Thursday, April 16, 2015

A New York Times Article Critique

There is an article making it's rounds on fly fishing forums and circles around the web that was on the cost of trout fishing.  It was a New York Times opinion piece by Douglas M. Thompson and here is the article below:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/11/opinion/the-cost-of-trout-fishing.html?_r=0

There are a few things I agree with and a few things I disagree with and I would like to point them out.
 
1) Douglas states that "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."  Native trout have not mostly disappeared, and where they have disappeared it is not mainly due to fishing pressure.  I want to point out that making a vague comment like "mostly disappeared" is a very relative term. While native trout have lost a lot of their historical range, there have been great strides to restore the native trout to their original waters.  Shenandoah National Park is a great example of the removal of invasive species and restoring brook trout.  Right now Greenback Cutthroat are reduced to 1% of their historical range and they are in the process of removing the hybridized cutthroats and restoring the pure strain Greenback Cutthroats that are in Bear Creek to the Greenback Cutthroats historical range.  The same can be said about other sub species of trout that are endangered.  There are still a good strong hold of other native trout in their historical range though comparatively and the trout that have been threated from their historical range is not due to just fishing pressure.

While I agree that fishing pressure can have a negative effect on trout populations, it is one of the negative effects that contributes the least amount of pressure in my opinion in modern times.  Most native trout streams today receive little to no pressure.  Back in the late 1800's and early 1900's overfishing coinciding with river pollution, logging, and poor fishing regulations crippled a lot of native trout populations.  The Lahotan Cutthroat story here ( http://truckeehistory.org/historyArticles/history18.htm ) is a good example of overfishing in the past.  However the era of overfishing being a major impact on native species is over with regulations and modern fishing ethics in general.  Tailwaters, stocked trout streams, and delayed harvest streams receive the most pressure today.  While there are some smaller native trout streams that receive enough pressure to negatively affect the stream, the vast majority receive little pressure.  Vast majority of the time I fish wild trout streams in VA, I do not see another soul fishing.  There is too much effort involved in catching 6 to 10 inch brook trout and there is so many native brook trout streams in VA (not getting into a Northern Strain vs Southern Strain debate) that it distributes the pressure pretty evenly.  Outside of my little world of east coast brook trout, other native trout populations are the same.  All the endangered trout species I can think of is mainly due to stocking of other trout species and spawning with other trout strains and not fishing pressure.  Brook trout were mainly affected by logging, stocking of invasive species, and acid rain, Golden Trout breed with rainbows that were stocked and hybridized them, greenback cutthroat spawned with rainbows as well making cutbows and about annihilating the species except for bear creek, Gila trout same story as golden trout and greenback cutthroat, and Paiute cutthroat were about wiped out due to hybridized with Lahontan Cutthroat and Rainbows.  So the statement associating the disappearing of native trout to immense fishing pressure is a statement not backed up by fact besides a trivial reference to the number to fishing licenses issued in America.

One last thing to mention about fishing pressure is that stocking trout usually brings fishing pressure to streams that cannot support native or wild trout year around.  The majority of stocked streams in most states are streams that can hold trout in the fall, winter, and spring, but get too warm in the summer to hold trout.  Therefore the pressure that stocking trout brings is usually of no affect to native trout.  There are some exceptions, but for the most part this holds true.

2) Douglas goes on to explain the negative effects of stocking trout and the damage it does to native trout species.  While there is some truth to this which I'll point out later, it is also important to note where he was wrong and the points he did not shed light on.  Most of the hybridizing of native trout is due to poorly thought out trout stocking happened back in the early 1900's.  NC Wildlife Organization ( http://www.ncwildlife.org/Portals/0/Fishing/documents/BrookTrout.pdf ) states in their brook trout report the following:
"Northern strain brook trout (from the northeastern U.S), rainbow trout
(from the western U.S.) and brown trout (from Europe) were stocked around
1900 to replace brook trout populations lost due to logging operations. Resident
brook trout were often unable to compete with rainbow and brown trout for
available food, habitat and spawning sites within the altered landscape of the
southeast. In addition, alterations to native brook trout population genetics
have occurred due to interactions with Northern strain brook trout. With continued
development of the mountain region and further encroachment on
habitat by man and non-native species, the future of the wild brook trout is
of concern, and since 1900, the brook trout range is thought to have declined
by about 80 percent. State and federal agencies are developing strategies to
identify, maintain and expand existing wild brook trout populations to ensure
their survival in their native range."
 
 
The point I want to make is that in the 1900's the stocked trout were not sterile.  Trout would breed with existing populations and compete with native trout for food.  These issues were taken care of in most states, and while there are a few instances where this is not true, they are the exception and not the rule. 
 
