Respecting flowing water, wearing life jackets can save lives

Posted July 14, 2009, at 12:11 a.m.

It’s no secret the past several weeks have been extremely wet hereabouts. For the most part, the resulting soggy conditions are a mere nuisance.

It’s important to recognize, however, that not respecting our waterlogged streams and rivers is a very, very bad idea.

Cases in point: On Friday afternoon a Pennsylvania girl was swept down the West Branch of the Penobscot River and survived after narrowly avoiding being swept over a waterfall; On Sunday, a Portland man wasn’t as lucky. The 39-year-old, who was swimming with his fiancee and his dog, was swept away on the Presumpscot River and died.

The 16-year-old girl involved in the West Branch incident was wearing a life jacket, which undoubtedly helped her as the river carried her about 2½ miles downstream before she worked her way to shore.

I know what I’m going to say seems obvious. I know you’ve heard it before.

But I’m going to say it again: Flowing water is powerful. It can provide for wonderful recreation, but deserves your respect. And a life preserver can save your life … if you decide to actually wear it.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time wading in flowing water, fly fishing, over the years.

And while the flow often feels comfortable, and I often feel safe, all it takes is one false step for me to realize how quickly the situation can change.

Once, in moderate flow conditions on the East Outlet of the Kennebec River, I fell after slipping on a slimy river rock.

All I thought of on my way down was saving my precious fly rod. After my thighs and torso had splashed down, and the water began to push against the suddenly larger submerged surface area, I realized that I might have a more significant problem on my hands: I was drifting downstream, and wasn’t sure when I’d be able to stop.

As it turns out, I soon fetched up on a larger sub-surface boulder and was able to get my feet back under me.

I was safe. And I was lucky.

I know we’ve all heard the same cautionary tales for years. And I know that many of us don’t really listen too carefully when others tell us to be more careful.

This soggy summer, I hope you’ll take the time to give the matter a bit more thought.

Have fun. But be careful.

Food for thought on a Tuesday morning.

Penobscot trap total tops 1,800

For many of us, the rainy June and wet beginning to July have hampered vacation plans and kept us cooped up inside.

For Atlantic salmon returning to the Penobscot River, however, rainy, cool weather has been a boon.

Salmon continue to arrive at the Veazie Dam’s fish trap in significant numbers, according to fisheries biologist Oliver Cox of the Department of Marine Resources’ Bureau of Sea-Run Fisheries and Habitat.

As of Sunday, a total of 1,822 salmon had been trapped in Veazie. A year ago, 1,904 fish had reached the trap as of the same date.

Those 1,822 fish far surpass both the 10-year average as of July 12 (886 salmon) and the 31-year average (1,125).

Cox reports that last year the water temperature had risen to 77 degrees, and salmon were not arriving at the trap. Last week, however, the Penobscot water was about 66 degrees and an average of 20 salmon were returning to the trap each day.

Cox said the water temperature was not common — over the past five years, the average for the July 1-July 12 period was 72 degrees.

“Hopefully that keeps the salmon traveling upstream,” Cox wrote in his weekly report.

Any-deer applications available

If you’re looking to increase your odds this fall and want to have the option to shoot a doe, it’s time to enter the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife’s any-deer permit lottery.

Due to two straight harsh winters, there aren’t nearly as many any-deer permits — commonly referred to as “doe permits” — available this year. Still, 45,385 of the coveted permits will be handed out in 11 of the state’s 29 Wildlife Management Districts.

If you’re sending in an application by mail, it’s got to be mailed on or before July 31. If you’re handing the application in to the DIF&W in person, you must do so before 5 p.m. on July 31. And if you’re entering the lottery on the Internet at www.mefishwildlife.com, you’ve got until 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 17 to do so.

The DIF&W is not automatically sending out paper applications to past applicants, and encourages hunters to take advantage of the online registration option if at all possible.

If that’s not possible, you’ve still got options.

The best may be to send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Any-Deer Permit Application Request, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, 41 State House Station, 284 State Street, Augusta, ME 04333-0041.

Another option: Get someone to print you an application off the Internet, and mail it in.

Finally, you can stop by DIF&W headquarters in Augusta, where you can fill out a paper application.

Any-deer permits will be allotted in WMDs 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 and 29 this year.

The districts with the most permits up for grabs this year: WMD 22, which includes Gardiner, Richmond and Lewiston (7,980 permits) and WMD 23, which stretches from Augusta to Newburgh and from Montville to Detroit (7,920 permits).

Good luck!

jholyoke@bangordailynews.net

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