Meeting Minutes

Advisory Council Meeting
September 24, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
284 State Street, 2nd Floor Conference Room
Augusta, Maine

Attending:

Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner

Andrea Erskine, Deputy Commissioner

Christl Theriault, Assistant to the Commissioner

Judy Camuso, Wildlife Division Director

Mike Brown, Fisheries Division Director

Merry Gallagher, Fisheries Biologist

Adam Gormely, Game Warden Lieutenant

Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder

 

Council members:

Jeff Lewis (Chair) - by phone

Dick Fortier

Lance Wheaton (Vice-Chair)

Sheri Oldham

Cathy DeMerchant

Dick Thurston – by phone

Gunnar Gundersen

 

Guests:

Gary Corson, New Sharon

Jeff Reardon, TU

Fern & Sylvia Bosse

Butch Tripp – Vice-President, MTA

 

I. Call to Order Lance Wheaton, Council Vice -Chair called the meeting to order.

II. Introductions Introductions were made.

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

Vote: 6 in favor; 1 abstained (Mrs. DeMerchant) – minutes approved.

IV. Rulemaking

A. Step 3

1. 2014-2015 Furbearer Seasons/Regulations/Beaver Closures

Ms. Camuso stated we were correcting a typographical error for the early season for muskrat. WMD 9 would be open and not WMD 8.

Commissioner Woodcock stated the wording for Porter in WMD 15 had been modified. Tributaries had been removed; there was a person who was blocking off the pond.

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

Vote: unanimous – motion passed.

2. Fishing Regulations 2015 

Commissioner Woodcock stated there were many individual proposals in the packet. At Step 2 there was concern expressed about one or two of the proposals. The Council could not amend proposals at this step of the voting process because the public would not have opportunity to comment. He was putting forth the packet as originally presented with the exception of the removal of Mountain Catcher Pond. Mountain Catcher Pond was a Maine Indian Tribal State Commission (MITSC) water and was managed with input by the commission. Due to the timing of the packet they had not had a chance to review the proposal and comment. Due to some of the specific proposals that had concerns at Step 2, the Council would be allowed to have discussion about particular proposals.

Commissioner Woodcock stated they would need to have a motion to bring particular bodies of water out of the packet to discuss individually and then the packet remaining, the ones not brought out for discussion, could have a motion to pass those as presented and go back to the ones brought out and have an individual motion on those.

A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham to take Telos Cut (Webster Stream) proposal out of the packet for discussion and that was seconded by Mrs. DeMerchant.

Vote: unanimous – Telos Cut removed for discussion

Mrs. Oldham stated after the meeting last month it still wasn’t clear to her why it was presented to be changed. There was no biological data; there was a general “conserve the resource” but it still was not clear to her that there was new biologic data that the rule should be changed and she still had concerns about that.

Commissioner Woodcock stated the reason the proposal was put forth for 1 fish was that the biologists felt, and this was an unusual body of water because it had a couple of biologists that oversaw it and it was also a Baxter State Park water (part of it). The biologists felt that the opportunity for people to keep 1 fish would not be impacting to the body of water. Also, they felt that if it stayed the way it was now it without being able to take a fish that it didn’t have a significant impact on the body of water. The Commissioner’s conclusion was that this body of water did not have a significant amount of pressure; ice fishing perhaps more than any other, not much during the open water season. He decided to let it go through because he thought the 1 fish was more a philosophical statement than a biological statement. They were talking about wild brook trout, not stocked fish. The cut was a manmade body of water. It was made as a sluice way for logs. Fish did come up there and bumped against the obstruction at the dam. Was there a significant usage and threat to the fish at that location? He did not think so. The 1 fish he felt did not threaten anything, and no fish didn’t alter much either. It was a philosophical, social statement.

