Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Letter Response

Okay, so for those of you who didn't read the letter I sent to fisheries regarding species being stocked in our area lakes, please click here and take a look.

This post is just going to sum up the response.

Basically, the province is trying to lower the number of foreign fish being stocked into certain areas, and the province as a whole.  So this more or less means that rainbows will be the standard in many areas, like mine, because try as they might they never could become established into streams or lakes, so the risk of invasion is minimized.  Brookies on the other hand have played havoc on trout streams all over the west (as I'm sure we all know), out-competing native species and hybridizing will bulls trout, screwing them over, too.

So in short, no, they don't have plans to diversify the fishery.  Apparently, most people who fish for trout (around here, probably 80%+ of them will be limit-hunters, which only a relative few being mostly C&R types who'll keep the odd bleeding trout) are just as happy catching rainbows, and catch more of them than the brookies in the lakes with both species present.  Rainbows also have a higher chance of overwintering (no kidding, we've all been watching the brookie disaster at Chickakoo for years) and they are actually planning on not putting brookies in C.L. anymore anyway.

Well then...

So I sent off a little response, and while I don't necessarily like the answer given, it will have to do I guess.  We have enough problems getting the creation of restricted kill and no bait lakes, so species will need to be an afterthought for me.  And I think I could live with it, even through pictures of slug browns and brookies from Manitoba and Saskatchewan are enough to keep me lying awake at nights, I'll take big rainbows in a specially regulated lake or pond over 8" stocker brookies in a 5-trout limit meat hole any day.

The province is even planning on (they're working on it, now apparently, but I've only heard that through an unofficial source) using a rare strain of rainbows (called the Athabasca rainbow --the only native rainbow whose home-range is East of the continental divide) for planting into lakes in that region, so any accidental escapees couldn't contaminate the native gene pool.  Surprisingly, that whole region is so tough for introduced trout (again, except for brookies --bastards...) to survive in, that even in area where planting of exotic rainbows had occurred, they never managed to reproduce, even by crossing with the native stock.  Thank god...

Anyway, so it's little consolation, but I also found out (through a different alley, again) that they are planning on stocking a few (about 250 per year) brown trout into Muir Lake, our local fly fishing hub and only area lake with regulations and stocking rates designed for producing 20"+ trout.  So while brookies may not be getting more widely stocked, I might have the chance to catch my favourite species of trout from a small (approx 78 acre) lake just 40 minutes form my front door.


Friday, January 25, 2013

8-cents a fly...

No, I'm not selling flies for 8-cents each.  When I was working in a "fly shop" (a polite euphemism for the fly fishing section --as separated as it was-- at a sporting goods store) we had all types of folks come in.  From hard core fanatics (only a few, really) who've been avid fly fishermen for years, to complete beginners who needed to be walked through the process.  I enjoyed it all, mind you, but there was always something that irked me.

The cheapest fly tying hooks we sold were about $4 for a package of 25.  I'm not going to name brands, but you can use your imagination.  The tempering process was not as good, the hooks made in China rather than Japan, and just in general were more inferior to other brands, which I happen to prefer.  Now, these "other" brands, with my personal choice of Daiichi, based on our options from all the fishing shops in Edmonton, each having prices, generally, from $5-6 depending on the exact hook style.

Now, there are some hook styles in the cheaper brand that I like, and actually tie with, so I'm not just being pompous or elitist or anything...  I'm just talking in general.

So lets think about this.  Even at $6 for 25, that is only $0.08 extra per fly.  Why buy inferior materials, just because it looks a bit (and I mean a small bit) more appetizing when buying an entire package?  Are you going to buy bad tippet to save 8-cents?  What about a bad line?  Or what about your morning coffee for that matter?  I didn't think so.

No, so why be chincy (how do you spell that?) with the business end of your gear?  If it really (and I mean honestly, people) comes down to budget, I'd  recommend lowering the cost of the rod you want to get buy 50 or 100 bucks.  That'll let you get up to 50 packs of high quality, strong hooks (that's over 1200 individual ties...) that won't bend under extreme pressure from big trout --the last time you'd ever want to have cheap, soft hooks attached to your expensive, highest-breaking-strain-for-the-size tippet, $80 fly line, and $700 fly rod.

So do yourself a favour.  Spend the $0.08 extra on each fly, and be thankful that you did when a large trout is on the line.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A letter sent to fisheries...

I just wanted to post a copy of a letter I recently sent to the Fisheries Management --Conservation and Planning staff in Alberta.  Not sure if it's to the right folks, but hopefully someone useful gets it.  If I don't hear back, it'll be phone calls.  It's high time logic and forward thinking reigned in the fisheries management sector of Alberta's government.  Instead it's a refusal to change from the past, regardless of how ineffective the actions and poor the results.  The only alterations to anything are of the budget cutting variety, and we can all guess whether the results will be better or worse after those changes...

