Enlightened Anglers Vs. Voices from the Dim Past

There is an effort—and now a formal petition—to return Maine’s storied Kennebec River to bait fishing. Save for the East Outlet of Moosehead Lake, the Kennebec is not even fly-fishing-only. You can spinfish anywhere on the mainstem. You can use bait on half the mainstem and in all the tribs. Even in the artificial-only sections there are “kids fishing” areas where they can use bait. You can kill fish anywhere. Pretty hard to figure how any sane, sober angler could think these regs are “elitist” and “restrictive.” When I was doing my undergraduate work at Colby, virtually on the banks of the Kennebec, the river was a major health hazard. Toilet paper was draped from low branches. Enter the Clean Water Act of 1972. The last time I was on the Kennebec I was catching three-pound browns on Elk-hair Cadises and looking at smallmouth redds in immaculate gravel 10 feet down. Today people are coming from Montana to fish the Kennebec. Leading the charge for the return-to-bait initiative is an unholy axis of antediluvian nonthinkers who write letters to newspaper editors, shout at hearings, pontificate in bars, and post long, rambling harangues on any internet fish forum that hasn’t banned them—including one they recently started themselves. They are anti-“elitist” (for which read “fly fishing”), anti-catch-and-release, anti-ESA, anti-wilderness, pro-mongrel, pro-alien/exotic, pro-access-at-any-cost, pro-splake (a half-brookie-half-laker Frankenstein fish concocted by hatchery technicians, doubtless in bell towers under green, flashing vacuum tubes and with the aid of cackling hunchbacks), pro-hatchery, and, of course, pro-bait (even for bears). It’s discouraging that in 2006 such an element is still extant in the Pine Tree State. On the other hand, I am happy to report that there is an enlightened fly-fishing group of wild-trout defenders trying to nip the back-to-bait movement in the bud and trying to wake Maine up to the news that it presides over a national treasure—the only significant wild, native brook trout populations in the United States, a resource that is as important to Maine as redwoods to California or timber wolves to Minnesota. The enlightened group is called the Dud Dean Angling Society, named for the lovable, ex-lumberjack, fly fisher, guide-philosopher hero of the wonderful short stories by Maine native Rev. Arthur Macdougall, whom I had the great honor and privilege of knowing in the last few years of his life. To find out more about the Dud Dean Angling Society log onto: http://outdoors.mainetoday.com/news/060510sherwood... To find out more about the threat to Kennebec salmonids by bait soakers see “Kennebec Under Attack”: http://www.kennebecriveroutfitters.com/forum/topic... To join the Dud Dean Angling Society’s “One That Got Away Club” log onto: http://www.onethatgotawayclub.com/rules.php 14 Responses to “Enlightened Anglers Vs. Voices from the Dim Past” Sal Says: May 20th, 2006 at 2:11 pm My friend was telling me about outdoorsmen of this mindset. He was telling me about this message board he used to post on (New England Outdoor Voice). Nearly all the members are from Maine and there are about 6 of them that post back and forth. While they are clearly interested in preserving the hunting and fishing legacy, they are fighting against the very folks that have their same interest. His opinion differed from theirs, and as a result, he was essentially run off the message board by one irrational fellow backed by the moderator. They are hanging on to this classist system in which there are hunters and anglers like themselves, and then there the “Greenies” and “Elitists” who also fish and hunt, but with which they will fight tooth and nail, even though everyone’s interest is the same. Sounds like Dud Dean’s main interest is preserving quality stocks of fish. It is the wise-use folks that will not rest until they are able to throw a bobber attached to a treble hook smeared with chartreuse PowerBait, just to win the fight, to the detriment of the salmonids of the Kennebec. My friend’s stance (and mine) is that seeing as we are all concerned about the future of the health fish and wildlife, why can we not put our differences aside and fight for their conservation rather than fighting amongst one another? It seems so obvious to me anyway. Ted Williams Says: May 20th, 2006 at 2:35 pm Thanks Sal, I think I know your friend. Thanks to him and you for all those links, some of which I assume you posted or found on the website you mention which is truly a major embarrassment to a great state with the best hunting and fishing left in the East. With only six participants I can’t think that it is winning many anglers over to bait. On the other hand, a large element of the bait lobby doesn’t have computers. I use bait a lot myself—for perch in my lake and on tiny, overgrown woodland rills for brookeis. By no means am I saying that bait doesn’t have a legitimate place. It does, but not on the best trout