Spearfishing for Northern Pike Debated at Legislature

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 “I want to get the pike out of Sebago Lake. They are reproducing like you wouldn’t believe,” testified Representative Lester Ordway of Standish, who lives on the lake and said he has had to guard his little dog against Eagles, and is now worried about pike whenever the dog jumps into the lake.

“The salmon fishing is coming back big time,” reported Ordway, “but pike are going to be disastrous.”

Representative Jessica Fay of Raymond joined Ordway in testifying for the bill, noting that a pike “is a really scary looking fish.” She has a camp on the lake and saw a huge pike reeled in by an angler in a boat. She noted that landlocked salmon is the economic driver in that area. Pike were illegally introduced into Sebago in 2003.

Ordway’s bill, LD 190, would allow spearfishing for pike in Sebago Lake. It got a spirited debate during the IFW Committee’s work session.

Reduction in warden positions alarms legislators

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 “We need to reduce the department’s size.” That was DIF&W Commissioner Chandler Woodcock’s response to a question asking why he was proposing cuts to the Maine Warden Service’s budget, including a decrease in positions and mileage.

Chandler presented his proposed budget recently to members of the legislature’s IFW Committee, and the Warden Service cuts were of most concern to committee members.  Representative Steve Wood said flat out that he could not support those cuts, and others seemed to feel the same way.

While Chandler danced around the questions, it was obvious to most of us that these cuts were demanded by Governor Paul LePage, who made similar demands to other state agencies. Given that the agency has a healthy surplus, it’s difficult to understand why they need to reduce the department’s size.

February 28 legislative hearings feature exotic animals, fish hatcheries, and more

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 The legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee will host public hearings on three of my bills on Tuesday, February 28, along with three other bills.

LD 305, my exotic animals bill, is sponsored by IFW Committee chair, Senator Scott Cyrway of Kennebec Country, and promises to draw a substantial crowd in opposition. This bill has definitely riled up the folks who like exotic animals. The bill would require permits to possess all exotic animals in Maine, and require the owners of exotics to notify their neighbors and the Maine Warden Service if their exotic animal gets loose. It seems incredible to me that you can be fined if your dog runs loose, but not your python.

We've put out the Wildfire

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 Our TV show Wildfire has been dashed. Simply put, it was fun but too much work for my cohost James Cote and me. Our last show aired in mid-December and featured Tom Brennan of Poland Spring Bottling Company.

For 13 years I cohosted Wildfire with my friend Harry Vanderweide, and it was a great experience, with a large audience. The show gave us an opportunity to explore key outdoor issues and present lots of people doing great things for our state.

But when Harry came down with Lyme disease, Wildfire left the air. Three years later, with Harry’s blessing, I invited James Cote to join me as cohost and bring Wildlife back to the air.

The show aired on Time Warner channel 9 and was also available online at www.vstv.me. We had some great guests, including Kate Krukowski Gooding who cooked up a special Black Fly Stew featuring bear, moose, and beaver meat during the show. Delicious!

They’ll be hunting deer on March 2 at the legislature

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 Let’s call this Deer Day. The legislature’s IFW Committee has scheduled hearings on 8 deer bills for 1 pm, March 2, in Room 206 in the Cross Building next to the Capitol.

The Committee has already killed one deer bill which would have allowed senior hunters to shoot does anytime during the hunting season without an any-deer permit. Judy Camuso, IFW’s Wildlife Division Director, told the committee that the bill “will significantly reduce opportunity for others.”

That was an understatement. In 2016 there were 36,000 senior hunters. Only 8,059 applied for an any-deer permit and 3,927 got one. 67.5 percent of the any-deer permits already go to specific groups including landowners and youths, leaving less than 1/3 for all other deer hunters.

March 2 Lineup

Here are the bills scheduled for hearings on March 2.

One of Maine's best restaurants is in Norway.

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Norway
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 George

            We are very lucky that Amy and Bret Baker chose Maine as the place to open their own restaurant, after an impressive career managing and cooking in restaurants in other states. They were flying to Vermont when a nearby passenger heard of their plans and urged them to visit Maine.

            They did, and ended up purchasing an historic home built in 1896 in Norway, a vibrant Maine community, creating one of our state’s best restaurants. And that is no exaggeration. Since opening six years ago, their business has grown every year.

IFW Committee kills bill to simplify fishing rules

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 The bill to create a commission to simplify Maine’s complicated fishing rules got a unanimous ought-not-to-pass recommendation from the legislature’s IFW Committee yesterday, even though five members of the committee had cosponsored the bill.

That was a big disappointment for me, as I had proposed the bill and asked Representative Michelle Dunphy to sponsor it.

Committee members, and representatives of SAM, the Maine Professional Guides Association, and Trout Unlimited, seem to have a lot of confidence that DIF&W can accomplish this task itself. But Representative Bob Duchesne, the House chair of the IFW Committee, asked the best question, “How can a department fix a problem they created?”

There was a bit of encouragement in the public hearing testimony and the work session discussion. A lot of suggestions were offered that would simplify the rules, and Francis Brautigam, Fisheries Division Director, said that his staff would be working this year to simplify the fishing rules.

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