Maine Law on Soft-bait and Biodegradable Hook Study

Dept. Inland Fisheries to report on study on January 28

The proposed ban on fishing with soft baits in Maine is no longer before the state’s legislature. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife presented its report regarding the use of soft baits in Maine’s waters to the legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife on January 28, 2014. The final conclusion: “…the Department does not recommend any legislation at this time.” The individual anglers, fishing club representatives and retail fishing tackle dealers attending the hearing were pleased with the recommendation to take no legislative action.

However, the department did make a number of recommendations to enhance its angler education programs by involving anglers, angler organizations and the sportfishing industry. These enhancements are intended to minimize the loss and improve the proper disposal of soft baits in state waters by anglers. The 17-page report described the department’s findings and methods. From a scientific point-of-view, overall the report indicated a low rate of soft baits found in the digestive system of fish surveyed between 1985 and 2013, ranging from a low of 0.4 percent to a high of 5.2 percent of fish sampled, depending on the survey method.

A History

On January 17th, 2013 state Representative Paul Davis introduced bills H.P.37/L.D.42 and H.P.38/L.D.43, legislation that would ban the use of all “rubber” lures and another bill to ban all non-degradable fishing hooks. The Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife held a public meeting in the beginning of February regarding both bills. During this first public meeting three individuals spoke in favor of the soft baits ban while the remaining speakers spoke for almost three hours against the bill. It was brought to the Committee’s attention that one problem with soft baits was that anglers were tossing their used baits overboard creating a littler problem. One observation was that during a 200 yard stretch of lake-bottom there would be a dozen or so baits. Another observation was that fish have been known to swallow these soft baits and when anglers were cutting their caught fish open they would see them throughout the fish. On May 14, 2013, the resolve to study the effects of soft-baits and biodegradable hooks in the state of Maine became law without the Governor’s signature. This resolve ordered the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to study the effects of soft-baits and non-degradable hooks on fish and other wildlife in the state.

KeepAmericaFishing™ is not aware of any study in the wild showing detrimental impact on fish populations. In fact we know from years of laboratory tests on soft baits that most fish regurgitate or pass these baits without harm.

As for the non-degradable hooks issue, some hooks used in sportfishing are manufactured from stainless steel. Under current manufacturing technology carbon steel hooks corrode and degrade within several months of being submerged in a lake or stream. The bill’s mandate would not only create a burden for anglers who would have to replace their fishing equipment, but would also be technologically impractical for manufacturers to accomplish.

Maine has a rich history with angling and the sport has significant economic impacts to the state. Anglers in Maine provide a $614,401,455 economic infusion to the state each year supporting 6,723 Maine jobs. This economic engine from recreational fishing in Maine also provides $42.8 million in state and local tax revenue. Forty-four percent of Maine’s angling days are done by non-resident anglers, and this ban would affect not only bait and tackle shops but also all tourism businesses. Banning either soft-baits or non-degradable hooks would negatively affect both state and local economies, as well as the tourism that fishing brings to Maine.

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