Friday, December 28, 2007

The Responsibility of Being a Fishing Celebrity

Many of you have seen the fishing
"superstars" at various fishing industry trade shows haven't you? They usually have a group of people gathered around them as they tout their angling wisdom upon the unlearned masses. You can buy their latest and greatest innovations for fooling even the most stubborn salmon or trout into biting.They seldom miss a photo opportunity.
Yes these are the guys who amaze all of us mere mortals at the indoor casting ponds with their wonderous feats of casting skills.
You'll also see them on television as they hook fish after fish....truly they are fishing heroes.
So where are these guys when there are critical issues at stake and the well being of a certain species of trout or salmon hangs in the balance?
To be fair there are some that actually put their money where their mouth is. You'll see them at the heart of every worthy conservation cause and I have written about a few of them in this blog.These folks are worthy of their fame but most eschew the spotlight as much as they can.
Sadly though those who seem to make the most money and gain the most notoriety and even get enshrined in various so called conservation organization's hall of fame are noticeably absent. They are the ones who jump into the spotlight whenever possible.
We have a bunch of them right up here in the Pacific northwest. You'll rarely see them at any Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife meetings though because they are just too busy schmoozing and making money on the very resource that they claim to care so much about.
Sure they'll be front and center if it makes them more money like the infamous steelhead broodstock programs on the coastal streams but their self centered interest go only as far as the money rolls in.
I believe that these people, these superstars if you will, have a bigger responsibility than us little guys. They make money directly off of the resource. They make their money on the backs of wild fish but are woefully absent when push comes to shove and all of us do have a respondsibilty
I know that I wouldn't be able to look at myself in the mirror if I were making money on those wild resources without giving something back! Think they feel that way?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

From the bottom of my heart I wish each and every one of you a joyous Christmas and a happy New Year. Thank you all for reading my humble writings and sharing in my passion for wild fish and fly fishing.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Are You Buying Into the CCA Spiel?

I'm not! Seems like they have performed a mass hypnosis on the fishing crowds here in the Pacific Northwest. Record numbers of members signing up and for what? To get a bigger slice of the pie? To increase hatchery influence? Looks like both!
When I read who some of the major players are in the northwest CCA I know that this is a group I want no part of. The pro hatchery fish crowd is well represented among the CCA numbers. So are those who want to water down the Endangered Species Act and for what? More fish to harvest, more hatchery plants and more of the careless stewardship that has jeopardized wild salmonids in this region in the first place. Oh sure they may jump on board various conservation issues but only if it serves to produce a larger piece of the harvest pie for the apathetic and selfish.
Nope I can and will put my money and efforts into groups have a true wild fish and their habitat agenda.
This might step on some toes and if it does then sorry. I am not so vain as to think I have the power of persuasion over the masses by means of this insignificant blog. I know what I believe and am intelligent enough to research the facts. Seems like the CCA and Gary Loomis have struck a chord with the desperate crowds who want fuller freezers and more jars of eggs.
Too bad because the kind of enthusiasm that the CCA has aroused into the apathetic thousands could really be a benefit to true conservation...stay tuned folks the next year should indeed be interesting for wild fish.


I recently commented on the high price of rearing a hatchery fish. I think it's a price too high and the diminishing return that these concrete raised fish provided makes them a poor investment.
What about the cost of a wild fish? Because no real numbers are available as to their return rate it would be impossible to put a dollar and cents price on them.
Too many times in the past these fish have not been given their true worth and devalued to the point that they were deemed unimportant. After all we had this perfectly good hatchery product that should provide everything the angler should desire.

