Stewards of the Water

What is catching a trophy fish worth to you?  Will it change you as a person?  To what degree would you go to catch a trophy?

A recent conversation caused a stirring in my mind. This individual referred to us[fishermen and ladies]  as stewards of the water.  At the time, I had very little opinion on the subject but decided to chew on the idea and now want to pose a few questions;  Are there decisions and ultimately sacrifices to be made when we fish?  Have we as stewards overstepped our bounds in the pursuit of trophy fish?

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Each year there are epic runs that take place in nearly every water in the west.  From the brown trout, cutthroat trout, or kokanee to the sea running salmons and steelheads of the world, every water has a similar ritual act.  The male puts on his best suit and tie then makes a run for the headwaters.  He sprouts a hook like jaw that is reminiscent of a dinosaur’s dental hardware.  These males often are the center of our photos.  We hold them up in righteous poses as if those fish define us as the better fisherman.  I am in no way frowning upon the practice of our picture taking but to what extent are we willing to invade waters to simply have “our”  picture taken with them, and then released with the assumption all fish caught survive.  I googled some data and Dr. Hal Schramm performed a study and an average of 5% died with as much as 15% mortality measured in some studies.  That number probably goes through the roof as we chase these fish while they construct and guard their redds.

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I have found myself year after year questioning the ethics of fishing on and very near redds.  Some years I was the king of the glass house.  I fished hard and caught numerous fish of a lifetime……the pictures are proof of my history.  In other years, I discouraged others from the sort of fishing where we flirt with the line of whether that fish was spawning or resting.  This year,  I fell for the game and the second I set foot in the stream the man’s questions rose up inside me.  Was this the sort of thing a steward of the water would do?  The answer hit me like a ton of bricks.

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As I walked down the bank I could see a riverbed scoured by thousands of fish that have spent weeks modifying the pebble structure to sustain their young for the next several months.  To my surprise, there were no fish on the redds.  Vacant.  My hope initially was that those fish had finished their dance then returned to the lake……my gut wrenched when I looked downstream.  There was a solid beaten down path along and through the river for at least a mile around the heart of the spawning grounds. It was time to call it a day.

Each of us is allowed to make the decision for ourselves and shouldn’t be harassed for making the decision to fish or not to fish, but I leave you with these questions:

Are you a steward of the water?  What are you doing to protect our fishes?

About finspots fly-fishing

We are fly-fishermen. We are Fisheries and Aquatic Science Majors at USU. WE are either in class learning about fish, studying fish and best of all, catching fish :) We build fly-rods have a custom line of shirts and hats so come check us out!

Posted on December 2, 2013, in trout and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Stewards of the Water.

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