30 Derbys in a row: This weekend's salmon fishing tourney will be last for retiring Fish & Game biologist Don Miller

SANBORNTON — New Hampshire Fish and Game fisheries biologist Don Miller recalls growing up on the shores of Lake Winnisquam ''walking around with a fishing pole in my hand'' and knew from an early age what he wanted in life would involve the outdoors and fishing.
Miller grew up in Manchester, where he graduated from Memorial High School, but says that all of his fondest childhood memories were of Lake Winnisquam, where spent summers at his family's camp, which was built in 1962.
One day when he was eight or nine years old he found a dead landlocked salmon on the beach and noticed that it was tagged. He retrieved the tag and sent it to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department and received a latter from Dick Seamans, who was in charge of the fisheries division, thanking him.
Some 15 years later it was Seamans who gave him a job with the department.
He recalls that while he was growing up Winnisquam was a legendary fishing lake. ''It was a tremendous fishery. There were salmon and lake trout and and it was the best lake in the state for smelting.'
But all that changed in the mid 1960s when the phosphorus rich sewage from the city of Laconia's sewer treatment plant created large algae blooms, including toxic blue-green algae, which the state treated with copper sulfate, resulting in massive fish kills.
''It was a complete eco system failure. The white perch took over and it was a sad situation. We'll never have the smelt population we used to have and without that the game fish will never be as large or as plentiful as they were then,'' says Miller.
After graduating from the University of New Hampshire Miller started work with Fish and Game in 1976 and was at the New Hampton Fish Hatchery for four years and then a marine biologist on the seacoast for five years before being assigned to the department's Division II headquarters in New Hampton.
He says that for the last 30 years he's been at the Winni Derby, which this year marks its 33rd year this weekend, and has kept a close eye on the health of the landlocked salmon which are landed during the fishing tournament. He says that the derby was started by the late Rick Davis with the goal of reducing what was then an excess of small salmon with an eye to a smaller but healthier salmon population.
As the department's Large Lakes biologist, Miller is in constant touch with all aspects of inland fisheries and says that the state's salmon stocking program has a goal of providing better quality salmon, a difficult task for a non-native species which does not spawn at a high enough rate to be self-sustaining.
''We've had some good success but, just as the size of the salmon being landed went up, the pressure on the lake increased,'' he says, noting that Davis decided several years ago to cancel the derby for a year after seeing for himself the health of the salmon netted during a fall survey, many of which were smaller and had hook wounds from having been caught and then released.
He says that the state has had good success with its rainbow trout stocking program, which is producing four and five pound catches. And the brook trout stocking program continues to produce good results, although many of the fish are landed early in the season, when water temperatures are cooler.
He says that bass fishing has gained popularity in recent years and that the warm-water species makes for good fishing during the summer months, when water temperatures reach the mid 70s at the surface and salmon and lake trout move down to the lower and colder water levels.
Miller says the long-range trend for fishing in New Hampshire tends to look better for warm water fish, like bass, which can produce a self-sustaining population.
He will be retiring on the last day of June, after nearly 40 years with the department, and says that he's going to miss seeing all the people he's met over the years, but won't miss having to go to work when the elements are bad.
''I've got two years worth of work to do around his house,'' says Miller, who adds that he's looking forward to being able to fish and hunt when he wants to and plans an active retirement which will keep him outdoors as much as possible.

Captions Miller 1,2

Fish and Game biologists Don Miller and John Viar collect salmon eggs and milt for the state's salmon stocking program. (Courtesy photo)

Fish and Game biologist Don Miller holds a 9 pound male landlocked salmon. (Courtesy photo)

Gilford will look at discontinuing maintenance of 4 'driveways'

GILFORD — Town Administrator Scott Dunn recommended to selectmen Wednesday night that they begin the process of declaring five roads in the town that are currently Class V and town maintained into Class VI roads that the town won't maintain.

Dunn said the five, Emerson Road, Wood Road, a portion of Pinecrest Drive, Foxborough Drive, and a portion of Woodland Avenue are actually driveways that lead to one or two homes at the most.

"When you drive (on one of these) roads, it's really a driveway," Dunn said.

Public Works Director Peter Nourse said his opinion mirrors Dunn's. He said each of the roads has it's own individual history but the town does spend money maintaining and plowing them.

