George's Outdoor News

George’s new outdoor issues blog. He goes all over the state. He listens. And he reports on issues of concern to sportsmen, conservationists, and environmentalists.

Brook trout specialist tells it like it is

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 “Our instream habitat around the state is the pits.” Those were the words of Merry Gallagher, brook trout specialist and fisheries research biologist for Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, explaining that, in the days of floating logs down our brooks and streams, those waters were straightened out by bulldozers and dynamite, and a lot of  the structure, including boulders, was removed.

Merry is a superb champion for our native and wild brook trout, and highly respected around the state for her work. It was a real pleasure to attend her talk in Wayne on July 13, sponsored by the Kennebec Land Trust.

Merry also expressed concern about climate change, reporting that “In many areas for brook trout, we are exceeding the thermal tolerance of these fish.”

Fish Won’t Let Me Sleep by James Babb

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Jim Babb had we worried in the first few chapters of his book, Fish Won’t Let Me Sleep, as he wrote about his obsession with Atlantic salmon, “the fish of 10,000 casts.” I know, I know. Atlantic salmon are so hard to catch that the common description is “the fish of 1,000 casts.” For Babb, sometimes, it’s 10,000 casts. Yet he confessed to being obsessed with Atlantic salmon.

I’ve only caught one Atlantic salmon in my life, when I was brook trout fishing on the Leaf River in far northern Quebec. I fished for them once in the Penobscot River in Bangor, in the 1970s, caught nothing, and moved on.  So I was afraid Jim’s new book was going to focus on a fish I quickly lost interest in.

Ezra Smith's Eulogy

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 Written by George with lots of help from Gordon and Edie

            Every day was a great day for Ezra Smith. In the Hospice Unit at the VA’s Togus facility since April, Dad thrived, thanks to the extraordinary care of the professionals there, and even in his final weeks, when he was on ever-heavier dosages of morphine and slept a lot, when he awoke, he’d exclaim, “Well, this is a great day!”

            I have no doubt, if he could speak here today, he’d tell you, this is a great day.

This Maine farmer tells us how to improve wildlife habitat on our own land

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 A subtitle on John Twomey’s interesting and informative book, Retiring To, Not From, reports that it includes, “Intimate details of life on a remote farm in Maine.” And that is certainly true.

The level of detail about farming will be of interest to anyone who grows vegetables and fruit, but what intrigued me was John’s explanations of how he has improved wildlife habitat on the Montville farm of he and his partner Leigh, since retiring there in 2009. This former U. Mass. Professor is, to put it mildly, really into farming and wildlife!

From pruning hundreds of apple trees to planting thousands of white and chestnut oaks to mowing his fields and brushy areas in a way that most benefits wildlife, John gives us lots of great ideas about how all of us who care about Maine’s wildlife from birds to deer, can help them survive and thrive here.

Invasive fish and poor water quality challenge central Maine fisheries biologists

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 “Central Maine is the invasive species headquarters for the state.” That’s the sobering conclusion of DIF&W Fisheries Biologist Jason Seiders, one of the three biologists in Region B which includes 4000 square miles, 370 lakes and ponds, and 3500 miles of flowing water in central Maine. Yes, these folks are busy!

But not too busy for Jason to present a very interesting talk at the Maine Lakes Conservation Center in Belgrade Lakes on July 14. Local game warden Ethan Buuck, who lives down the road from me in Mount Vernon and covers five towns in our area, also spoke. Ethan’s short talk focused on boating law enforcement during the summer months. It was good to hear him say, “Most people behave very well.” And he said he’s often told, “We’re glad to see you guys out.” I was surprised to learn that the Warden Service employs boating assistants in the summer with federal funding from the Coast Guard.

Sixty seven pages of fishing rule changes are proposed

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DIF&W is proposing sixty seven pages of fishing rule changes that, if adopted, will take effect in 2017.  All of the rule changes are available on the agency’s website, and public hearings on the proposals will be held in July and August.

The changes impact both ice and open water fishing, and some are designed to simplify the fishing law book. Commissioner Chandler Woodcock informed members of the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee that his agency would simplify the rule book for 2017, and simplify the rules the following year. That seemed backward to me, given that the rule book would be simpler if the rules were simpler.

Any-deer permits increased a stunning 60%

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 Deer hunters will be happy to hear that 45,755 of them will get any-deer permits this year, a 60 percent increase over last year’s 28,770 permits. The permit numbers must still be approved by DIF&W Commissioner Chandler Woodcock and the Fish and Wildlife Advisory Council, but that is a sure thing.

Kyle Ravana, DIF&W’s deer biologist, says that “Last year’s winter was more moderate in many areas of the state, and the increase in the number of any deer permits reflect that.”

I applied for a permit last week. Applications for 2016 any-deer permit lottery are online from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Online applications are due by 11:59 P.M. on August 15, 2016. Paper applications may be submitted in person or by mail no later than 5 P.M. on July 29, 2016. To apply online, or print a paper application to mail, visit http://www.mefishwildlife.com/.

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