Wednesday, December 30, 2015

When Winter Did Not Matter

Remember that old Janis Ian song "In the Winter" ?
One of the lines is  "and in the winter extra blankets for the cold, fix the heater getting old"  That song is playing in my head these days.
Although it's not quite winter yet here in Oregon it certainly feels like it outside. Night time temperatures are down in the higher 20's and the day time temperature doesn't get much above freezing. So as I wait out this cold and rainless weather my lack of piscatorial activity give me a lot of time to reflect on my angling life.
When I was in my 20's this weather was little more than a minor inconvenience. Yes I had to deal with iced up guides on my rod and maybe wear an extra layer of clothing but so what? Dude this was winter steelhead season we are talking about and there's is no way a little cold was going to stop me.
Back in the day before breathable waders we wore whatever cheap chest high waders were on sale. There was almost no flexibility in those old Red Ball rubber shrouds but I was about 75 pounds lighter and 35 years younger and, like I said before, it just didn't matter. Cleated soles for traction? How about felt soles? Nope! It was rubber to rock and you hoped for the best. I lost a brand new fly rod on the Washougal river one year after falling in the river one winter and my friend that was with me that day in 1976 still reminds of it every time he sees me. Those old rubber chest highs fill with water pretty fast let me tell you. It's because of that "spill" that I am a super cautious wader today.I will even pass up to the promising looking water because I am not comfortable with the wade I needed to make to get to that water.
Back then I never even used a rain coat, most of the time, while winter steelheading and also got drenched, most of the time, coming home looking like I went swimming instead of fishing. It was fun though and I have a wealth of memories from the days when winter didn't matter.
Today...well it's a whole different story. These old bones need some warmth and although I have a rain coat at the ready I still rather not deal with any rainfall that is little more than a mist.
The desire to get up at 4:30 AM with a chance of marginal water conditions (no internet back then remember) is long gone because I finally realized that in the winter the steelhead are just as apt to bite at 10am as they are at 6am.
Since it's no longer necessary to be the first one on the river in order to get the choice spot I get a few hours more sleep these days.
I feel I enjoy my fishing more these days without the need to be hard core about it.
Although I take a more laid back approach to my fishing I still feel nostalgic for those old days of trips to the Grays river in Washington or the walk up to the pipeline hole on the Sandy to fish along side of my 50 closest exaggeration either!
It was fun laughing in winter's face back then but in the end winter won as it always will inevitably.
The drive back over the coastal range is always enjoyable for me. I have seen more elk this fall and winter than in prior years. The smell of rotting salmon carcasses greet my nose along the river bank and while it is not exactly Chanel No.5 it is a good sign that these noble fish reached their spawning grounds and accomplished their purpose, insuring the future of the species.
I do not enjoy the winter season like I once did but I try to make the best of it remembering that there can be no spring without winter and in my 62 years spring has never failed to arrive.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Internet Makes Many Mighty...

From the blog Chucking Line and Chasing Tail

No Bait.  No Barbs.  No Kill

And a little bit of in river refuge for the fish.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, based on the North Coast Steelhead Advisory Council recommendations,  adopted 4 common sense rule changes for the rivers on the Olympic Peninsula 

These changes had to happen.  Years and years of missed escapement on the majority of the rivers on the North Washington Coast and having to deal with co-managers who are netting the runs to death, anglers had to take a leadership position to lessen impact on the ever dwindling resource.

To some, you would thought the sky had fallen.  Fish recovery is such a political quagmire, but the devolution of discourse on the internet....especially on the side of the street that oppose these changes is down right nuts.  NUTS.

The examples of internet tough guy syndrome came in hard and fast

"All the catch and release guy's kill a ton of fish. I'm still going to kill every "wild steelhead" I can. Leave our hatchery fish alone"

"Even with a ton of opposition the commission does whatever the fly fags tell them too because they are getting the golden handshake somewhere along the line and the only way the commission is ever going to listen to the common man or average sport fisherman is for all of is to stop buying licenses and fish elsewhere just for one year......if 300,000 of did not buy a license in 2016 because of the arrogant , elitist rules they are adopting I fucking guarantee you we would get a few spots at the table and this shit would be over turned.......lets band together and just say no to buying a license in 2016 until they quit fucking us and give is spot at the table........fuck Miranda Wecker and the rest of her elitist posse.."

"Screw the wild fish and make a lot of hatchery fish for us to kill. Most of the wild fish comes from stray hatchery fish and are interbred. The tribes don't care either so why should we. Everybody is afraid of endangered species. Last time I checked there was lots of species extinct and guess what, the world did not end! Get overy it!"