Mr. Fortier stated he had been there numerous times although not in the last few years. He had never seen a lot of people there. He would agree with the biologists. Years ago he thought there were more people going in than there were now. A lot of catch and release and he didn’t know how much damage was done just from catching and releasing. Being able to go there and take 1 fish he didn’t think there was a huge amount of pressure.

Mrs. Oldham stated it was easier to make decisions when they had creel surveys or biologic data than on philosophic questions. She would hope in the future that when changes were being made on a body of water that there was some data to go with it.

Commissioner Woodcock stated there were some winter creel surveys. Not a lot because it was a fairly remote body of water. It didn’t indicate a lot of pressure on the body of water. The biologists weren’t bothered by 1 fish. The biologists also weren’t bothered by no fish. He didn’t think there was an impact there by the amount of fish that were taken. He had asked the biologists and the wardens whether they had seen anecdotally any change in the size of the fish or the quantity of the fish and the biologists were very specific when stating no, the fish were in the 12” – 14” range.

Mrs. DeMerchant stated provided the pressure stayed the same.

Commissioner Woodcock stated that could be assessed with fly overs in the summer and the winter creel count. It was over a mile to walk in and those that used to fish there were getting older and couldn’t walk in as easily. The pressure had diminished because the young people did not go in there. Some people did fly in with their clients and that was usually a catch and release crowd.

It was artificial lures only, 1 fish was the proposal. He had heard discussion regarding treble hooks and the damage they might cause. This was an opportunity for someone to have one fish and it wouldn’t impact the fishery.

Mr. Thurston stated the time of the year and the preservation of brook trout, were we setting a precedent if we changed the rule and opened it up to one fish. Would we be presented with, I only want to take one fish, native brook trout, again in the same timing, you did it for this one so why can’t you do all of them? Mr. Thurston stated he thought he would prefer to not change the rule and keep them protected.

Commissioner Woodcock stated he thought more work needed to be done on the entirety of regulations for fishing in the fall.

Mr. Thurston stated the rule should be left alone, the research should be done and then collectively create rules for the future with picking certain waters where someone had a certain favorite spot.

Mr. Lewis stated he agreed with Mr. Thurston. The rule was changed 3 years ago and he had talked with the biologist and John Boland. Mr. Boland had stated there was a lot of data to suggest that it should be closed the way they did it. Other waters up that way such as Allagash, was closed by Allagash Falls and he did not believe we had the data to change it back. There were several people he had talked to that said the pressure had increased. It seemed with all the work done with brook trout it was time to protect them. There were plenty of places people could get a fish up there and he was not sure they should change it back yet again. He felt we should protect it and get the data we needed in order to make a better decision.

Mr. Wheaton stated when you had a catch and release fishery nothing said the fisherman was going to catch 2 trout, let them go and not catch anymore. If someone is looking for a fish to mount and he fishes all day catch and releasing, he has done a lot of damage. Maybe there was not a lot of pressure but we would still get a lot of damage. With a 1-fish limit if you fished all day for the 1 fish that you’re looking for you’ve hurt a lot of fish. He thought we should protect them.

Commissioner Woodcock stated the process of this parliamentary procedure was they would need a motion to consent to move it forward as it was and a second on that. If they did not agree and wanted to pull it out, they would vote against that motion. They could not have a negative motion. They needed a motion to consent to move it forward with the rest of the packet.

A motion was made by Mr. Gundersen to consent to move the proposal on Webster Stream forward and that was seconded by Mrs. DeMerchant.

Commissioner Woodcock stated a yes vote would support Mr. Gundersen’s motion and meant they would want to leave it in the packet. A no vote would mean they wanted to take it out and not move it forward.

Vote: 1 in favor (Mr. Fortier);6 opposed – motion failed Webster Stream proposal not to move forward.

Commissioner Woodcock asked if there were others to bring out for discussion. If there were no others they could vote on the entire packet. They would need the same motion, consent to move it forward and that would send the whole packet forward minus the vote on Telos.

Mr. Lewis stated he had a question on the whitefish proposal and would like to bring it out for discussion.

