pic of the week

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Spawners, the ugly truth.

Every spring hundreds upon hundreds of anglers flock to the Grey Reef section of the North Platte River. Why? Aside from the surprisingly clear water conditions and low flows indicative of the spring, thousands of mature rainbow trout begin the arduous process of procreation. This unexplained urge to reproduce brings the larger fish of this species from miles downstream and the deepest runs, seeking out a shallow, gravel area with oxygenated water.
During this period mature rainbows of all sizes, big and small, find themselves putting it all on the line to keep a stable population for years to come. Only two things stand in their way, predators and the notorious long-rodder! Fly fisherman, not all, but some, come this time of year for one reason...to take a poke at the spawners. They probably figure it's a sure-fire way at some of the biggest fish on the North Platte. Indeed that maybe true but to an angler like myself and most others it's a true disgrace!
I'll begin with a real quick fish biology lesson. Rainbow trout reach sexual maturity earlier than most other trout species. Rainbow trout may spawn first when they reach 14-16in, which is standard of their second year. As I said before they seek out shallow, gravel filled areas, rich in dissolved oxygen. Upon reaching this area the female will beat her tail, scooping out a shallow nest or 'redd'. Once ready, she will position herself over it waiting for her man to arrive. The male will then swim near her and shake his body. If that does the trick, she will then move to the bottom of the redd to deposit her eggs. At this point the male fertilizes then covers it with gravel and the wait is on. The incubation period is highly dependent upon water temperature but typically lasts between three weeks and several months...that's as much detail as will go into.
Obviously that process is bound to make just about anyone tired. During this period fish put their favorite pastime of eating second on the list. They concentrate all of their efforts and energy on trying to reproduce. This in turn makes them vulnerable, more so than they would be any other time of the year. So how do we as fisherman reward them, we stomp their redds and repeatedly put flies in their face. Look at this way, how would you like it if someone came into your bedroom while you where trying to take care of business?
Now we all know it's tempting when you see an extremely large fish in shallow water and even the most ethical angler can convince himself/herself that particular fish really is feeding. But come on, there's plenty of fish in the river and they don't all spawn at once. That means there is lots of fish in that other water. Sure at some point in the day you're bound to catch a spawning fish by accident, but that's a long shot from sneaking around on your knees in two feet of water in the middle of April. Yes we've all seen you and you really do look like a jackass! All kidding aside please be considerate of this river and the fish that call it home, please leave the spawning fish alone! (I did not intend for that to rhyme)
Trent Tatum


Montana Teal said...

I'll tell ya something, between Platte River Outfitters, Grey Reef Lodge, Ugly Bug, Cowboy drifters, you guys are driving everyone nuts with this "Be Gently to Spawners".
I do not mind the attitude if it is genuine and you are not a hypocrite. But listening to you guys talk reminds me of Eliot Spitzer, Hypocrite! I'll bust prostitution rings on my way to the Governor's office, then, I participate in the fun.
I know, what’s my point and where is my proof your a hypocrite.
Do you hunt Elk in the rut? Is your deer hunting better in late fall? Have you ever hunted or applied for a spring turkey tag?
To quote yourself “Look at this way, how would you like it if someone came into your bedroom while you where trying to take care of business?” Elk, Deer and Turkeys are trying to take care of business for a lot longer than the spawning trout. Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t elk and deer loose a considerable amount of weight during the rut, and gobblers loose body fat during the strut after a harsh winter? In fact, don’t most hunters target the biggest and badest bulls, bucks or gobblers?
My point to all you save the spawners – If the Wyoming fish and game figures it’s O.K., legal to fish to spawning fish, what gives you the right to infringe upon another’s legal right to fish for spawning fish, hunt bull elk in the rut, slay deer in the rut, and blow turkeys heads off in the strut? And, of all these sports, the fish is the only one who gets to live. To kinda quote you “Yes I've heard you enough and you really do sound like a jackass!”
So, to sum up my rant, if you do not hunt and animal in the rut or a bird in the strut then by all means you have the right to give me your opinion. But if you’re a hypocrite, please keep your one sided opinions to your self, people pay for the right to fish within the bylaws of the fish and game just like you do without getting funny looks or hypocritical comments from a rut & strut hunter.
By the way, I enjoy a good rut & strut hunt myself every year; I just don’t go around telling other people off or making them feel bad to prove my superiority when they are not breaking any fish & game laws. You might want to talk to F&G about that.
OH, that’s right you think closing off a section of river for spawners by the fish & game was a bad idea from the start. It’s one thing to have an opinion just stay on that side of the fence!

The Reef Fly Shop said...

