George Smith's blog

New fish hatchery proposed to expand fish stocking

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 Will an increase in stocked fish define Maine’s fishing future? The legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee apparently thinks so. The Committee, by a unanimous vote, endorsed a proposal for a $28 million bond issue to construct a new hatchery.

Last year Representative Russell Black submitted a bill at my request that got quite a bit of discussion, but a disappointing result. In my testimony for the bill, I reported on problems with stocking policies, genetics of brook, brown, and rainbow trout, and high costs and low catch rates. Our bill would have created a Hatchery Commission to:

1)     

Examine the costs of production, the numbers and species of fish stocked, and the return on stocked fish, both in Maine and in other states;

Wait until you see these carvings!

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 Wayne Robbins calls his amazing woodcarvings “Celebrating Creatures of the Sea.” And that he does, magnificently.

Linda and I stopped by Wayne’s shop in Bath last week and were captivated by his stories and his work. Wayne taught biology for 33 years in Bath before moving on to the local college for 12 years, but he developed an early interest in carving, beginning as a boy scout, making lobster plugs. He also lobstered until he was a senior in college. He’s led a lot of whale-watching trips and for a long time served as a marine mammal rescuer. No wonder he loves to carve whales!

Moose permits going down, down, down

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 Let’s straighten out one thing right off. Moose permits are not being decreased this year so there will be more moose for viewing. But they will go down for the third straight year. This year, we’ll get 2,140 permits, 675 (24%) fewer than last year’s 2,815. All of the reductions will come in five of the state’s 29 wildlife management districts – four of them in northernmost Maine and the other Down East.

Nonresident landowners may join residents on opening day of the deer hunt

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 Representative Bob Duchesne summed it up nicely, saying, “I feel if you have a property tax paying stake here, you should be able to hunt on opening day.” And all but one member (Rep. Peter Lyford) of the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee agreed with Bob, who is House Chair of that committee.

After several discussions, including consideration of allowing all nonresidents to hunt on the opening day of the deer season, the committee settled on a proposal to allow nonresidents who own 25 acres of more to hunt on the first day of the firearms season on deer, as long as their property is open to hunting by others. Up until now, only residents could hunt on the first day.

Should Second Congressional District residents have a say in what gets onto the ballot? 57 House members say No!

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 Groups representing sportsmen and women won legislative support last year for a Constitutional Amendment requiring that the number of signatures obtained by referendum campaigns equal at least 10 percent of the total votes cast in the previous gubernatorial election from each congressional district. Current law only includes a minimum number of signatures statewide.

This would force groups seeking to put something on the ballot to get out into all of Maine, rather than concentrate their signature gathering in Portland and southern Maine. Unfortunately, because the measure requires a 2/3 vote of support in both the House and Senate before going onto the ballot where the people will decide the issue, the measure fell short of the necessary votes in the House last year – but supporters were able to pull it back and get it set aside for reconsideration this year.

Montana's Smith River a powerful package of scenery and fish

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Time to speak up – if you care about big game animal management

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 If you care about the way big game animals are managed in Maine, please make a special effort to get to one of these public meetings to express your opinions. Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will host the meetings, an unprecedented effort to reach out to sportsmen, landowners, and the general public and give all of you a chance to be heard on these important issues and challenges.

This will only be valuable if you get to a meeting and share your opinions.

In two of my outdoor news column recently, I’ve reported on this process, including information about fascinating surveys conducted by Mark Duda of Resource Management, which you can now access on DIF&W’s website. If you haven’t read those two columns, please do so.

Sometime soon, I will report on presentations made to the Big Game Steering Committee by DIF&W’s wildlife biologists on current plans and issues with the four big game animals: deer, moose, bear, and turkeys.

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