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.