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Advisory Council Meeting
August 15, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
284 State Street, 2nd Floor Conference Room
Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner
Judy Camuso, Wildlife Division Director
Charlie Todd, E & T Species Coordinator
Mike Brown, Fisheries Division Director
Shon Theriault, Game Warden Captain
Rick Clowry, Game Warden Corporal, Whitewater Specialist
Carol Tompkins, Office Associate
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder
Jeff Lewis (Chair) – by phone
Lance Wheaton (Vice-Chair)
Gary Corson, New Sharon
Rick Denico – Chair Allagash Advisory Council
Fern & Sylvia Bosse
Brian Cogill - MTA
I. Call to Order
Lance Wheaton, Council Vice -Chair called the meeting to order.
Introductions were made.
III. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting
A motion was made by Mr. Thurston to approve the minutes of the previous meeting and that was seconded by Mr. Fortier.
Vote: unanimous – minutes approved.
A. Step 3
1. 2014-2015 Migratory Bird Season
Ms. Camuso stated the waterfowl season dates were handled differently because of the timing of the Federal process. There was one significant change from the proposal. USFWS sets the parameters around the waterfowl seasons and allows hunting of waterfowl for a certain number of days. Maine had 3 zones, the North, South and Coastal zones. The bag limits had not changed except for the regular goose season. The USFWS increased the daily bag limits for the migratory population of Canada geese so during the regular season we could take 3 per day with a possession limit of 9. There was also one slight change, a correction of a typo for the opening day for the special falconry season was December 15th.
Ms. Camuso stated we had also received a memo from the USFWS indicating that sea duck populations nationally were declining because they were more of a long lived species and didn’t reproduce as prolifically as some of our puddle ducks. They were looking to probably decrease the total number of days for sea ducks but not until 2016 – 2017. Currently it was a 107 day season and it would be bumped down to 60 days. With eiders in particular there was no question the eider populations had declined drastically from even just 20 years ago. We wanted to consider looking at things proactively before the USFWS closed the season down by half. Black backed gulls in particular were a significant source of mortality for eider ducklings. We had not seen much eider production in Casco Bay in years due to the black backed gulls. We would be looking internally to see if there were some things we could do proactively to help.
Ms. Camuso stated there were no other changes to the proposal besides the ones mentioned. The Waterfowl Council had met, the public hearing had been held and there had been little comment besides.
Mr. Thurston made a motion to accept the proposal as amended and that was seconded by Mr. Gundersen.
Vote: unanimous – motion passed.
2. Fall Turkey Hunting
Ms. Camuso stated this proposal was to open WMDs 10, 11 and 19 to fall turkey hunting with a 1 bird limit which was consistent with how we opened districts in the past.
A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham and that was seconded by Mr. Dudley to accept the proposal as presented.
Vote: unanimous – motion passed.
3. Any-deer permit allocations
Ms. Camuso stated we had received full blown support for the proposal. Given the severe winter last year the Department made a decision to reduce the any-deer permits significantly. There were no changes from the original proposal. Most of the permits would be issued in the southern part of the state which had a much less severe winter.
A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham and that was seconded by Mr. Thurston to accept the proposal as presented.
Vote: unanimous – motion passed.
4. 2015-2016 Crow Season dates
Ms. Camuso stated this was the annual crow season and we were not proposing any changes to the crow season other than the calendar dates to reflect 2015 and 2016.
Commissioner Woodcock stated we had received significant comments about the crow season. He felt a portion of those comments may have been because the understanding was as it was published we were instituting a new crow season. The crow season had been in place for a long time, but there was a group that was in opposition to it and we did have a considerable volume of comments on this particular proposal.
A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham and that was seconded by Mr. Fortier to accept the proposal as presented.
Vote: unanimous – motion passed.
5. Whitewater rafting allocations
Corporal Clowry stated we were changing some of the guide licensing requirements allowing greater flexibility between the Kennebec and Penobscot rivers. The business climate had some companies moving to just one river instead of two and what they ended up having to do was shift their guide clients over to the Kennebec and train them there and then get them back on the Penobscot and retrain them again. We were changing the rule to an either or situation so that depending on where the guide would mostly be working. They would still have to follow all the other requirements, but they could pick either or river based on where the outfitter was. The second part of the proposal was the elimination of Sunday allocations. The industry’s 5-year review showed a significant decline in the Sunday allocations. They had not fulfilled them in several years. He had received no opposition and several comments in favor.
