Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Winter Respite

Your Olympic Peninsula Fly fishing Guide.
Catch & Release, Fly fishing only.

Winter Respite

   It's been about a month since I last entered anything here. Between the late autumn storms with record rainfall in the first half of December, and the rivers jumping up and down for the last two months, I have not had much to report here. I can say that in between the wind blown tides, the river floods, and the Winter Solstice King Tides, we have had some beautiful interludes of mild days, with good fishing on the beaches for sea-run Cutthroat. And wasn't that Christmas full moon just wonderful! Of course the rivers have been fishing on and off all along. And except for that moon, and the 200% of normal rainfall in early December, none of this is particularly unusual for this time of year here.

 Sportfishing Rule Changes   

    Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife has adopted some new rules for fishing on our Olympic Peninsula waters, to protect wild winter run steelhead, and rainbow trout. You can read about them here: http://wdfw.wa.gov/news/dec1415a/

    I believe that anything we can do to reduce our damaging impacts on these wild winter-run steelhead and trout is a good thing. But I also feel that these last runs of wild steelhead should have been listed, under the Endangered Species Act, a long time ago, and they should have been protected the same way that the Puget Sound river runs were, just like the Skagit and Sauk runs, (which, without fishing pressures or harvest are recovering.),  http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/puget-sound-steelhead-declared-threatened/

    The trouble with having the fishermen manage the fish should be obvious by now. The runs here are so low in number now that they are at precarious risk. And when you cant get enough fish to spawn, with the spawning escapement goals ridiculously low to begin with, and with runs failing for years- I don't think that we should be continuing to fish for them, much less running guided trips of any kind for them. 

    I have not fished for wild winter-run steelhead here, nor have I guided for them, for the last few seasons. Catch and release fishing does have mortality impacts and physiological consequences for these fish. Not to mention repeatedly catching and releasing most of these fish on their spawning runs. And not enough is understood about the consequences of this. We cannot afford to further damage these runs. While these new regulations seem worthy, they are just another in a series of extensions of the irresponsible, selfish, short-sighted exploitation of the last wild steelhead here. Too little, and too late. It's time to stop fishing and get real about this. Turning down people for these trips pains me, and it costs me dearly as well. I am disgusted with the lack of leadership coming from WDF&W, and from the sport fishing industry too, with regard to all of this. 

   A great writer, Thomas McGuane, once said: "If the trout are gone, bash the state." 

   I would only add to that: We are "the state". It is our responsibility as citizen anglers to demand that our fisheries managers protect these last runs of wild steelhead. It has been said that "we get the government that we deserve." How much are we really doing to preserve and restore the wild steelhead and salmon of our region? How involved have we really been? Were we only thinking of the fishing opportunity?

     The weather and conditions here will be improving dramatically over the next week to ten days. And the big annual King tides are subsiding now. If you want to try your hand at winter sea-run Cutthroat fly fishing on the saltwater beaches, this respite from the rain, winds, and heavy waves, will be much appreciated. With sunny days predicted ahead, that should get some feeding action going again. In the winter I normally like to fish deep and slow for these trout. But if it's going to be as mild as they are predicting, I will be using a floating line and some top water flies. You can't beat a greased Muddler or beach popper at a time like this. 

    There's a New Year coming. Lets find ways to do our best for the benefit of wild fish and rivers. Not just for our own entertainment. Look up your local WDFW Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group and see how you can get involved to make a positive impact on our wild fish. 
It's not just about "salmon"  http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/volunteer/rfeg/ 


     Bob Triggs

     Little Stone Flyfisher