and salmon river in the East. Boone Says: May 21st, 2006 at 6:48 pm Ted, I too am an occasional bait fisherman. Sometimes, it is the only way to get them to bite. I would agree with you that there is nothing wrong with bait fishing, but if you can already use artificial lures on the Kennebec, why would one fight for the right to gut hook more fish in the premier trout and salmon water of the East? Maybe the question should be posed to those on the “other side” like over at the Voice. Just my 2 cents. Ted Williams Says: May 21st, 2006 at 7:34 pm Hi Boone: I’d like to ask myself, but I’ve lost the URL, and they’re not even registered with Google so I can’t get back on. I logged on twice. The first time I read some of your posts. You trudged a lonely road. According to the moderator of the Fly Fishing in Maine Forum—which is quite good and has some enlightened anglers participating—the guy who started the Outdoor Voice of New England isn’t allowed to post on Fly Fishing in Maine because he threatened legal action against sundry posters with whom he had issues. The second time I logged onto the Voice—about a week ago—I saw that your whole thread had been deleted. Apparently, you were expressing incorrect opinions. But consider yourself lucky; maybe you’ve escaped a lawsuit. Thanks for all the good links. Boone Says: May 22nd, 2006 at 8:51 am Ted, It was a lonely road, complete with insults and demeaning remarks at times. I no longer post there. I can only hope that some of those Maine boys (and girls), or maybe just one of them, could see a glimmer of light and understand the “Greenie” side of things. We Greenies are well educated and open minded in this regard while the “other side” seem extremely close minded and refuse to budge an inch. Though we too hunt and practice catch and retain as well as catch and release, we understand the need for proper and responsible conservation of fish and wildlife. The “old guard” ways of simply dumping more and more fish into streams and rivers without regard for the impact it is having on natural ecosystems is antiquated at best. Unfortunately there are many who whole-heartedly believe that this “bucket biology” is the future of American fishing and hunting. Call me a “Greenie”, but I would rather work to conserve and restore ecosystems to produce wild stocks of fish than continue to stock copious amounts of non-native fishes, including ridiculous hatchery hybrids like splake and tiger trout that have who knows what kind of impact on riverine ecosystems. Ted Williams Says: May 22nd, 2006 at 9:51 am Boone, it is truly unfortunate that an element of American sportsmen see the environmental movement as a plot to steal their guns or, in this case, their bait. I am actually less troubled by the possible effect of splake and other Frankenstein fish on native ecosystems than their OBSERVABLE effect on sportsmen. As you have seen on the site you mention, Frankenstein fish encourage the fantasy that things like healthy forests and clean, free-flowing rivers are superfluous. Why worry about habitat when we can mass produce rubber fish? Why worry about dams when we can fill up all the deadwater with grotesque, hatchery-produced hybrids that don’t need natural flows or clean gravel? Why worry about the last healthy, native brook trout populations in the nation when we can replace them with pike and “barse,” as Dud Dean called the latter alien, usually punctuating the word with a stream of tobacco juice. Boone Says: May 22nd, 2006 at 2:48 pm Precisely Ted. We can all just pretend that natural systems will repair themselves, whether it be from overharvest (of timber or fish and wildlife), road building and resulting siltation of pristine trout waters, or introduction of alien and sterile hybrid fish into natural ecosystems. Why waste the time and money stabilizing and maintaining ecosystems when we can just dump buckets of replacement fish into nasty, phosphorous-rich, eutrophied water bodies? After all, they only have to survive long enough for state-licensed toting anglers to haul them out on PowerBait within the week. After that, who cares? And plus, habitat restoration is hard work. Who wants to do all that hard work when there are quads to be ridden, beer to be swilled, and huntin’ stories to be told? I think a big problem is that many hunters and anglers only think at the local level. Rarely do they consider the implications management decisions will have at the population, state, or country level. They just want to catch and shoot more stuff in their region. But that is the mindset of hunters and anglers as a whole. This collective mindset can have serious implications for populations and ecosystems at the state and country-wide level. Boy, it is refreshing to converse with someone who thinks like me for a change. Ted Williams Says: May 22nd, 2006 at 3:15 pm Boone: I wish these guys would read something other than their own angry, tedious commentary—like history maybe. This precise strategy was tried in the 19th century. It