposal at Upper Dam Pool to allow boats with motors and for clarification, what they could do now was go into the pool and not use their motor and that was how we enforced it. Technically, when we looked into the definition of a motorboat, that was a boat with a motor on it whether you were using it or not. There seemed to be some confusion from those that commented. We wanted to make sure that people that did have a motor on their boat, they were not using it and would still be allowed to go into the pool. People could motor up there, they could stop their motor, tilt it up and go into the pool and fish and still abide by the same restrictions on the use of motorboats that the pool has as always had.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mrs. Oldham stated the problem with motor boats in Upper Dam and why people were so vigorous in their objection to the proposal was oil or gas spilling from a watercraft with a motor on it. They were very concerned about that. The pool wasn’t that big and for a motorboat to access it coming from the south end, paddle down the right side of the pool where everybody would be lined up fly fishing. Someone had emailed her the 512 page FERC application and in the recreation plan on page 29 it said, “specifically discourage uses or increases in level of uses that would disrupt the existing character and use of the area.” Mrs. Oldham stated she could provide photos of the Upper Dam Pool and there were no motorboats there.

Mr. Brown stated we did not propose to change what was always done.

Mrs. Oldham stated we did not want to encourage motorboats, even with the motors up in that pool. That was what the people were objecting to. It changed the character of a very historic fly fishing place. They did not want motor boats in there period. The dam was being reconstructed, but what they weren’t doing for access to the pool because Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust owned a lot of property there and they were going to develop nice walkways and access to the pool. From the Mooselookmeguntic side they could come in, and from the South Arm side they could go upstream on Richardson near where the Cary Stevens historic place was, exit that way and walk to the pool. The camp owners had rowboats that they rowed out into the pool. She thought in terms of recreational uses, because the State Planning Office, the Dept. of Conservation and IFW were among multiple parties that signed the licensing agreement which was Brookfield. It said no motorcraft and she felt it should stay that way.

Commissioner Woodcock stated he had fished the pool a lot. He had fished there in a 20ft. canoe with a 3hp engine with the motor tilted up. You did not see many people there with boats. We were trying to make sure we had the enforcement part lined up. We may have to find another way. The access to the pool was different now. In the past they had to walk a long way. The face of the dam had changed and we would see how the flow went. We had been told it would be kept in character.

Mrs. Oldham stated she thought we should look at the licensing agreement because she didn’t think we could do it based on the agreement.
Commissioner Woodcock stated he had made a note about the comments that were being made by the people that owned property in the area. He did not read one with regard to oil in it. They were concerned that the boats were going to have motors motoring up to the pool. That was his sense of the comments.

Mr. Farrington asked what necessitated the change.

Mr. Brown stated there had been folks that went there with motors on their boats, they didn’t use them there, but there was some concern from folks. When you looked at the technical definition of motorboat, that was a boat with a motor whether it was running or not and we just wanted to clarify for folks that we didn’t see an issue with necessarily boats that had a motor on it. What we saw was the issue would be anybody using a motor in that pool area.

Mrs. Oldham stated the current regulation was no motorboats allowed and that was the way she and others would like it to stay.

Mr. Farrington stated he didn’t see the need to change it, it seemed to work well as it was for a long time.

Commissioner Woodcock stated it was not accessible to get there with a motor. There had been very few people there fishing with a tilted motor. The law said no motorboats allowed, so was the warden service going to site somebody? We had an interesting discussion about how to clarify the regulation. We would either say, no motorboats meaning no motors on the boat. Most people accessed the area by walking or they lived there.

Mr. Wheaton stated if the Department had already agreed and put its proposal there for no outboards, then the Department should clarify with FERC.

Mr. Lewis stated he had received and seen comments regarding the Pierce Pond area. The reason he was hearing for changing some of the fly fishing waters to allow kids to use worms, and some of them were hiking in. He had the same belief as when they took doe permits away from Aroostook County even on youth day that it was a bad precedent. He did not see that we should be doing it. There were other places where kids could fish. There were some good comments. He wondered how that was going to make it align with some of the other proposals.