Douglas states that "They (native trout) have been replaced by nonnative hatchery fish and their river-born "wild" trout offspring".  While that is true back 10 to 15 years ago, there has been a great deal of change to the way trout are reared.  Some states are stocking triploids 100 % of the time and a lot of states are stocking triploids in waters where the stocked trout could reach native trout streams.  NC is a good example of this.  Jeff Wilkins explains in his blog ( http://jeffwilkinsflyfishing.blogspot.com/2008/09/nc-stocked-trout-in-2009-will-be.html ) post that:
 
"Hatchery- raised trout stocked in NC streams beginning in 2009 won't experience parenthood. That's because all brook, brown, and rainbow trout will be sterile and unable to reproduce.
The NCWRC gradually has been shifting its production of trout from those that can produce fry to those that won't be able to spawn offspring.
The impetus for converting to sterile trout is to help preserve the native Southern Appalachian brook trout, said Mallory Martin, the commission's regional fisheries supervisor in Marion, NC."
 
By switching to triploid trout that cannot reproduce, this eliminates the worry of hybridizing native trout gene pools.  I think more emphasis on states investing in sterile trout stocking should be pushed instead of just the negative affects of stocking trout.  Another point to make is that in most states and in most instances, the state does not stock trout over native trout populations and even wild trout populations.  While I know for a fact this is not true 100% of the time, most states really make an effort to try not to stock over native or wild trout populations.  When states due stock over wild trout populations, I do disagree with them and it is one of the things I agree with Douglas on.  But the stocking of trout over wild populations really is an exception and not the norm in most states.


3) One of the biggest points that Douglas forgot to mention is the benefits to native trout populations that stocking trout provides .  Douglas says "We are devastating populations of marine species simply to support a freshwater hobby".  I argue the opposite and here is why.  There are a lot of anglers who want to catch trout and eat trout.  By removing state stocking programs, you have shifted a lot of pressure from a renewable program that can support the angling pressure, to a more fragile native and wild trout populations.  While I argued earlier that native trout populations are not affected under the current fishing pressure on them, removing a program that gives many people who want to eat trout an avenue to pursue that desire could shift too much pressure to the native and wild trout populations.  Quite frankly, Bubba is going to eat trout one way or another.  I would rather see poaching and harvesting on stocked trout waters then on a valuable treasured resource such at native trout.  Stocked trout programs are worth their weight in gold just for the preserving of native trout that they provide.  I agree that stocking trout should be done ethically and with the native and wild trout populations in mind.  Douglas says "Unfortunately, many states set uniformly high catch limits that draw no distinction between native versus nonnative trout".  And while I agree with this, like I said earlier, most states are stocking triploids and trying not to stock over native or wild trout populations.  Also, writing an article on why stocked trout programs are bad and not highlighting their good besides "supporting a freshwater hobby" seems irresponsible.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Atlantic Striper Flies

Slowly transitioning over to striper flies.  Preparing for hitting NNK, VA to hit the stripers in the mouth of the Potomac before they head up north for summer.  I have a lot of work to do. 

Their main food source while they are in this are is menhaden.


Close enough for me.

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Few Spring Ramblings.

Spring is here finally.  I have a love hate relationship with Spring.  I enjoy the warmer after a cold long winter, bass start to get active, and trout begin looking up.  On the downside is allergies, rain, rain and more rain, blown out rivers, and yard work. 

I took the wife out last weekend for a little bit of musky fishing, but it was pointless fishing wise.  They must of been getting a lot of rain way upstream, or they must be generating a lot of water out of one of the reservoirs that run into the James river because there was about 6 inches of visibility.  Still nice to get the boat out with the wife.


Also been prepping my popper for this spring....if it will ever quit raining.  We have got over 2 inches in rain in the past couple days, which also means I can forget river fishing for a good two weeks.


And I still been tying the musky meat.


And yard work.  I decided to mulch up the leaves and mow the yard too with the John Deere.  I haven't used the dog chain since last fall and checked under the leaves for it.  I couldn't find it and thought I had removed it a while back.  I was wrong and my lawn mower found the chain.....


So like I said, love/hate relationship. 



Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Plan C Brookie Fishing


Well this trip had changed a couple times.  Plan A was to camp on a certain stream and fish it for a couple days, but the weather decided to be in the single digits at the altitude we would be fishing and snowing.  So Plan B was to just camp at a campground and fish a few streams in the area, but they added snow to the mix and dropped the temps in the valley as well.  Also got a stomach bug early last week and my body wasn't at 100% or in no condition to be in those temps.  Plan C was to stay at a friend's cabin and have heat and access to the NCAA tournament games.  Plan C ended up being a good choice.