Well something happened along the way to hatchery fish utopia. It was found out that hatchery fish were very poor substitutes for the real thing,namely wild fish.
There are those who look upon wild fish, specifically wild steelhead, as little more than an egg source for their broodstock programs. One north coast guide says we are only "borrowing" wild fish in order to make a better hatchery product. They say the strip mining of the eggs and milt of wild fish is a good thing....I say hogwash.
The comment of borrowing wild steelhead is something I find particularly troubling.
The future generations of wild fish that those "borrowed" eggs would have yielded are essentially turned in hatchery fish so there is no borrowing at all. Those eggs are supposed to have been the future and their potential is gone forever. They are fin clipped and hatchery reared. They are hand fed in their concrete holding pens and released into the river system in the exact same manner as any other hatchery fish.
The value of what has been lost is irreplaceable and cannot be counted and all you have to do is the math for this fact to become real to you if you care about wild fish. Each wild steelhead that is not allowed to spawn and reproduce future generations of wild steelhead are not borrowed but stolen. Their off springs will never emerge from the gravel and defy the odds to return to their river of birth and thus continue the cycle as nature intended to for it to be. Instead they are made into just another poorly engineered facsimile to satisfy the greed of those that cannot see past their own selfishness. It's a vicious cycle we find ourselves in these days. The hatchery failures are well documented but the time to act is speeding by and after all what would you rather have? A healthy return of wild steelhead or just some bastardized man made product.
So if you are on any river in the Pacific northwest and you hook into one of these "superior" hatchery products think about what was sacrificed for that fish to be in the river to take your fly. Think about the wild fish this egg could have become and think about why you should think that the cost of a wild fish cannot be measured.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ode to a Simpler Time

I was saddened to learn that Hardy Brothers. of Alnwick England, yes that Hardy Brothers, had outsourced much of their reel making operations to places such as China. It should have come as no surprise though, as it seems like the claim of high labor costs and materials have left many fly tackle manufacturers with no other choice.....supposedly.
Slowly but surely the spectre of cheap labor and higher profits have invaded almost every aspect of this affliction called fly fishing. It's just that one would think that Hardy might be immune to the effects of the global economy but that is unrealistic wishful thinking.
Excuse me if I don't buy into the whole global economy mantra because I have been personally effected by it.
I worked during a period of time where assembling hamburgers at McDonald's did not fit into the manufacturing category that our current administration would like us to believe. Remember when the Reagan administration attempted to classify ketchup as a vegetable on school lunch menus? Yep same type of bait and switch going on today. Gotta love them republicans huh?
Perhaps I'm just feeling nostalgic and thinking back to a different time.
You know the different times I' m talking about? I miss the time when you could go to places like Sears and Montgomery Ward and buy quality fishing tackle. They had a large sporting goods section where the images of Ted Williams or Curt Gowdy would be advertising the particular type of fishing tackle they endorsed.
At one time you could walk into just about any local hardware store and purchase a bamboo rod! Now in order to get the good old "Made in the USA" label on your gear you pay a premium price and "Made in Alnwick, England" meant ever more money! I didn't mind though because I felt the extra dollars on the sticker price meant superb quality and in many cases it still does.
I am so very lucky that I can still fish unpolluted coastal streams for trout without seeing another fly fisherman all day. I can rig up my fifites vintage Wright&McGill Granger bamboo rod with my sixties vintage Hardy reel with a fly I tied myself.If I had a silk line and gut leader then I really would be in a time warp wouldn't I?
Those days are magical and I should cherish each one. I fool myself into thinking it will always be like this. I get shocked back into reality when I leave the lush green rain forests of the coast range and reluctantly return to 2007 and the Portland metro area.
You can all me old fashioned if you like but if you love an avocation the way I love fly fishing you long for those throw back days. Heck even the seventies weren't all that bad.
So now with almost all fishing tackle manufacturers going over seas in the name of profit and relaxed environmental standards I think I'll search out the old stuff. I love my older reels and bamboo rods they are seasoned and experienced like other words they are vintage or in my case aged.
It seems ironic though that the best rod making bamboo world wide comes from China and always has but some of the cheapest and lesser quality rods also come from there, go figure!
Yes there are still many quality rods and reels made here in the states and in the UK but it looks like the numbers are dwindling every day.
So I think I'll grab my vintage gear and jump into my Canadian made Ford pickup and head to the river. If you see some old nostalgic looking guy fishing and picking out wind knots then stop by and say hello.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Co$t of Hatchery Fi$h in Oregon

What does it cost to raise a hatchery salmon in the state of Oregon? Are we getting our moneys worth?
I ran across this information from the audits division of the secretary of state for Oregon.
We here in Oregon are addicted to hatchery fish and specifically hatchery salmon. The majority seem unwilling to make the tough choice for the betterment of the resource. You'll read about the simple minded solutions of some that suggest that we plant even more hatchery fish on top of recovering wild. They say "There are no true wild fish anymore"....sigh. To just minimize the viability of wild salmonids that way is hard to take isn't it?
Bear in mind that this audit was from over ten years ago so one can just imagine what inflation has done to these costs in 2007.