Then you have this article.  Lots of LOLz in that one.
Reminds me a lot of a South Park episode, except change jobs to fish.
Lets think about it a second.   
You make no changes, stay the status quo.  Runs continue to decrease and  it stays the ONLY place in the state of Washington, and about the only place in the damn world you can keep a wild fish.  
100% of a run are caught at least once.  ZERO inter river refuge for the fish.  
Folks, the Endangered Species act is knocking at the door.  Once that comes in, we as a state and as sportsmen have NO control.  
Yes, the 800 LB gorilla in this situation is the relentless netting by the tribes that have rights on these rivers.  The Bolt Decision means we have to co-manage the fishery.    Big changes are needed in their approach to the fish runs because they wont sustain in the future with bank to bank gill nets.
Also, a few popular myths to dispel.
There is no fly fishing vs gear fishing agenda.  Absolute red herring
These rules are meant to take opportunity away from gear fisherman.  
The "agenda" is pushed by some secret illuminati of rich, old white fly fishing only men and women.  Nope, the proposals where submitted by the North Coast Steelhead Advisory Council which was made up of guides, sports, fly and gear fisherman.

As a matter of fact....when WDFW held public comments in Olympia back in November, people who spoke in favor of these changes were there in mass, out numbering the nay's 4-1
Control what you can control.  Make the changes necessary to enhance the resource and lets do what we can to bring the co-managing tribes to the bargaining table.
And when you feel like bitching on the internet.  Go ahead, it does nothing to help.  Get involved, now.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Misconceptions, Myths and Out Right Bullshit

We've all read these myths through the years on the internet and although they have been debunked these fantasies still crop up from time to time from the pro-hatchery and simple minded crowd.

Like anything else once a rumor gets started it is hard to make people realize that they are buying into false information. Just look at all the people who believe FOX News

Anyway here are just a few examples of the popular myths surrounding wild salmonids.

Wild fish conservation groups want to end fishing 

This is the most common myth and is not true of course! We want reasonable and competent management of our wild salmonids by state agencies who are entrusted to be wise stewards of this resource. If we ever advocate for closure of any angling then you can bet it is for some very sound reasons.

Catch and release kill as many fish as does the use of bait:

Recent studies have measured the effects of various tackle and fishing techniques on fish mortality and offer insights for optimization of the protective aspects of catch and release fishing programs. The study data suggests that with the application of specific tackle types and selected fishing and handling techniques, the success of catch and release programs can be significantly improved. Recent data links the causes of catch and release angling mortality to all types of gear and techniques that increase the chances of 'deep-hooking' and elevated physiological stress. It is shown here that if a selection of fishery specific, mortality reducing techniques are applied, via angler education and fishing regulations, the conservation benefits of catch and release fishing can be optimized.

It's okay for hatchery fish and wild fish to spawn together:

Ian Fleming and Erik Peterson evaluated the reproductive success of hatchery and wild salmon in nature

and found that the hatchery fish productivity was less than that for wild salmon. The reasons for this
reduced productivity were stated as: “Hatchery adults appear to show reduced expressions of morphological characters important during breeding, such as secondary sexual characters (color, kype). Such reduced expressions of secondary  sexual characters can have negative consequences for natural breeding success.”

”For hatchery females in competition with wild females, indicators of inferior competitive ability include  delays in the onset of breeding, fewer nests, and greater retention of eggs. Ultimately, the breeding success of hatchery fish is frequently inferior to that of wild females.”

”The breeding behavior of males appears more strongly affected by hatchery rearing than that of females, reflecting the greater intensity of selection on male competitive ability during this period. Hatchery males tend to be less aggressive and less active courting females and ultimately achieve fewer spawnings than wild males. Hatchery males suffer more from inferior breeding performance than hatchery females. This pattern also appears to carry over into the wild, where gene flow between cultured and wild salmonids is sex based…”
“The most common form of release program is aimed at the supplementation of wild populations, i.e. the intentional integration of hatchery and natural production, with the goal of improving the status of an existing natural population. Such integration, however, entails significant ecological and genetic risks to the wild population.”
“…Despite large-scale releases…the supplementation programs must be deemed failures. In none of the studies reporting significant introgression, is there information on whether the release program resulted in improved natural production of the population.”
Simply put...Mixed Spawners Means Lower Natural Productivity:

Hatchery steelhead do not stray in large numbers

This myth has made the rounds among the professional gear/bait guides on the north coast of Oregon. They spread this myth around as justification for hatchery programs.

They do indeed stray and at a percentage of 4-26% making an 11% average according to American Fisheries Society

The "Hood River Study" proves that broodstock hatchery steelhead are no different than wild steelhead

In 1994 the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and tribes began to evaluate the reproductive success  of native broodstock and compared them to the wild fish they were derived from. Kathryn Kostow evaluated the data collected on wild, native broodstock, and old hatchery stock to determine whether there is a life history and behavior difference between them. Kostow found “…large phenotypic responses by fish from the same parent gene pool to the differences between the captive and natural environments are consistent with the process of domestication.”
As I've always said "Once a hatchery fish, always a hatchery fish. You raise it in a cement enclosure with thousands of other smolt and hand feed it daily then it becomes what Ms. Kostow calls domesticated.

