Advisory Council Meeting
September 21, 2017 at 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
284 State Street, Upstairs Conference Room
Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner
Judy Camuso, Wildlife Division Director
Francis Brautigam, Fisheries Division Director
Bonnie Holding, Director Information and Education
Joe Overlock, Fisheries Management Supervisor
Chris Cloutier, Game Warden Major
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder
Don Dudley (Chair) - by phone
Fern & Sylvia Bosse
Gary Corson, New Sharon
Karen Coker, WildWatch Maine
Mary Throckmorton, Somerville
I. Call to Order
Matt Thurston, Council Vice-Chair, called the meeting to order.
Introductions were made.
III. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting
A motion was made by Mr. Gundersen to approve the minutes of the previous meeting and that was seconded by Mr. Scribner.
Vote: Unanimous – minutes approved.
A. Step 3
1. Furbearer Seasons/Beaver Closures 2017/18
Ms. Camuso stated there were no proposed changes from the original proposal. The only change from last year were calendar dates and a few different areas that were proposed to be closed and a few that were opened at the landowner’s request.
Mr. Lewis stated he wished there was a way we could open it up more. It was a huge problem in Downeast Maine. It was a huge cost for road maintenance and people were wondering what could be done.
Mr. Thurston stated it limited access as well if people could not get through the roads. Landowners would not address the situation until it became an issue for them.
A motion was made by Mr. Gundersen to adopt the proposal as presented, and that was seconded by Mr. Lewis.
Vote: unanimous - motion passed
2. Fishing Regulations/State Heritage Fish Waters 2018
Commissioner Woodcock stated it had always bothered him that they did inclusive votes and there were pieces of votes that sometimes got caught up in the discussion and people did not have a chance to address them individually. We had done this previously, and the Commissioner would allow the Council to set aside a particular proposal in the packet with a motion and a vote and then they would discuss and vote on the packet in general with the set asides removed. Then, they would come back and discuss the set asides and vote on them individually. There were individual proposals in the packet, if it were another proposal for a deer season or other you could not set that aside. It was a little different with fishing regulations as those came in as individual proposals to make the total packet.
Commissioner Woodcock stated this was a rather lengthy process for review of proposals by regions. He instructed Mr. Brautigam and Mr. Overlock to develop the new process. Every proposal was reviewed by the Commissioner. There had been a top to bottom review of the proposals. The simplification portion, some people asked what simplification was. It was important to appreciate what had already been accomplished. We had not had many complaints about the fishing law book recently. That to him was a good sign that the laws were more easily understood by people. When we alphabetized the bodies of water in the special regulations it changed the world of people’s reference to bodies of water; they could be found quickly. The north and south regions, we regulated by regions for awhile. Now, every listing of body of water had north region or south region on it so you could tell what the body of water was as soon as you opened up to it. S-codes, he asked staff to review and condense when possible. Some were spelled out under the body of water and the S-code eliminated. General law, we were trying in the proposal to make sure there were some parallels for north and south general law. He felt it was important to reinstate that the proposals, the north region (cold water region), was primarily the cold water salmonid fisheries that we had. We were looking to be very cautious with those and the no size or bag limit on bass in the northern region was part of that process. It was also a reverse simplification. If we did not have one uniform regulatory process for the state or region it meant they were all specials as opposed to making one universal statement and then exempt things in the book which made it easier. We were looking to make sure that when invasives were introduced we had something in place, that was why the bass proposal was before them. We also examined a simplified slot system, we had many slots for trout and salmon. The one over 14” became an important part of the discussion as opposed to one over 10” or 1 over 12”, etc. The process had been three years ongoing, there was no way to make it perfect for everyone.
Mr. Brautigam stated he hoped to provide a little better understanding of what they undertook with the 2018 fishing law book. In 2017 they focused on format and navigation and use of the law book. In 2018 they had four objectives in going through the law book. One of those objectives was to continue with lawbook reform and look at opportunities for additional simplification. Another important piece was to create accountability in the review and approval process. Another part was to look at changes in the laws and rules that would facilitate future development of our online interpreter and our ability to manage the regulations and law book. This was the first year in two years that staff had the opportunity to advance water specific rule changes to address management needs. There were four big objectives in this years law book and only one last year.