A motion was made by Mr. Thurston and that was seconded by Mr. Dudley to accept the proposal as presented.
Mr. Fortier asked if an outfitter was going to be doing whitewater rafting on one river but trained on both?
Corporal Clowry stated the statute required they train on at least 2 different rivers. The way the rule was currently written the majority of the runs had to be on the Kennebec. The proposal was so that the majority could be on the Penobscot but they still had to run the Kennebec. The majority could be on the river they would be on the most.
Vote: unanimous – motion passed.
B. Step 2
1. Endangered & Threatened Species listing
Mr. Todd stated this was the 6th time that IF&W had updated the list. The proposal was to add 6 new animals to the list which was currently 45 species long. We would also change the status on 4 animals currently on the list and do a name change on one bird. The proposal was advertised July 16th and we held two public hearings, August 4th in Portland and August 5th in Farmington. They were lightly attended; we had 3 official comments offered at the hearings. About 35 written comments were received. We had no opposition to the proposal as presented, but plenty of comments regarding other species. We raised some questions; there was a lot of interest in the subject but overall universal support so far.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mrs. Oldham stated the one comment she read from the Audubon Society, she thought was constructive criticism in terms of how things were listed. In terms of the public she thought that was reasonable constructive criticism.
Mr. Todd stated our process had not changed in 18 years. The time to change the process was not in the midst of it. Ultimately a lot of people did not realize this was not a typical rule, we had to convert everything over to a bill and send it to the Legislature. By the time we started the process and finished it was a 2 year ordeal. We would never do it any more frequently than that. If we were working on a proposal for 2 years we would be starting now. Four years was a little bit more frequent. Audubon and some of the other partners would like us to reach a little bit further, but there was always a grey area between when we knew it was going to be a problem or when it’s a problem now. We had been consistent through the years but we could revisit the guidelines.
Commissioner Woodcock stated the bat situation was a little more precipitous than anybody expected. It was catastrophic.
Mr. Todd stated the last time we went through the process was in 2006 and the bat event hadn’t started yet. He felt there was a time and a place to go more frequently. There had been a vacancy on the staff about 4 years, maybe would could have done it after a 6 year interval and done the bats better service but we had to do it right and that was probably more important than being spontaneous. The bat phenomenon, there were 100 robo generated comments that came in from all over. The problem had spread through 25 states and 5 provinces since it first started in 2006. This was a game changer for several bats.
Commissioner Woodcock stated he had been getting questions about the impact on the insect community because of bats.
Mr. Todd stated several of the recent inputs had been very much on the high side of what bats did in the ecological system and whatever they took out of the black flies and mosquitos they were actually specialists on foliage insects, forest pests and agricultural pests. In the meantime listing them was the right way to go and we had seen unbelievable support.
Brian Cogill asked about the list. Everything on there was what we had in the states or were some animals missing?
Mr. Todd stated that was IF&W’s endangered species list. There was another part of state law that dealt with whales, sea turtles, animals that were under Department of Marine Resources jurisdiction. There were endangered plants that were handled by another agency.
Brian Cogill asked if lynx had been taken off the list.
Mr. Todd stated there was a federal list. Since 1995 the tie between federal listing and state listing that still prevailed in some states was severed. We looked at risks to animals through a different lens than the federal government. Similar process, but they were thinking large scale they did not list animals state by state. We did not replicate the federal list, but sometimes we ended up with the same results. We probably would with northern long eared bats.
Mr. Gundersen stated he was involved with the puffin project on the coast and had been on Little Egg Rock with Audubon and they did a lot of good work there. He was surprised at how much they were involved with terns and other threatened species besides puffins.
Mr. Todd stated that was probably the biggest upside to listing a species was the people that came out and helped us.
There were no further questions or comments.
2. 2014-2015 Furbearer Seasons/Regulations/Beaver Closures
Ms. Camus stated the only real change we were proposing was to the early muskrat season to correct a typo that was detected last year that opened up WMD 8 instead of WMD 9. Some of the specific waterways were landowner requests and some things changed from year to year for beaver closures.
There were no further questions or comments.
