Catch and Release on Great Lakes tributaries – Does it make sense to you? [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Catch and Release on Great Lakes tributaries – Does it make sense to you?

02-03-2006, 09:09 AM
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced some regulation changes that will take affect in the not to distant future. Some of these changes include catch and release stretches on some of our tributaries supporting runs of steelhead. I of course am for the regulation changes, however I was wondering how others feel about them.

Some of the pros of a no kill sections would be to help preserve our meager stocks of wild fish (we do have them believe it or not). Teach stewardship of the environment to our young people. And to provide a higher quality experience for the conservation minded angler.

Another thing to consider is that wild fish and stocked fish on the west coast are treated quite differently than ones in the great lakes. Wild west coast fish are afforded a greater degree of protection than stocked fish because of the importance of preserving wild genetic strains of those fish. The same distinction is not made in great lakes waters. When you consider that wild fish in the great lakes were all bread from stocked fish does it make sense to protect them in the same way?


02-03-2006, 10:23 AM
While I totally agree with Charlie, I can't help but think that the hatchery vs wild fish agenda out west is more an ideal than something that can effectively be carried out. Far too many of the guys I see on the river can't tell the difference between a steelhead, brown or, for that matter, lake trout. Then again there's the crowd best exemplified by this guy I came across with a couple of out of season lakers on the bank. The guy swore they were steelhead. My point is that how many fishermen will be willing or able to distinguish between a wild or hatchery steelhead and act accordingly? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe fin clipping is the main distinguishing factor out west. But try as we might, we'll always have at least a few fishermen out there who aren't even aware of the situation.

02-03-2006, 11:08 AM

I think that both wild and stocked fish should be treated with the same respect not just one vs. the other. The reason being is for what chromedome has stated and that is it is very hard for your average fisherman to determine the difference between wild and stocked fish without really doing his homework. And with all do respect alot of fisherman on the great lakes don't really take there time to research this information. Having these new regulations hopefully will raise new environmental awarness to those who haven't really thought about it to much when they have been out fishing. Although I still think it is a topic especially in the upstate new york area that will continue to be a "beaten" dead horse.

02-03-2006, 11:41 PM
I'm shocked, but in a good way. Seems it was just yesterday that a broke-in-half Ugly stick and lead covered trebles were the order of the day and even fly fishing meant dapping with buckshot and a comet.

I wonder how this will be enfocced to be honest. Will the DNR actually be patrolling streamside and even checking leaders (heaven forbid)? And what about the interception of wild fish on the way to the promised catch and release land? Do the regs account for all wild fish?

If they can educate and enforce that's great. I guess it's just a process that we'll have to get to over time. Hope the steelhead can wait on us to get it right.


02-04-2006, 06:51 AM
Refreshing news to me.

Although it may not be a cure-all the fish will definitely fare better in these zones and the angler may find more enjoyment as well.

BTW - hatchery fish and wild fish can be easily distinguished by the disfigured fins of hatchery fish even when not clipped.

02-05-2006, 08:05 AM
I recently had the good fortune to spend several hours with Fran Verdilova on the Salmon River. For those who don't know him, he guided the river full time for many years and is now in charge of the Salmon River fish hatchery. Fran says that of the Steelies now being caught on the Salmon, fully 50% were born and bred in the river, with the other 50% being hatchery returns. It is entirely possible that sometime in the future, it will no longer be necessary to stock the river.

If you can think really long term, it is possible that with proper management, 1-200 years from now, the Great Lakes fishery could be entirely native.

How could any outdoorsperson possibly not be in favor of that?

02-05-2006, 08:54 AM
of course i'm totaly in favor of these regs but i don't believe they go far enough. imho we should have gotten a flyfishing only section somewhere outside of the salmon. the reason for this is the float rod. the float rod used with flies is still totaly deadly and they will still hook every fish in the artificials section by noon. say there are twenty guys floatfishing a two mile stretch and each hooks 20 fish that is 400 fish hooked. how many do you think there are in a two mile stretch? i don't believe these numbers are out of line and i have witnessed this several times. that doesn't leave very many unmolested fish for us flyfishers to hook. since there are no ff only sections out side of the salmon i don't think this was too much to ask for. even a small section would have been nice.

