AUGUSTA — There is a steady, consistent flow of news and information from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife throughout the year and recent months have been no different.

The following are recent releases from the organization:

Camuso elected vice president

Commissioner Judy Camuso has been elected vice chair of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

AFWA represents North America’s fish and wildlife agencies to advance sound, science-based management and conservation of fish and wildlife and their habitats and this is the first time that a commissioner from Maine has become a vice president.

“It is truly an honor to serve in this position,” said Camuso. “It is an incredible opportunity to continue the great work we are doing in Maine and elevate it to a national scale, as well as give Maine a stronger voice in national conservation initiatives.”

Since being appointed MDIFW commissioner by Governor Janet Mills in February 2019, Camuso has overseen continued growth in hunting and fishing participation, increased communication between the department and the public, and has made it a priority to reduce barriers to getting more people outside.

Under Camuso’s watch, Maine has become a leader in outdoor recreation and communication.

Camuso is involved with a number of other national conservation initiatives, as she serves as chair of AFWA’s Bird Conservation Committee, co-chair of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, vice chair of the National Conservation Leadership Institute an also is vice president of the North East Association of Fish and Wildlife agencies.

Height of Lands Overlook, Mooselookmeguntic Lake. Photo courtesy of Amy C. Hamilton/Shutterstock/Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

Money to rebuild fish hatcheries

The MDIFW announced it will utilize a $20 million investment from Governor Mills’ Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan to redesign and rebuild two state fish hatcheries in Grand Lake Stream and New Gloucester. The hatcheries produce more than 70 percent of Maine’s landlocked salmon and more than 40 percent of the state’s brown trout that are stocked each year.

“As an avid angler myself, I know how much fishing means to sportsmen and women across Maine,” said Mills. “With this investment, we will improve our fish hatcheries to support our outdoor economy and to ensure that generations of fishermen to come will be able to enjoy the great outdoors and the thrill of a brook trout on a tight line.”

The $20 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds dedicated through the Governor’s Jobs Plan will be used to modernize the Grand Lake Stream and New Gloucester Fish Hatcheries, as well as water outflow at MDIFW’s six other hatcheries.

New Gloucester was built in the 1930s, and the fish are still raised in 1930’s era earthen raceways which are collapsing. Grand Lake Stream improvements include the installation of new rearing tanks that will safeguard one of the last remaining distinct landlocked salmon populations.

The initial phase of the redesign and reconstruction is underway, as IFW has contracted with HDR Engineering, Inc. of Portland to design and engineer the two facilities. Construction plans will be put out to bid by early spring, with construction starting in the summer of 2023.

“This is welcome news for anyone who fishes in Maine,” said Camuso.  “These improvements through the Governor’s Maine Jobs and Recovery plan will only enhance Maine’s reputation as a world-class fishery.”

The recreational fishing industry in Maine contributes an estimated $320 million to the state’s economy annually and supports more than 3,300 jobs, many of which are in rural Maine. More than 380,000 anglers are licensed to fish in Maine annually, and these anglers pursue a variety of fish that include our coldwater species such as brook trout, brown trout, lake trout, and landlocked Atlantic salmon.

At the core of Maine’s fisheries is Maine’s state hatchery system, which stocks over one million fish annually into Maine’s waters. Maine’s hatcheries enhance fisheries where there is not enough natural fish reproduction to support a fishery, and help sustain wild strains of brook trout, landlocked Atlantic salmon, and Arctic char. During the pandemic, outdoor activities such as fishing spiked as people flocked to the outdoors. To sustain this recreational growth and continue to grow Maine’s outdoor economy, Maine’s hatcheries need to grow as well.

The Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan is the governor’s plan, approved by the legislature, to invest nearly $1 billion in Federal American Rescue Plan funds to improve the lives of Maine people and families, help businesses, create good-paying jobs, and build an economy poised for future prosperity.

In the last year since the Jobs Plan took effect, the Mills Administration has delivered direct economic relief to nearly 1,000 Maine small businesses, supported more than 100 infrastructure projects around the state to create jobs and revitalize communities, and invested in workforce programs estimated to offer apprenticeship, career and education advancement, and job training opportunities to 22,000 Maine people.

