Old News Archive

The Ever Changing Law Book

March 11, 2008 - TRC

How do you best manage fish populations ? That’s easy. Manage people !

This may seem to be odd logic but since the last Ice Age fish have been taking care of themselves quite nicely. Then humans came along. We fish, modify habitat, and perform a number of other activities that directly and indirectly impact fish populations. As my college fisheries professor Dr. Ringler used to say, “Fisheries management is 98 percent dealing with people and two percent dealing with fish.”

For the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Fisheries Division, the most direct method we have of managing the behavior of anglers is through the rules and regulations in our lawbooks. Like most other things, the easier a regulation is to understand the more useful it is. That is why over the last three years the Fisheries Division slowly has been making changes to the fishing lawbooks.

Some of the recent changes include:
Consolidation of bass regulations from 25 different regulation categories to five categories;
Consolidation of lake trout regulations from 30 to 7 categories;
Consolidation of brook trout regulations from 25 to 8 categories;
Consolidation of landlocked salmon regulations from 16 to 8 categories;
Combining the two extended fishing season, S-23 (Oct. 1-31) and S-24 (Oct. 1-Nov. 30) into one extended season from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31. This allows for expanded fishing opportunities on more than 2,000 waters located throughout the state;
Modifying the layout to improve readability and highlight new regulation changes.

At this moment some folks probably are throwing their hands in the air yelling, “Maine fishing law books are too complex ! They should be more like a ‘fill-in-your-favorite-state’ variety – one book for any state !” Without a doubt Maine’s fishing lawbooks include a lot of special regulations and for good reason. There are more than 6,000 lakes and ponds and 32,000 miles of rivers and streams in the state. The Fisheries Division staff spends the majority of their time in the field studying waters and analyzing data that guides our management decisions. As our understanding of fish populations within individual water bodies grows, so does the need to tailor regulations to meet specific performance goals. These goals can range from providing high catch rates to producing trophy-sized fish.

As many anglers in Maine are focused on an individual species we spend a lot of time studying sportfish species and experimenting with regulations to find that right mix that satisfies all anglers. As you can guess, we will never be able to satisfy all of the desires of Maine’s diverse angler groups on every water, but we try.

Further changes are being considered for the fishing lawbooks in the near future, such as combining the Open Water and Ice Fishing lawbooks into one annual lawbook. Maine is the only “ice fishing state” that produces separate lawbooks for each of the seasons. Additionally, we are looking to adopting a two-year lawbook instead of an annual lawbook. As budgets remain stagnant or are cut, there is a renewed focus in finding ways to save money without sacrificing services. By creating a two-year lawbook we will be able to save on printing costs, remove redundant pages and decrease the amount of staff time devoted to the entire regulation/law book process.

This year’s Open Water Fishing book will be the first to show the new changes. Don’t throw it away! It will be a two-year book, namely in effect through March 31, 2010. Any changes to regulations will be announced on IF&W’s Web site and in press releases.

A further upcoming focus will be to address species’ specific regulations on rivers and streams throughout the state. For example the types of regulations that work for brook trout inhabiting lakes and ponds often are not applicable to brook trout populations in rivers and streams due to differences in available forage, habitat, water quality, and trout movement patterns.

There will always be fishing regulations and the Fisheries Division will always be attempting to balance the management of fish populations with minimizing the complexity of the lawbook. No matter what specific regulations are inside Maine’s fishing lawbook there are a few pieces of information that you will always need to know when using it, be it 2008 or 2018. These items are:
Where you are – county and town;
The name of the water you are fishing;
Date – to know whether open water or ice fishing regulations apply;
Your fishing gear – spinning gear, fly-fishing, ice trap or jigging pole;
Type of bait attached to your fishing gear – fly, artificial lure, live bait or dead bait;
Fish identification.

Regardless of when and where you fish in Maine keep that lawbook handy and, most importantly, enjoy your time on the water!
-- Joe Dembeck, Research Fisheries Biologist, Bangor

Submitted by : Deborah Turcotte, Acting Public Relations Representative
Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
SHS 41
284 State St.
Augusta, ME 04333

W: (207) 287-6008, C: (207) 592-1164

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.