RUMFORD — The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife continues work to simplify its fishing rulebook, now available at most town offices. Additionally, there are six significant changes listed in the 2014 magazine-format book.
The general law for lakes and ponds in the southern and eastern counties now allows year-round fishing with no special tackle or harvest restrictions, the book states.
State fisheries biologist Francis Brautigam in Gray said Thursday that the change was applied to lakes and ponds where the department doesn’t have significant management goals for cold-water fisheries.
He said the department started with its year-round fishing initiative and then, with the last law book, recognized there were a “fair number of lakes and ponds that were put-and-grow.”
“Like up to Worthley Pond in Peru, where we’ve been stocking browns and rainbows,” he said of trout. “We’re trying to grow them to a larger size.”
Put-and-grow programs wouldn’t work if the department allowed fish to be harvested from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31. In the past, it’s been catch-and-release fishing during that time.
The new rule “gives people the opportunity to fish waters we don’t manage,” Brautigam said.
Waters in southern and eastern counties with a special season, harvest restrictions or gear will continue to be indicated under the appropriate county in the law book.
Waters that were restricted to children under the age of 16 will be open in 2014 to all complimentary license holders. That means people used to seeing younger children fishing these waters will now see people ages 16 and up.
Brautigam said the department had mixed conversations about how to deal with special opportunities where some waters were youth-only and some were for youth and complimentary license holders. To simplify it, the law was changed.
Another change was designed to minimize illegal species introductions. The “No Live Fish as Bait” (S-4) special rule will be applied to several newly surveyed wild brook trout ponds, which are mostly in northern and eastern Maine.
“By eliminating the use of live bait, you reduce the risk of adding something that’s not already there,” Brautigam said. “It provides greater protection to wild brook trout.”
One 2014 change applies mainly to Downeast waters, he said. Special slot limits were applied to several togue lakes to reduce impacts on smelt populations and improve growth rates on togue and landlocked salmon.
A change that may affect bass will allow the use of live bait when the fish are in spawning beds. The artificial-lures-only restriction on smallmouth and largemouth bass fishing during April 1 through June 30 was eliminated.
That law was created to protect bass during spawning. However, the problem was enforcing it, Brautigam said.
“When you have one regulation specific to one species and have a lake with many species, it becomes very difficult to enforce,” he said.
Still, he said he doesn’t think bass club members or bass anglers will fish for them when they’re on spawning beds.
There’s also good news in the 2014 law book for people who’ve always had to wade through bureaucracy to trap baitfish for personal use. A permit is no longer required.
“All waters are open to the taking of baitfish for personal use, including brooks, rivers and streams, unless designated ‘closed to the taking of live baitfish,’” Brautigam said, reading the new rule on page 50.
Several waters where baitfish trapping could threaten sensitive brook trout were closed to the activity.
Over time, more people applied for permits to trap baitfish from inland waters closed to fishing, he said, prompting the change.
“Hopefully, this will encourage people to take baitfish without having to deal with the administrative headache,” Brautigam said.
The 2015 lawbook will have even more significant changes. All or most of the cumbersome S codes on the back flap will be removed and their restrictions added to listings for waters, he said. Another goal is to fold in county rules with the special rules.
“That will make for a much thicker (law book), because there will be more text, but you won’t have to bounce around as much,” Brautigam said.
“We’re trying to make the lawbook as user-friendly as possible. I hope it gets easier, because we certainly don’t want people not understanding what we’re trying to do.”
Distributed by MCT Information Services