Nearly a week ago, supporters of a bill that would create a fee-based saltwater fishing license in Maine gathered in Augusta at a press conference.
Also last week, I stepped off the fence and told readers I thought those conservation groups, state agency officials and commercial fishermen were right: The time for Maine anglers to pay a little to potentially gain a lot has arrived.
The back story: The federal government had required states to create a registry of saltwater anglers before 2010 or face the consequences.
Consequence No. 1: The federal government formed its own registry Jan. 1 and Mainers (and those who fish in states without state registries) were required to sign up at no charge.
Consequence No. 2: Beginning in 2011, anglers in states without their own registry will be required to pay a fee to add their names to the federal list.
My previously stated opinion: Without a Maine license system, we’ll be paying the feds in a year. Either that, or we’ll be operating under a free Maine registry that complies with the federal mandate, but has no power to improve the state’s saltwater fisheries, or to help pay for necessary enforcement.
On Wednesday legislators will meet for a work session on the bill that would create a state saltwater license.
Here’s what one reader had to say about the issue, and my stance on it:
“Your comments in the Jan. 14 issue of the Bangor Daily News sure hit a soft spot of mine in regards to a saltwater fishing license,” wrote Robert Beaulieu of Mapleton. “You compare the cost of the license to the cost of bait, lures and gasoline. This sure makes you sound like a politician. In their minds, any costs can be justified by using the right words.
“Then you say, [‘paying a little in the hopes of getting a lot is the thing to do’]. Political language again!” he wrote. “You say that our natural resource [agencies] are cash-strapped. Of course they are because this state does such a poor job of supporting ‘our natural resources.’
“In comparison to the amount of money ‘our natural resources’ bring into this state, the amount put back in to support and enhance these resources is nominal to say the least. I am not even a saltwater fisherman but to hear you talk like this upsets me very much. Every time these type of subjects come up I am always reminded of the fact that I wish I could run my household and daily living expenses in the same manner. The only problem is, as a citizen, I don’t have that option.
“Our government, be it state or federal, always comes up with ways to reduce the amount of monies that we have to support our everyday living needs,” Beaulieu wrote. “Taking each and every ‘small amount’ from our daily spending is greatly reducing the amount of money put into the system to help keep our economy ‘strong.’ I don’t know if ‘strong’ is the right word to use here, considering our current financial status. Excuse me, but this kind of thinking has to stop before we collapse.”
Two derbies, one weekend
Ice anglers looking to have some fun and have a shot at sizeable prize pools will have a couple of options on the last weekend of January.
Two high-profile events are scheduled on a pair of the state’s most popular lakes on the same weekend.
In Greenville, the 3rd annual Moosehead Lake Togue Ice Fishing Derby with Ricky Craven will run Jan. 29-31.
Single tickets for the derby cost $25 while family tickets are available for $40. The three largest lake trout caught and registered will land the lucky anglers $1,500, $500 and $250, respectively. In addition, a Coleman camping package worth $1,000 and an ice sled and shelter worth $430 will be given away as door prizes.
Each fish anglers take to a weigh station, up to a limit of five fish, will be worth another ticket in the prize pool, which consists of more than 150 individual prizes.
Former NASCAR driver Craven will be on the lake Saturday morning to meet anglers, and will also attend the public ham dinner at the American Legion hall on Saturday.
The derby was formed in order to help fisheries biologists reduce the number of small togue in Moosehead, and over two years it has been an unqualified success. A year ago anglers registered 1,864 togue at the weigh station.
This year’s fishing rulebook has not changed, so anglers are officially allowed to catch and keep as many small togue as they like.
Biologists are asking, however, that concerned anglers think about adhering to the rules that will take effect in 2011, and keep only one togue more than 18 inches when they fish this winter.
Further north, in Madawaska, St. Agatha and vicinity, anglers will spread out on seven lakes Jan. 30-31 during the 5th annual Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby.
The derby is sponsored by the town of St. Agatha and the Black Bear Rod & Gun Club, and benefits the Edgar J. Paradis Cancer Fund.
Though the derby’s official name is pretty reflective of past preference — many anglers head to Long Lake in hopes of landing a football-shaped landlocked salmon — participants can also head to Cross, St. Froid, Square, Eagle, Glazier and Beau lakes during the event.
The registration fees: $15 for one day or $25 for the weekend for those age 14 and older, or $5 per day for those age 13 and younger.
The payoffs for the Long Lake derby are impressive, as the top three finishers in the salmon and togue categories will earn $1,300, $600 and $275.
The top brook trout will be worth $1,000, with the second- and third-place payouts equal to the salmon and togue divisions. The first-place muskellunge will pay $500, while second in the class is worth $300. The largest cusk prize is $250, and the person who catches the most perch will get $50.