Today I submitted my testimony on DIF&W's proposal to ban the use of live fish as bait on 16 brook trout waters. Please read my earlier post on this issue for more information, including the dates, times, and locations of the public hearings, which regretably I am unable to attend. Here's my testimony.
I regret that the hearings on this proposal were all scheduled during the week that I am in North Dakota hunting pheasants. I really wanted to deliver my testimony in person.
This proposal to ban the use of live fish as bait on 16 “B” list waters is modest but necessary, an important recognition of the importance of protecting our remaining native and wild brook trout.
Legislation proposed by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, when I served the organization as executive director, and enacted by the legislature, protected brook trout in about 300 ponds that have never been stocked. Both stocking and the use of live fish as bait are prohibited on those ponds.
Now the debate has moved to a second group of brook trout ponds that haven’t been stocked in at least 25 years. Some were only stocked once. For me, there should be no debate. We must do everything we can to save the state’s remaining wild and native brookies. Shame on us if we don’t.
Maine has 97 percent of the country’s remaining wild and native brook trout waters. They are the love of my angling life and the state’s signature fish – but we’re not doing enough to protect them. In fact, we’ve done a lot wrong over the last 150 years, stocking species both legally and illegally that compete with and challenge brook trout all over the state. Invasive nonnative fish have changed everything for Maine’s brook trout and its anglers.
You will get plenty of testimony from anglers who insist that this proposal is unnecessary, that these waters already have other species of fish, that you will harm the fragile outdoor economy, and ruin their fishing opportunities. I would respond this way.
If not here, where? If not now, when? If not this, what? It is not up to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to prove the use of bait is harmful. It is up to the opponents of this proposal to prove it is not. And they can’t do that.
At my age of 64, I am no longer concerned about my own hunting and fishing opportunities. I am concerned about those opportunities for my children and grandchildren.
Let me close with this story. Labor Day weekend, I forded Sourdnahunk Stream on the east side of Baxter Park with my 5-year-old grandson Vishal Mellor on my back. Then I placed him on the ground and we hiked a few hundreds yards to one of my favorite pools, hoping to catch some native brook trout.
Because he hasn’t yet learned to cast flies, I did the casting, then handed the fly rod to Vishal. He immediately began reeling, hooked the fish, and hauled them in, as we both whooped it up.
There are no sweeter words than, “I’ve got another one Grampy!”
I took the hooks out of the trout, handed the fish to Vishal, and he carefully released them back into the stream. We caught 24 trout in an hour and a half of the most fun you can have with a grandchild.
Trout number 21 was a whopper. As soon as Vishal released the fish, I made another cast, only to hear him exuberantly exclaim, “We’re both very happy!” Boy, he got that right!
You must support this ban on the use of live fish as bait on these 16 waters so that a hundred years from now, some other grandfather can hear his grandson or granddaughter exclaim, while releasing a gorgeous native Maine brook trout, “We’re both very happy!”