Simplifying Trout Regulations: Is It Enough?
By V. Paul Reynolds

Almost a decade ago ,when I worked for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIF&W), we surveyed former Maine anglers who had failed to renew their fishing licenses for two consecutive years. We wanted to know why these fishermen just weren't fishing anymore. Of course, the reasons were many but one stood out: "Fishing laws too confusing and complicated."

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It makes sense when you think about it. Many of us fish to get away from it all. Fishing can be a respite from modernity, a chance to escape the ever-increasing ambiguities and complexities of modern society. Who wants to spend 20 minutes trying to puzzle through a regulatory maze before wetting a line?

The old joke that you need to bring a lawyer and an accountant in your tackle box isn't so far off the mark.

My son and I a few weeks ago spent three days on our annual trout- pond binge. Fishing four of five ponds a day, we leapfrogged around from trout pond to trout pond. He drove the truck and I navigated with the DeLorme. En route to the unexplored pond, I also waded through the fishing lawbook. Each pond, it seemed, had an entirely different set of trout regs. By the end of the day, we were both suffering from "regulatory fatigue." We like to keep a fish or two for the pan. Trying to keep it all straight and remain legal was more taxing than lugging our 17 foot canoe back and forth from truck to pond and pond to truck.

Good news, though. Help may be on the way. New and more simplified trout regulations are in the wind. That's right. Pressed hard for years by the Sportsmen's Alliance of Maine (SAM) and other sporting organizations, the folks at Fish and Wildlife have finally acquiesced. A new proposal on the table would boil down the existing 22 different trout regs to just eight. Here they are, as proposed:

General Law

1. Daily Limit: 2 fish; 6" minimum
2. Daily Limit: 5 fish; 6" minimum

Quality Fishing

3. Daily Limit: 2 fish; 10" minimum; only one may exceed 12"
4. Daily Limit: 2 fish; 12" minimum; only one may exceed 14"
5. Daily Limit: 1 fish; 14" minimum

Trophy Fishing

6. Daily Limit: 1 fish; minimum 18"
7. Catch and Release


8. Daily Limit: 2 fish; all fish over 12 " must be released

These revised trout regulations are not as streamlined as SAM wanted. (It was pushing for four basic regulations, which probably would have still protected the resource adequately). But bureaucracies don't change overnight. The Department's 8-tier proposal is certainly a marked improvement over the existing, mind-numbing maze of trout fishing regulations. Fishing activist Bob Mallard, who played a pivotal role in helping the DIF&W regulators see the light, pushed hard for four categories: (1) Catch & Release (2) 1 fish-12-14" ( 3) 2 fish- 10"-12" (4) 5 fish - 6." Mallard is convinced that in time, Maine will see four or five tier state trout regulations.

Meantime, be thankful for small blessings. If these more simplified trout regulations get the green light from the Fish and Wildlife Advisory Council, most literate, law abiding trout fisherman should be able to figure out the ground rules without the benefit of professional help.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program "Maine Outdoors" heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WCME-FM 96.7) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is

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