There are no true wild runs of steelhead anymore

This is a very popular notion among the bait crowd. They use it to fool themselves into thinking that killing wild salmonids is okay because after all the runs are not pure anymore. Certainly there has been a dilution of the genetics of wild salmonids, especially steelhead but there are populations of "pure" steelhead left. Take the Salmonberry river in Oregon. ODFW says that the wild winter steelhead are perhaps the most important wild populations in the state because of their clean genetics. The  Oregon coastal winter runs of wild steelhead, while dwindling, still contain pure wild fish.

Holding wild fish out of the water for pictures is okay

Holding fish up for a photo can cause internal damage to that fishes' internal organs if not done right. So next time you just have to get you ego stroked think about what possible damage you may be  doing and keep the fish in the water. Yes we are all sufficiently impressed with your ability to floss wild and dark coho but how about keeping them in the water.

There are a lot of other myths but these seem to be the major ones that are making the rounds on the internet. Always check the facts before buying into any bullshit from people who make their livings on the backs of native and wild fish. They have no soul and could not care less about the fate of wild salmon, steelhead and trout.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Fishing Primer

In my on going effort to educate the fishing public to the "World According To Me" I thought a new dictionary of fishing jargon would be in order. Now mind you these terms and their definition are mostly from the boat and river bank of my forty plus years of fishing the rivers and lakes of the Pacific Northwest but a few are originals.
So with out any further delay here we go!

Dough ball - Fairly common term used to describe unlearned or dumb anglers.

Boat Whore - A fisherman who will do just about anything to secure an open seat on a boat during salmon and steelhead season

Pellet Head - A hatchery reared trout. Easy to catch and awful to eat.

Corkie Bite - Description of the action of a snagger who plunks his corkie and giant hook in the middle of a coastal salmon hole waiting for a salmon to bump into it so he can foul hook it.

Egg Whore - A bait angler that will do anything to secure fresh salmon roe. Fresh salmon roe in Tillamook county is almost as good as cash

Side Drifter, Boon Dogger or Bobber Dogger - An unskilled angler who doesn't have the courtesy, ethics or intelligence to reel up his gear while floating through the hole you are fishing.

Gut Slinger - Egg  fisherman  

Low Holer - Similar to a side drifter except this angler plants himself just below you in a hole. Sometimes your fishing partner will do this. 

Dope on a Rope - Boat angler who anchors up in a river and watches his rod tip all day.

 Limp Wristed, fly chucking, faggot  - a term of endearment used by gut slingers and low holers to describe fly anglers. Been called this a few times myself but never to my face.....funny how that works.

Hatchery Truck Chaser - A fairly unskilled fly fisherman who follows the hatchery truck that is dumping pellet heads into a lake.

Arm chair fish biologist - Talks a lot of crap, using big words and offering ignorant solutions to our fisheries problem but is unwilling to commit any time to solving them.

Redd Stompers - Carelessly wading on top of salmon redds thus destroying them.Mostly fly fishermen do this during chum salmon season on the North Oregon coast.

Hero Shot - Pictures taken of every single fish an angler catches to show just how truly magnificent he/she truly is.

"Shitting" in Your Own Back Yard - Taking new people to productive fishing spots that not many people know about.

Please feel free to add to this list....tight lines everyone!

Friday, August 14, 2015

ODFW At It Again

Metolius and Deschutes Wild Trout in Peril

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife does not give a shit about wild fish. With a regime change at ODFW they are working to "simplify" the fishing regs. What does this mean? It means marginalizing wild trout on the Metolius and Deschutes to make it easier for anglers.
What it means is an end to slot limits of native redsides on the Deschutes and wild rainbows on the Metolius.
The Metolius is a special place and a special fishery. Pristine waters and spawning areas will now be opened to angling. Redds will be walked over by careless anglers.
On the Deschutes the slot limited will be eliminated and anything over eight inches will be harvestable.
ODFW is a state bureaucracy that has continually spent itself into the red for as far back as I can remember and the ever present mantra of "angler opportunities" has run amuck.
Increases in tags and license fees apparently isn't enough to sate this agency and get them out of the red ink.
Friends please don't sit idly by and let this happen.

Contact ODFW   -  

Tell them that you think wild trout are pretty important.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Stay Home!