The estimated cost to produce a pound of salmon or trout during state fiscal years 1994-1997 varied considerably among the 13 hatcheries, ranging from $4.08 per pound at the Butte Falls hatchery to $9.09 per pound at the Clackamas hatchery.
Similarly, the audit showed considerable variation in the cost to produce an adult salmon that was reported to have been caught or to have returned to freshwater for spawning.
For an adult fall Chinook salmon, the overall cost at the hatcheries reviewed was $39Adult fall Chinook costs ranged from $14 per fish for fish produced by the Salmon River hatchery to $176 per fish for fish produced by the Rock Creek hatchery.
For an adult spring Chinook salmon, the overall cost at the hatcheries was $175. Spring Chinook costs ranged from $90 per fish for fish produced by the Cedar Creek hatchery to $254 per fish for fish produced by the McKenzie hatchery.
The overall cost for an adult Coho salmon was $97. Costs ranged from $67 per fish for fish produced by the North Nehalem hatchery to $530 per fish for fish produced by the Bandon hatchery.
Department management noted that ocean conditions were particularly poor during our audit period, resulting in very low salmon survival rates. Management also stated that fishing restrictions in place during this period resulted in lower catch rates. While the figures we report here may not be representative of current conditions, they do provide a means for making relative comparisons between hatcheries and the types of salmon they produce.

So taking into account the proven fact of the all around inferiority of the hatchery raised product we see in our rivers one must wonder if perhaps a portion of that money could have been spent on wild fish and habitat restoration.
I know if I had a choice as to where my contribution was spent it would be a no brainer for me.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Time to Put Up or Shut Up!

Almost no one complains more about the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife than I do. I take exception to their marginalization of native salmonids like coastal cutthroat trout, wild winter steelhead and various wild salmon species. They seem to be more interested in selling licenses than actually living up to their mission of good stewardship of our native fish.
It's extremely easy to sit back and second guess all that I believe they do incorrectly. It's easy to be an armchair quarterback and believe me there are plenty who do this.
Laziness and complacency are epidemics among the sports fishing crowds here in this region. We complain the loudest but do the least and then cry like newborn babies when things don't go our way or the ODFW does something we don't like.

Well guess what? The opportunity to actually have our collective voices heard is available. ODFW is seeking public input for fishing regulation changes for the 2009 season. This input is available to the public every four years and if you don't think that you can make a difference then guess again. In 2004 ODFW staff proposed a harvest season for coastal cutthroat trout and scheduled public meetings to give concerned sports anglers a chance to speak out in support or opposition to this proposal. Those of us that opposed this horrendous proposal showed up in Tillamook to let our feeling be known and it made a difference! To this date coastal cutthroat trout on the north coast remain protected with catch and release angling only.
I've been assured by ODFW officials that this stupid proposal will be revisited this next year that will affect the 2009 season.
Now before you say that you cannot attend these public meetings and think you have gotten yourself from actually doing something here is your chance to continue to be able to sit on your lazy ass but still contribute.

You can submit your proposals for regulations changes in writing.The 2009 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulation Development packets are available to the public at local ODFW offices, the headquarters office in Salem, or online at the link below

ODFW Website

Pretty simple huh? You can make a difference! Don't vicariously live your conservation strategies and ideas through me or anyone else! Get involved...please! If you can show up at public meeting that would be great but if you cannot and are willing to invest the price of a postage stamp on wild fish and reasonable managment in the years ahead then please help out. The future of wild fish in the state of Oregon depend upon it.
Don't live in Oregon but buy a license and fish here? Your input is also welcome.
I will be writing more on this in the next few weeks and months and share with those of you who care what I would like to see changed in the future.