In 2009 SAM created this outstanding Maine Fishing Initiative

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn 2008, after gathering ideas at a statewide conference of organizations and clubs focused on fishing, the Fishing Initiative Committee of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine created this Maine Fishing Initiative, which SAM submitted as legislation in 2009. Seventy one State Representatives and 24 State Senators had endorsed the Maine Fishing Initiative’s goals in their 2008 candidate survey. Tomorrow I’ll tell you what happened to the initiative. Today, I present the goals, principles, and tactics that comprised the initiative.

 Maine Fishing Initiative

Created and Coordinated by the Fishing Initiative Committee of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and approved by SAM’s Board of Directors on June 3, 2008.


Create great fishing statewide

Double fishing license sales

Triple the economic contribution of recreational fishing


Recognize the quality of fishing experiences in Maine and protect that quality.

Make it easy to fish.

Maximize fishing opportunity.

Manage for big fish.

Maximize the economic value of fish and fishing.

Make native and wild fisheries the highest priority for sustainable management.

Secure appropriate access to all Maine lakes, ponds, rivers and streams.

Establish accountability for fisheries managers, decisions, and policies.


1) Make it easy to fish.

  1. make rules and fees simple and inexpensive to encourage people to fish.
  2. simplify fishing rules and remove other barriers that keep people from fishing.
  3. restructure license fees to reward conservation.
  4. avoid new rules or license hikes that discourage people from fishing.
  5. adopt the following Rules Policy: When it is necessary to give a fish population extra protection, bag limit and/or length limit restrictions should be the first method employed to protect fish.  Except in extraordinary cases, such restrictions should apply equally to open water and ice fishing.  When the desired objective cannot be achieved through bag and length restrictions, then and only then, the next method should be gear restrictions.  The method of last resort should be restrictions of opportunity by shortening of the seasons.

 2) Maximize fishing opportunity.

       1. offer year-round open water fishing, following regulations for sustainable fisheries.

2. open all stocked rivers and streams to year-round fishing3.

3. expand and improve ice fishing opportunities.

3)  Manage for big fish.

  1. manage for maximum size, everywhere.
  2. change fishing rules to allow anglers to keep small fish, not large fish.
  3. manage bass for sustainable populations and big fish where this will not conflict with salmonids.
  4. manage landlocked salmon for the biggest possible fish in all salmon waters.
  5. e) establish an aggressive program for managing smelts and enhancing smelt populations in all salmon waters.

4) Maximize the economic value of fish and fishing.

  1. create world-class fisheries to make Maine a destination for anglers.
  2. create a comprehensive marketing plan for recreational fishing in all four seasons so that Maine fishing can be marketed more effectively.
  3. implement the marketing recommendations found in the June 2004 DIF&W Review performed by the Management Assistance Team of the International Association of Fish and Game Agencies.
  4. make stocking programs more efficient and effective, without negative impacts on wild and native species.
  5. do not stock waters in which wild and native trout and salmon are the principle fishery.
  6. do not expand rainbow trout stocking until a policy is established to assure that these fish do not impact native and wild trout.
  7. implement the recommendations of the Hatchery Commission.
  8. use all large stocked fish as marketing tools.
  9. use the initiatives on the Upper Androscoggin River and Kennebec River as models for action in other regions, recognizing the effectiveness of collaborative involvement of many groups and businesses and hundreds of individuals to define needs and create and implement plans.

5)  Make native and wild fisheries the highest priority for sustainable management and protection.

  1. use habitat protection and enhancement to maximize wild fish production.
  2. actively discourage invasive species and aggressively rid waters of them wherever they negatively impact native species.
  3. authorize the commercial harvest and sale of illegally introduced species.
  4. manage the four original landlocked salmon waters to focus on salmon as the priority fishery.
  5. establish and follow management policies that include regulations that promote sustainable fisheries and assure wild waters remain free from stocking.

6) Secure appropriate access to all Maine lakes, ponds, rivers and streams.

  1. provide better information about access to and fisheries in all Maine waters.
  2. continue to work with the Bureau of Parks and Lands to create Maine’s new 10-year boating and fishing access plan.
  3. encourage the state to consolidate all boating and fishing access plans in one department.
  4. focus on securing legal access (and shift financial resources to this tactic) rather than building boat launches, so more access can be achieved.
  5. match the type of access to the water and desired experience in state plans.
  6. use SAM’s website to present comprehensive information about fishing in Maine and access to Maine waters.
  7. work with DeLorme to include more information about fishing and boating access sites and other information about fishing in its Gazetteers.
  8. conduct a study to identify all legal water access in the state and the public’s rights at those sites, including examining all rights in abandoned rights of ways.
  9. educate anglers about access rights, issues and needs.
  10. put up access signs statewide that direct people to access and fishing sites.
  11. streamline the government approval process for creation of boating launch sites by establishing a by-pass of local ordinances and permits for state agencies.
  12. offer tax credits to private landowners who provide water access.

7)  Establish accountability for fisheries managers, decisions, and policies.

  1. Create methods of measuring the success of fisheries managers and plans.
  2. create and implement management plans for every lake, pond, and river that include access and fishery goals.
  3. establish legislative and public review of species management plans every five years.
  4. produce accurate and reliable data including fish stocking and license sales.
  5. establish “red flags” that require action when triggered.
  6. implement the license sales and reporting requirements of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the most recent audit of DIF&W and achieve the time lines in the audit for changes.
  7. create a credible stocking policy for all species and assure that all stocking is consistent with the policy.
  8. establish a public process for proposals to stock new species in any water, with a requirement that the new stocking be consistent with DIF&W’s stocking policy.

8)  Empower and effectively utilize anglers in all aspects of fisheries management.

  1. schedule annual conferences of anglers, hosted by angler groups, to work on the implementation of this initiative, gather new ideas, and build a coalition to improve Maine’s fisheries and expand fishing opportunities.
  2. establish SAM’s Anglers’ Congress as an annual event.
  3. use anglers, sporting camp owners, and guides to collect data and other information and help create management plans.

9) Establish annual reports on the economic contributions of recreational fishing, prepared by a nonpartisan organization.

  1. ask the Maine Public Spending Research Group to issue this annual report.

10) Establish a credible professional opinion poll annually to measure the satisfaction of Maine’s anglers and gather their opinions on critical fishing issues.

  1. seek funding and partners to conduct this poll.
  2. submit legislation to require DIF&W to hire a professional pollster to conduct this poll annually.

11) Establish bi-annual public reports on fishing license sales.

  1. SAM will collect monthly DIF&W Reports and issue a press release twice a year on fishing license sales (if DIF&W does not do this).

12) Annually evaluate progress on this initiative and issue a report.

1. SAM’s Fishing Initiative Committee will take the lead in preparing this report annually, beginning in 2009.

13) Study fishery management programs in other states that are destinations for the nation’s anglers and be open to new and creative ideas that help achieve the goals and objectives of this plan.

14) Implement the recommendations for DIF&W’s Fisheries Division found in the December 2002 Review of DIF&W’s Fisheries Division performed by the Management Assistance Team of the International Association of Fish and Game Agencies.

15) Establish consistent and sufficient funding sources to achieve the goals of this initiative.

1. dedicate all fishing license revenue to fisheries programs.

2. utilize user fees where they can be effective in allowing anglers to pay for what they receive.

3. create a tax credit for private entities that invest in improvements in fisheries habitat, stocking, access, or other infrastructure improvements.



George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.