Mr. Brown gave some brief history. Forrest Bonney was the fisheries biologist back then and was looking at a number of these waters, fairly remote waters that provided some unique fishing opportunities for anglers and he felt that making a lot of those waters fly fishing only would be protective of populations that weren’t as robust as they were now and for a long time there was some excellent fishing there. What folks had seen, there certainly had been a decrease in the size of the fish. There were still a lot of fish there in a lot of instances but a lot of the region D folks felt that those ponds really weren’t doing what they could do and it was time for a change. They wanted to see some of those fish taken out. There was a request from Cobbs camp to allow folks to bring their children up there. A lot of it was families coming up to fish with kids, not just sports anymore. They would like to see an opportunity for kids to go up there and not have to use fly fishing gear and give them the opportunity to catch some fish. It was not that kids could not learn to fly fish and enjoy fly fishing but unless you were fishing from a boat fly fishing could certainly be more difficult for a kid if you were trying to fly fish from shore. It was our thought that with a limited number of kids that would go up there, mostly would be those staying at the camp, that we wouldn’t see a tremendous impact by the use of worms which those under 16 would be able to use. Going from FFO to artificial lures would allow for folks to take out more of those fish and try to achieve some growth. We would continue to monitor and could change the regulation if necessary.

Mrs. Oldham stated to present it as a kids fishing opportunity quite frankly was deceptive. Three of those ponds had very difficult access. Also to have different rules for kids than adults on ponds, she felt from a law enforcement standpoint, could be problematic. We should state what it was we were trying to do.

Commissioner Woodcock stated we had some bodies of water that had separate regulations for kids and adults. It wasn’t common, but it wasn’t uncommon. We were talking about opportunity. The argument that it was just as easy for kids to fly fish as spin fish, he did not agree if you were on shore.

Mr. Fortier stated on Eagle Lake the no bag limit for salmon, where it was a pretty populated area, easy access, they’d like to see some type of bag limit. He had heard the biological reasoning. Would a bag limit of 10 fish be an unreasonable proposal? There were some people that would go there and fill a whole boat if they could.

Mr. Brown stated that was one that staff was excited about because we were seeing a number of waters where we had small salmon. The reason they were small at Eagle was a little bit different than Chesuncook and others, it was hard to catch fish that averaged much more than 13” or so. The biologists were excited about trying something new and innovative that would reduce the population. Historically we’d had a hard time, and especially in this era of catch and release, to make folks realize its ok to take fish home and eat some. The fish at Eagle had a parasite that stunted growth. We wanted to see what would happen once we removed a number of those fish. Because we had a rulemaking process that was annual we could keep a close eye on it.

Mrs. Oldham stated on page 7 of 104, Pleasant Lake in Otisfield, the holding of any live baitfish in Pleasant Lake is prohibited. The modification was to delete that wording and say the holding of any live fish not taken in Pleasant Lake was prohibited. How were we going to enforce that?

Mr. Brown stated this was one of the waters, ordinarily when we had our source of water for our hatcheries, and Cold Stream Pond was the first one of these, no holding of live bait. If there was a camp owner there who trapped right there they could hold it for fishing in the pond. They were going out and buying bait from somebody else, possibly species of fish not native to the pond, bringing it back to the pond and using it there. Their question to us was that more reasonable than allowing them to catch fish there in a minnow trap and use them there. We felt it was less risk to do that.

Mrs. Oldham stated the holding of any live bait was prohibited. They shouldn’t buy live bait elsewhere.

Mr. Brown stated it didn’t mean they couldn’t use it. It didn’t mean they couldn’t go ice fishing and buy bait someplace else and use it ice fishing. So the people there were saying it didn’t make sense that they couldn’t trap bait in their own pond and use it there or hold it there, but it was ok to go outside the pond and buy it from somebody. Warden Service felt, at least at Cold Stream Pond, that they wouldn’t have an issue enforcing it. It was a way to accommodate folks that wanted to trap bait there and use it on the pond. He felt if we could have that type of regulation on all of our waters it would minimize the number of bait moving from one pond to another.

Commissioner Woodcock stated this had been discussed many times. The focus was where were you keeping the bait. If you could hold your own bait right in front of your camp, but if you couldn’t hold bait and brought it in a bucket from away a lot of times those buckets were dumped in the pond. We were trying to influence keeping the local bait in the local area not going outside.