3. Fishing Regulations 2015
Mr. Brown stated we held 4 public hearings for the fishing regulations packet, Fort Kent, Princeton, Greenville and Auburn. Going through the hearings there were a few things that were evident. One of the comments was that they felt we should do a better job in getting out some of the information about when and where the public hearings were going to be held. In Fort Kent there was a request to put things in local papers so we would do what we could. Even with advertising attendance typically seemed low. The most in attendance was the Auburn hearing with 15 members of the public. The comment period closed August 4th and we received a number of comments. In Fort Kent we received some comments on the bait fish closures. They were to make the waters that were accessible to bait fishermen commercially and recreationally the same. Currently the majority of those waters were already closed to commercial taking of bait so we wanted to close those to recreational taking of bait as well to make those consistent. In Greenville there were a few comments regarding Webster Stream and the S code change we had for complimentary license holders. In Princeton bass dominated the conversation. People were concerned about bass and what we had proposed. They wanted to make sure those waters were protected as much as possible. We also received a comment about West Grand Lake and the togue regulations and what effect those may or may not have. In Auburn the majority of comments were on Webster Stream.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mrs. Oldham stated reading the emails of public comments she felt like she walked in the middle of a movie about Telos Cut. What was the background on that? She did not know the body water.
Mr. Brown stated he was not with the Department when the process started there. It was a fairly remote area. There were issues with access and how we went about providing a fishery there and what the right type of fishery was for that particular stretch of the stream. It was an artificial stream that had some modifications to it. It was a remote section and people had to walk in or fly in. We did have some brook trout that came up into Telos Cut out of Webster Lake and congregated there. At one point there were some thoughts that we should protect those fish that were congregating there during that period from August through September to provide them with some added protection. There were some who felt that really wasn’t needed. That was where a lot of the questions came from. It was a hard place to get in to sample.
Mrs. Oldham stated we were proposing the change based on...
Mr. Brown stated the Department put forward the proposal for the Council to take a look at.
Commissioner Woodcock stated the current proposal would return the regulation to what was the regimen before we changed it in the last regulatory package. We changed it to artificial lures, catch and release. The proposal was for artificial lures and 1 fish over 12 inches. The discussion had been passionate. The August 15 to September 30 block that we were talking about regulating was the old block of when streams were closed at that time. We had expanded the fall fishery to include quite a few areas and the regulatory breadth of those fall fishing areas was exactly that, broad. The people that weighed in on this proposal were equal 17 opposed and 17 in favor which was pretty much mirrored to the last time we went through the process. There were some groups involved as well. Just as a reminder to the Council when a person wrote in on behalf of a group, it counted as one comment. This proposal was on the table because we would like to offer the opportunity to discuss if people would like to go back to the old regimen or would they like to stay with the regimen that was put in place which was in place currently which was catch and release, artificial lures.
Mrs. Oldham stated in terms of catch and release mortality vs. catching 1 fish. How did that factor in?
Mr. Brown stated typically catch and release was about 3%. If you catch one and take it home its 100%.
Commissioner Woodcock stated we had some data on that. For those people that let most of the fish go, 3% was fine. Even if you could keep 1 fish you were still talking about a percentage of mortality. Not many people would walk in, keep their first fish and walk out. Mortality rate still stayed when talking about artificial lures and there was a lot of discussion about what type of hooks were best for catch and release to protect fish populations.
Mr. Fortier stated he had been to that area many times. He had seen a decline in the amount of people that were going on the river. It was a long way to go even for one fish and not many people were going there.
Mr. Dudley asked if we had any information on the amount of fishing pressure that was there.
Mr. Brown stated we did not have any information on angler use there. Biologist Tim Obrey tried to get some through the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. We did not have any surveys for angler days. A lot of it was anecdotal data.
Mr. Dudley stated he ran the dam there for a lot of years. He was familiar with it but not for the last 10 years. Back then he did not see many people in there.
Mrs. Oldham stated some of the comments she saw described it as one of the best brook trout fisheries in the state. Was that an exaggeration?
Mr. Dudley stated that was their opinion. Whether it was or it wasn’t he couldn’t say. It was one of the real nice spots for brook trout and togue and whitefish. What would have been helpful was more creel information.
Mr. Brown stated we had some ice angling data from Webster Lake. We did not have anything right in Telos Cut where the fish tend to congregate at that time of year.
Mr. Dudley stated there were a couple of unique things there. This was a dam that did not have a fishway in it. People could fish off the dam or up to the dam. Had we ever considered closing the pool? There were public comments in the emails as to “shooting fish in a barrel” because the fish piled up at the bottom of the dam, there was no place further for them to go. Had it ever been considered to make it 100 feet or 150 feet from the dam that time of year.