didn’t work then. It was tried again in the 20th century. It didn’t work then. Why worry about the Columbia and Snake River dams? We can stock hatchery salmon and barge the smolts. The Corps actually proclaimed that they could make the fishing better. The Bush administration is saying we can make the fish-factory-strategy work in the 21st Century if we just keep at it—“stay the course.” What has changed other than for the worse? If we ignore history, we’re condemned to repeat it. Doing something over and over again, always with the same failed results, is one definition of insanity. Re. “thinking like me,” I firmly believe you think like most of us—that the vast majority of sportsmen get it and that the folks you were wasting your breath on represent a tiny minority. They just make a majority of the noise. That needs to change if we’re going to leave significant populations of fish and wildlife for our kids. Bob Mallard Says: May 23rd, 2006 at 8:30 am Ted I am going to break my own policy of not posting on any forums but my own. I am a fly shop owner on the middle Kennebec and a founding member of the Dud Dean Angling Society. The war against quality fishing up here is real. While small, the anti-quality group is vocal and hell bent on making everything we have open to everything. They even published a paper defending the splake program which is a serious threat to our wild salmonids and recreational fishing as a whole. If folks get comfortable with stocked hybrids, we are in BIG trouble. These folks are trying their best to save this ill advised and out-of-control program. The saddest part about what is going on up here is that some people are buying into it. Worse is that our DIF&W is apparenly buying into it. C&R has virtually no support here in Maine (at the DIF&W level) and is under constant attack by those in charge of managing our waters. We routinely see written references by the DIF&W as to “why C&R doesn’t work” in our local papers with the most recent being a disappointing and mis-leading statement by PR spokesman Bill Pierce. The problem runs deep within teh organization. The movement to return the Kennebec to bait is unclear at this time as the petitions that were circulating seem oddly missing? Maybe they got enough signatures, maybe they have gone underground? As you say, why is ALO with liberal length and bag limits and kid’s bait sections not enough? How can anyone justify treating this invaluable resource so poorly? That this is anchored in one of the poorest towns (Bingham) in one of the poorest counties (Somerset) in one of the poorest states (Maine) in the country speaks volumes. Why is it that folks don’t see what a well-managed Kennebec could do for our economy (and recreation)? The anti-regs group is small but vocal. It is anchored unfortunately here in teh Kennebec valley by a couple of anglers. Even now the Kennebec is arguably the most undermanaged high-potential water in the northeast. The regulations in place do not protect large fish and the stocking program from Solon down does not meet the demand for fish. Low stocking and liberal regulations is a recipe for mediocrity. What we have seen since the recent change to ALO (that was just a few yeas ago), is an increase in wild fish numbers and a small increase in average size. We have not seen a huge increase and I don’t believe that the regs in place will ever do that. To go backward when we should be thinking of tightening up a bit is discouraging. The DIF&W has done very little to promote a good fishing ethic here in Maine and this may be our biggest challenge. Take a look at the lower Androscoggin where after 20 miles of barbless ALO, C&R and year-round fishing from Berlin NH to the Maine border, the river below in Maine allows harvest (and most importantly the harvest of large fish) This speaks volumes in regard to our management philosophy. What state wouldn’t take advantage of 20 miles of upstream C&R to create an inter-state trophy fishery? The C&K, access-at-any-cost, pro-stocking, pro-hybrid, mentality is unfortunately alive and well here in Maine. It does not however represent the majority, just that those who support it are loud and unfortunately have the ear of the DIF&W. The website mentioned is all about dividing the angling community and working with the DIF&W to maintain the status quo. In fact, one DIF&W biologist was actually posting on the site! Can you believe that a fisheries manager would post on such a site? This shows how far we have to go. Maine is at a cross-road in regard to our outdoor heritage and fisheries in general. To the water, none of my personal haunts are nearly as good as they once were. We are losing ground at an alarming rate and yet there are those who think we need to “liberalize” things? Maine is managing itself right out of the fishing business and our license sales show it. Just because we have the best wild salmonid fishing left in the East does NOT mean all is well. We could lose it as fast as the rest if we are not