Juro- NY does not clip fins at all and they also stock a lot of fingerling size steelhead. these fish spend so little time in a hatchery that they are very hard to distinguish from wild fish.

2 hand- i don't think anyone has done more for steelhead in this state than Fran, but i think he may be pretty optimistic about the numbers of wild fish in the salmon river. i have never heard any of the bioligists or dec officials agree there were that many wild fish by percent anywhere in NY. especially when you consider that the hatchery puts about 50,000 steelhead in that river. 50,000 wild fish is a pretty generous number imho. if anyone else has difinitive numbers please post them and set me straight.

don't get me wrong anything is a step in the right direction, but when the dec guys are saying that regs have been shot down by public opinion i quickly lose faith in the scientific community having any real power on the streams. uneducated people's opinions shouldn't count when the bioligists agree something is good for the fishery. the one fish limit on the erie tribs was shot down because some people complained about it even though the dec felt it was the best thing for the fishery. who's leading who?

02-05-2006, 09:20 AM
You may have misunderstood Fran. I think that he was referring to wild Chinook recruitment in the Salmon River...not Steelhead. It is well documented that ever since the minimum flows were established in the river back mid 90’s wild Chinook smolt have been pouring from the river. I still have not heard any figures on how many of those fish are surviving and making it back to spawn…to my knowledge nobody knows as no studies have been done as of yet…but it is pretty much an accepted fact with all the biologists that I have talked to that it represents a significant portion of the run. Studies done on the main stem of the salmon have always shown negligible levels of wild steelhead juveniles. Dan Bishop did a study I think in the late 90’s that showed modest production of wild steelhead in Trout and Orwell brooks which are feeder tribs of the Salmon but nothing significant. The big problem with the steelhead is that they stay in the river environment for a couple of years prior to smolting and summer temps (except for a couple of odd springs) in the main steam are marginal for steelhead survival. This will always be the case because warm water comes out of the shallow reservoirs behind the dams during the summer months. Chinook don’t have this problem because they smolt and migrate out to the lake in the same year that they were born and prior to summer. Fran is very optimistic about the future of wild Chinook in the Salmon but I have never heard him or Dan Bishop talk of significant wild steelhead production in the Salmon.

Tight lines


02-05-2006, 10:19 AM
Great thread!

Just one subtle but important point - pacific species will never be 'native' no matter how wild. Native belongs to the atlantic salmon races that once choked the tributaries of Lake Ontario.

02-05-2006, 01:10 PM
Interesting topic as I stay in contact with the local DEC for my region and have for years. I will likely “rant” here so be aware.