A motion was made by Mr. Lewis to take the St. Froid Lake proposal out of the packet for discussion and that was seconded by Mr. Wheaton.

Vote: unanimous – St. Froid Lake removed for discussion.

Mr. Lewis stated if whitefish were a species we were trying to protect, why were we now increasing the number. Anything else that was protected that way wasn’t allowed to be killed at all.

Commissioner Woodcock stated he spoke with biologist Frank Frost about St. Froid. It was a population we were trying to bolster with some introductions of whitefish stocking. His assessment from the work he did there was that it wasn’t working at St. Froid. They were not reproducing, they were not growing to any great extent. For this one body of water, we were talking about a species of greatest conservation need, was it appropriate to allow people to take a species of greatest conservation need. They were just not growing or reproducing at St. Froid Lake, it was one body of water, one opportunity.

Mr. Brown stated it was a water we chose to restore and thought there were some opportunities there. We hadn’t seen the results of that based on our sampling and we had no plans to move forward with additional stocking on that particular lake. What we had there now that wasn’t growing we wanted to make sure people had the opportunity to catch some of those fish.

Mr. Fortier stated he was familiar with the body of water. What was the main reason the whitefish weren’t taking off in that body of water?

Mr. Brown stated from his conversations with Mr. Frost it was the competition they were having with smelts there.

Mr. Lewis stated he was still concerned. What did this do if the non-sporting public looked at this. Did we have enough data to back up the fact that we were wanting to kill more of these fish even though they were on the greatest concern list.

Commissioner Woodcock stated he thought the data was there currently to support the proposal. They were discussing whether or not it was appropriate to have the proposal in the eyes of those who weren’t as keenly aware. It was again, a philosophical discussion.

Mr. Fortier stated Mr. Frost knew the area as well as anybody and he would make a motion to leave it in as is.

A motion was made by Mr. Fortier to leave the St. Froid Lake proposal in the packet and that was seconded by Mr. Wheaton.

Vote: 4 in favor; 3 opposed – St. Froid Lake proposal remains in packet

Mr. Lewis stated he had another proposal he would like to discuss. He had a question regarding the youth fishing proposal like for Pickerel Pond. Had there been any more outcome on that, whether or not with the information we had on the deed on that land, could we take that out and have it just for youth?

Commissioner Woodcock stated Pickerel Pond had not been fully discussed yet because the deed to his knowledge had not been completely examined.

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated we were waiting to hear back from the Board of Directors. They believed all along that was state owned property and she questioned that. They were going to look at the deed. She thought at some point it was intended to come to the state for ownership. If that was the case, it was a private pond and they could regulate it as they saw fit. They could make it youth only. Our statewide S-9 regulation proposal probably wouldn’t be applied to that pond. She felt they would come back with information to suggest it was privately owned.

Mr. Wheaton stated he had a question. The 2 bass limit taken off the beds, we were proposing to change the law to 2 fish off the beds statewide. How come every other fish was protected when it was spawning? When the male was removed from the bed after it was fertilized, the bed would die. The young would not hatch. He had watched lakes die because there were no little ones growing.

Commissioner Woodcock stated he did not think we would be presenting it if we were of the opinion it was going to significantly impact the bass fishery statewide.

Mr. Wheaton stated if it was effected in any way it was hurting future fisheries. There wouldn’t be any big fish if we killed all the small ones.

Commissioner Woodcock stated most people that fished for bass were catch and release fisherman. Regarding the packet, the Commissioner was the one who recommended the proposals. They could not modify it at Step 3. Such as Telos and St. Froid, they could not make changes to it but pulling out an individual body of water from the packet was a separate notion entirely from modifying a proposal for bass. That wasn’t an individual body of water, it was a proposal for statewide.

Mr. Brown stated this was going to be general law, 2 fish in the spring time. It didn’t mean we couldn’t apply other regulations to waters of concern.