Mr. Brown stated typically there was a fishway there and it was 150 feet.
Commissioner Woodcock stated we did protect some areas that were not fishway passage areas with red posts. We did have artificial markers but that had not been part of this discussion.
Mr. Thurston asked if this was a source for Webster Lake. He asked if Webster Lake was where most of the fishing took place.
Mr. Dudley stated the fish were coming from Webster Lake.
Mr. Thurston stated they were providing the fish of the future and we protected it. One of the comments referenced a special privileged group. There were comments that we should air to the conservative side of things and he agreed with that. He felt the rule in place was protecting the fish and should stay. He felt it protected all interests and maybe after the study was done the 100 foot rule should come into play. The Department’s purpose was to preserve and protect.
Mr. Wheaton stated he had seen all the dams on the St. Croix with 150 feet below, or 75 feet below and it still didn’t protect a lot of the fish. The key was 99% of the fishermen did not know how to remove a hook that didn’t hurt the fish. He could fish there and release all those fish and if he went down under the current you’ve got 75 that he caught that day that’s dead and they’re laying on the bottom. If you immediately went to a barbless hook and had them use a set of curved hemostats and take the hook out gently we would not have the kill rate that we did with barbs. Did we want to take the right of fishing away from the public? If we wanted some of the public to use it keep the fish alive and use something that wasn’t going to hurt the fish.
Mr. Thurston stated there was a risk and it would be a shame to close it but not if they were congregated and there was a risk in hurting a much larger population. Again, he felt we should leave the rule the way it was.
Mr. Wheaton stated he thought they were right if they were going to protect all, we needed to close it.
Mr. Dudley stated he ran the dam for about 10 years and he never saw this happening. There was a time when probably it was legal to fish it with worms. It would be nice to know if we allowed one fish to be caught how many did that amount to. If we went to catch and release did we suffer a smaller fish because of more of them. He would hate to take people’s opportunity away to fish off the dam. Some of the letters were along the line that it’s the time of year when the fish were preparing to spawn and he did not believe the fish spawned in that pool.
Mr. Lewis stated the Council worked on this a few years ago and they closed it. They were given a lot of information like Allagash Stream which was closed after the 15th because of Allagash Falls and the fish congregated at the base of the falls and they were vulnerable. It was the same thing here, the regulation that was passed was very similar to the rest that we had. It was a wild fishery and the fish needed protection. He did not think anything had changed but there was obviously two sides to it. It was the Department that brought the proposal forward the first time and they made it so people could still fish but we were protecting the fish. It was different in that there wasn’t a fishway but the fish were wild and needed protection. If someone wanted to kill a fish there were plenty of places they could go do it. He had fished there and heard the fishing was better there now. They could say there weren’t many fishermen but nobody really knew that. The gear and fishermen were better than they used to be. The point was made where people catch 1 fish and left, he was a game warden for 14 years and he didn’t see that ever happen. They protected the fish the last time they passed it and they still needed protection. The comments for and against, the people wanting to protect were giving some good reasons as opposed to the other side saying they just wanted to kill a fish.
Commissioner Woodcock stated we were working on it and there was a lot of data that needed to be had also. He appreciated the discussion on both sides of the issue.
There were no further questions or comments.
C. Step 1
There were no items under Step 1.
V. Other Business
There were no items under Other Business.
VI. Councilor Reports
Councilors gave reports.
VII. Public Comments & Questions
Rick Denico stated he had worked with Mr. Dudley on Telos dam over the years. He was the technical advisor to the dams in the Allagash Waterway plus president of a nonprofit that fixed dams there. He had spent 8 years on Telos dam. His concern on the fishing end of it, he had all the internal memos on Telos Cut and what he thought he saw was where the fisheries biologist the last time around was not listened to. This time he had a chance to write the regs and that was why it was in the packet. He would strongly urge they listen to the fisheries biologist, if they weren’t going to listen to them they didn’t need them and they ought to be fired. He thought Tim Obrey had done a good job and his approach to what he said about fishing made sense. Mr. Denico had fished there but hadn’t since it was closed to one fish. This was his 61st year on the Allagash Waterway. He would appreciate if they would please look over what the fisheries biologist recommended. It was pushed through somehow last time without the fisheries biologist vote. The reason they went back to it was to correct it. Last week there was nobody fishing there. He flew the whole river by helicopter as they were covering Telos Dam, Locke dam and Churchill dam. He hoped they would leave the situation as it used to be because that did work.
