AUGUSTA, Maine -- After receiving many complaints from the public regarding the illegal taking of smelts on Wassookeag Lake in Dexter, the Maine Warden Service focused patrol, enforcement and investigation activities on this issue, and this winter apprehended a number of individuals violating state inland fisheries laws pertaining to the taking and selling of smelts.
Recreational fisherman and commercial fishermen can catch up to 2 quarts of smelt daily on Lake Wassookeag . Bait dealers, the commercial fishermen who sell their catch, must have a smelt wholesaler's license to catch, sell, and buy smelts. Many of the complaints from the public alleged that some bait dealers had been buying smelts from fishermen with only a regular fishing license and were, therefore not legally permitted to sell smelts.
Smelts are an important recreational sport fish and are vital as forage to many highly desirable sport fish such as salmon and trout. In fact, the vitality of landlocked salmon populations in a waterbody is directly related to the abundance of smelt. If the smelt population crashes, so will the salmon population. Smelt also are prized by recreational anglers and commercial bait dealers. Smelts are prioritized by the department first as a forage fish for salmon and trout, then as a recreational fishery if it will not impact salmon and trout populations, and finally as a bait fish for commercial dealers.
The Game Wardens investigation revealed that there were several individuals that deal in smelts commercially, and they were buying smelts illegally from unlicensed fishermen. Charges were decided after consultation with the Penobscot County District Attorney's Office.
Those summonsed to date and scheduled to appear in Maine District Court at Newport on April 7th are:
* Wilfrod Daggett, Jr. 9-13-78, of New Vineyard, Maine. 1 count Illegal Angling.