July 17, 2018

MDIFW Says Some Waters Have Too Many Fish

I was reading MDIFW’s fish biologist, Tim Obrey’s, article about readjusting fishing regulations to match management goals. He writes some interesting things. Here’s a sampling of some of his comments he made:

“I used to cringe the Monday of Memorial Day Weekend seeing the steady stream of traffic heading south all loaded with fish (in my mind anyway) from my favorite trout ponds. Back then, we frequently crafted more restrictive regulations to limit harvest to protect the wild fish resources. It was rare to liberalize regulations.”

“But now, things are much different.”

“…fewer people are fishing and those that do practice catch and release at a much higher rate…”

“The combination of a sharp decline in angler harvest and the very restrictive regulations created a perfect storm for salmon management.  The salmon began to stockpile because there was little harvest.”

“We attempted to alleviate the situation by liberalizing the salmon regulations, but with little success.”

“This situation is very similar to the problems we had at Moosehead Lake with an over-abundant lake trout population.  It took some serious regulation changes at Moosehead Lake to reverse the trend and we are looking at similar strategies for Chesuncook Lake.”

It seems that tactics employed at Moosehead Lake are being tried on Chesuncook Lake with no success yet. At the end of this article, an invitation is extended to fishermen to come to Chesuncook Lake and participate in a fishing derby designed to work at reducing the number of small salmon. Will it work?

Upon a bit of examination, I would have to say I have my doubts.

First of all, when something changes there has to be a reason. In this case, Mr. Obrey seems to believe it is because people just aren’t going there to fish. Why? Does the fishing suck? Is it cost prohibitive? Is there good access to the fishing resource? Are fishing licenses too expensive? Is there that much of a decline, if there is one, in overall purchases of fishing licenses? If all waters in Maine are not having these problems, then there must be enough anglers that current regulations are sufficient to manage the resource. Why these selected lakes?

I don’t have all these answers but I was pointed in the direction of one thing that might be a roadblock to Chesuncook Lake.

On a website called Great Northern Vacation, under Lodging, we can find a bit of information on the Chesuncook Lake House Cabins, a historic location for anglers, hunters and all sorts of outdoor explorers. But here’s what it says: We strongly recommend that you arrive by float plane, your boat or snowmobile.

A new road to Chesuncook!?? Unfortunately, the new road is in horrible condition, unkept and dangerous. Many guests have arrived unhappy with the high Northwoods gate fees ($40+ pp), flat tires, getting lost, (don’t depend on your Tom-tom) and it’s not a pleasant start to your stay here. Please consider getting here in the traditional fashion, don’t drive in. Your car and wallet will thank you. Your mechanic will not!”
So, the invitation is out to attend a fishing derby at Chesuncook Lake. Is the fact that access appears to be quite difficult, along with exorbitant gate fees, enough to not only deter participants from a fishing derby but do nothing to help cure the fisheries management problems?
Environmentalists should take notice, along with MDIFW biologists and wildlife managers. It appears you want your cake and to eat it as well. Environmentalists bitch and complain because logging roads being built destroy the “wilderness.” At the same time, wildlife biologists readily use too much access to hunting and fishing resources as an excuse for unsuccessfully reaching management goals. And now, we see where at least one lake in Northern Maine can’t properly (by MDIFW’s standards) manage the fishery because people can’t get to the lake in a reasonable fashion to fish.
So, what’s it going to be? Cave to the demands of environmentalists who want to end the logging industry, thus allowing access roads that belong to the logging companies to deteriorate to a point of impassability, resulting in wasted and destroyed wildlife resources, or find a balance somewhere where everyone benefits?
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How luck might run out for West Grand Lake’s superior landlocked salmon

By Randy Spencer and published in the Bangor Daily News:

Moose. Lobster. Blueberries. Potatoes. They’re all emblematic of Maine and our way of life.

Promotions of Maine often show another icon, too, usually airborne, a colorful fly dangling from its mandible — our landlocked salmon.

There were only four original sites where landlocked salmon were native in Maine — Sebago Lake, Sebec Lake, the Union River system, and West Grand Lake. The West Grand Lake strain has been deemed so pure that for decades, brood stock from these bloodlines has supplied 75 percent of the salmon stocked in Maine lakes. The economic ripple effect for Maine has been the gift that keeps on giving.

Scientists from Cornell and UNH have come here to study the spawning sites of West Grand Lake salmon to try, unsuccessfully so far, to replicate them in their home states. Whatever delicate balance exists, it continues to produce a valued Maine natural resource — the result not just of good luck, but of smart science.

Now, that luck might be about to run out, and at least four biologists have come out of retirement to work as volunteers to try to head off a fisheries disaster.

A startling recommendation made by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would open the fishway at the outlet of 14,360-acre West Grand Lake and let in three invasive species: sea run and landlocked alewives (technically the same species), as well as largemouth bass established in lakes downstream.

