Every once in a while, an article strikes a chord with readers that you did not anticipate. My recent piece on redfin pickerel was one of those times. As a result, I felt a follow-up was warranted to answer some of the questions I posed.
A Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife database shows just one population of redfin pickerel in Maine, but a blog entry states that there are two. This is due to the fact that the database in question is limited to lakes and ponds only, and the second population is found in a stream.
According to DIF&W, the species code for grass pickerel — GKL — is a placeholder, as there are no known populations in Maine. As for inconsistencies in the common and scientific names from one media to another, most occurrences refer to the species correctly, and those that don’t are limited to a dataset rarely viewed by the public.
There are potential legal ramifications for anglers with redfin pickerel. While there are no restrictions for harvesting in the DIF&W rule book, there is protection from “take” under the Maine Endangered Species Act. Failing to adhere to these rules could result in criminal charges and a fine:
§12808. Unauthorized activities regarding endangered or threatened species.
For the purposes of this section and section 12808‑A, “to take,” “take” and “taking” mean the act or omission that results in the death of any endangered or threatened species. [PL 2015, c. 423, §1 (AMD).]
1. Prohibited acts regarding endangered or threatened species; negligence. Except as provided in section 12808‑A, a person may not negligently:
B. Hunt, take, trap, harass or possess any endangered or threatened species within the State. A person who violates this paragraph commits a Class E crime, for which a fine of $1,000 must be adjudged, none of which may be suspended; [PL 2019, c. 267, §1 (AMD).]
The law for the taking of state-level endangered species in Maine is pretty clear. If you harvest, possess or harass an endangered redfin pickerel, you are subject to a $1,000 fine that may not be suspended. And according to another webpage, Class E crimes also carry a maximum penalty of up to 180 days in jail.
Although there is nothing in the rule book that tells anglers not to harvest redfin pickerel, nor any signs saying where they can be found, the status of redfin pickerel as endangered at the state level is readily available online, as are the rules pertaining to the “take” or “possess.”
The only thing I can find that would override the law pertaining to the taking of a state level endangered species is a, “Widespread activity; incidental take plan” or “Broad activity exemption.” However, per DIF&W, there is none.
“I am unaware of any incidental take plans developed for redfin pickerel under [the Maine Endangered Species Act],” said DIF&W Director of Fisheries and Hatcheries Francis Brautigam.
This leaves little room for interpretation or leniency on the part of law enforcement and courts, and anyone caught with a redfin pickerel would be at risk of repercussions.
While redfin pickerel have no protection from angling in the fishing regulations, there also is no open hunting season on spruce grouse (a state-level Tier 3 Species of Greatest Conservation Need), cottontail rabbit (a state-level threatened species) and Canada lynx (a federal-level threatened species). Why are redfin pickerel not afforded the same level of protection?
This is another example of how fish are treated differently than wildlife in Maine. The state has refused to list federally endangered Atlantic salmon at the state level, even though other federally listed species are also listed by the state under both the Maine Endangered Species Act and Maine Marine Endangered Species Act.
Another example of where fish are treated differently than wildlife in Maine is wanton waste. While there is a law against the deliberate waste of birds and other wildlife, it does not apply to fish which can be, and often are, thrown onto the shore or ice rather than consumed, skinned or otherwise used:
1. Prohibition. A person may not waste a wild bird or wild animal that has been wounded or killed by that person while hunting. For purposes of this section, “waste” means to intentionally leave a wounded or killed animal in the field or forest without making a reasonable effort to retrieve and render it for consumption or use. This subsection does not apply to coyote.
While DIF&W did the right thing by listing redfin pickerel as endangered under the Maine Endangered Species Act, it didn’t address angling. The best thing to do would be to impose fishing regulations that protect redfin pickerel from harvest, develop an incidental take plan or exemption to protect anglers from accidental take, and post informational signs where redfin pickerel can be found to let folks know what is expected of them.
The situation with redfin pickerel is a symptom of a much bigger problem, and that is the state’s reluctance to embrace fish as being as important as other forms of wildlife and manage them accordingly.