Vermont Fish and Wildlife officials are wading into the controversy over the future of public access at Berlin Pond.
With bass season set to open on Saturday, Commissioner Patrick Berry announced this week that fishing at the pond will be allowed for the first time in more than a century, but it will be catch and release only.
The Vermont Supreme Court ruled last month that the city of Montpelier does not have the authority to limit access to its drinking water supply. Since the decision, fishermen have flocked to the area for the good fishing.
Berry says now that the cat's out of the bag, it's the state responsibility to protect the area.
"There are studies from all over the country where fisheries have been left alone basically from angling pressure for a couple of years and when it's opened up under an existing regulation, and there hasn't been pressure, the fish are very naive and they can be wiped out pretty quickly if folks are keeping five bass a day, which is what the standard regulation is," Berry said.
Berry says the department is also eager to work with Berlin to develop future fishing and boat access to protect the area.
Montpelier officials still oppose any public access at the pond. They say they are still weighing their options-- whether to ask the Legislature or the water resources panel to take action. Meanwhile, they plan on enforcing no-trespassing regulations on city-owned land that surrounds most of the pond.
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