It’s never too late – at least I hope not. The Sportsman’s Alliance organized an Anglers’ Congress in 2008, with statewide participation by many organizations and clubs, to create a state fishing initiative. As Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife works this year to create new fisheries management plans, the suggestions of the Anglers’ Congress provide excellent direction and ideas. Here they are.
There is no accountability at DIF&W for the decisions, plans, and policies created by fisheries biologists (including no financial accountability).
An underfunded unresponsive system has caused a decline in Maine’s fishery and number of anglers.
DIF&W does not grasp the economic value of anglers as other states have done.
We are unable to interact effectively with DIF&W.
We must find a way for DIF&W to benefit from our fishing initiative.
The initiative, which is all about economics, must explain how it can be achieved.
Expand Maine’s recreational fishing economy by creating great fishing statewide.
Win support from all segments of the industry – retail, guides, sporting camps, inns, and others.
Encompass all types of anglers from bait anglers to fly fishers, and both salt water and inland water anglers.
Inform and empower anglers so that their volunteer labor is utilized effectively and their needs are heard and acted upon (recognizing that biologists manage people as well as fish).
Get more people involved in identifying needs.
Use the Upper Androscoggin River Initiative (to create a destination fishery) and the Kennebec River Initiative (collaborative involvement of many groups and hundreds of individuals to define needs and create and implement plans as models for action in other regions of the state). (NOTE: sadly, both the Androscoggin River and the Kennebec River Initiatives were abandoned).
Include all major fish species and both stocked and wild fish.
Recognize that the smallmouth bass is a highly sought fish by both residents and visiting anglers.
Turn around the current approach to allow anglers to keep small fish, not large fish.
Marketing and delivery must be aimed at both consumers and decision-makers.
We can’t expect government to lead. We must lead.
Producing a product the public desires is our goal – and we have to define the product.
Consider dedicating all revenue from anglers to fisheries programs (modeled on dedicated tourism dollars and the Maine Turnpike). Fund programs with user fees – pay for what we get.
Achieve accountability for fisheries managers and management decisions.
Make fish stocking more effective and efficient.
The fisheries division must work effectively and efficiently across all state agencies.
Create management plans for every water body that include fisheries and access, and establish a review and approval process that includes anglers and the legislature.
Create a plan and policy before expanding stocking of Rainbow Trout.
Must have an aggressive program for managing smelts and enhancing smelt populations.
Must have a credible stocking policy and find better and more efficient ways to grow and stock fish.
Establish “red flag” markers that trigger action.
Need funding for the measurements called for in the initiative’s objectives.
Create a comprehensive marketing plan for recreational fishing.
Market Maine fishing more effectively.
Implement the MAT report’s recommendations on marketing at DIF&W.
Must have a quality fishery – big fish – by international standards.
Promote four seasons of angling.
Use larger stocked fish as marketing tools.
Educate anglers about access rights, issues, and needs.
Streamline the process for creating access.
Focus on securing legal access rather than building boat launches.
Shift resources to securing legal access.
Match the type of access to the water and desired experience.
Work with the new Conservation and Recreation Forum to achieve its water access goals. (NOTE: the Conservation and Recreation Forum is no longer in place).
Create an access plan for each water that matches the fishery and desired experience.
Access signs are needed statewide.
Consider tax breaks and other benefits for private landowners who provide water access.
Need more information on where water access exists and who owns it.
In tomorrow’s column, I will tell you how these ideas were pulled together in a plan and legislation, and what happened to that plan and legislation.
PHOTO: SAM’s executive director David Trahan with a brook trout.