I fished a brookie/rainbow stream on the first day heading to my friend's cabin.  This stream has always treated me well and holds some big rainbows and brookies.



Hemlock growing out of on old hemlock stump.

Even got some takes on the dry fly, but most were on the dropper.




Love the chalky look to this stream.

Few black stoneflies were out.

Woke up Saturday to some nice 21 degree weather, 20 mph winds, and some snow.  Thought for sure it would shut down the brook trout, but we were very wrong.  Trout were caught in about every run and the big girls were out and about.



Shoe laces were frozen stiff. 








Built a small fire to warm the hands and to make a cup of joe.


Mmmmm, coffee ground filled cowboy coffee


Shagbark hickory

Woke up Sunday to 12 degree temps and decided to just head home early. I had got my trout fix in.

Pretty drive leaving the mountains.

Now musky are back on my mind.  Hit them a few times before they start their spawn.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Tale of a Stocker or a Wild Fish?

I hit a couple streams this weekend and came across an interesting fish.  This is one of the moments I wish fish could talk.  I caught a big small stream rainbow out of a run.  As soon as I got it to hand, I swore it had to be a stocked rainbow trout that traveled a great distance.  It had stocker like markings, ugly face and jaw, big size, and just looked like a stocker at first glance, but after looking at it more one can see the vivid par markings and the tail and fins intact and that of a wild fish. Even stocked trout that have been in the wild for years and years will usually show signs of their prior residence in the concrete fish troughs.  This fish's tail was rounded and full, and not squared off like a stocked trout's tail.  So it is a toss up for me.  If it is a stocked trout though, it made an incredible journey to where it is today.  The nearest stocked stream is around 5 miles away.  While this does not sound impressive, it is more so when the 5 miles this fish traveled is described.  Where this stream enters the stocked creek, a good portion of the stream goes subterranean and is very skinny even during high water.  Then the stream gains some steep elevation with some impressive plunge pools and falls that the trout would have to climb.  The stream had a couple mountain roads that cross it with some sketchy, old culverts it had to go through just to find this deep run to call it's home.  While not impossible, I still find it hard to believe that the fish had that much ambition to make that journey. I honestly think it is a big old wild rainbow, but deep down I kind of hope that it was a stocked trout and is back in it's run it found.

 
More to come from my trip, there were some big brookies caught as well in other streams.
 
Sneak peek brookie


Monday, March 9, 2015

Wainscoting Trout Break

I have been working on prepping a nursery for painting all weekend.  Put up a wainscoting, caulking room, putting up trim, and 50 degree weather made me put aside a few hours on Sunday for some brookies with a friend.  Good day to get out and spring is around the corner.



 


 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Musky Thawing Out

The streams and rivers of Virginia have been locked up with ice from old man winter.  Which has given me some time to focus on my wife as her Birthday and Valentines day hit close together in mid February.  In the past two weeks Lynchburg has received close to 20 inches of snow, broke an all time low temp record as -11, and froze a couple rivers up completely which I have never seen.  Luckily we received a couple days in the mid 30's and low 40's which seems like a heat wave and allowed me some time on the river chasing Mr. Musky.  Decided to be safe and chose a section of river that has a dam behind it that would ensure we would not run into any ice.


I moved two musky early on in the float.  One was beast.  I bombed a cast, strip, strip, strip, tight line, set the hook, "Am I hung on a log?".  Slowly rose the musky to the surface, she head shook a couple times and threw the fly. Tough getting a good hook set on a musky from a distance.  Got a good look at her though and she was one of the bigger muskies I have seen in person.  A really knee shaker. This was the fly that got it done for the day.


It was a cold day to be out on the river with the temps being around 20 when we put in and reaching a balmy 30 degrees for the day.  The sun being out helped too.


One of the keys for musky fishing is not focusing on catching a musky, but enjoying good company and having a good time being on the river.  Whenever I float with Dave, we bring a grill, take a mid day break on a sand bar, grill and few burgers, and rest our casting and rowing arms.




Also helps to bring some coffee and a hand warmer for the cold days.


If you take a step back and soak in the scenery you will be amazed at some of God's creatures you will spot.  Beavers, muskrats, a few hawks, and an eagle were out.  Got a blurred photo of the eagle.


At the end of a long day of floating and bombing a 450 grain line and a wet deer, we were treated to a sunset at the take out.


Beats a warm day indoors in my opinion.