The state is moving forward with its effort to protect wild trout in northern Maine by limiting the use of live fish as bait.

Maine fisheries chief Francis Brautigam told the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Advisory Council on Tuesday that state biologists will draft a proposed regulation, to be posted on the IFW website in the next few weeks, that will include a list of affected waters.

The new regulation would prohibit the use of live fish as bait in most northern Maine lakes and ponds, which represent the majority of the wild brook trout waters in the Northeast. Currently, use of live fish is allowed in most of northern Maine.

Brautigam said the new regulation, if approved by the advisory council later this winter, would better protect wild trout waters in northern Maine because bait fish like smelt, if they escape, can out-compete trout for forage and threaten the existence of the wild trout fisheries.

Brautigam said the affected counties are in IFW’s northern management zone, which includes the following counties: Aroostook, Penobscot north of routes 11 and 157, Piscataquis, Somerset, Franklin and Oxford north of the Androscoggin River.

There will be two public hearings in the next two months, one likely in northern Maine and a second in central Maine, Brautigam said.

At two public meetings in December, which about 70 people attended, anglers overwhelmingly voiced support for the proposed regulation, Brautigam said.

“The general strong sentiment was favoring our approach and continuing efforts to conserve Maine wild trout resources,” Brautigam said. “This initiative will discourage introductions of fish that compete with wild trout in the northern region and will create more public awareness regarding the threats posed by moving and introducing fish.”

Maine is home to 97 percent of native wild brook trout populations in lakes and ponds in the eastern United States, according to a 2006 report by a consortium of state and federal agencies and Trout Unlimited.

Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: FlemingPph

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