Maine Starts Down the Treacherous, Emotional Slippery Slope of Bans and Restrictions

li2-blog-img_150x175by Libby Yranski, Policy Fellow, American Sportfishing Association
December 3, 2013

Lead sinker and jig use is already greatly restricted in Maine and now comes a threat against the use of soft baits. After starting with these restrictions, it’s just a hop, skip and a jump before Maine ends up as the first state to become anti-fishing.

I learned to fish in the backcountry of Maine with my best friend’s family. Her family has been going to the same camp to fish and hunt for almost seventy years. Her dad taught me as much as he could that week – right down to what colors on our soft baits would work best. I, of course knowing nothing about what colors would work best, chose the one that looked like a ladybug. My friend’s father tried to talk me out of it because it had never worked for him, but after my third fish was caught off of that lure he stopped trying to convince me to choose a new color. There’s not a summer that goes by since where I don’t wish I could go back with them. The backcountry of Maine is some of the most beautiful country that the Nation has to offer in my opinion, but soon freshwater fishing in Maine might be a thing of the past.

In early 2013, Maine’s Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife ruled that an official departmental study was needed to study the effects of soft baits on fish. Soft baits have been used since the 1950’s as a way to mimic a fish’s natural prey. Soft baits come in an incredible array of colors, sizes, shapes, and are extremely valuable to anglers. Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife are primarily using online research, ice-angling reports and litter assessments to determine if there are adverse effects on fish and the environment in the lakes of Maine from soft baits.

The soft bait industry does test their products in laboratories and these studies have shown that on average fish pass or regurgitate soft baits and these soft baits do not cause any harm to the fish. While no scientific studies have been conducted to date on the effects of soft baits on fish in the wild, there’s also no evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, that might suggest that soft baits are causing population-level impacts on fish or wildlife.

The study language morphed out of legislation introduced in January 2013 that would ban soft baits outright. The study also includes the impact of hooks. If soft baits are banned then what’s next?  Other types of lures can also end up on the bottom of lakes and streams. Maine is on a slippery slope! Recreational fishing is a family friendly activity and as wholesome as apple pie. It’s a way to get our youngsters away from their phones/computers/tablets and actually enjoy the outdoors! It’s also a way for lessons, family-fishing secrets and stories to be passed down from generation to generation. This tradition should not and cannot be put into jeopardy!

KeepAmericaFishing™ is once again asking you to sign a petition to “Block the Ban on Soft Plastic Lures.” At the end of January, 2013 over 19,000 KeepAmericaFishing members had signed the petition, help us grow that number by asking your friends and family nationwide to protect the use of soft baits. Do not let the Maine legislature take away our traditions!