SALEM, Ore. – The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has curtailed fishing hours on most of Oregon’s rivers to avoid additional stress on native fish already suffering from high water temperatures and low stream flows from this year’s drought.
Effective Saturday, July 18, and until further notice, all waterbodies defined as streams in the 2015 Oregon Sportfishing Regulations are closed above tidewater (where applicable) to fishing for trout salmon, steelhead and sturgeon from 2 p.m. to one hour before sunrise.
Angling for these species will be prohibited at all times in the Willamette River downstream of Willamette Falls, including the Clackamas River up to the Interstate 205 Bridge, the Multnomah Channel and the Gilbert River. The following sections of the John Day River will also have complete closures:  The mainstem of the John Day River above Indian Creek near Prairie City; the Middle Fork of the John Day River above Mosquito Creek near the town of Galena; the North Fork of the John Day River above Desolation Creek and Desolation Creek.
Some streams will remain open for angling under normal hours because they are less prone to high water temperature risks due to springs, tides, cold water releases from some dams and high elevations 

 Full Press Release

ODFW Takes Action To Help Native Fish

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Pursuit

In the nearly 40 years of casting a fly it seems like fly fishing is no longer a outdoor pursuit but a way of life. No matter what hobby I have done in those 40 years, and there have been a lot of them, it's always fly fishing I come back to. It calls to me and even if I cannot ford swift streams or climb down into remote river canyons like I used to, it's still a lasting love.
I've read about the legendary fly fisher Mike Kennedy who requested that his favorite bamboo rod be cremated with him and the ashes sprinkled off of Mott Bridge along the North Umpqua and I think Mike knew then what I finally know now.
It seems to me that fly fishing isn't something you do casually. One can dabble in fly fishing, never really letting it become a life long pursuit but it must feel kind of hollow . If you take it seriously it will take you places, if only in your dreams, that you never imagined. You become intimate friends with the trout you pursue and the notion of ever killing a wild trout is unthinkable.
Certain rivers become your home that you always long to return to like a world traveler coming home from a long journey.
To feel all these emotions you must be willing to make your journey into fly fishing more of a pilgrimage. You are a traveler into the joys of trout.
Does this make sense? I hope so because it makes perfect sense to me. When I can no longer get to the river I will spend the rest of my days thinking about my fly fishing adventures. The fish I hooked and the fish I lost. I'll remember all the wonders of the rivers I fished and the wonders of the things I experienced.
You can go there too my friend. You have to be willing to take it all in like a child would at a toy store. Remember that you have been given a wonderful gift.
This pursuit of fly fishing should never, ever be a stressful thing but a thing where you are constantly renewed and thankful.
It's hard not to over think the pursuit of trout on a fly and yes it can be a difficult pursuit at times. Difficult but even after a rough day of wind knots,broken tippets and lost fish you can still come away with the satisfaction of walking in the steps of people like Roderick Haig-Brown, Lee
Wulff ,A.H.E. Woods and Mike Kennedy. As great as these fly fishermen of the past were they still had a beginning point point, just like the rest of us. They achieved fly fishing perfection in the truest sense. The perfection is something that has alluded me but that doesn't take anything away from the pursuit.
So if you are willing to let this angling pursuit take you to all the wonder that it holds you will never regret it. Enjoy the journey friends!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Hatchery Steelhead Versus Wild Steelhead

We have to change current management practices or our grand kids will not be able to fish for steelhead.Anyone who has caught a fresh wild steelhead knows the difference!
I should make clear that, when I talk about steelhead, I am talking about wild, naturally spawned and reared Oncorhynchus mykiss, not their distant hatchery outlaws. Wild steelhead are the genuine article; hatchery fish are not. The scientific literature is resplendent with the reasons why. Anglers know, or at least should know, from personal observation and experience that hatchery steelhead:
• Are not native, not wild, and do not behave as wild fish.
• Are much less responsive to a lure or fly.
• Enter the rivers over an extremely compressed period. Wild steelhead exhibit wide diversity in run and spawn timing and thus provide year-round angling opportunity with at least some wild steelhead entering rivers on virtually every tide.
• Migrate rapidly to their release location.
• Are known to be harmful to native populations.

Perhaps the most basic question concerns the future of the fish themselves. Without robust wild populations, we will not have a sport. Ask any experienced steelheader whether his fishing is better now than in the past. Invariably, he will note that his angling and angling options are, at best, faint echoes of what was available just a few decades ago. If this downward trend continues for even a short period beyond the present, then the prospects for steelhead and steelhead angling are-to put it mildly-less than hopeful.

What happens if, instead of joining with another wild fish that has passed through the same environmental lenses, this survivor meets and spawns with a hatchery steelhead? We should expect that their progeny would survive at a lower level because they lack the fitness of progeny from wild-wild pairings. Thirty years of field research by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife scientists focused exactly on this issue confirmed our expectation. The study compared the reproductive success of different pairing possibilities between wild and hatchery Kalama River steelhead:
• Native Kalama summer runs (both parents are native Kalama fish);
• Mixed parentage (hatchery male-native female or native male-hatchery female);
• Hatchery-only parentage (both parents hatchery-origin fish).

