A modest proposal for the future of certain trout

Foreword

I have spent the entirety of the year 2010 without fishing the “Meyers Stretch” of the South Platte River, a.k.a the Dream Stream, and will without doubt finish the year not touching its banks once.

I may never fish it again either, unless there are some changes. The reasoning is simple.

I was once one of those jackasses who spent the fall months slinging egg sucking leaches, followed by egg patterns, followed by bead-headed midges, across those waters as the browns moved up to make whoopie in the willows. Then I realized that unlike those fish, we humans get it on for fun and games. They are moving on instinct, to replicate the species. Period.

I then asked myself this: with the mortality rate already built into catch and release fishing (which probably runs at least 35% percent, based on my half-assed research on the matter), how many of those majestic fish would actual survive being caught multiple times a season? Counting the vehicles in the lots, I subsequently puked all over my leaky $500 waders. (Side note: I’ll never wear a pair of waders that cost that much ever again).

The previous few summers I caught some bonafide pigs at Meyers on streamers and dries, and then skipped the spawning season out of pure satisfaction. The fish I bagged were healthy and bright, unlike those I’d caught previous autumns with multiple copper johns hanging out of their snouts. I haven’t been back since August ’09.

Modesty and Twelve Gauges

Let’s turn the Dream Stream into a permit-only water. Draw for days, just like elk hunting season. And pay dearly just the same. No poaching, no guiding, and no cheating. Guns drawn and off to jail with you if you disobey.

Think of the fees it could generate for protecting those fish. Imagine how those fish might behave with significantly less pressure on their poor souls. $50 per day to park in the lot between May 1st and August 31st. And then, say, a $150 per person rod fee during the spawns – February 1st through April 31st and September 1st through October 31st – would allow those fin finned friends to breed without undue harassment. I suspect the populations would explode, and the need for stocking would be significantly reduced too.

Catching wild fish on an extraordinary stretch of water. One now named after a luminary lost. What would Charlie think about this?

By the way, the same could be said for the Taylor, Frying Pan, and probably a few other sections of water too. Raking the reds with a three fly nymph rig for a digital hero shot? I think you should pay out-the-ass for such guilty pleasures.

How do you feel?

MG signing off (to avoid catching trophy fish while they are trying to make more trophy fish)

Comments

I hear ya, MG. There are times and situations like the one you describe above when I truly start to feel bad for trout. And the catch and release mortality issue is a valid one. Yet another reason to fish for carp and bass. Pretty sure the mortality rates are much, much lower (if not statistically non-existent with proper C&R).

Rooster says:

Johnny Lunch Bucket all over the place… no doubt. Most fish for numbers & pics without respect for the fish or the surroundings. Maybe some education in streamcraft could do some good? Getting hi-holed sucks.

n.taylor says:

They are all non-native species and Colorado is a gigantic aquarium. I wouldn’t care if everyone walked away with a stringer. DOW would just stock 12,000 more the following week. Those 10lb aquarium fish that spend their lives protected in the reservoir from predation, runoff, and food shortages are nothing worth protecting IMO.

stinking adipose fin. don’t they know, Trix are for kids?

n. taylor – Spoken like a true Native American, sir.

I’ll second it. And I would gladly pay a reasonable fee to fish some of the premier water in this state – hell, I
always drop $5 dollars in the box at Cheesman every time I go up anyway, so it’s no skin off my nose.

n.taylor says:

In all sincerity, I’m pretty sure they already do this with hunting (tags) and the results have been fantastic. Rivers, just like our mountains and forests, have a carrying capacity. If you were to think about it maybe fishing is just a little behind the rest of the outdoor world in terms of responsible long term management.

[…] good friend Michael Gracie brought up an interesting discussion this past week regarding managing our fisheries today, and into the future. He brought up some […]

Well said n.taylor-I think fishing is WAY behind in terms of responsible long term management. Maine has actually take a step backwards in recent years. The river that runs right in front of my house is well known for its native brookies and heavy landlocked salmon. Populations had dwindled due to overfishing for many years, so an artificial lures/flies only law was put in place. These past few years populations have returned to a more healthy level-despite increased competition from invasive Muskie, and what does MIFW do? They open the entire river up to worm and live bate fisherman.

Bahhh humbug I say.. I want a requirement that anyone who makes a fisheries law must spend X number of days on the water and/or be a registered guide in the area.

I’d like to clarify a few points…

1) I’m not opposed to guiding on the Dream or any other river – I’m not interested in putting guides out of business either. Regarding permits, some guides already have them for the above mentioned waters, and that is great. Further, I think closing off waters completely would hurt the related commerce, which is not the intent here.

2) The numbers proposed above were tossed out, not thought out. I believe some relative price between summer and spawning seasons is all that is needed. That money should go to pay for enforcement, keeping the places clean, and possibly studying the effects of any management changes that are introduced.

3) An education program similar to hunter safety, specifically related to C&R, spawning fish, and related is a great idea. I can’t see how anyone would be opposed to such, particularly if it is only a requirement for select fisheries during select times of the year. A few classroom hours and a $10 “spawn stamp” doesn’t seem unreasonable at all.

Portions cross-posted at BWTF

If the idea is to boost the population, a portion of the tag revenue should definitely go toward studying the effects of any management changes. Hate to sound like an engineer but without some hard data you’ll have a tough time convincing all the people who didn’t draw tags that this is a good idea. With it, you’ve got an honest shot at seeing it expanded to the other places you mentioned.

I loved your mom says:

MG, interesting. First, general C&R mortality is likely 10% or less. CDOW had estimated Cheeseman had 10% mortality in the 90’s with C&R. That aside, everyone should pay out their ass to rape fish on redds. Your idea is interesting. At the root of it is the DOW management ideas. Many states close streams to spawning, we only do it for rainbows in a select few in relation to whirling disease, ie grizzly ck. I partly think that the state is to blame for allowing anglers to do this. It creates the idea that fishing spawning fish is ok. It doesn’t foster a concept of protecting the resource or respecting the opportunity. That lack of respect tends to be the major problem for the south park area. The bubbas who stringer a 22″ on Antero only to toss it’s near dead ass back in when they catch a 24″ fish. It’s a shame to watch Antero and the DS get f@&ked over so much like this. I guess at the end of my rant I’m in favor of the permit, say a 4 yr trial run. That’s long enough to get a goo measure of impact and use to determine viability.
Cheers

@Spent – Hate to sound like an accountant, but I agree. Good thoughts there.

@Loved – I stand corrected on the mortality. Since I only fish stillwater for carp and bass, call that Ant phenom new info – appreciated here, but sad there. Again, I’m not in favor of closure because I know too many good folks that feed their families via the fishing industry. But it sounds like some type of tag has some legs.

Maybe the DOW should just ban digital camera usage during the spawn. Eliminate the hero shot and you douse the motivation to chase the trophy?

New reader, first time poster says:

Mike, I agree with your thinking. Here is my modest proposal, convert the entire area into a state park and place a gate at the entrance. During the non spawning period, charge a day use fee of something in the ball park of $10 to $15, During the spawning period increase the fee and post someone at the entrance to the area to collect, and regulate the number of anglers that can enter the park. Similar to how they regulate the number of boaters that can be on a lake at any given time. The ranger could also had out pamphlets to educate the anglers.

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