June 18, 2008

Meeting Set to Air Fishing Proposals

By Terry Karkos

RUMFORD - Two informational meetings will be held next week to detail proposals designed to combine ice and open-water fishing opportunities. Also, regulations will be consolidated into a two- year booklet, which will become available on April 1, 2010.

Fisheries officials will seek public comment at the meetings, the first on Monday, June 23, at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife's Gray Regional Office at 358 Shaker Road. The second is Wednesday, June 25, at the Sidney Regional Office at 270 Lyons Road. Both meetings begin at 7 p.m.

"We know folks want more opportunities and we know we can give it to them; it's just a matter of changing the books," said John Boland, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife fisheries director, by phone Tuesday afternoon in Augusta.

For example, in a mild winter at Thompson Lake, which is in Androscoggin and Oxford counties, anglers could find both ice and open water. However, during ice fishing season, regulations now don't allow open-water fishing there.

"In January, if they can find ice, they can set traps. But if they find open water and want to cast a line from the shoreline, you can't do it. Biologically, there's no reason why they can't, so, we want to make that legal. Wherever you can legally ice fish, you can also open-water fish," Boland said.

Although special restrictions may apply for specific waters, three general fishing rules are proposed for Androscoggin, Cumberland, Kennebec, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Waldo, and York counties.

Following a department meeting on Tuesday, Hancock and Washington counties were added. Within the next three weeks, informational meetings will also be scheduled for those two counties.

"We're also looking at the other six counties to allow open- water fishing on waters open to ice fishing. We think it can happen without any significant impacts on the resources," Boland said.

Fish targeted by the proposals are Arctic charr, brook trout, brown trout, landlocked salmon, rainbow trout, splake and togue.

The proposals would:

Establish open-water fishing year round in lakes and ponds in the 10 counties, while limiting ice fishing from Dec. 1 through March 31. Additionally, these lakes and ponds would be catch-and-release for salmonids from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, and general law bag and length limits for salmonids would apply from Jan. 1 through Sept. 30.

Limit the number of lines to five that an angler can fish in both ice and open water together.

Eliminate the statewide aggregate bag limit of five fish for salmonids.

Boland said the department's goal is to increase angling opportunities where possible, further simplify the law book and build in consistency, and save time and financial resources.

"These proposals are in the very early stages of a draft. They are not final, cast-in-stone proposals. It's more like, Here are our thoughts,'" he said.

To prepare for a significant amount of rule-making in 2009, Boland said the department wants to get these three proposals wrapped up first rather than wait and do them all at once while building the new law book. That way, should one or more proposals not pass next year, they wouldn't have to reconfigure the rule book at the last minute.

Written comments may be sent to [email protected] or mailed to him at 284 State St., Station 41, Augusta, ME 04333.

Originally published by Staff Writer.

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