January 28, 2021

Next salmon commission hearing Feb. 11 at Ellsworth

Sea-Run Salmon Commission’s proposed statewide changes in angling regulations – specifically, bag limits – will continue on Feb. 11. On that date, the commission will hold a public hearing at the Ellsworth City Hall Council Chambers, where the “rotation” begins at 7 p.m.

For those of you who may have been stalking bonefish in the Bahamas or, perhaps, on Florida Keys flats, following is a summary of the bag-limit options as written by the ASRSC: 1. Any Atlantic salmon greater than 25 inches in total length must be released immediately, alive and without further injury. (Five salmon per person, per season, none of which may be greater than 25 inches).

2. Any Atlantic salmon between 26 inches and 34 inches in total length must be released immediately, alive and without further injury. One salmon per person, per season over 34 inches. (Five salmon less than 26 inches or 4 less than 26 inches and one greater than 34 inches per person, per season).

3. Prior to July 1, it shall be unlawful to take any Atlantic salmon over 25 inches in total length. After June 30, one of the five salmon per person, per season may be greater than 25 inches in length.

The adopted regulation will become effective statewide May 1. The current regulations for the Pleasant, Aroostook, and St. Croix rivers will remain in effect. Deadline for comments is Feb. 21. Agency contact person is: Ed Baum, Atlantic Sea-Run Salmon Commission, P.O. Box 1298, Bangor 04402-1298.

Considering that few grilse (salmon 25 inches or under) ascend Maine’s salmon rivers, each of the options reduces the chances of anglers tagging adult salmon. Obviously, the purpose is to increase the number of adult fish reaching spawning grounds, thereby enhancing productivity.

Among fishermen, controversy raised by the proposed regulation change is flowing like a spring freshet. The place to cast those opinions, questions, objections, arguments, etc., is at the hearing on Feb. 11. Otherwise, they will amount to no more than false casting.

Speaking of casts, here is one that should get a rise from Down East Atlantic salmon anglers. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has included the five Washington County salmon rivers (Narraguagus, Machias, East Machias, Pleasant, Dennys) in its Category 2 listing under the Endangered and Threatened Species Act. The listing appeared in the Federal Register, Nov. 21, 1991.

According to a USFWS release, Category 2 means the service is seeking all available information on the status and genetic composition of Atlantic salmon populations in Down East rivers. The information, which will be accepted from the public during the next 18 months, will determine whether to list the rivers’ salmon runs as threatened or endangered. The USFWS encourages information and comments from individuals, clubs, organizations, and agencies with interests in Down East salmon rivers.

Ron Lambertson, USFWS’s northeast regional director, emphasized that this was a call for information. It does not necessarily mean Down East salmon populations will be proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act. They could be, however, if the information shows a serious decline. I don’t know how it could show otherwise – unless there’s a new definition for the word “serious.”

In reference to native salmon stocks existing in Down East rivers, Lambertson said: “…There is some question as to whether isolated numbers in some Down East rivers might be unique, remnant U.S. stock. If so, they would be extremely important from a genetic viewpoint. However, if they are genetically identical to hatchery-reared Penobscot salmon, they would not be unique.” Accordingly, the USFWS plans genetic research studies to provide necessary data.

In a memo to Bill Vail, chairman of Maine’s Atlantic Sea-Run Salmon Commission, Ed Baum, commission program coordinator, referred to the Category 2 listing: “For the next 18 months, the USFWS is prepared to accept comments (information) from anyone…. Those comments could include any recommendations (e.g. add the other two `A’ rivers (Duck Trap and Sheepscot) or delete some of the rivers listed?) including, if so desired, a request to list those salmon rivers as threatened or endangered (Category 1).

“If that were to happen, a very formal process would take place (more detailed information would be gathered, public hearings would be conducted which could possibly lead to listing as threatened or endangered and the necessity for a `recovery plan.’ On the one hand, a significant amount of federal resources may then become available for `work’ on the rivers listed; on the other hand, the ASRSC could undoubtedly lose control over the management (stocking, angling etc.) of these resources.”

Once upon a time a man could go salmon fishing and that was all there was to it.

Moving to a more seasonal matter, Pat Patterson of Exeter and his fishing partner, Gene Beaulieu of Reedfield, recently set their traps on Dexter’s Lake Wassookeag. They were fishing smelts near bottom in about 80 feet of water when one of Beaulieu’s flags flew. Directly, he handlined a 16-inch, 1 1/2-pound black crappie onto the ice.

Patterson and Beaulieu identified the crappie from a fish-identification book and later sent it to Augusta for confirmation by a fisheries biologist. Neither of the fishermen ever heard of crappies inhabiting Wassookeag. They figured the fish entered the salmon and togue lake via the Sebasticook Lake watershed. Understandably, they also were concerned about the species finding its way into other salmonid waters.

In spite of the cutting cold, have you noticed the sun stepping higher and strolling longer?

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