Proposed fishing regulations up for debate at hearings

Most of the state’s anglers won’t pay much attention to this column. It’s easier that way, after all.

It’s easier to sit by and let fishing laws be changed by others.

It’s easier to ignore the fact that there are some pretty substantial changes being proposed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and that anglers only have a short window of opportunity in which to act.

It’s easier to sit at home rather than spend an evening at a public hearing, telling state officials why they’re right … or why they’re wrong.

It’s easier to do nothing … until it isn’t easy at all.

According to my calculations, that will happen on April 1, 2013 (or earlier, for ice fishermen), when previously uninvolved anglers — the ones who ignored this column, or never saw it in the first place — find out that the way they’ve fished on their own favorite lake or pond have changed.

Then, the griping will start. That’s the way it always is. That’s the way it’ll be this time. Unless, that is, folks get involved.

Enough of the doom and gloom: Our recreational fishing rules are not set in stone. Instead, biologists and DIF&W policy-makers, with advice (whether sought or not) from amateur fisheries experts, tinker with those rules from time to time.

Bag limits are changed. Bait or tackle restrictions are made. That’s the way biologists are able to achieve their management goals on our state’s waters.

And that’s good.

So too, is the system whereby interested anglers get the chance to stand up and tell those biologists and DIF&W staffers how they think the news rules will affect them and the waters they fish.

An important note: I’m not saying any of the rules that are up for consideration at  next week’s public hearings are horrible. I’m not saying any are great. I’m staying neutral, figuring that the biologists know quite a bit more about fisheries management than I do.

Some of the new rules that you might want to research a bit:

On 16 waters, new regulations would prohibit the use of live fish as bait. The goal: To reduce the possibility of the introduction of invasive fish species into key brook trout habitat.

On several Down East lakes, the DIF&W is proposing to eliminate all size and bag limits on largemouth bass in order to suppress those invasive fish.

Another hot-button regulation that’s up for consideration: On Phillips Lake in Dedham — commonly called “Lucerne” — a recent two-line limit during ice fishing season may be abolished in favor of a more standard five-line limit. The reason: To help biologists manage the lake more efficiently by encouraging ice anglers to remove the overabundant small lake trout from the lake.

That rule alone has led to plenty of debate in past years, as some lake dwellers have fought the state on the same issue, wanting to preserve the quality of what they consider “their” lake.

In all, new regulations are being proposed on 42 different pieces of water.

Of course, most anglers won’t pay much attention to that … yet. Most won’t take the time to head to a public hearing next week and share their thoughts with state fisheries officials.

Luckily, some will.

If you’re one of the “some,” here’s the schedule of hearings:

Monday, Presque Isle Inn and Convention Center, 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Northern Timber Cruisers Snowmobile Club, Millinocket Lake Road, Millinocket, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Ellsworth City Council Chambers, 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, the Brunswick High School multipurpose room, Brunswick, 6:30 p.m.

For a more complete listing of proposed fishing regulations, go to


John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.