Mr. Brautigam stated one of the areas that we focused on was the narrow brook trout slots that we had. The narrow slots allowed for people to catch fish, there was a lot of hooking and handling and concerns that those fish may be dying. In the last couple of years we had been utilizing a new approach which was a 1 fish over 14” provision. It had not had enough time for evaluation of how well it was working. They met as a division and discussed undertaking a small study to actually look at how well the current slot limits were working and compare them to the new 1 over 14” slot so we would have information to base whether or not we should wean off the slots and move to the 1 over provision. Based on available data that was reviewed as part of the review process, the slots in general were maintaining good quality fisheries where applied. We wanted to move forward in a science, data based approach to ensure that if we decided to make a change to go to the 1 over provision that it would accomplish the end point that the current slots were providing.
Mr. Brautigam stated another big focus of the simplification was looking at trying to eliminate unnecessary regulations that were in the law book. There were regulations that were put in place at different points in time over the history of the law book that brought value and merit. Things changed, people’s focus and interest had changed and our understanding of the resource had changed. On the statewide level we eliminated a couple of regulations, one being the 10 fish bag limit on pickerel. Anglers were not heavily targeting and harvesting pickerel like they did 30+ years ago. We also eliminated minimum length limit on bass. All the bass work we had done in researching and managing bass populations, recruitment and reproductive success in our bass populations was not limiting the development and size quality we had in those fisheries. We were proposing to eliminate the minimum size limits on bass. We eliminated aggregate bag limits that we had on cold water fish. We had species specific bag limits in general law and that was the approach we wanted to take. In the past, we used aggregate bag limits and it created two types of bag limits and some challenges managing the information. We eliminated an obsolete S-29 regulation that was originally developed for protection of juvenile Atlantic salmon. We also looked at the value of having the water and then “and tributaries” in the law book. A lot of the “and tributaries” implied that all the regulations that were placed on the lake would also apply to tributaries and in a lot of cases it did not make sense. It wasn’t biologically beneficial to have the regulations in the lake also apply to the tributaries. We had to manage all the information and develop our online interpreter and our phone app and we needed to include every regulation that applied to every water.
Mr. Brautigam stated at the regional level they went through all the regulations that were in the law book with the intent of determining whether or not current management warranted the regulations that were in place. There had been a number of stocking programs suspended over time and those specific rules that were developed to support those stocking management programs were never removed, so a number of those were pulled out of the law book. We also proposed a new approach to try to manage bass infestations in the north zone. Instead of applying no size or bag every time on a water by water basis we looked at the north zone and determined that we really wanted to focus our management for cold water species. It made sense to set up a general law making no size or bag limit the norm so we wouldn’t have to advance on a water by water basis an S-13 regulation. Another important piece, there was a lot of reference to confluence between a river and a lake or pond, or to the outlet of a barrier dam which had long since dilapidated and disappeared. We tried to identify where we had references to demarcation and ensure that we either had red posts or some other highly visible demarcation point. A lot of what was done in the law book was to look at opportunities to clarify where the starting and end points were so the public could better understand which regulations were essential when they were on those waters.
Mr. Brautigam stated we tried to eliminate some of the confusion that existed on waters that were managed for multiple species of trout where we were also using an S-16 thru S-21 regulation. Those regulations were different types of slots typically developed to support for brook trout management, but on waters with brown trout and brook trout that regulation was also being applied mistakenly by the public. We clarified that S-16 to S-21 was designed specifically for the management of brook trout and for char. We eliminated general law boundary water regulations and we streamlined a few complex regulations and utilized text instead of some S-codes that were fairly low in number. It made more sense to use text instead of the S-codes.
Mr. Brautigam discussed the four-tier review process with staff and leadership. One additional step that was asked of staff was to prepare on standardized forms justifications for every regulation that was developed. We now had all the information to be able to evaluate the adequacy of the proposals that came forward. The heritage waters program, we spent time working with Trout Unlimited and Maine Audubon to develop new nomination criteria so we had more buy-in to the criteria used to nominate heritage waters. Time was also spent developing a state heritage fish database. This would provide the department a way to keep track of waters that we had already reviewed, waters that had not been reviewed or if they were waters that had a stocking history we wanted to make sure to identify waters that had not been stocked in 25 years. We also developed new data collection forms that were important in being able to provide sufficient information by which we could apply the new nomination criteria.