Mr. Farrington stated it was more stuff in the rulebook. Everybody was frustrated with the complicated rulebook. It would be much easier to say no live bait at all. To say that you could only keep bait that you caught in the pond wasn’t enforceable. It was a useless rule. The 10-fish thing on Eagle Lake comment, he had experienced the unlimited catch thing on Moosehead Lake. You got a certain length in the fish after letting them take anything they wanted for a number of years, then you had a hole. He thought letting them keep 10 or 20 would be plenty.

Mrs. Oldham stated she wanted to ask about Reed Pond, the increase in the harvest of brook trout. It was a reclaimed pond that was reclaimed at considerable expense that was supposed to be managed for development of Arctic char and brook trout weren’t supposed to be in there until the char population had been established. She assumed a mistake had been made, had there been an investigation as to why the mistake occurred and steps taken so it would not occur again?

Mr. Brown stated it was a management decision that was made at the time. We reclaimed the pond because we were concerned about the size of the brook trout and char that were there. We had an illegal introduction of smelts that competed with both those species so we felt it was best to reclaim it. It was a pretty big pond, 98 acres, at the limit of what we could restore. We removed the char and native population of brook trout, we didn’t want to lose either one of those populations of fish and we put them in Picard’s hatchery and raised the char and was successful in getting some of the fry into Big Reed. The objective was try to delay as much as we could the introduction of the brook trout until after the char introductions. But, because of costs associated and the amount of difficulty we were having in terms of funding at the time, we felt if we took fry and put those in the feeder streams that would delay the onset of the brook trout populations to a point where we would see the char fry. We have seen some fairly large char up to 15” or so. We still had not documented any hatchery production there so we would do more work to find spawning shoals this fall.

Mrs. Oldham stated that was in the initial plan, the Arctic char must be given precedence to become well established prior to putting trout in there.

Mr. Brown stated that was part of the initial plan. When we looked back on it and the amount of funding we had to keep the brook trout, the brook trout would still have to be at Gary Picard’s if we didn’t stock them and we just couldn’t afford that. We tried to do what we could to balance what we felt would be successful with the char introductions and making sure we maintained that native population of brook trout. Both of those fish species were native and taken out when we reclaimed it and we wanted to make sure both species made it back in. If we were to go to the full implementation of the plan we would still be holding the brook trout at about $3,500/month. We made the best decision we could at the time and it looks like there are some nice brook trout there now and he didn’t know that there were any negative impacts on the char thus far.

Mr. Gundersen stated he thought trying to increase access for the youth and disabled people was the right way to go. Maybe not every pond in every place was the right place to do it, but he thought doing it was commendable and the right way to go.

Mrs. Oldham stated the fish regulations packet, she had read very carefully all the public comments and public hearing minutes. There had been some outstanding public comments that were informative and helpful. As she was reading them, she wondered why she was finding out some things that should have been coming from the Department. There was new information that the people making the comments had that she didn’t have. Looking at the packet and the reasons for the regulation change, it was obviously by region, and it was uninterpretable for her about why the regulation needed to be done. She did not believe all the regulation changes were necessary. Her recommendation was that there be 50 regulation changes per year, ranked in order of biologic importance. They would get real peer review, not the biologists putting in all their wants and getting a packet of 106 pages. She did not feel that was necessary every year. A lot of the proposals seemed whimsical. Togue grew slowly yet there were different togue regulations on lakes every year how did we know what was working? 50 proposals and if a biologist felt very strongly that theirs should have been included by biologic significance, appeal to the Advisory Council and make their case. They needed a lot more information than what was currently in the packet. She considered it very unsatisfactory and had for a while.

Mr. Brown stated limiting the numbers of rule proposals there would be concern that we would miss something that would be important.

Mrs. Oldham stated if they were ranked in biologic importance that would be more helpful to her and probably better for the resource.

Mr. Farrington stated if you looked at the Department’s regulatory changes for the past 8 years, there had to be over 1,000. He’d never seen any follow up. If we were going to keep going with these enormous numbers of proposals somewhere along the line someone had to do some follow up to say it did or didn’t work. People were overwhelmed. They heard we were trying to simplify but the large packet looked pretty complicated to them.