Photo courtesy of Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

Fishing opportunities

Many are fully committed to the pursuit of white-tailed deer and other game afield. But just because November in Maine is most commonly associated with hunting, that does not mean that great fishing opportunities do not still exist. Think about it, fish do not just up and vanish only because anglers do. And with some late-season stocking efforts, a few more have added to the mix.

If one already has had success this hunting season, or look for something to do, consider breaking out the open water tackle just one more time and giving it a try. If you still feel like you are simply too late, maybe look at it this way … you are not actually late for this season, you are just getting a very early start on the next.

If you plan to head out, keep the following in mind:

• During the fall months, special regulations are in place as some fish species spawn. Be sure to consult the 2022 Open Water and Ice Fishing Laws.

• Be prepared by dressing in layers and always wear a life jacket when on the water, the water is extremely cold this time of year.

• Many hunters will be sharing the woods and waterways this time of year, so be mindful and courteous of others. Consider wearing an article of orange or bright clothing to increase visibility.

Shady Maine Forest Abandoned Trail Photo courtesy of Emily Begin/ShutterstockMaine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

Safely catch and release

If one plans to release a catch, have a plan so you can release your fish unharmed and as quickly as possible.

Always wet your hands before handling the fish and keep the fish in the water as much as possible (as little as 30 seconds of air exposure can cause delayed mortality of released trout).

If you want a photo, keep the fish in the water until ready for the shot, and remember, the memory is better than the “perfect” photo.

Watch for traps

Maine is a place for all outdoor enthusiasts, including hikers, birders, hunters, trappers, and others

If you are enjoying Maine’s outdoors, remember when it is trapping season and trappers may be using the same private or public land. Trapping provide benefits to people and wildlife populations, and trapping regulations are strictly enforced by Maine Game Wardens.

If one happens to come across a trap, remember trappers must have landowner permission to be there. Remember it is unlawful to disturb traps, disturb any wild animal caught in a trap, or harvest an animal that is caught in someone else’s trap even if you suspect illegal activity. The best course of action is to contact the landowner or a game warden.

If your dog is unleashed, there is a remote chance they may get their foot stuck in a trap. Rest assured, traps used in Maine hold an animal’s foot but are not designed to injure an animal. In fact, our biologists utilize these same traps to catch, research and release many species unharmed. The best way to prevent a dog from stepping in a trap is to follow Maine’s leash laws and keep a dog leashed.

Sunset at Mount Bigelow. Photo courtesy of B3lieve-N-Hope Photos/Shutterstock/Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

Trapping season is highly regulated and allows licensed individuals to trap abundant species such as fox, coyote, muskrat, beaver, bear, fisher, and others. Trapping helps keep populations stable and healthy, protects property and habitat, and provides biologists with valuable data to help prevent and manage disease and assess population trends.

In the unlikely event that a dog gets caught in a trap, stay calm and follow these steps:

A dog’s reaction to being caught in a foothold trap can vary from calm to frightened. Foothold traps are designed to hold an animal by the foot, and not injure the animal. Our biologists use foothold traps to catch and release wildlife species unharmed.

Stay calm and get help: If available, get a second person to assist you.

Protect yourself: Some dogs may be calm, others may be frightened and attempt to bite, especially as the trap is removed from their foot. Protect yourself by securing the dog’s muzzle using a jacket or vest, or by placing a barrier between you and the dog.

Open the trap: If possible, pull the trap chain tight from the anchor point and put the trap flat on the ground. To open the trap, push down using your hands or feet on the levers located at either end of the jaws. This will release tension on the jaws and allow you to remove the dog’s foot.

Respect the trapper, and obey the law: It is unlawful to take or destroy a trap without permission from the owner.

Prevent future incidents: Follow leash laws and keep your dog on a leash.

MaineStay Media/VillageSoup sports staff can be reached by email at sports@villagesoup.com.