The findings? Only native-native pairings produced returning adult steelhead. The contributions of all other pairings to the returning adult populations, in the techno-speak of the study, could not be statistically distinguished from “zero.” In other words, the hatchery-hatchery, hatchery-wild, and wild-hatchery progeny were so ill-adapted-so unfit for the environmental challenges they faced over their lifetime-that none of them survived to adulthood. As predicted by Darwin, differences count in life.

The results of this careful, long-term scientific study make clear two essential facts. First, hatchery fish are not the same as nor are they an acceptable substitute for wild fish. Second, permitting hatchery fish to interact with wild fish has the effect of dramatically decreasing the productivity of the wild fish.

Pacific steelhead and salmon on the West coast are in crisis-not because we do not understand the causes for their declines. Instead, we know perfectly well what needs to be done but have instead insisted on following management practices that we know are harmful: excessive harvest, inadequate escapements, hatchery introductions, land use practices that are both unsustainable and detrimental to steelhead, and so on. We have further compounded the crisis by focusing our money and efforts on the stocks that are at the highest risk while largely ignoring other stocks less at risk, all the while continuing to apply management regimes known to be harmful. We also have examples of what will work if we have the courage to trust in the resilience of the fish themselves while providing for their basic requirements.

In short, the problem is not the fish. We and the manner in which we manage steelhead are the problem. Unless and until we change the basic management paradigms, we can be certain that the species will be functionally extinct in what is now their already greatly diminished range.
The above excerpt is from Dec Hogans new book "A Passion for Steelhead"

I have often heard from the ignorant masses "There is no true wild fish anymore" BS! That is wishful thinking by those who care nothing about this diminishing resource. The Bush administration would have us believe that there is no difference and what that amounts to is an attempt to water down the ESA so corporations can log and diminish wild fish habitat.
The ODFW is touting their "Wild Broodstock Program" It all sounds so good on paper but when it comes right down to it these progeny of wild fish are still hatchery fish.  Don't fool yourself into thinking anything else! They are still hatched and reared in a hatchery environment and imprinted with the same hatchery traits as those worthless out of basin mutants that have been dumped into the rivers for years.
I can honestly say after years of learning through trial and error that I would not lose one minutes sleep if all salmon and steelhead hatcheries in the state of Oregon closed down. This is a monster we created by building dams and plundering our pristine rivers for profit. We have gotten addicted to hatchery steelhead and like any addiction we cannot kick the habit! We feel like we are entitled or something and no matter what, we need to "bonk" a few satisfy our egos. Until we make catch and release a way of life, ingrained into our psyche it will never change. I could do without fishing the coastal rivers for a couple of years for the sake of wild steelhead....could you? I'm not just patting myself on the back here either! My education on this was a long time coming but I made it and if I convince just one other angler to make catch and release a part of his/her angling life then it will have been worth it.

The photo above is a wild Wilson River winter steelhead I caught in 2005. This fish was perfect in every way and there is no hatchery fish that can compare! Anyone of you that have caught a lot of both hatchery and wild steelhead know where I am coming from on this.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Little Joys of Fly Fishing

In this piscatorial pursuit of ours it is pretty well known what the pleasures are. Things like hooking a big trout on a dry fly or that cast that has taken years to perfect. Then there are things like a stream so clear or hooking a wild fish and then watching it swim away, a trout so beautiful that your emotions take your breath away.
These pleasures are a big part of the angling style we love but how about all those little things that bring us all joy as well.
I was thinking about these things today and while still fresh in my feeble mind I thought that I'd better write some of mine down. Some of these little pleasures might seem a bit silly but to me it's just part and parcel to why I fish this way.
Do you get a little flush of excitement when you see the courier stopping his truck in front of your house to deliver your new fly rod? It's the culmination of all the anticipation of waiting for that new rod that you are sure will catapult your angling experience into the stratosphere. Same thing with a new reel and the ultimate small joy is when they are both delivered on the same day.
I also like the pleasure of filling a new fly box with flies. Arranging them according to type and size....what fun it is to do this when you can't be on the river.
I enjoy immensely the small maintenance tasks I do on my bamboo fly rods. By maintenance I mean applying a new coat of bri-wax on the cane in anticipation of the season to come.  Anyone who has worked with bri-wax knows that it takes a bit of elbow grease but that  is  okay because I know it's a labor of love.
I particularly enjoy winding new backing and line on a reel. I used to secure the fly line to the backing with a nail knot and would work to tie the perfect knot to attach my line to. Alas the fly line manufacturers have gone to a loop to loop connection and so there is no need for a nail knot and I kind of miss it.
It's just the simple things isn't it? I suppose other recreational endeavors have these small joys as well but our joys are in anticipation of bigger things yet to come out on the stream.
Taking small pleasures in anything is what life is all about isn't it? I have never been able to understand the angler who "fishes angry" If you get so upset out on the river why do you fish? You would be surprised at the amount of people who fish that way. If some angry angler is ruining your day of fishing then just leave the area. There are other spots and other days to fish.
Once time, a few years ago, I was fly fishing the Sandy River with a friend. He hooked this big bright winter steelhead on a fly and got to fight it for a brief time. It jumped and ran and then came off. He was so upset that he threw his fly rod down in disgust at losing that fish. A big wild winter steelhead is a tough fish to take with a fly and anyone who has pursued them know this. Just to hook one is a huge accomplishment in and of itself. Landing a fish like that is the ultimate of course, but just hooking one is gigantic! I mentioned to him as he grieved at this lost steelhead, about how fortunate it was that he even got the chance to hook it. Some people go years and maybe even decades for that kind of opportunity. I think it got through to him because on the trip home he couldn't stop talking about the size and strength of that fish and his brief encounter with it.
I can honestly say that I have had very few bad days fly fishing. The small and large pleasures are plentiful and there is at least one every trip. Sometimes they are so small that you almost miss them but they are there. Go to the river with an attitude like that and you will always be a successful angler.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Cost of Trout Fishing