Commissioner Woodcock stated we were asking for the ability to have that in place statewide. If they wanted to apply different regulations to a particular body of water or region, they could do that. The basis would be to leave all the others as proposed. The Downeast waters for smallmouth, he didn’t think they were putting in the same category.

Mr. Wheaton stated he knew the Department had opened up live bait fishing for them on the beds, live bait as well as rubber. They took the bait and were hooked deep and there was a good chance the fish would die. Now we were allowing 2 fish off the beds to be taken and a lot of them would die with the mortality of fishing with live bait. Years ago they fished with artificials and lip hooked them.

Commissioner Woodcock stated the ponds Downeast that Mr. Wheaton was worried about for smallmouth probably wouldn’t have the regulation applied. If we wanted to protect those, we had. There may be bodies of water in other portions of the state that had largemouth, and a large population of them that you would want to have some taken off. Because they were passing the regulation statewide, didn’t mean it was being applied to every body of water.

A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham and that was seconded by Mrs. DeMerchant to approve the fishing regulations for 2015 as presented and modified.

Commissioner Woodcock clarified that meant it modified Mountain Catcher Pond, that was coming out and it also modified Telos coming out. Other than that, everything else stayed in the packet.

Vote: 6 in favor; 1 opposed (Mr. Wheaton) – motion passed.

B. Step 2 

There were no items under Step 2.

C. Step 1 

1. Licensed Guide Rules 

Lt. Gormely stated this involved the stand-up paddle sports. Traditionally if you were going to guide stand-up paddle sports on the ocean you were required to have a recreational guides license. The sea kayak guides license group came to the Department and indicated that did not make sense. They were more qualified to deal with them on the ocean so they approached the Guides Board. The Guides Board recommended that the sea kayak guides would be able to guide stand-up paddle sports on the ocean and a recreational guides license would be able to guide them on inland waters. In addition, we added ATV into guiding. If you were taking a guided trip with an ATV you would be required to have a guide license.

Lt. Gormely stated one of the controversies with this was the sea kayak guides thought they were qualified to guide on the inland side, and the Guides Board did not recognize that recommendation.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mrs. Oldham asked if there was more than economics involved with the decision. Was there a reason to separate the two.

Commissioner Woodcock stated jurisdiction was part of it and Deputy Commissioner Erskine added safety to that.

Lt. Gormely stated the conditions with the wind, weather, tide, etc. their argument was they were more suitable to guide in that environment.

Mr. Fortier asked about ATV guides. In his area the ATVs had become similar to the snowmobile industry. How were those rules going to apply to the big clubs, where did the guide part come in?

Lt. Gormely stated the legal aspect fell into the remuneration piece. If there was an expectation of money for a service on a guided trip that’s where the remuneration came in. If a club member was going to have a rally and all go out together, that was not a guided trip by the definition of the law.

2. Boating Regulations 

Lt. Gormely stated he and Mrs. Theriault had spent a lot of time reviewing the boating rules. They had not been updated for the past 20 years or more. We were proposing a complete repeal and replace on the boating rules. They had broken it down into categories. We were obligated to bring out boating stuff into compliance with the Feds. The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) dictates from the Coast Guard a standard. The first part of the rewrite was to bring that language into compliance. The second part of that were new rules that had not been applicable. An example being 20 years ago there were no “jet packs.” Jet packs were considered personal watercraft by the Coast Guard. The goal was to be consistent and provide the boating community a clear updated boating rules and regulations.

Mrs. Theriault stated one of the other things they wanted to talk about was the delineation between the coastal and inland waters. They wanted the summary to be clear to the public what the regulations were for coastal waters and if you were going into a river where that changed, where that line was and what the changes were for inland waters.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Wheaton stated he saw moorings set out 200-300 feet. Shouldn’t moorings be within 200 feet of shore because you couldn’t speed or cause wake within 200 feet shore. If someone was running fast at night, make them stay out beyond 200 feet and they wouldn’t run into a boat that was moored.