Trev with an SRD trophy of 12 inches.  The typical result of poorly managed, over-stocked lakes. 

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to you today regarding the current trout stocking policies of the many public pothole lakes in the Edmonton Region.  To start off, I would like to say that I am an advocate of "Quality" trout lakes in the Province of Alberta, such as Ironside, Fiesta, Police Outpost, Lower Kananaskis, and Muir to name a few, that have seasonal and gear restrictions allowing these waters to offer high quality rainbow trout fishing opportunities not available at most lakes in out province.  I take my fly fishing quite passionately, and care deeply about the future of our waters.  That being said, I am often forced to travel to BC, Saskatchewan, or at a minimum other areas of Alberta to experience much quality stillwater trout fishing.  I do believe we can have more diversified fishing near Edmonton, however, and it would not need to cost more money in the form of additional trout stocked, aerators, etc.

I also want to state that I am not writing to you to advocate the creation of more "Quality" lakes, though I would like to see more.  My correspondence with you is regarding the species of trout stocking and distribution of these fish.  I'm a realist; I am aware that "alternate" trout species (read any trout species other than rainbows) are more expensive to hatch, rear, and stock, and with today's realities of budget issues and tough decisions, I appreciate that ideas of adding additional high-cost species to stocking lists would not make it far past the "anglers writing in letters of suggestion" stage.

That being said, it is very noticeable to anglers in the Edmonton region that we have what we would consider to be ZERO alternatives to rainbow trout in our lakes (as far as trout are concerned).  I am saying zero even though records will obviously show that brook trout are routinely planted (about 4000 per year) in Chickakoo Lake near Stony Plain.  I have not given this alternate species credit in this location as a viable option as a species alternative for trout anglers, because this lake suffers either a winter or summer-kill, or both, nearly (if not every) year.  When someone does catch a brook trout in this lake, it is nearly always the recently stocked fish (of only 16-20cm), hardly what any fisherman would consider a good return for the investment, when we take into account the high costs associated with planting this species of trout.

Considering the high (nearly 100% each year, most likely from a lack of oxygen) mortality rates, would it not be more beneficial to plant that allocation (the 4000 per year) of brook trout into lakes that offer a high survival rate of the planted trout, which can in turn offer several years of angler return on each stocking, rather than a single year of only partial return on small trout?  I am aware of the "kick-back" reaction that would happen from local anglers if all of a sudden they could not catch brook trout, albeit small ones, from Chickakoo, but why not split the difference; stocking 2000 brook trout and 9000 rainbows (an increase of 2000 rainbows, to counter the drop in brook trout numbers) each year would allow 2000 brook trout to be available for other water bodies in the area that will overwinter trout, while allowing others to continue catching some at Chickakoo.  Muir Lake, for example, would not only allow successful overwintering, but a high angler yield due to the low mortality rate (because of the bait-ban and 50cm minimum size limit, and closed winter seson).  Star Lake, though on your list of potential winterkill lakes, has only suffered one partial kill in recent memory (even lakes with aerators partially killed that year), and would make another viable alternative for a brook trout planting site. 

Those lakes would be extremely acceptable as they are within the same vicinity (only a few minutes drive apart) as Chickakoo Lake, so anglers could still reasonably access these same trout, minimizing disturbing anglers through travel time issues, distance from Edmonton, Stony Plain, or other towns.  There are many lakes that overwinter to the north or east of Edmonton as well and could use variety.

I ask you to please consider the concerns and points I have raised with this letter.  The Edmonton region is standing alone as a trout fishing region --we are the only large region to offer such as poor variety of trout fishing opportunities.  In addition to rainbow trout, Edson has 3 lakes in the immediate vicinity with brown trout, plus more with brook trout, and even more yet if you drive 80km towards Hinton.  There are numerous brook trout lakes in the Swan Hills-Whitecourt region, and Red Deer-Rocky Mountain House has several brook trout lakes and even a couple brown trout ones (in addition to all the brown trout/brook trout creeks).  Those regions listed above also have the advantage of offering stream fishing opportunities for trout, yet they also seem to get the best of trout stockings.  Trout lakes are no longer merely places people can go and keep trout so that it relieves pressure on our other fisheries.  Fishermen, lots of us, want to have high quality trout fishing on lakes, and Edmonton, of all highly populated regions, should see this taken into account, as we only have trout available to us in lakes and ponds. 

I do feel that splitting the stocking of 4000 brook trout (usually doomed to winterkill in Chickakoo) into more lakes in the Edmonton area will improve the satisfaction of trout anglers.  The lower natural mortality rate of trout will give anglers a higher catch rate, while lowering the overall cost of fish stocking to maintain population levels.  A variety of fish species being planted into more lakes will provide more enjoyment, in the form of much needed variety, to anglers.

I would appreciate feedback to the concerns I have addressed. 

Thank you very much for your time, and I appreciate your continued efforts.


Nick Sliwkanich

Edmonton, AB