NEW LONDON, Conn. — WITH the long winter now behind us (I hope), I’m about to head out to the nearby Salmon River here in Connecticut to see what a season’s worth of ice has done to the place. Now that fishing season has arrived, the river no doubt will be crowded with newly stocked fish and wader-clad fishermen who share my passion for this sleek and beautiful creature. But my rod will be collecting dust at home. I reluctantly gave up fishing 10 years ago after I saw what a century of stocking nonnative fish was doing to the landscape I love.
Twenty-eight million Americans will buy freshwater fishing licenses this year. Eight million of them will be trout and salmon anglers. Native wild trout have mostly disappeared in the face of this immense fishing pressure. They have been replaced by nonnative hatchery fish and their river-born “wild” trout offspring. Nationwide, state and federal fisheries agencies dump some 130 million trout in lakes, rivers and streams each year. Although this stocking lures people outside, the hatcheries that produce these trout create environmental problems.
Trout aquaculture is heavily reliant on pellet feed. The federal and state hatchery production of some 28 million pounds of trout per year requires roughly 34 million pounds of feed. These pellets are derived from herring, menhaden and anchovies harvested from oceans in quantities that the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say are unsustainable. We are devastating populations of marine species simply to support a freshwater hobby.
If that’s not bad enough, hatcheries are major polluters. Each year, much of the roughly six million pounds of fish excrement, uneaten food and dead and decaying fish that I estimate are produced by these hatcheries leach nutrients into wastewater that is often then dumped untreated into the closest stream or river. This wastewater can also contain medicines and antibiotics used to limit diseases in crowded pens, and disinfectants that sterilize holding tanks. Ultimately, these hatcheries may be contributing to the proliferation of “dead zones” — biological wastelands created by excess nutrients — that are choking estuaries and coastal ecosystems downstream.
For more than a century, government stocking efforts and more recent well-intentioned but illegal introductions of fish by anglers have wreaked havoc on native trout and other fish species. Seven species of native trout are considered threatened and others have become extinct because of interbreeding and competition from nonnative trout and other game fish introduced into freshwater streams. Despite these problems, most trout stocked this year will be nonnative to the streams and rivers where they will be released.
Many of the fishermen who will revisit their favorite stream this spring are happy to release their quarry after hooking and reeling them in. Although catch-and-release might seem, logically, to help maintain high numbers of catchable fish, the science does not validate this practice. Survival rates of hatchery fish in the wild are very low, especially after hooking damage and exhaustion associated with repeated catch-and-release encounters.
Studies suggest that 75 to 80 percent of hatchery trout are gone soon after stocking. The fact that many states still routinely stock streams regulated as catch-and-release-only waters is a strong indication that catch-and-release does not ensure fish survival. Hatcheries are breeding fish that are poorly adapted to life in the wild. Even worse, these fish can pass on their undesirable traits to wild populations of native fish.
Although stocking trout is harmful, eating them is far better than eating native wild trout. When these native fish die, their genetic uniqueness dies, too. (Brook and lake trout are the only trout native to the entire Northeast, for instance; nonnatives like brown, rainbow and golden trout are also released into Northeast streams.) Unfortunately, many states set uniformly high catch limits that draw no distinction between native versus nonnative trout. Therefore, anglers need to hold themselves to a higher standard than the rules that govern their actions.
In the end, perhaps the most ethical approach for anglers would be to catch and consume nonnative wild and hatchery-produced game fish. Huge resources go into the production of farm-raised fish, after all, and at serious environmental costs. Conversely, it is more important than ever to protect wild populations of native fish with catch-and-release practices. Many states provide trout identification materials in their angler regulations. Establishing stricter limits and mandatory releases of native species whenever they are healthy enough to survive being hooked could help preserve the genetic integrity of aquatic environments.
If we continue to ignore the impact of hatchery fish on aquatic ecosystems, we will soon regret what has been lost.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Keep 'Em Wet