• It’s a start but for example on one small trib near my location the new C & R area is so far upstream. It won’t do much good, other than “a start” for future changes.
• Land access is also a concern.
• In regards to “wild fish” or a better word would be natural reproducing Steelhead. Even Chautauqua Creek has now been documented to have natural reproduction. And as we know the Catt. Besides Steelhead has some Coho. But, IMO it could never be “all natural reproducing” and although it’s optimistic to think “in the future all natural”. That will never happen here IMO. The future of all stream fishing will only get worst as the US population grows over the next 50 years. To stop this the state and federal government need to lease or buy land along the streams and make “natural zones” of 100 yards on both sides of a stream. It likely won’t happen to that degree. Although it needs to be done so that ALL can enjoy streams from fisherman to kids playing and grapping Crayfish to kayak and canoe users. With heavy penalties for littering. If the state or federal government does not get control of both sides of a stream SOON. Things will only get worst over future decades not better. As far as I am concerned stocking smolts or fingerling Trout. Is close enough to the “ideal natural” for me. Would I prefer “all natural” or better yet “wild or native”………..sure of course. Will it ever happen here………….I highly doubt it. Juro mentioned Atlantics and Lake Ontario…….. Absolutely! This should be a “high priority” idem with the DEC. Same with Lake Trout and Brook Trout in Lake Erie. These are the “native wild species”.
• Black Francis brought up some good points which I agree with in regards to regulations. I have personally typed up “suggestions” and e-mailed them to the DEC where they have taken the suggestions streamside and asked anglers their opinions. The problem is “this regulation process” is slow. IMO and I have suggested this to the DEC in writing, “catch and release/artificials only” will do LITTLE GOOD. The practice is already largely in place. Except by the “AMISH” which is another problem (not law abiding) and topic by it’s self. Float fisherman using scents on yarn fly’s (egg patterns) are not going to slow down there catch’s. THE PROBLEM IS LACK OF GEAR RESTRICTIONS ON HOW FISH ARE TAKEN. Namely “floats” BE IT FLY, FLOAT OR SPIN FISHERMAN. You have to get rid of the float and drift fishing in certain areas period!! Catch and releasing a fish over and over does little more good than just throwing it on the grill. These fish need an area to re-coupe. An area where a flyfisherman can swing a streamer or soft hackle and have the fish chase and strike. A spin fisherman can fish these same areas with a light jig. THE FLOATS, STRIKE INDICATORS AND DRIFT FISHING NEED TO GO. And “yes” I do use strike indicators at times particularly on small streams. Until these type regulations are in place nothing will really change except a sign nailed to a tree stating C & R artificials only. The local Dunkirk NY DEC is well aware of these thoughts and proposals. And they also agree to a point. But, they have to take baby steps first. Which is happening now. C&R Artificials is only a baby step IMO. Eventually they need “gear restriction regulations” like in certain areas of theWest coast. With these we will then see “real change” and an education of the mind set of ALL anglers and why we are angling in the first place. Until, then at least on small tribs you will likely need an indicator, egg & nymph at least ½ the time you fish. If you want to catch a couple. Unless you catch the fresh run just right, where as they have not been pounded on caught and released by every float, spin and fly angler drift fishing eggs, scented yarn, sucker spawn and bead head nymphs first. And those are the ones left that the Amish, who apparently can’t read the law, have not taken out in “buggy” loads, back to the farm and feed pcb’s to the kids with. BTW- I like the Amish as a whole and live in the country myself. Still, anglers need to start confronting them along the stream rather than taking a picture of the “pretty buggy”. We need to ask them face to face. “Are you aware of the law?” The take limit? That it’s only recommended you eat like two of these fish a month because of mercury content? We need to educate them too. Because unless you live in the area like myself. You would never guess how many (monster amount) they are taking out of the smaller tribs.

02-07-2006, 08:40 PM
It's a put and take fishery-it's a put and take fishery!!! If I hear another SW MI. steelheader say that in the next week--I THINK I AM GOING TO PUKE:mad: I truly can't believe the amount of steel that is taken repeatedly by the same boneheads on the water that I regularly fish.. Landed 5 chromers on a MI trib last wk.....3 of them were WILD FISH! Juro hit the nail on the head as to identifying characteristics ( did I spell that right?) I was taught by a biologist who I fish with , how to tell strains apart and hatch. vs. wild... If the eating machine kings can be put under control --- the daily bag (STRINGER ) LIMIT REDUCED! and an end to the senseless bed raking that takes place when the fish are on gravel.... maybe--just maybe-- we won't be talking about the GOOD OL' DAYS in a few yrs.. Every where I turn all I hear is talk of needing more fisherman taking up the sport --ralllying cry of strengh in #s..I am sorry--but imho that is what we DONT need!!! Maybe the DNR's of various states need that (more money) gear manufacturers need that (more money)-----But I don't think our limited resources and waterways need that!!! Not without education at the very least...The 1 problem is --the crowd that I am talking about---NEED TO TEACH THEM TO READ FIRST:Eyecrazy:

