Soft Plastics to be Banned in Maine?

A new bill authored by Representative Paul Davis of Maine proposes a ban on artificial lures made of "rubber" in state waters -- but will it apply to other soft baits, as well?



Will this soft bait manufactured by RonZ one day be banned for use in Maine waters? That's one of several questions stemming from a proposed bill currently in the 126th Maine Legislature.Mike Mazur

Just when you thought the flood of onerous, job-killing, money-wasting legislation in this country had peaked, here comes a new one aimed at anglers – a Republican state representative from Maine has introduced a bill that would prohibit artificial lures made of rubber in his state's waters.

While the term "rubber" is not clearly defined in the scant one-page bill, authored by Rep. Paul Davis, it's attracted the attention of the American Sportfishing Association, which released a statement against the legislation, claiming that its intent is clear: "to ban the soft baits that Maine anglers use every day."

"It is unclear whether it applies to saltwater," ASA's vice president Gordon Robertson tells Sport Fishing, noting the bill was introduced and applies to the jurisdiction of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and not the Maine Department of Marine Resources. "(But) the bill is intended to ban all soft baits."

The bill's language is also broad, not distinguishing which bodies of water may apply.

Maine's saltwater fishermen rely on soft baits for any number of species, most notably striped bass, the most popular saltwater game fish in the United States, and one responsible for a fair share of the $10.3 billion that saltwater fishermen contributed to the U.S. economy through their sport in 2012. This proposed legislation – if it does, in fact, seek to ban common soft plastics used in recreational fishing – would be unthinkable. And unacceptable. Especially given the fact that no explanation is offered as to why these so-called "rubber" lures should be banned.

No evidence is cited in the bill regarding problems with soft baits, and ASA claims it is not aware of any studies of wild fish being potentially harmed by the use of soft baits.

The specific wording on the bill reads only as follows: “A person may not angle or fish other than by the use of the single baited hook and line, artificial flies, artificial lures, except for artificial lures made of rubber, and spinners, except that a person may take smelts in accordance with rules adopted with regard to the taking of smelts.”

That’s it, that’s all.

My humble opinion: The only thing that “smelts” around here is this proposed bill, and until Maine officials present evidence that soft baits are somehow harmful to the environment, I’m urging anglers to fight this bill vigorously.

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