He said they can be difficult to plow because of turn-around problems. One of them is paved and he said the town also maintains the pavement.

Nourse said that a renter got stuck at night on one of them and called the police, who in turn toned out the Public Works Department for assistance.

"It seems kind of crazy for the town to maintain driveways," said Selectman Chan Eddy.

"Yeah, there problematic and subject to maintenance problems," said Selectman Richard Grenier but said he was still "inclined to keep maintaining them".

Selectman's Chair Gus Benevides said he felt the selectmen should look at each road individually before giving Dunn the go-ahead to begin the often lengthy process of changing their classification.

Dunn noted that most of the roads are old and at one point in time led to somewhere else.

Typically, there are four ways a town road is created: the town builds it on its own, builds it as part of a municipal plan, or a deed holder dedicates the road to the town and the town accepts it. For a town to accept a road it typically must be up to town engineering standards.

The fourth way is governed by a state law that says a road must have been used without the permission (prescriptively) of the landowner for 20 years prior to 1968 (from 1948) to be considered public.

A Belmont land technician who went through the same process noted at the time that prescriptive uses rarely if ever appear on deeds and are often very difficult to determine.

Should the selectmen choose to go forward with the process, Dunn or his designated agent will have to research each road individually to determine it doesn't meet the 1948 standard.

Selectmen have scheduled a walk of all five roads at 5 p.m. on May 27. It will be posted as part of the selectman's regular meeting on the same date.

Survey finds support for more of the 'right' kind of commercial development in Sanbornton

SANBORNTON — A recent effort to get opinions from townspeople about economic development activity indicates significant support for more commercial development, the Planning Board is reporting.

In a statement released Thursday, the board said a questionnaire handed out to local voters at this past March's Town Meeting showed, "Sanbornton residents favor allowing more commercial development in town, on a selective basis, which is compatible with Sanbornton's small-town rural character."

Bob Ward, Sanbornton town planner and zoning administrator, said that 92 residents responded to the so-called Community Development Survey, too few for the results to be considered a statistically accurate measure of public opinion.

Those who responded supported commercial development by a 4-to-1 margin "as long as local land-use controls were effectively applied, as long as the commercial development was rural in character and as long as the appropriate location was proposed." They felt commercial development, including light industry, would help the town's property tax base. However, the respondents were strongly opposed to allowing heavy industry or big-box shopping centers in town.

Ward said the latest questionnaire showed a significant shift in opinion compared to 2008 when a mail survey was conducted. At that time survey results showed townspeople were basically neutral toward the idea of having light industry in town. On a 5-point scale, with 5.0 being the highest favorability score, light industry received a score of 2.92.

"At that time the economy was still pretty strong, and property values were still rising," said Ward. "Many are now worried, and that changes economic perspectives. What really stands out now there is a strong preference for light industry that wasn't there in 2008."

The only type of commercial development that received stronger support in the latest poll was resorts, Ward noted.

The board is planning to hold a public information session to discuss economic development sometime in June. At that time the board also plans to give detailed and tabulated results from the questionnaire. The board is expected to set a date for that information session when it meets next Thursday, Ward said.

Ward said town officials are putting economic development on a "fast track".

He said that selectmen have appointed an economic development advisory council. He said the hope is the 17-member group will come up with short- and medium-term proposals for economic development along with recommendations for funding.

Ward noted that another focus of the questionnaire — senior housing — showed strong support for development of senior housing for older Sanbornton residents, again as long as those developments were small scale and appropriately located.

But Ward noted making progress in the area of economic development was stronger priority than senior housing at this time.

"Towns can do a lot to encourage economic development," Ward explained. "But as far as senior housing is concerned that is not in the authority of small towns (to carry out). You won't see the town taking direct action to create senior housing. But towns like Sanbornton can take action to create and promote a good business climate." 

The questionnaire also showed significant support for other types of businesses such as hospitality-type businesses such as resorts, country inns, bed and breakfasts, restaurants and retail shops.

Many also said the town should encourage agriculture and agriculturally-based businesses. Likewise, forestry and wood products-based businesses were both broadly supported.

The detailed, tabulated results of the questionnaire will be reviewed and distributed at a June public information meeting and will be available in hard copy form at the town office following the public information meeting.