Who made you king? On keeping big trout
By JIM MATTHEWS
It happens every time there are photos of a big, dead brown trout posted anywhere on the Internet. It happens if someone keeps a largemouth bass of any size. Increasingly, it happens when ever a fish of any species is caught and kept by an angler.
There is a huge hue and cry from the “enlightened” fishing masses on social media that the fish should have been released and that the angler who didn’t release the fish is some sort of cretin.
The reasons why are all the same: so the fish could spawn, so someone else could catch-and-release it, so you don’t damage the fishery, blah, blah, and more blah. The extremists don’t want you to hurt the fish at all.
Most recently, Tony Frater of Lake Wildwood caught an 11-plus pound brown trout while fishing at Lower Twin Lake near Bridgeport in the Eastern Sierra. Photos of the fish bounced around the Internet with the speed and spins of a ping-pong ball in an international tournament. Frater was excoriated because he kept the biggest brown trout he’d ever caught in his fishing career.
The two most annoying comments were that he was helping destroy the brown trout fishery by eliminating that fish from spawning in the future, or that Frater somehow didn’t have the right to keep the fish at all, only to take a photo. Let me say that I’m primarily a fly-angler who has practiced catch-and-release fishing 99 percent of the time for more than 50 years, including the biggest brown trout of my fishing career, but I get really weary of this wrong and wrong-headed commentary on keeping fish.
First, the whole idea that this brown trout was essential to the fishery in Twin Lakes is ludicrous. A brown this size is probably a bigger detriment to the fishery than a benefit. It has contributed to the fishery with its spawn for five to eight seasons, and it’s large enough that it eats mostly smaller fish – lots and lots of other trout that might otherwise grow bigger. Robinson Creek is a small stream and the natural production in this water is tiny, especially when compared to the harvest of pan-sized trout caught by the thousands of anglers who fish this lake each year. You don’t hear the whiners complaining about thousands of eight- to 12-inch browns, rainbows, and brookies caught an eaten by anglers, both wild and hatchery fish. But when someone catches and kills a huge brown, he’s ridiculed. It’s just nonsense. There are a number of nearby catch-and-release waters, if that’s what you want to do, but don’t get all self-righteous about someone else keeping the fish of a lifetime.
Second, Lower Twin Lake – like most roadside trout waters in the state – has a five-trout daily limit with no size restrictions. It gets planted nearly every week by the DFW with rainbow trout so anglers can catch and keep and eat those fish. Those trout also feed the much-harder-to-catch browns that live there and get them big. They become a bonus catch. Keeping any of these fish is not a crime. Who made you king to say otherwise?
Third, the odds are also very good that Frater’s brown was not a wild fish, but rather one of the fish reared and planted by former Twin Lakes Resort owner Steve Marti. Marti and his volunteers started raising browns when the DFW stopped planting the Twin Lakes with browns each year. When the DFW plants stopped, the brown trout fishery all but disappeared (sort of proving the idea that wild fish spawned in Robinson Creek couldn't handle the task). The resurgence of big browns in the catch is a result of those private plants. Those browns weren’t planted as broodstock fish to grow a wild population. They were planted so anglers could catch them.
Fourth, a good biological argument could be made that all the browns, rainbows, and kokanees should be eliminated from the lake because none of them are native to the watershed. They were all planted there at various times by the Department of Fish and Wildlife back when it was their job to make fishing better for the public. The reality is that the DFW gets enough money and has the capability to plant enough browns and rainbows to sustain both the catchable fishery and the trophy fishery with the current limits, but politics have gutted the recreational aspect of the trout hatchery system. If you want to direct your anger somewhere, direct it at the DFW, not Frater. Guys like Frater are part of the congregation; they don’t need your preaching.
Maybe some good news on
DFW trout hatchery front
The Department of Fish and Wildlife’s hatchery system has been plagued with problems for the past few months. First, there was the announcement the Department of Fish and Wildlife would have to reduce its trout production poundage by 50 percent because of the budget. Last week, a whirling disease outbreak at three California trout hatcheries was announced, and it is likely to cut hatchery production by at least another 10 percent.
Well, there may be a glimmer of good news to go with the bad. While this year’s budgeting process is not final and no budget bill has been signed by the governor, the proposal for the DFW is for an increase in the special hatchery fund to the tune of $800,000 for the next three years. That is a far cry from the $2 million per year the DFW had been allocated the previous three years, but it was the loss of that $2 million per year that led to the DFW 50 percent cuts, pending a new budget that might not include any money from this fund.
“At this point, I’ll take it,” said Stafford Lehr, the DFW’s fisheries branch chief.
If this proposed budget is approved by the legislature and signed by the governor, it will allow the DFW to ramp up production and produce more fish for anglers, with those trout starting to show up in the pipeline by late this fall or winter. It will probably mean more catchable trout will be produced and some cut allotments restored.
If ever there was a year for
a yellowtail tournament….
The Ninth Annual Bloodydecks Yellowtail Shootout tournament will be held June 26-28, with fishing the two weekend days, and a mandatory meeting Friday for all competitors.
The “Year of the Yellowtail,” as many sportfishing commentators are calling the 2015 season, continues to surpass all recent seasons and defy all expectations. Southern California anglers are seeing incredible volume and quality of fish in the 20 to 30 pound range from the Coronado Islands out of San Diego all the way up into the northern Channel Islands, with simply spectacular fishing off the Los Angeles and Orange county coastlines. This bite has been going on for three months, and with a major El Nino forecast, it doesn’t appear to be slowing down.
This year’s Bloodydecks (website) tournament will again have a three-fish aggregate bag weight for each team entered (with up to five fish entered over the two-day event). The three heaviest yellowtail will go toward a team's final weight. There will also be a prize for the angler who lands the biggest yellowtail. Entry fee is $325 per team, with option jackpots available. Top prize is $5,000 for high team. For more information on the event, go to www.yellowtailshootout.com.
Short takes and notes….
Web Parton, an Arizona dog trainer, will be giving rattlesnake avoidance training for dogs at Mike Raahauge Shooting Enterprises June 21-24. Each session is 3 1/2 hours long and costs $125 per dog. Parton teaches dogs to know a rattlesnake by sight, sound, and scent and avoid the snakes. In addition to keeping the dog from being bitten, they also become a snake early-warning system for their owners. For more information or to schedule a session, call Parton at 520-465-3460…. Surf fishing expert Bill Varney will be giving an in-store seminar from noon to 1:30 p.m., Saturday, June 20 at the San Marcos Turner’s Outdoorsman store. This will be followed by an on-the-water session in Oceanside Harbor from 3 to 6 p.m. The in-store seminar is free, while the on-the-water session (open only to those who attend in store) will be $10 and only open to 40 anglers. Space is limited, so anglers can reserve a spot by calling 760-741-1570…. Dan Hernandez, a well-known local angler and fishing television personality, will be giving a free presentation on fishing the local offshore islands beginning 6:30 p.m., Thursday, June 18 at the Norwalk Turner’s Outdoorsman. The seminar will cover calico bass, halibut, white seabass, and yellowtail on live bait, including proper rigging. Reservations available by calling 562-929-4056…. The Nevada Department of Wildlife understands how important guzzlers, or man-made water devices, are to wildlife in arid country. He’s a direct link to a page with some great information on Nevada guzzlers: http://secure.campaigner.com/Campaigner/Public/t.show?8dm7o--4fm0l-ruxqlx0&_v=2.