Mr. Brautigam stated we wanted look at ways to improve on reducing errors that showed up in the law book. A lot of that was accomplished through the new regulations database. This was the first time it was utilized by staff and leadership so it took awhile to learn how to use that. Most of the management proposals that were advanced in the packet related to waters where we had growth issues mostly on salmon and brook trout waters. Some of the criticism he heard regarding the proposals was that there wasn’t much there. If you looked at the totality of everything the agency did in advancing the packet there was a lot there. It did not mean we were done looking for opportunities for simplification.
Commissioner Woodcock stated he had forwarded the proposed changes from Step 2 to Step 3 to the Council. There were four changes listed. One of them was an omission that had to do with the St. John River, pg. 224 and 229. We had mentioned it in one of the public hearings in Presque Isle, but it was not included in the original packet. It had been out there for part of the process. He had read all of the public comments and had gone over the comments made by the Council at Step 2. One part that was not being addressed but would be in the future was the comment about what was in the packet in order to make decisions on regulation proposals. What did the public have for information available to make the best decision and whether they supported the proposal or not. The process for the proposals, the Council could vote on the entire packet up or down. If they would prefer to set one part of it aside and discuss one proposal they may do that also.
Ms. Orff clarified if the Council voted to pull a proposal out and discuss it, they could not modify the proposal only vote it out of the packet or leave it in.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mrs. Oldham stated it would have been nice to know they had that opportunity prior to the meeting
Mr. Fortier stated the changes proposed, to him, were good changes. He did not think there were many bass fishermen in Aroostook County, trying to be consistent with the bass part but at the same it might work for up north with invasives but in the southern part unlimited amount of bass fishing, that was a real issue. The hook and line thing, some great comments came out of that. As far as up in the county part he did not see anything needing to be pulled out. The only thing he was not real sure of was the bass part of it.
Commissioner Woodcock stated the bass part had quite a bit of discussion. One of the questions was what was the influence of no size or bag limit on bass. Did it have a practical influence on the body of water. The discussion was focused on the fact that it probably would not, under almost all circumstances. There were some people that kept bass, but most people let them go. Because of the proximity of some of the waters the general notion was if you let people keep as many as they wanted and no length limit, that it wasn’t going to have a practical effect on the body of water. Having the piece in place as a base line for introductions was an important part of why this was being brought forward.
Mr. Wheaton stated it had changed, in the late 50’s and early 60’s it was catch and kill all you wanted. He saw people filling the bottom of their boat. He saw 60 smallmouth bass, sizes up to 4 pounds nailed on a sheet of plywood. They took pictures and threw them in the woods. Since then we had limits and better protections. Were the bass put into one category or were large and smallmouth separated?
Mr. Brautigam stated we did not separate the two. When we looked at the prospect of adding no size or bag to bass in the north zone, we acknowledged that everything in the north zone as in the south zone represented illegal invasive introductions. The populations of invasive bass were continuing, we were seeing more every year. We made more of a statement with the S-13 regulation than we did practical management. We were probably not going to have much of an influence on the bass population with no size or bag. We put it out there as a message to the public that the Department would not be actively managing those resources, they represented an invasive introduction and competed with native fisheries. The other guidance offered to staff was we wanted to manage the north zone for cold water species of fish. We indicated to staff when advancing the general law change that if they had any waters that were near the border of the north/south zone that were significant bass fisheries that we would be willing to create some exceptions and manage those waters under current general law, 2 fish, one over 14”.
Mr. Wheaton stated it was brought to his attention that the guides on the lower part of the St. Croix, if we didn’t promote a killery by killing them and throwing them to shore the largemouth, release the smallmouth and keep that fishery going, it would take a lot of pressure off the smallmouth population. He thought it would be a good thing. Now that they were in Spednik he would hate to see them get into Grand
Mr. Brautigam stated we had advanced a number of largemouth bass only, no size or bag. We were concerned, largemouth bass were definitely expanding their range east and north.
Mr. Lewis stated on the hook and line for bait, what was the difference with that from using trap or nets.