02-07-2006, 10:27 PM

Your proposal seems to be a positive one in the sense that I agree that alot of people see our tibutaries as put and take and do not respect the fish or what there trying to accomplish. Your comment about fishing with a fishery biologist is killer, I think it's cool that you can learn some cool education on fish from him although alot of fisherman don't have that luxury. Hence why there needs to be more education by the people and the states. It is possible to chat with someone on the stream that is a put and take fisherman not to put him down or see him as a less of a fisherman for it. I think that if you can chat with them on common ground than they will respect you more and maybe listen to what you have to say about C&R rather than judge you for your views of them or what there tactics are.
The biggest thing I have to disagree on is your comment about there needs to be less people getting into the sport and it should only be a sport for those that already know how. Dude I am a 21 and have been enjoying this sport for the past 10 years. Are you saying that any young or older person who wants to learn this sport the "right" way shouldn't and they are not welcome?:mad: I am all about catch an release and educating people on why we do what we do. And ya know what, if you find common ground with them on a related subject they will listen to you and not reject your views and opinions if you willing to listen to thiers not just judge them on first impression. I think you have a alot of bad experience's on the water with some people that leave a sour impression, and ya I have to but you let go and move on. No one says that you have to fish next to that person. Move on to the next beat or run and let it go if there not willing to chat about it. Please let me hear your feed back maybe I'm missing your point or misinterpreted it and if I did sorry man.

02-08-2006, 06:19 AM
I don't think I am mistaken, but I do believe I mis-stated. 50% was the return rate, not the catch rate.

The gist of it was that by managing the fishery for steelies rather than the annual salmon carnage, he believes it is possible to build a great wild fishery.

The problem is that local businesses make a lot of money from the annual salmon carnage.

02-08-2006, 09:06 AM
That makes more sense. I'm not surprised that wild fish would recruit better than the hatchery fish. There is a big problem with steelhead recruitment in general on the Salmon River right now. The numbers the DEC throw around are something like 20 - 30% of the stocked steelhead returned to spawn 25 years ago. Something like 3% make it back now. There has been a steady decline ever since the early 90’s. They are not sure why this is the case other than they know the fish are not surviving to adulthood in the lake. Maybe due to changes in the food web, EMS…nobody knows. More wild fish could be part of the solution…and one that I never seem to hear brought up.

If the DEC has now decided that they really want to make a push for wild steelhead on the Salmon that would be beyond unbelievable but I remain pessimistic. It would take a lot of changes and the culture on that river especially is not conducive to change. The DEC closed Trout and Orwell Brooks to “fishing” several years ago because it was some of the only suitable nursery water available for steelhead and they were promptly sued by local user groups. The streams are now open to poaching again. In addition, I hear little push for wild fish from mainstream fisherman on the river. If you get on the Salmon River fishing boards these guys almost never talk of wild fish…even among the hardcore steelheaders. It’s usually how do we get the recruitment up for the stocked fish and how do we conserve what we now have.

One thing that is in place on the salmon river is a catch and release mentality for steelhead. Creel surveys show something like 80% of fish are released and there is a 1 fish daily limit in place. Ironically, up on the North shore in Ontario where they have tremendous runs wild fish there is a creel problem.

Tight Lines

02-08-2006, 06:32 PM
I'm not sure it's safe to say that the DEC wants to manage for Steelies, but that is the gist of Fran's personal position.

I think he encounters great resistance to this on every level, not just public.

Glenora Ghillie
02-18-2006, 05:20 PM
The steelhead is all Fran has to hold on to, since they took the atlantic salmon program away(the fish he really wanted to succeed).:roll:

He is a good man with a great heart who is fighting a really tuff battle from many fronts. He and Dan are good ones for sure, doing the best job they can in a otherwise pretty regressive scene.

Great discussion!!!