careful. Those of us who have lived elsewhere have the benefit of histury; we have seen what exploitation and poor management brings. I hope we can swing the masses up here before it is too late. Ted Williams Says: May 23rd, 2006 at 9:42 am Thanks Bob. I greatly appreciate the terrific work you and the Dud Dean Angling Society are doing in defense of wild, native brook trout in Maine. And thanks for standing up to and attempting to educate that loud, minority of sportsmen who don’t get it and who don’t understand or appreciate the national treasure with which your great state is entrusted. Pete Richards Says: May 23rd, 2006 at 12:11 pm Ted – Both Mr. Mallard and the miscreants at NEOV are wingers…one is to the right and one is to the left. Mr. Mallard’s point of view is at least somewhat thoughtful albeit misguided and the miscreants at NEOV have no point of view other then to create chaos. They love the attention, they thrive on all of the negative vibes, just like the mythical creature called a grool. Grools thrive off of anything negative…doesn’t matter if it’s from driving your car into a wall or talking about catch and release. Pete Richards Ted Williams Says: May 23rd, 2006 at 1:36 pm Hi Pete: “Grools!” I love it! What a great, descriptive word! Hadn’t heard it before, but it sure fits. The grools are indeed “dividers,” as Bob notes. They always seem to be puffing and blowing and angry. Not sure why because they are getting their way in Maine. They accuse Bob (and all environmentalists) of being positively satanic, but when I went up and fished with him I found a friendly, quiet, thoughtful, concerned, knowledgeable conservationist who wants to make a difference and loves wild places and wild trout. My friend Ken Allen—the gifted outdoor writer—did the same thing and got exactly the same impression. I’m not always in agreement with Bob. (For example, I’m not sure the folks at the Department of Inland Fish and Wildlife are quite the villains he imagines them to be, not that there aren’t villains there.) But, then, I’m not always in agreement with my wife and kids. And, it sure doesn’t hurt to hold the managers’ feet to the fire on issues like splake and native brook trout. fireman Says: May 23rd, 2006 at 2:46 pm Bob Mallard says; “Maine is at a cross-road in regard to our outdoor heritage and fisheries in general. To the water, none of my personal haunts are nearly as good as they once were. We are losing ground at an alarming rate and yet there are those who think we need to %13liberalize%14 things? Maine is managing itself right out of the fishing business and our license sales show it.” We are indeed at a crossroads. We are losing access as the state gates roads as fast as they buy up private land. The price of beaver pelts is down because ladies don’t want to get sprayed by paint from some crazy vegetarian. With the price of beaver down the number of beaver dams is up and the number of dormant beaver dams is way up. Brooks are hot from the sun. We could tear out some of those beaver dams as a conservation exercise, provide glean gravel again for brookie spawning and bring back healthy brookie populations to brooks that have not seen anything but chubs for years. “Maine is managing itself right out of the fishing business” and it’s all part of the rural cleansing strategy driven by the Maine State Planning Office. I remember when Trout Unlimited existed to promote an unlimited supply of trout. That fine old organization has gone the way of Ducks Unlimited and has been taken over by post middle aged desk jockeys who care much less about trout than they do “viewsheds” along streams. Ever increasing restrictions on what we can do along streams are some of the cause for lost habitat. We should be able to tear out dormant beaver dams so brookies can spawn. We should be able to get grants or at least some gas money from wealthy fly fishermen to take on some of these projects. However, the guys that actually do the work would likely take their kids fishing with a spinner and worm and bring some trout home for supper. Tell you what; I’ll fly the streams and locate dormant beaver dams with a GPS. You fly fishermen pitch in some fuel money and the locals will go out with a skidder and winch and remove the dams. That would work. Works for me. Now just convince the DEP that some bug wouldn’t get scared by it all. Ted Williams Says: May 23rd, 2006 at 3:04 pm Actually, Fireman, I think Maine has more serious problems than proliferation of beavers, reduced access. and draconian land-use regs. Don’t fret about the aging membership of TU. That outfit understands that the best way “to promote an unlimited supply of trout” is to protect and restore habitat so that the trout can do it themselves. Finally, you are mistaken about the state “gating roads as fast as they buy up private land.” It does no such thing. In fact, it has a policy of keeping all purchased land open to hunting, fishing, and trapping. That’s one of the few things we can thank George Smith for.