Mr. Brautigam stated those waters where we had invasive introductions of muskie and bass we had originally when those were established eliminated use of any kind of bait traps. The reason was when people were collecting bait traps they were getting a lot of small fish and they were not always easy to identify what was in the bait trap. That was eliminated because of concerns that people would be taking that bait and using it in other waters and in doing so might relocate some muskie or bass. Over the years the muskie fishing up there and some bass fishing was becoming more popular. Guides not being able to guide for brook trout and salmon were trying to exploit those new invasive introductions. They wanted a source of bait to do that. The idea with going to hook and line was that anything they would catch on a hook and line would be large enough to provide better ID opportunity than if you were handling a trap full of tiny fish. We thought that was a way to minimize risk of moving invasive species since people could handle a much larger fish and identify it more readily. This came at the request of the guides up north looking for a source for larger bait.
Mr. Lewis stated in the upper mid-west if you did have any bait it was from the pond or water body you were fishing. If we were allowing them to put that in a tank or live-well were we then increasing the risk of someone moving fish around.
Mr. Brautigam stated the thought was whatever they were putting in their tank was large enough they could ID it much more readily than the small stuff and minimize the risk. Looking at the availability of bait and for anglers to use bait in that part of the state, a lot of the waters were open to taking of bait and they could buy bait so they could move bait. We were not creating an opportunity to move bait, we were trying to create an opportunity for people to collect larger bait fish that wouldn’t be muskie or bass.
Mr. Farrington stated the list of exceptions for the no size or bag on bass, from where he sat they had Indian Pond which supported at least four people that went there to guide. Indian Pond did not make the exclusion list, yet down the road in Sangerville they had Manhanock which they protected and you couldn’t keep anything there. His request would be to add Indian Pond and its tributaries to the special list for that reason.
Commissioner Woodcock stated we would not be able to change the regulation at this point. He would have to vote against the bass proposal for the north zone.
Mrs. Oldham stated he would also have the option of a petition request.
Mr. Farrington stated the other thing in his district was the Moose River, in the new regulations we had the thing about trolling flies. From the red posts that used to be Woody’s Campground to the red posts at the end of the river the conception was that it was general law, but in that section of the river you could only have either 1 salmon or 1 trout. When you got on the other side of the red posts you could keep one of each. It seemed that would be an enforcement issue. Most of Moosehead was the first bridge or the first road that you came to. If we brought the new law down to the bridge and then had the lake regulations from there out it would be much easier.
Commissioner Woodcock stated he believed the Moose River was like a lot of rivers that involved spawning populations. He did not know if that section was more prone to be protected because of the spawning habitat.
Mr. Farrington stated if he understood the bass thing, he would have to vote against the whole proposal?
Commissioner Woodcock stated he could ask to set the bass part of it aside if he chose to do so. The proposal to have no size or bag limit on bass in the north region was a separate proposal. If he wanted to make a motion to set it aside, they could vote on the rest of the proposal and come back to it and discuss and have a separate vote.
Mr. Thurston stated it would appear their best avenue would be to petition for the bass regulations on Indian Pond.
Commissioner Woodcock stated when you talked about invasive introductions, he did not know that practical effect was always the discussion. The discussion was, what’s the message being sent? The message being sent for this particular proposal was that cold water fisheries in the northern part of the state were very important to Maine. What we’d like to do was have the no size or bag limit on bass and make exceptions for ponds that had a bass fishery there already as opposed to going through the process one at a time.
Mr. Farrington asked if someone got caught dumping pike or muskie into Moosehead Lake, what was the fine $200 or $300? In Alaska if you foul hooked a fish it was $1500 if they caught you. That sent a message they were pretty concerned about that. There were exceptions to every law but what if you saw a guy with a bucket full of pike.
Major Cloutier stated intentional dumping could be fined up to $10,000.
A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham to adopt the proposal as amended, and that was seconded by Mr. Fortier.
Vote: unanimous - motion passed
3. Eastport Special Hunt
Ms. Camuso stated last year the town of Eastport came to the Department and requested a special hunt to try and alleviate some of their deer issues. Last year 30 permits were granted and the town administered the program. The proposal was similar with 30 participants but we were going to authorize up to 90 permits with the thought of it being similar to the expanded season on deer in the southern portion of the state. If someone was successful they could go back and get an additional permit from the town. The Department opened WMD 27 to a small doe harvest and that would open up Eastport to archery hunting of does as well as youth day. She felt the town was optimistic with those permits through the regular season as well as the special hunt that they could accomplish their goals.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Farrington asked if the reason for only 30 permits was because they didn't have enough room for 90 people to sit and hunt there.
Ms. Camuso stated they had stationary blinds that people had to sit in, there was very limited opportunity for access there.