Mr. Brown stated he wanted to remind them that as a fisheries agency we really had to be responsive not only to the biological aspects but the social aspects as well. Whatever we had for a rulemaking package, he thought tried to acknowledge the fact that we needed to be responsive to some of the changes to manage the waters for either what they could best produce for fish or invasive species issues. The S-13 waters where there were new bass introductions, if we were limited to a number of proposals there would be some places that we wouldn’t be able to respond in our law book by putting on an S-13 regulation.

Mrs. Oldham stated she would like to see more what’s best for the resource and less of the social pressure. Deal with the biologic issues first and foremost and then maybe respond to the social pressure.

Mr. Gundersen stated we went to general rules from special rules on some places and that would simplify. When he went through the packet he saw examples of that and it would simplify things.

Mr. Wheaton stated it did bother him when we passed or did not pass a rule and it went to the Legislature and got turned around.

Commissioner Woodcock stated sometimes it had zero to do with data in the Legislature and all to do with social. We all had to appreciate that no matter what we did for a rulemaking process they had the ability to take a shot at it anyway. That was part of the system. The part about the packet that had always bothered him, but he had become convinced it was somewhat necessary, was one proposal per page. If you looked at it from the perspective of how many actual changes there were a change might affect 20 bodies of water, each one of those bodies of water got listed and the packet would become elongated. We were going to take a close look at the law book for the publication after this one and see what we could do for its organization. What our responsibility was, was that we maintain the best biological process that we could. Other than the Pierce pond proposals he was not aware of other social proposals in the packet.

Mr. Farrington asked about sunset provisions on the regulatory changes. They should have to be reviewed at some point down the road to see if they worked or not. Big Reed was a perfect example, they reclaimed the pond to get the smelts out and now they were back.

Mr. Brown stated the smelts were not back there.

Mr. Farrington stated smelts were at Big Reed. There were too many S-codes and it was too complicated. He understood the concept between S-9 and the complimentary people, but it should be the same thing. If a 16 year old kid could go in and fish, why couldn’t the guy who was blind or lost a leg in the service. One S-code should be plenty. Put it all back to general law and then tell him why it had to be changed. The Moose River was a good example, it was a good biological change because we didn’t want people fishing there with rapalas and feathers glued on them casting into the river saying they were fly fishing.

Mr. Lewis noted Mrs. Oldham’s point, some waters had a change every year. Beech Hill Pond, the last 4 years we had been saying we needed time for the change. He ran with the Sebago Lake one for togue, he worked with Greg on that and now 2 years later, a fish that supposedly takes 15 years, had worked. He was having a hard time with that. The people at the hearing were the same that were there before and the same people Greg dealt with. Some of the stuff was too fast, year to year and he was having a hard time seeing how that could work. That was the frustration some were having. The first year he was on the Council Greg met with him and Mr. Wheaton and went through all the proposals in Hancock and Washington County. It was very helpful. They had tried since but it had never happened. There had to be more information and why and more follow up down the road.

Mr. Farrington stated on page 15, Kenduskeag Stream, he thought something was left off the last sentence of the proposal.

There were no further comments or questions.

3. Islesboro Special Hunt

Commissioner Woodcock stated we had representatives there from the deer reduction committee and some local discussion had taken place at a town meeting.

Mr. Smith stated the voters on the island had stated they would like to have another special hunt and they would like to use the same time period ending right after the expanded archery season and go to the end of February. The last two Februarys had been the worst on record so that adversely affected their count. The other part was by increasing the number of hunters on the island they felt they would be able to meet their goal. The first time around the weather was a factor and the number of people that actually participated was fewer than they thought it would be. At the town meeting they gave the voters two options, they discussed hunting in November because a third of all the deer that were taken on Islesboro were taken during the month of November. If they added that plus the earlier hunt in the warmer weather they would increase the take, but the vote was approximately 36-35 they didn’t want to do that. They did support what they had done and the data showed the number of deer that had been harvested on the island the population had gone down 47% from its high point. The number of deer tick issues that they’d had went down last year, but he understood that was the cycle and it was pretty hard to say with a couple of years what that would do. They still had too many deer and they believed by doing this they would fulfill their goal.

