November 16, 2019

Maine Fish and Game Commissioner Devises Three Fish Groups

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I’m sure there are some readers who remember the Dean Martin Roasts. For those that do, perhaps you will even recall Red Buttons’ comedic act during those roasts. Buttons always came across as one holding a grudge, his most famous line being: “I never got a dinner”, as he lamented through the process of who was getting roasted and why. While all the attention was supposed to be bestowed upon the roastee, Buttons would always bemoan: “I never got a dinner”.

Perhaps some will see this article as bemoaning. I don’t, as I find nothing wrong with pointing out the obvious, raising questions and creating discourse in outdoor matters. Having said that, George Smith, independent writer and former executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, wrote on his blog site on Monday, April 2, 2012, that Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) Commissioner Chandler Woodcock “Chooses Three Fisheries Groups”.

Mr. Smith points out that it appears the members of the three groups “provide a wide diversity of thought.” I would concur but that is not my bone of contention, save one. Smith also makes this comment: “Chandler [Woodcock] is making fisheries a strong focus of his tenure.”

I have no issue with Mr. Woodcock making fisheries a strong focus. No sour grapes here. What I might question is the need for three advisory groups – one for trout, one for salmon (landlocked variety) and another for bass. While I have not seen anything to indicate otherwise, I’m assuming all of these seats on these boards are voluntary. Thanks go out to those volunteers.

First, let me explain that fisheries is not my specialty. I seldom stick my little toe into fisheries issues. I’m sure there are arguments for and against the need for three fisheries advisory groups. I suppose it’s nice, like one on one attention a student might get in a classroom, for trout, salmon and bass to get special attention. One could argue that a fisherman is a fisherman is a fisherman, however, if you pay attention, you’ll find this is not true. Some fishermen spend the greatest part of their time with a focus on one particular species of fish. Perhaps then, they bring a lot to the table. But then again, I hope their focus isn’t so narrow they can’t see a bigger plan for all fisheries. Is this dynamic only manifested in fisheries?

Once again, no sour grapes here. Provided that no one specie-specific group gets preferential treatment and as such or any treatment comes at the expense of another preferred specie or discipline used for catching, perhaps lots of good can happen.

It may be too early to exclaim, “I never got a dinner”, but what about hunting and trapping. There are two very important issues here to bring up first. One is the issue that Maine hunters got several deer task forces and coyote task forces, none of which accomplished anything in the end. In addition, the deer hunters got a “Plan”. Which brings me to the second issue. We’ve already learned that, while the “Plan” sounded good to some, there was no money to do anything with the plan.

Is there money to do something with the advice from the volunteers of these three fisheries groups? If there is, where did it come from?

So, was the deer and coyote task forces (okay, let’s toss in the recent task force to figure out why nobody wants to buy game licenses in Maine.), along with Maine’s Plan for Deer, the equivalent of three fisheries groups? Or should we look for announcements to come later in the year.

I raised the concern earlier in this piece as to whether MDIFW needed three fisheries groups, i.e. one for trout, one for salmon and another for bass. If this is the new trend or Commissioner Woodcock’s disclosure of him being “serious about fisheries”, then I suspect we should see later the formation of hunting and trapping groups that also are species specific. In other words, hunter volunteers can advise the commissioner on deer, moose, bear, turkey, grouse, etc. and trappers can advise on beaver, muskrat, mink, otter, marten, bobcat, fisher, coyote, fox, etc.

Or will I not get a dinner?

I applaud Mr. Woodcock on what appears to be his attempt to reach out to the sportsmen to get them involved in fish and game issues and help in setting policy that more closely reflects the wishes of the sportsmen (I am in hopes that’s his intention.). God knows I’ve beat that drum enough times. So this is not about sour grapes. If nothing else comes from these three fisheries groups other than finally getting a collective voice in direct communication with the commissioner, then it would appear only good can come from that. That’s one giant step.

And with only that one very important accomplishment showing itself proud (I hope), then I strongly encourage Mr. Woodcock to already be thinking about his volunteer advisory groups for earmarked species for the hunters and trappers. Let’s really expand that base of communication and get those with the investment the chance to be heard, once again.

While you are at it, please don’t put anyone from Maine Audubon, the Nature Conservancy, the Humane Society of the United States or any other anti-hunting, animal rights and environmental representatives on these boards. Thank you.

I’m anxious for my dinner.

Tom Remington

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