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Most people have probably heard the old proverb that goes something like: If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.
We’d like to offer an addendum for certain ice fishermen: If you give away the fish you catch instead of leaving it wasted on a frozen lake, you can help feed other people right now.
Anglers on Sebago Lake recently hooked some social media controversy by leaving behind piles of dead lake trout — also known as togue — during the weekend of the recent Sebago Lake Fishing Derby. A local fisherman was disgusted by the more than 100 wasted fish he saw on the ice and shared the scene on Facebook.
To be clear, this wasteful situation doesn’t seem to have broken state laws or regulations. If anything, it reflects the policy of Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) and the special fishing laws for Sebago Lake. There is no bag limit for togue under 26 inches caught on Sebago. These fish are technically invasive to Maine’s second largest lake, having been stocked there by the state decades ago. And the department now promotes their removal to help the landlocked salmon that compete for the same food.
“The derby is part of the effort to remove lake trout from Sebago,” IFW spokesman Mark Latti said, “so we can have a healthy salmon population.”
This may be state policy, and 100-or-so fish might be a drop in the bucket when 10,000 lake trout can be caught on Sebago in a single year, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for the waste documented by Kurt Christensen of Standish. Not while Maine people go hungry during a global pandemic. Not when it was easily avoidable.
What’s most frustrating about these discarded fish is that the derby organizers had already taken steps to put them to use. If the fishermen had brought their catch to one of the derby’s weigh stations, it would have been added to an already large contribution to Mainers in need of food.
“We’ve been made aware that there are videos going viral showing fish that was left out on the lake after/during our derby on Sebago. We accepted every fish that was brought to us, over 2,500 went to be processed through Nova Seafood in Portland to be flash frozen and delivered to food pantries,” derby organizers posted on Facebook after the controversy. “Just so you know. We are saddened that this is giving our derby any negative press. Just wanted to address it.”
Even the fisherman who shared the footage of the wasted fish in the first place was quick to defend the derby organizers.
“I’m not saying anything bad about the folks who run the derby,” Christensen stressed. “Those guys do a heck of a good job.”
Thanks to many local anglers and the derby’s operation, Maine food pantries have more food at a time when demand for their services is particularly high. That should be the news. But because certain people left a bunch of fish on the ice rather than doing the considerate thing, we’re here talking about waste.
We hope that next year’s derby participants will remember that their catch can help hungry Mainers, and we encourage the derby organizers to do more to get the word out that these discarded fish can be collected to be sent to food pantries.
When that process plays out as it should, the anglers get to have fun on the ice, IFW gets help with its management efforts and food pantries get more food. Everybody wins. Well, except for the togue.