Fish Out Of Water

Check out the above link before you hoist your next wild salmon, steelhead or trout out of the water to stroke your ego with a picture.
I've done myself in the past but no more! It's more important to insure that fish swims away and survives!  Keep that fish's head in the water for your picture.
We, as sports anglers, are going to have to retrain ourselves.
Now I understand some of your egos are going to take a big hit but how about setting your selfishness aside for the sake of the fish.
One self-proclaimed PNW fishing expert said this on Facebook after someone called him out for holding a beautiful, wild steelhead out of the water in a boat.
" I've CnR'd  (caught and released) fish with proper gentle handling for 40 years. It was hooked just inside the jaw line, not deep. It will definitely live to spawn!"
So where did you get your biology degree? This same person also bragged about using bait to catch that beautiful wild steelhead.
Almost everyone in the Pacific Northwest agrees that using bait when a large number of wild fish are present is unethical and dangerous to the fish because of the hazard of deep hooking.
Folks we are going to have to change the way we do things if we hope to see wild fish everywhere survive and flourish. It doesn't take a science degree to see that. All it takes is some common sense and the realization that the world does not revolve around us.
My education in becoming a wild fish advocate came through learning from others a hell of a lot smarter than myself. It also came from paying attention and learning that there are bigger things in life than looking like some kind of fishing god on Facebook.

Here is a link that addresses this topic

Dying for a Picture

Saturday, February 21, 2015

No Country For Old Men

If you are familiar with the epic Coen Brothers movie starring Tommy Lee Jones you will understand what I am trying to say.
Jones' character Sheriff Ed Tom Bell said this at the beginning of the movie.
"I don't know what to make of that. I sure don't. The crime you see now, it's hard to even take its measure"
The evolution of modern Pacific Northwest sports fishing is something I don't fully understand anymore. Oh I get that modern tackle and techniques have progressed and made anglers more successful than in the past but it's the attitudes that puzzle me.
When I first got into the angling game here in Oregon way back in 1973 there were a hell of a lot of people on the rivers....banks full of people. The use of drift boats had not yet taken hold like it has today and so most of us were "bank maggots"  We all made room though and for the most part respected the other guy and his fishing.
The term "courtesy" has become an archaic notion anymore. Boaters running their gear through the actual water you are fishing is commonplace with professional guides being among the worst offenders. Being low holed by another bank fisherman is apparently no big deal anymore either. Bait containers and discarded fishing line litter the shoreline of our once pristine rivers. Why do you think this behavior has become so common place?
Why does every damn fish caught and landed have to be held up for a hero shot? Doesn't matter how dark the fish is either. That is the stuff I did when I was first starting out fishing. Catch a dark salmon or steelhead these days and that night you can bet that the spawned old boot will show up, either on Facebook or some mega fishing web site.
Have we as a culture become so oblivious to others that boorish behavior is just winked at?
I blame the internet for much of this. Anglers so intent in being better and catching more and bigger fish have driven us to the point that recreational angling is no longer's a blood sport.
Pointing firearms at some fisherman you feel has offended you or gotten into your "space" is not that unusual anymore. Do we really have the need to have to enjoy the outdoors armed? In my opinion yes absolutely we do. Whether it's an aggressive and intoxicated fishing guide coming up the bank after you because you had the audacity to call out their bad behavior. How about the tweeker breaking into you vehicle? One feels the need to protect themselves.
I have long ago abandoned fishing spots I once enjoyed because they have become uncomfortable to fish and even dangerous. Anyone ever hear of the guard rail hole in Pacific City? How about the boat ramp in the same area?Is it really worth it to fish these spots anymore?
This is where we find ourselves when there are mega-huge internet fishing sites that have unabashedly brought thousands to our Pacific Northwest rivers to try to catch a dwindling supply of fish...all for a buck. 
I will never allow the thugs, bullies and wannabe fishing superstars drive me away from the outdoor recreation I love but I will fish with eyes in the back of my head and always looking over my shoulder. Sheriff Ed Tom was right " It's hard to even take it's measure"

