Monday, August 27, 2012

The Browns of the Lewis River

Jim Vincent, co-founder of RIO products, wrote an opinion piece in the most recent issue of The Drake lamenting the loss of large brown trout in the Lewis River in Yellowstone National Park. Here's my letter to the editor, Tom Bie, in response to his Scuddlebutt article.


Jim Vincent, in his recent Scuddlebutt article, attributes the loss of the large browns in the Lewis River to the increase in fishing limits in Yellowstone National Park and directly blames officials for the change in policy that now favors native trout. Those limits, which went into effect in 2006, allow anglers to keep up to five fish in the Wild Trout Enhancement Area of which the Lewis River, below Lewis Falls, is a portion.

I don't know what the science says about trout population in that stream or what the causal factors may be in any decline. I understand how angling pressure can hurt a fishery, especially one that winds along a well traveled road.

I enjoy fishing for native fish in their native ranges but I'm not a native fish snob. I'll gladly fish for both wild and stocked rainbows and browns. And nothing puts a smile on my face like a Steelhead, far from it's native range, pulling line off my reel on the Salmon River in Pulaski, New York.

I still know some places in Connecticut that hold native fish as well as streams that could hold native fish. But I'm not fool enough to think that in a state where you can't swing a dead Coho without hitting a McMansion that we're going to restore brook trout to its native range. And I know of several dams whose removal would restore Atlantic Salmon runs to their biblical proportions. But again, I'm satisfied to cede restoration to the harsh reality of flood control, power generation and pragmatism.

But there are places where I do expect that we'll make an effort to restore the landscape. In places that are safe from development. In places where the stewards have a legal and regulatory obligation to restore native species. In short, in places like Yellowstone National Park.

Native trout everywhere is not the answer just as native trout no where is not the answer. But if Yellowstone National Park, whose mission is to preserve and maintain the geologic and natural heritage of the region, is not the place for natives then there's no place for natives in our landscape.

It sucks that Jim Vincent and anglers of the Lewis have lost something that they dearly love. I'm still pissed off about the recent extirpation of brook trout in a local stream. The brook trout and its anglers are paying the price of progress. Jim is paying the price of rolling it back, just a bit, in the one place where we have any hope of doing so.


Stephen Zakur

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