Commissioner Woodcock stated there were a couple of issues, the biological issue of how many animals were there, how many were taken, were we reaching the goal? The other issue was social. Islesboro had the need as an island to vote on plans that were being presented and whether they accepted or rejected them. The initiation of the process three years ago he made a statement to the committee which he would make again, he did not think the method was the right method but because the island would not accept the method that he was in favor of we had a quandary. He felt they should hire someone to go there and kill the deer and lower the population. They rejected that in their vote. An extension of the process for another cycle was being asked for to see if the goals and objectives could be reached. He was disappointed they had not been able to arrive at what he felt was the most viable method to lower the deer population.

Mr. Gundersen stated he had gone to Islesboro and met with some people. What he saw on the island was that there were some pretty big areas that weren’t good deer habitat so he did not believe there were any deer there. There were areas where there were fields and that was where the deer had been concentrating. Everyone he talked to said there were less deer on the island than there used to be. No one he talked to thought that the number that they came up with on the pellet count was right, they felt it was high. He talked to people that were for getting a sharp shooter out there, and some that were against it. It was complicated and a difficult situation. After seeing the island he was not sure that even if sharp shooters went out there you couldn’t find all the deer, it was 14 square miles.

Mr. Fortier stated they needed to get that deer population down because of the ticks. The season could be extended but in light of the people on the island holding back on that he didn’t know if it would work. Had the island looked at trying to do any campaigning or advertising to draw hunters to the area and hunt? Maybe if there was some advertising they would increase the hunting population and more than reach their goal. He thought they would need to triple their goal to really bring the population down.

Mr. Smith stated 95% of the deer that were killed on Islesboro were killed by off island people. That was the expanded archery season. It used to be he could get 4 or 5 deer no problem, last year he saw 1 in expanded archery season. During the season they were discussing for afterwards, there were fewer deer moving around. They didn’t have apples on trees that had apples historically because the bee population had been down throughout the state. This year they were starting to see more apples come back. The deer reduction committee looked at how many deer were killed, when they were killed, they made proposals that they needed to bring in more hunters and he believed people were the way to reduce the deer not a sharp shooter. In their 3-year plan at the end of the first year they were going to analyze everything they had done and if their numbers were not where they thought they should be or if the instance of Lyme disease had increased they would look at the options to address both those problems and alter the way they did it. They wouldn’t change the plan, but take it back and say they would like to try something additional. He thought that would include bringing in more hunters. The first year, they had a new plan, they were going to double their hunters, hopefully the weather would be better and he thought they would be successful. They did have that contingency to go back and do what was suggested.

Mr. Kemper stated he felt it was important to point out that the proposal that was on the table did not allow non-citizens it was structured to allow only residents and landowners on Islesboro to hunt.

Mr. Farrington stated it looked pretty simple to him, the Town of Islesboro was going to have the final say, it was only the question if we were going to give them the extra 3 years to do it.

Mrs. Oldham asked what would happen if the Council rejected the proposal.

Commissioner Woodcock stated the proposal was for the authorization from the Department to set the special season. If they didn’t have the Department’s permit to do so, they would be restricted.

Mrs. Oldham stated she had expressed her objections at the last meeting. The math didn’t work, past performance didn’t work and she was not going to vote for a proposal that could not meet its objective. This was the third time she had been on the Council where there had been an Islesboro proposal. She voted for the previous two with reservations, but she would not vote in favor of the proposal that statistically had no chance of achieving its objective.

Mr. Fortier asked if there was any chance the island would accept people to come in with shotguns and be able to hunt on the island with residents and landowners.

Mr. Smith stated he believed they would do what they had to to address the problem. They believed they could solve the problem with the proposal, but that would mean getting expanded to include more people if they were not successful. They would do it after the first year.

 

C. Step 1

There were no items under Step 1.

V. Other Business

Mr. Lewis stated he would like to discuss trying to find funding for the Youth Fish and Game Association. He would like to find a way to help them like the other conservation camps. He asked Travis Roy to give some background on the facility.

