Thursday, June 18, 2009

Where's The Fish?

Here I sit early in the AM in anticipation of another fishing trip to the north coast in pursuit of coastal cutthroat trout.
You may remember my lamentations about my previous two unsuccessful fishing trips. My expectations for tomorrow are low.
When we fought the battle to prevent the harvest of cutthroat trout ODFW fish biologist Robert Bradley made claims about how numerous these trout were and how their populations could sustain a limited harvest of two fish a day with an eight inch minimum.
One Oregon Clam Diggers Association, who lobbied heavily for the proposal, member invited me to come with him and see this huge bio-mass of trout that were in the coastal rivers. We heard all about the trout killing heritage these folks wanted to pass down to their grandchildren. We heard from Tillamook Anglers about the ravenous cutthroat trout that devoured huge numbers of salmon and steelhead smolt.
So in 2009 we have this new regulation that allows this harvest. All the pieces were supposedly in place to bring back angler interest on the backs of these wild trout. ODFW's claim of increased angling opportunities and the chance to let juvenile anglers kill their catch because after all that is what will get them excited about fishing in Oregon and buy fishing licenses.
Well guess what friends? The cutthroat trout are safe! Why? Because they aren't there! As Clara Pell, of the old Burger King commercial, would ask "Where's the beef?" I'm asking where's the fish?

I know where to go to find these fish and I have not found them and neither have others. I've found large numbers of hatchery smolt who seem to inhabit the various pools and riffles that in years past held cutthroat trout but I've found no cutthroat trout in these places.
The early season is usually not prime time to fly fish for cutts but if you know where they are you can hook a few before the water gets too warm. That has no happened this year.
I saw the numbers decline and so did a lot of other people but ODFW, desperate to sell tags and licenses, basically cooked the books to convince the commission that this kill fishery was a good idea.
Did they lie? I won't go that far but I will say the population estimates were misleading and exaggerated at best and misrepresented deliberately in order to get this harvest approved. I also think a bit of it was payback against the conservation organizations and various individuals that have made ODFW look foolish over the years.
My last trip out I got the chance to vent to a young ODFW fish checker who made the mistake of asking me how fishing was. I told her that the harvest of these trout was a horrible idea from a state agency who has had it's share of bad ideas over the last 20 years.
I assured her that I did not blame her but she still got an earful.
So this pot of gold at the end of the angling rainbow that was dangled like a carrot in front of the nose of the imaginary angling hordes has not happened. Where are the cutthroat trout? Where are the happy kids with their stringer laden with their prized catch of two dinky fish?
Maybe the public wasn't clamoring to kill a few trout after all and that is why the coastal rivers are deserted and maybe, hopefully someone is paying attention to what ODFW is doing with our cold water fisheries!


  1. Shane ,
    id like to know what more people can do to change things at ODFW. Can we write our congrees person ? It seems that ODFW has scoffed its nose at the fishermen .We are just voices in there ears .I for one am sick of state agencies taking advantage of us and the fish .Come up with a plan that people can read and see !
    The native fish society ,kinda made me sick when i met them at the spey clave .It was we have a free T shirt if you join for fifty bucks ! That is a bit high for the price of things not happening ! I mean atleast they could talk about the problems .Not just say hey you got fifty bucks !If you want to get something out there you have to have an angel .Not just say hey fifty bucks gets you a free T shirt .Any way enough of my complaining .
    Sincerly Mike nutto

  2. Thanks for the comments Mike. Actually the $50 to join Native Fish Society is money well spent!
    There is no group out there that does as much for wild fish as NFS.
    ODFW is in the "in your face" mode these days.
    They are pretty much doing anything they want and thumbing their nose at anyone who disagrees.
    I would really think about paying the $50 and joining NFS.