If a private citizen were to do what FERC is recommending, it would result in steep fines and possibly jail time. Maine laws guard against the introduction of invasive species into Maine lakes with good reason. From baitfish to aquatic plants to exotic species, the record shows dire consequences can and do happen from such introductions.

The re-licensing of the West Grand Lake dam with FERC is due to be completed by this summer. “Normally, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) provides important comments in a timely manner on FERC licensing. After a deadline extension, MDIFW prepared those comments and sent them to the Governor’s office in December for approval, but for some reason FERC never received any comments from Maine on this highly important matter,” says Rick Jordan, retired senior fisheries biologist for Region C with 31 years experience.

He and two other former Region C senior fisheries biologists, Ron Brokaw and Denny McNeish, have mobilized, along with former Director of Fisheries Peter Bourque to try to prevent the impending crisis.

Lacking input from Maine’s biologists, FERC is recommending that the West Grand fishway “be operated 365 days a year to pass any and all fish upstream and into the lake,” according to Jordan. Up to now, the gates were operated by MDIFW in a manner that permitted salmon, but not other unwanted species, to return to the lake. This method protects the lake from invasive species while preserving its genetically superior population of salmon. This, in turn, preserves the salmon stocking program for the rest of the state.

FERC did consider input from both U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Service. In a glitch that has left Jordan, Brokaw, McNeish and Bourque thunderstruck, submissions from the Maine scientists who have managed the fishery fell through the cracks of a bureaucratic labyrinth that has seemingly let in only the pro points of view with regard to the exotic species invasion.

Maine scientists fear that such an abrupt biological blitz will set in motion the devolution of landlocked salmon in Maine. “All alewives carry an enzyme that causes early mortality syndrome in landlocked salmon,” says Jordan. “These syndromes can lead to poorer vision, less prey capture, poor growth, reproductive failure, and a less immune fish, sometimes resulting in death of adults or juveniles.”

Jordan says alewives are capable of out-competing smelts for zooplankton, while larger alewives feed on smelts themselves, the preferred forage of landlocked salmon.

If the source of 75 percent of Maine’s stocked salmon is jeopardized by the lack of egg availability expected from this move, there may be a point on the horizon when landlocked salmon in Maine, like Atlantic salmon before them, would need to be listed as endangered. Fishery crashes of that magnitude have happened, but this team of biologists question the wisdom of bringing one about deliberately.

As for the glitch on why they haven’t been heard, they aren’t spending time assessing guilt or assigning blame. Instead, they’re working to sound a clarion call to all who care about Maine’s landlocked salmon. “If we lose this battle, the results in West Grand Lake will be irreversible,” Jordan added.

Jordan and his colleagues are asking concerned citizens to contact IFW Commissioner Chandler Woodcock, Gov. Paul LePage, Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, and U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin. On a final note, he said, “The West Grand Dam should not be relicensed in the absence of vital comments and actions recommended by the State of Maine.”

Randy Spencer is a working Master Maine guide, columnist, and the award-winning author of two books on the Grand Lake Stream region. Visit www.randyspencer.com.

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Maine Fish and Game Commissioner Devises Three Fish Groups

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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The World Bank Off To Save the Oceans

Why in heavens name would the World Bank want to “save” the oceans? I’m mean, no, really? The World Bank proposes to bring together a montage of “countries, scientific centers, NGOs, international organisations, foundations and the private sector” groups to “save” the oceans.

Aside from looking to raise $1.5 billion, here’s a bullet list of goals:

* Coordinated global action to restore our oceans to health

* An unprecedented Global Partnership for Oceans

* To pool knowledge, experience, expertise, and investment around a set of agreed upon goals

* Raise at least $300 million in “catalytic finance”, meaning funds that would be used for technical assistance for key governance reforms

* Raise $1.2 billion to support healthy and sustainable oceans

* Rebuilding at least half of the world’s fish stocks

* Increase the annual net benefits of fisheries to between $20 billion and $30 billion

* Increase marine protected areas from 2% to 5%

At the end of the Brietbart article, we get a glimpse into what is really behind the World Bank’s initiative to “protect” and “save” the oceans.

In developing countries, one billion people depend on fish and seafood for their primary source of protein and over half a billion rely on fishing as a means of livelihood, Zoellick said.

For developing countries, including many island and coastal nations, fish represent the single most traded food product, and for many Pacific Island states, fish make up 80 percent of total exports.

“The world’s oceans are in danger,” Zoellick said. “Send out the S-O-S: We need to Save Our Seas.”

You can take this as the WB looking out for you and the people of the world to ensure food supplies or you can look at it as a means of being able to gain control over the oceans and as a result gaining control over the people.

It was former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who said, “If you control the oil you control the country; if you control food, you control the population.” Is this the plan?

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