Mr. Roy stated in 2000 there were about 15 people that decided they wanted to have a fish and game camp and that evolved into a youth fish and game camp. In 2001 they got the land lease worked out with International Paper with IF&W education division being the lease holder and the lease specified that Maine Youth Fish and Game could run a youth outdoor education program. That predated the buildings, there was nothing there but a campsite. In 2001 they organized as Chapter 1 of the Maine Youth Fish and Game Association and started working on programs, hunter safety, etc. A log home was donated and labor was volunteered and that was how they got started with the building. In 2006 International Paper through specialized forest practices deeded the land to IFW education division and asked that it be restricted to the use of the original commercial lease. That spurred more interest from vendors and business people. Old Town canoe and others had donated to the programs. In 2006 they also started having summer camp there. The first summer camps they had 2, 1 week camps with 40 kids each week and they were pretty much filled with 80 kids and no waiting list. It was ages 8-15 and they were split out by age groups with different councilors for a day camp. The program had continued to grow and they now had an overnight camp for 12-15 year olds. They had 6, 10’ x 12’ Adirondack shelters and also had over a dozen tents that were set up in the grassy area and the kids could choose where they felt more comfortable. This would be their 4th summer with the overnight group.

Mr. Roy stated their camper ratio was typically 1 to 10 with their councilors and every councilor had a counselor in training. The kids would come up through the ranks and pass that on. This year marked the 10th anniversary of the camp, and they had had 1660 campers come through. They offered two hunters safety courses per year, two fishing days during the winter and local taxidermists would mount fish for the kids. They were one of the finalists for a range grant to improve the shooting areas. Garage and storage building plans were being worked on all from funds they raised, no endowments. The camp had charged $75 per week, that was now $100 and they were competing with $300 - $400 camps.

Mr. Roy stated they were looking at ways to increase access for someone with limited mobility. Looking forward, they were also discussing an addition for the residents building (bunkhouse). In their 5-year plan they would also like to get to a place where they had some kind of annual funding that wasn’t tied to how many people showed up at the fundraising dinner. They would like to have annual funding that would allow them to have a 6 or 8 week program that would utilize the facility. They would like to thank IFW for all they had done and ask that they could be part of a conversation about some potential funding.

Commissioner Woodcock stated the moose auction monies that were realized had some statutory provisions of what could or could not be done with them. If they could meet certain requirements of the Department including an outdoor educational curriculum for the camp, an overnight camp with a certain number of campers, etc. If they could meet the standards monies would be available. There were a couple of camps that met the criteria now. The monies from the moose auction were fairly substantial each year.

VI. Councilor Reports

Councilors gave reports.

VII. Public Comments & Questions

Gary Corson stated he had been waiting for years for somebody to start to realize that what we were doing in fisheries was a lot different than what we were doing in wildlife. We did not have fisheries species specialists. Management in fisheries stopped at the region. There really wasn’t a lot of oversight or direction from leadership in the Department and he guessed that went all the way to the Commissioner’s office. What Mrs. Oldham mentioned about the misinformation, he had been dealing with these things for a long time. He guided hunters and anglers for 30 years. The only way we could make good judgements was to have the data. We didn’t have any. He spent hours going through the packets each year and had sent 18 pages of comments this year. Most of the time he spent on it was getting data. They had talked about Pierce Pond and every meeting he had gone to he heard about the camp request. He had a slide that was presented at the regulations committee meeting that showed the camps request. The ALO proposals from fly fishing to ALO, not one of those came from the camp they all came from the region. Yet, every time he heard someone from the Department talk about the proposals, it was a camp request or a compromise from a camp request. It was not only getting the data it was the misinformation. He was very familiar with Reed Pond; he was the person in 1991 that alerted the Department that there were smelts in the pond. He had fished Reed Pond that year and there were all kinds of brook trout. He read the transcripts from the Presque Isle public hearing and the biologist comments talked about how we had a very high quality fishery in Reed Pond. There had not been one blueback trout caught in Reed Pond using legal methods since the reclamation. How could that be called a quality fishery? It was not just the data; there were waters being stocked that had regulations on them to kill the fish we were stocking in large numbers. Why did we do that? Scraggly Lake was one of them and Sandy and Eagle Lake. There were things in the structure of fisheries that were not the same as wildlife and he couldn’t figure out why. In his opinion if you went through the fishing regulations packet and took out everything in there that didn’t have data to back it up, it would be cut in half. He hoped they would see some big changes coming as far as the structure of the fisheries division.

VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting

The date and location of the next meeting would be Wednesday, September 16th at 9:30 a.m. at IFW, 284 State Street, Augusta.

IX. Adjournment

A motion was made by Mr. Wheaton and that was seconded by Mr. Farrington to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 p.m.