Lt. Gormely stated the mooring rules fell under Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry under the waterway marking system. Current rules would mandate that they do stay within 200 feet. You couldn’t legally put a mooring outside the water safety zone. Rules were so vague that someone could moor a boat in front of your property and be perfectly legal.

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated the issue of buoys, moorings and swim areas was first and foremost at the Legislature as well.

Mrs. Oldham asked if a repeal and replace was the best way to go.

Mrs. Theriault stated because there was so much being changed repeal and replace would be most effective.

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated we did not use repeal and replace often. When we did we would make certain that any change that was substantive would be highlighted.

Lt. Gormely stated one of the changes was our current rules required if you were towing a water skier that they wear a lifejacket, belt, buoy belt or other life saving device. The Coast Guard did not regulate towed water sports. There were challenges with slalom skiers and others when determining wording for lifejackets in the summary.

V. Other Business 

1. Wildlife Action Plan – moose update 

Ms. Camuso gave an update on the moose project. We had a project looking at survivorship of moose and last year we radio collared 16 individuals. Lee Kantar and his crew had been perfecting a water capture technique that would allow us to capture moose in the water in summertime at a much lower expense than hiring the aerial capture group. The plan for the winter was to supplement WMD 8, we were going to bring AeroTech back, the helicopter crew would come back and they would do a portion here and a portion in NH. This year would probably target younger moose, all the ones from last year that survived were now considered adults. We wanted to have a certain complement of adults and young animals with radio collars on. We would also be doing something in Aroostook County next winter depending how this winter went.

Ms. Camuso stated the Wildlife Action Plan was our basic strategic plan for the majority of our nongame species. There were some game species mixed in as well. It was required by the Feds every 10 years and we were required to do it to be eligible for federal funding. There were eight required elements in the plan that every state agency had to address. We were in the process of working through those eight steps. One of the required elements was public participation so we had a group of about 70 conservation partners that were working with us to help develop the plan. An initial meeting was held in July and the second meeting was September 30th. Staff would present what was close to a final species of greatest conservation need list. The next step was to go through the habitat association so all of those species of greatest conservation need had to be assigned a habitat. Staff had done a preliminary habitat association assignment and that would be presented to the group in September. There was a third meeting in October and there would likely be two more meetings with the full array of partners in the spring. A steering committee had been established and that was made up of a variety of people from the scientific community, large landowners, small landowners; about 12 people including staff. We also had an ad hoc landowners committee that we would continue to meet with to make sure that we were addressing concerns for the landowners and moving forward in a way that benefits both the landowners and the species. There were multiple PowerPoints on the IFW website.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mrs. Oldham stated she went to the first meeting and it was very impressive. This was a federal requirement and on the list of specifications climate change was one of the things to be addressed. She found that to be interesting and challenging.

2. Baitfish Working Group update

Ms. Gallagher stated about 1 years ago the baitfish working group was convened and they were tasked with 6 major issues pertaining to baitfish and smelts to provide feedback to the Department with ways to move forward. Those six topics were to 1) review the list of legal baitfish. There were 22 species (23 with the inclusion of smelts) listed legally as eligible for use as live bait. 2) Trials and tribulations with fish ID. Because we had such a large list of eligible and legal species there was a lot of uncertainty and confusion with how to accurately ID them from across the board. 3) Issues associated with harvest, methodology, catch, weirs, holding of live bait in public waters, sorting of bait, transport, etc. That topic was a mesh of a lot of issues and also user groups and constituencies that need to be able to participate and provide input. 4) Licensing structures. Currently we had 3 licenses that regulate the use of live bait and smelt. There was a live bait retailer license, baitfish wholesale license which allows a license holder to harvest bait from wild waters, and the smelt wholesaler license. The fee structures were really low. The other issues were what the allowances and prohibitions were under each of those licenses. 5) Disease transmission. Moving live fish into public waters there was always disease concerns. How could we address that or improve that or reduce the risk. 6) Improving quality control. One potential avenue to pursue was an HACCP program, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point program. It was basically a methodology to improve quality control.

