Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Thoughts on Hooking Mortality

With near record numbers of fish in the system, the Columbia and its tributaries are seeing alot of pressure this fall. This past weekend while fishing a Columbia trib I found 2 dead wild steelhead, presumably due to hooking mortality. While hooking mortality is a part of any catch and release fishery it is critical that we do everything we can do to minimize our impacts when fishing over ESA listed populations of wild fish. Dont fish hooks bigger than #2, pinch barbs (legally required), fight fish with authority dont let the fight go too long, and never remove wild fish from the water. Harvest every hatchery fish landed within the legal limit. Another thing to consider is your impact in terms of sheer numbers. Yes the fishery was opened to allow harvest of "excess" hatchery fish, however wild fish are still a major part of the catch, perhaps even dominant numerically at times. If you're having good fishing and you've caught a couple of wild fish perhaps its time to put the rod away, have a beer and savor the day. My personal cut off this fall will be two wild fish impacted per day on my rivers of choice. Once I have landed two wild fish its time for me to get off the water for the day.

Wild steelhead are a scarce and precious resource, and each wild female carries thousands of eggs with the promise of a future for their race of fish. Columbia fish are extrodinary when one considers the number of obstacles they have to overcome to return as adults. Fish returning to the Upper Columbia or Snake must outmigrate through up to 9 slack water impoundments, pass over the dams and survive the predator gauntlet that is the Columbia hydrosystem and estuary. Adults withstand in river temperatures approaching 75 degress, migrate hundreds of miles, dodiging nets, sport anglers and seals all the way. They are special fish, freerising and beautiful. Superlative sport fish in everyway. Handle them with the most care possible.

On a more uplifiting note, check out the picture of a perfectly appointed 10lb wild female. One couldnt ask for a finer fish on a light spey rod.

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