Lots of good point to counter here! We aren't talking about hunting we are talking about fishing. So, I won't get into that. Fishing to and catching a spawner requires no fly fishing skill...period. Wading around and through spawn beds can and will destroy thousands of eggs. The Game and Fish closure is about EDUCATION and it is NOT about PROTECTING SPAWNING FISH.
You have displayed your hypocracy in this post. Don't fish to the trophy trout be cause the pressure will kill them, but it's okay to plunder spawning beds(which can kill hundreds or thousands of potential trout)? It require no skill to take a fish off of a redd...
We have no legal right to keep folks off of the redds? Of course we don't. There are a lot of folks who don't even know what a redd is and that they are likely causing a lot of damage to eggs and the fish that are trying to provide for our fishing future.
The Wyoming Game and Fish has to balance fish AND fishers...it is largely based on politics. I assure you if the return drops to below their target numbers they WILL start protecting spawners. So, if sportsmen can display a little control, by staying out of the redds and fishing to FEEDING fish,the Game and Fish won't have a reason to really shut off fishing during the spawn...or have to stock Grey Reef.
I'm sorry the article struck a nerve, but it is a good debate. There was a time that I didn't really understand the points that Trent made in his article. I'm sure none of us did. That is all part of the progression of a fisher...no matter what your feelings are about tageting spawners. You enjoy going after trophies. And, if you are like many of us, don't care about catching a bunch of fish when you are doing this. You have experienced the progression. New fishers want lots of fish, after they caught lots of fish they start to want quailty....then don't care if they catch a fish at all.

Erik Aune

The Reef Fly Shop said...

Obviously I struck a nerve! Am I a hunter? Yes I am! Mainly birds, with waterfowl being my favorite form of hunting. But I have hunted elk, deer(whitetail and mule deer), turkey, and antelope.
I really never thought Eliot Spizter and myself had so much in common. I'm sure a bunch of guides ranting and raving about the harrassment of spawning fish could become slightly annoying. But when you have to make your living on a resource it's kind of hard not to be a little protective. In regards to animals in rut and spawning fish, the two definitely share some similarities but also many differences. State laws put into to effect by G&F departments were set forth to manage game populations. Hence the reason for hunting seasons that exist during the fall and spring. Do you honestly think statewide harvest quotas could be met if these seasons where not held during these time periods? It most surely gives hunters the advantage. No where in the WY state fishing laws does fishing season coincide with the spawn. Also, you WILL NOT get in trouble for fishing to spawners. That's fine! Do I think we should be out there fishing to the trout on the redds? no. That's my opinion, shared by other anglers. Does that mean you will need to conform and change? No. We are all just trying to do what we think will help this river for not only our businesses but for generations to come.
In closing eveyone is entitled to their own opinion. You have yours, I have mine. It's called checks and balances. I appreciate yours but I don't agree with it, just as you don't agree with mine. In closing this is the first article I have published...meaning you only know my opinion on this one particular issue...nothing else. Thanks for the talk you've made this whole thing pretty exciting!

Montana Teal said...

Just back in town. Good points on both your comments and I appreciate where both of you are coming from. As you both have accepted my opinion.
Just to clarify my exact opinions which I did not make clear (my fault), I have not, nor do I condone walking or destroying a red! You’re absolutely correct when you say future fish are being killed. Especially, when only around 3% of the eggs live to become spawners.
What I do have a problem with is people telling other people off or making them feel bad when they are not breaking F & G laws, (fishing for fish). Even though it goes against what you or I believe, it is there right to pursue, enjoy the outdoors. Maybe, they are just not as talented as you or I are in the art of fly fishing.
We both have our opinions and yes we both have the right to express our opinions. You and I have done so here. But, when you or I express those opinions personally to another individual who is not breaking the law, who has paid for the right to pursue their enjoyment within the boundaries of the law, haven't we infringed upon their rights? I have personally witnessed confrontations on your river of shouting matches and even threats at takeouts. I just cannot for the life of figure out what was accomplished? I’ll bet neither party woke up that morning wanting that confrontation.
Three years ago I was personally confronted (not by your outfit) about “fishing for spawners” in two feet of water. When actually the fish I was fishing for was not on a red (the light colored material from fish fanning) it was feeding at the head of rock. As I took the abuse, I could not help the feelings of being ambushed, degraded, even humiliated by their need to feel superior in front of their clients. Believe me, it takes all your being not to lash out at someone for interrupting your personal time and space.
I’m not sure if I’ve made my point. So in closing, if your approaching another person for the point of education, understand, you are infringing upon that persons time and space which they may or may not be ready to learn. If they are breaking the law, do what you feel is important to you and your life.

Thomas said...

Montana Teal do not think its our job as local flyfisherman to protect our river? That is absurd! When people fish spawners they are hurting the fishery. They are tiring out already tired fish and crushing thousands of eggs when they stomp all over the spawn beds. It is absolutely our job to let people know that they shouldn't fish this way.

To me the only reason people fish spawners is because its easy, and when hunting or fishing its always more fun to be successful. Yet, what people do not realize is that runs or holes below the spawning beds are far more productive than the redds themselves. You will not only catch more fish but the fish will be far more energetic providing longer and more exciting fights. So I am with the Lodge boys on this one. STAY OFF THE SPAWN BEDS!!!!!! PLEASE!!!! For the rivers sake. It will keep the fishery healthy and it will be more fun.