Ms. Gallagher stated the group was in the process of drafting a response back to the Department on the first four topics. They were tabling the final two topics until we had more time after the current document was completed and presented to the Department on October 1. They would then continue work on the final two topics. Some things in the process were already underway. They were proposing to remove 3 species from the list of legal baitfish. All three species were not being dealt, they did not show up in the fishery and they were incredibly rare. They only occurred in a very small number of waters in Maine. Those fish were bridal shiner, long nosed dace and creek chub sucker. All of those species were also a species of greatest conservation need. There had also been convened an internal IF&W committee to begin to delve into the recommendations provided by the working group and to develop strategies for addressing the recommendations. The IF&W Committee was comprised of wardens, biologists and I&E staff. A lot of the recommendations coming out of the working group were improved education and outreach tools and materials for everybody involved with use of live bait. The baitfish working group work was ongoing. There may be rulemaking changes at some point in the future.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Wheaton asked what the chances were of yellow perch being moved into live bait.

Ms. Gallagher stated it was not a legal baitfish now and we were not proposing to add any new species to the list.

Mr. Wheaton stated we had commercial licenses for yellow perch in Maine.

Ms. Gallagher stated the commercial licenses, the fish had to be killed and then went to market. She did not think she had encountered anyone proposing to add yellow perch to the list of live fish. The risks of inadvertent introduction to a water would be pretty high. None of our legal baitfish were spiny finned species.

Mrs. Oldham asked if the reduction from 22 to 19 legal baitfish species was going to significantly help our problem with live fish as bait.

Ms. Gallagher stated it would significantly help our ability to develop materials and a program to improve fish identification skills. Those were just the 3 species the group was ok with outright removal at this time. There were other species continuing to be discussed. One of the recommendations that would be coming forward was the need for additional work research on a few species.

Mr. Wheaton asked if any thought was given to bait dealers having certain tanks.

Ms. Gallagher stated they had not talked about what gear or systems that a bait dealer had to have. They had talked a lot about bait sorting, the minimum requirements for an adequate sorting facility or holding facility. Many of the group members were dealers, and many of them were bait users. Other members of the group were conservationists.

VI. Councilor Reports 

Councilors gave reports.

VII. Public Comments & Questions 

Fern Bosse stated relating to the boating regulations, he and his wife lived on a lake in Poland for many years and while there he realized a tremendous amount of boats that belonged to the cottage owners that never got registered. He talked to the warden about it and asked if he could spend some time on the lake. He did, and let Mr. Bosse know that while he was there everything was fine. He asked if the warden had gone close to shore and checked the docks and moorings. What he learned was the rules are that unless the boat is underway, you could have your rig in front of your cottage unregistered. That did not make any sense. While working on the boating regulations, IF&W should look at it.

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated the Legislature a few years ago made an exception for people that wanted to dock a big boat and leave it permanently; you could do that without registering. She was not sure we would be successful in changing the regulations to say that if your boat touched the water it had to be registered.

Jeff Reardon stated he thought the Council did the right thing on Webster, but something Commissioner Woodcock said resonated with him. When the issue came up there had been the change that was fairly controversial a couple years ago and when it came up for a change again and Mr. Reardon’s members asked for help drafting comments, he looked at the rule book and felt we should treat Webster like all the other similar waters. He thought he found 14 different special regulations that applied to moving water brook trout waters in the fall. There was clearly the need for more than one, but moving more toward fewer options might make sense and simplify the rulebook.

VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting 

The date and location of the next meeting would be forwarded to the Council at a later time.

IX. Adjournment 

A motion was made by Mr. Fortier and that was seconded by Mrs. DeMerchant to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 11:30 a.m.