Commissioner Woodcock stated as was always the case when you had communities requesting special privileges to hunt that not everybody in the community was of the like-mindedness that they wanted somebody on their land so they posted property.
A motion was made by Mr. Lewis to adopt the proposal as presented, and that was seconded by Mr. Scribner.
Vote: unanimous- motion passed.
There are no items under Step 2.
C. Step 1
1. Educational and Scientific Collection Permits Chapter6
Ms. Camuso stated the permits allowed schools or private entities to conduct research or education programs using native wildlife. For example, if an elementary school teacher wanted to have a class on identifying bird nests, they technically needed a permit from the Department to do that. We would authorize a special collection permit. Similarly, research institutes did a lot of their research on toxin levels through various systems and they got a permit from us for each project that they did. This was a very simple change in that we were trying to be more consistent with Title 12 and replacing the words “wild animals and native wild birds” with “wildlife” simply because “wild animals” by definition did not include invertebrates. This also added in the opportunity for people to get a scientific collection permit to use native invertebrates that were not listed as threatened or endangered.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Farrington stated when the issue first started there was a lot of contention, had that settled down because we had worked with all the groups?
Ms. Camuso stated she felt we had made a lot of progress and most people were modestly happy with the proposal. Some people would like us to just allow them to have everything and others would like us not to allow anything. This was a reasonable balance; it put the owness on the permit holder to take care of the animal and notify us if there was an escape or problem. There were pretty substantial fines now for levels of violation.
Mr. Fortier stated he came from the old school, if it didn’t come from the state it didn’t belong in that state. Many people couldn’t take care of their domestic pets. Some of the animals would outlive their owners. He thought it was going to grow and there would be more problems down the road.
Ms. Camuso stated the Category I animals were like York Wild Kingdom, they were more a zoo type establishment. Those facilities had very detailed escape plans, they had detailed plans for long term care of the animals.
Mr. Fortier stated when we became part of the wildlife violators compact, if you committed a crime in another state you were going to lose your rights and you weren’t going to get a license here. To him, the fines were not stiff enough to make sure that if someone was going to do it they would really be held liable for it. If someone wanted that pet, go to where the pet was and move there. He hoped he was wrong but thought it was going to be a big problem and he thought the fines should really be stiff. Local law enforcement would have to deal with it.
Commissioner Woodcock stated the process had taken a long time and included public involvement. It had been very thorough and he was very pleased at the way the list settled.
Ms. Camuso stated the fees and fines were established by the Legislature. What we were proposing was consistent with what the Legislature had passed.
Mr. Brautigam stated fisheries was also working on a fish in captivity component similar to what wildlife had developed. A small committee and been assembled and they would be pursuing the same kind of thing. They would come up with a broader unrestricted list and a lot of that was to accommodate a desire for more tropical fish that were pretty well sold throughout the U.S. that may have minimum effects and not likely to survive a winter in Maine. They were also liking the idea of having some species that should be on a prohibited list as well as a Class A or Class B list that might require some conditioning.
3. Fishing regs petition - Eagle Lake/Jordan Pond
Mr. Brautigam stated the Department received a public petition to change salmon regulations on two waters on Mt. Desert Island, Jordan pond and Eagle lake. The petition requested that we change the regulations to create an 18”-22” protected slot allowing one salmon over 22” and a 14” minimum length limit with a 2-fish bag. The public hearing was scheduled for September 26th in the town of Mt. Desert.
There were no further questions or comments.
V. Other Business
There were no items under Other Business.
VI. Councilor Reports
Councilors gave reports.
VII. Public Comments & Questions
Karen Coker stated she thought it was kind of ironic that there was so much trouble with drought and dried up streams and that we were not utilizing beavers to help change that. In dealing with the problem of road flooding and the damming of culverts, non-lethal flow devices capturing the wealth the beavers provided for water storage and purification and fish habitat, ect. It was a curious thing.
Mr. Thurston stated where people didn't want water they had too much and where we needed water there was no water. In the north county the owners of the land did utilize different techniques to try to alleviate issue of water on the roads. He thought it would come down to cost and economics at some point in time.
VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting
The next meeting was scheduled for October 25, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. at Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, 284 State Street, Augusta in the upstairs conference room.
A motion was made by Mr. Fortier and that was seconded by Mrs. Oldham to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 11:00 a.m.