The past winter of 2011-12 was a huge disappointment to ice fishermen (and heating fuel companies) across much of Massachusetts, as our normally frigid and snowy weather was virtually non-existent. With the exception of the higher elevations of western and northern Massachusetts, there was very little snowfall, and many lakes and ponds never even froze over completely, let alone developed safe ice. However, every cloud has a silver lining, and the abnormally warm and snowless winter meant that there was no winter stress on deer, setting the stage for excellent winter deer survival and abundant fawn production last spring.
The lack of snow combined with extensive periods of above-freezing temperatures also created optimum conditions for our trout hatcheries, consequently we produced a phenomenal number of large, beautiful trout for spring stocking in 2012. Specifically, two-thirds of the 595,000 trout we stocked were larger than 12 inches, and of those, an astounding 255,000 were 14 inches or larger! Adding to the good fortunes of our trout anglers, excellent fishing conditions occurred early: March temperatures were close to those normally associated with mid-May, early insect hatches abounded, and with no heavy rains and snowmelt, there was no stream flooding. This allowed our stocking trucks to distribute the fish earlier than usual, and anglers across the state found the trout fishing excellent right from the very start. As a result, we sold about 10,000 more fishing licenses in 2012 than were sold in 2010.
The 2012 transition to a completely electronic licensing system accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, may also have contributed to the increase in fishing license sales (especially if the choice to go fishing was a spur-of-the-moment decision made on a weekend). Many sportsmen and sportswomen have told me they like the convenience of this system. The public’s embrace of it appears to be age-driven, however: our senior license buyers are less comfortable using computers than younger folks, and some miss not being able to buy a license from their traditional source at the town hall (only 22 town clerks chose to continue to issue licenses under the new system). However, as the hunting and fishing public becomes more familiar with the electronic system, I have no doubt they will become more appreciative of the convenience it provides – especially when they are able to check turkey and other game electronically (except during the shotgun deer season when we need to physically examine deer for the biological data necessary to allocate antlerless deer permits).
The electronic licensing system also enables license buyers to make a donation to the Division of Fisheries & Wildlife (DFW), and I am thankful to report that over $23,000 was donated in this manner. This is really not surprising: Sportsmen and sportswomen have been willingly taxing themselves to support fish and wildlife management since the establishment of licenses (user fees) in the early 1900s. In fact, 2012 marked the 75th Anniversary of the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, commonly referred to as the “Pittman-Robertson Act” after its chief sponsors. This legislation imposed a 10%, federally-collected excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition, with the resulting funds used solely by the states and only for the restoration and management of wildlife. Since passage of this Act in 1937, Massachusetts has received some $138+million in Federal Aid dollars from the excise taxes paid by sportsmen. These excise tax monies can be used only for the exclusive wildlife purposes stated above, and in combination with our license sales income, angler fuel tax revenue, and donations, provide all of the DFW’s operational funds.
Since the 1990 passage of the sportsmen-initiated legislation that requires the purchase of a $5.00 Wildlands Conservation Stamp when buying a fishing, hunting, or trapping license, the amount of Division-owned Wildlife Management lands has increased from less than 50,000 acres to just about 200,000 acres. This incredible success has been achieved by pooling Wildlands Conservation Stamp monies with Open Space bond monies administered through the Department. The protection of open space has been one of the priorities of the Fisheries and Wildlife Board, Governor Patrick, Secretary Sullivan and Commissioner Griffin. In the six years of the Patrick Administration, over 100,000 acres have been protected (31,000 DFG/DFW, 20,000 DCR, 8,000 Dept. of Agricultural Resources, and 40,000 municipal/land trusts). This investment in open space reflects the strong support of the public and the proactive leadership of the sporting/conservation/environmental community in effectively advocating for investing in public land protection.
There are very few changes in the fishing and hunting regulations for this year. These are as follows:
Also please note that the Westborough Field Headquarters staff has temporarily moved to 100 Hartwell Street, West Boylston. The Westborough building is being replaced by a new state-of-the art energy-neutral building. We expect to be in the new building back in Westborough in the fall of 2014.
As always it is important to reiterate that it is the goal of the Fisheries and Wildlife Board to make the most efficient use of the funds that you, the sportsmen, provide to the Division through your donations and license purchases. The excellent state of our fish and wildlife resources is directly attributable to the willingness of our license buyers to shoulder the costs of our wildlife conservation programs. We are ever mindful of this and thank you for your continuing support.
Wayne F. MacCallum, Director
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.