Brian Cogill stated as far as WMD 8 was concerned with the early muskrat season, his opinion was that we should leave it open. It had been open for the last year, what was one week? They were up along the Golden Road which they got a lot of early snow and ice and he could not see how one week before the normal season was going to bother. He spoke with Jim Connolly about the beaver rules. Last year it was brought up the town in Oxford County it was Bickford Pond and tributaries. He was going to look into it with Scott Lindsay. That was a huge pond that one woman had closed for the last 10 or 15 years. They had a lot of complaints there, did they find anything out about it?
Ms. Camuso stated it was one landowner and she had emailed Scott Lindsay to find out exactly where she owned and we would not close the whole waterway down just for her. We would try to resolve that before the next meeting.
Brian Cogill stated he had sent the incidental take permit out to a lot of people all across the country so hopefully they would get a lot of good comments and hopefully they would get it this year and move on. It had been 14 years they were trying to get it.
Mr. Thurston stated he read the comments that the biologist wrote and it seemed that part of the documentation was about trophy fish and preserving waters for trophy fish and getting advice from Tim. Mr. Thurston was offended, Mr. Obrey had been credited with accusing Matt Libby of doing things to get the change made. Secondly, usually people in the field came up the ladder and those higher in the process made the final decisions. While we respected all of their opinions we weighed them all. His remarks were made to John Boland. Mr. Thurston called John Boland, and he thought the process was still working. Mr. Boland was at Libby Camps around the time in 2011 with Dr. Elowe and they counseled with the guides of three sets of sporting camps not just Matt’s and Matt was not included in the counsel. The system was working and Department was working hard and he thought the Council would come to the right answer.
Gary Corson stated he was shocked this had turned into another public hearing on Telos Cut. He knew when the comments were closed, but if they were going to open he had something to say. Mr. Thurston was right and he was going to try and help the Council understand why this was put forward in the beginning as a trophy regulation. In 2009 they did a survey in Farmington on brook trout fishing and there were a number of guides and camp owners and the Department was involved to see what it took to draw anglers to Maine to fish for brook trout. The survey showed that what people were looking for were wild fish, not necessarily trophy fish but big fish, and remote settings. As a result of that, the Department asked staff to look at ways to promote this. In the Rangeley area there were 7 to 10 catch and release waters that produced 6” fish. That drew anglers to Maine. In 2011 the Department had a brook trout working group and they asked the brook trout working group along with biologists to submit some waters that might qualify for quality or trophy brook trout fishing. The brook trout working group, Mr. Corson was a member and Matt Libby. He had seen the document from Tim Obrey and that was his document. There were seven waters on it, and there were a number of them submitted by Igor Sikorsy, Matt Libby, and there were some that did not list anybody as submitting them and that was because they were Mr. Corson’s. He had another document copying that one where Tim Obrey made comments. It wasn’t as if the biologists did not have an opportunity to make comments. When the rulemaking packet came out in 2011 of the seven recommendations from the brook trout working group there were three that were in the packet. One of those was Telos Cut, which Matt Libby had originally suggested as a trophy water. The Department took his recommendation away and came back with their own recommendation. This was not Matt Libby’s proposal, it was the Department’s proposal. This had taken on a life of its own. To fly in to Telos Cut now you had different rules than in 2011 and it probably had a lot to do with this rule. He asked the Council to think about what they did in 2011. The fish were concentrated there. If we closed the dam within 150 feet there would be very little pressure there. Most of the people that were commenting in support of the proposal owned camps up in that area. The dam should be protected in some way in the fall.
Commissioner Woodcock stated this was not a public hearing, the comment period had closed. The Council always had the challenge on the day of any discussion to separate the public hearing comments and the deadline from comments that were made that day, because those were not part of the public hearing process. Just a reminder, the public hearing comments they received were closed. The comments at today’s meeting were public comments being allowed.
Rick Denico stated he hoped they would understand the first time around things happened a certain way. This time around the Department asked the fisheries biologists to write the recommendation up and that’s what was done.
There were no further comments.
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.
Mr. Fortier requested an update on the Wildlife Action Plan as it pertained to moose at the next meeting.
Mrs. Oldham requested an update from the Baitfish Working Group at the next meeting.
A motion was made by Mr. Thurston and that was seconded by Mr. Dudley to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 11:30 a.m.