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

I'm Right About Wild Fish and Why You Should Listen To Me

That title sounds pretty arrogant doesn't it? Sorry but it's the truth and sometimes the truth is hard to swallow. Here is why I can, with all modesty, say that I'm right about wild and native fish.
Now listen closely all you hatchery huggers and I will make it real simple for even you to understand.
I follow the science! Got that? I don't make shit up to suit my own selfish needs, I adhere to what the vast majority of fish and wildlife biologists say about the harmful effect of hatchery salmonids on wild spawning salmon, steelhead and trout. I took the time to actually read what the experts say and I came to the conclusion that those who are smarter than me about fisheries science are right.
Oh I could make up stuff all day long to justify my belief that hatcheries have no adverse effect on wild fish. It would be easy to do to make myself feel better about killing wild fish and supporting hatchery programs that are harmful to wild fish. I could say stupid shit like "There are no true wild fish left" or "Efforts to restore wild populations have failed so let's plant billions of hatchery fish in the rivers". It would be real easy to do that. I could be the FOX News of the Pacific Northwest angling internet and pull random fabrications out of the air to present as facts so the gullible and greedy will buy into it.Isn't that the same stuff Donald Trump is doing? I could conjure up mass hysteria like what happened against Native Fish Society last year. The facts don't lie and no matter how hard you try to convince yourself that you are owed fish to harvest the harsh reality of science is there.
I recently read of a north Oregon coast fishing guide proudly bragging about how many wild fish he put into the steelhead broodstock program. Do you think that if he actually took the time to calculate the amount of wild steelhead he and ODFW did not allow to naturally spawn in the river he would be so jubilant? Probably wouldn't make any difference because he and many others have convinced themselves what a good deed he did "For The Fish".
Just another reason why he and others should listen to me because I know what is best and they don't. I listen to those who have studied this subject and I believe them. Science is not infallible. What science does that makes it a better system is that it asks why things are the way they are and seeks the truth. As Al Gore would call it "An Inconvenient Truth" to some but the truth nonetheless.
So you have two choices here dear readers. You can listen to those who make things up about how hatchery fish have no adverse effect on wild spawning fish and try to present them as facts or you can listen to me! I know this much though and it's just this simple.....I am right.

Friday, January 02, 2015

The Harvest Mentality Revisited

"Let's raise the daily bag limit from two wild cutthroat trout to three fish daily"   

"I like to kill a few wild trout a year"

 "Fill the rivers with billions of hatchery steelhead"

 "Native Fish Society and Trout Unlimited are conspiring to get hatcheries closed"

The above quotes are all from the internet. People wanting to kill fish, any fish wild or hatchery.
The need for people to kill their catch has spawned (no pun intended) websites and fishing groups dedicated solely to harvest!
I'll dispense with all the rhetoric about just how harmful hatchery salmon, steelhead and trout to native salmonid spawners. It's all out there and all you have to do is a little research and I have even provided links in other posts to that end.
I am going to try to examine the harvest mentality.
The need to kill your catch is probably an instinct brought forth from our hunter/gatherer past. The need to provide food for the survival of our families was necessary in the pre-Costco days. The state fish and wildlife agencies have, for over a hundred years, artificially populated out rivers with fish to harvest. These fish are present in the rivers of the Pacific Northwest to harvest and they should be harvested.
All of the sudden the well is running dry and with the Endangered Species Act the state cannot dump millions of hatchery smolt into our river in order to sate a growing population of anglers.
But what about all the fish I am entitled to? I need those countless jars of cured eggs so I can catch more fish to get more eggs to get more get the idea.
Even when there are increased bag limits and increased hatchery releases it never seems to be enough!
The market for salmon roe alone is a booming business along with the latest and greatest egg cures. Cure recipes are closely guarded secrets and are not cheap. The need for more fresh eggs drive the desire to harvest.
 Then there is the annual fights over spring Chinook allocations which are epic in that the primary user groups can never seem to get enough of these most valuable Chinook salmon.
The chest thumping fishing narcissists self publish books on "how to catch more salmon and steelhead" while the angling public wants more and more. Hey how about self publishing a book about the virtues of catch and release of wild fish or how best to protect our wild, cold water fisheries?
The department of fish and wildlife's mantra of angling opportunities to get the public to buy fishing licenses while offering an inferior product while they marginalize wild fish populations by allowing a limited harvest on native salmonids that they deem recovered enough to kill a few.
I could spend hours writing about all I have seen and experienced concerning the tapeworm that infects fishermen to hunger for more fish, to have more fish planted for them to harvest and to hell with any conservation efforts.
 One has to come to the conclusion that the harvest mentality is very real and getting worse. Native fish advocacy groups are generally vilified and slandered for their efforts by those desiring to harvest more fish! Some even make up lies about groups like Trout Unlimited and Native Fish Society.
Once again I want to stress that the harvest of hatchery origin salmonids is a good thing. Those fish are expensive to rear and they are raised for harvest. A fisherman should be required to harvest every hatchery salmon or steelhead he encounters no matter the condition. Get them out of the river so they cannot comingle with wild fish. However the effect of over production of hatchery fish is one cause of dwindling native fish population. The actual overall effect is something that is hotly debated among anglers and wild fish groups.
Remember this though. The world is not our oyster and I may actually see the extinction of some fish species in my lifetime.