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Mark Stangeland - NUFlyGuide
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The Choice

Posted by Mark Friday, December 23, 2011

Pardon me while I get on my soapbox here for a little while. I love these fish and I get fired up sometimes. Bare with me as I rant.

I am not trying to push my values on anyone here but I will speak openly and honestly. Many of the values I speak of should be everyone's values when it comes to stewarding our wild fish.It all about The Choice you decide to make. Choose wisely....

So when does really good fishing become irresponsible? Does anyone have a conscience anymore?I will submit to you that there are times when environmental conditions can provide the "perfect storm" so to speak and put fish in an unfavorable position. Is it fair and reasonable to target fish that are stacked and concentrated due to these environmental factors? Is it fair and reasonable to continue to target these fish over long periods of time? Is it fair and reasonable to hook as may fish as you can while these conditions persist? When is enough enough? How many fish do you need to catch in a day to be considered good fishing? I can't answer these questions for you, you must make those choices and decisions yourself.

    I have been thinking a lot about it lately in regards to the Main Umpqua that has had unreasonably and unseasonably good fishing the last few weeks. The regulations and fishing practices down there affect both the North and South Umpqua drastically.I will start by saying I do know that there are responsible fisherman out there(fly and gear) that realize a good thing and can limit themselves when they have had a good day and not get greedy.I am not talking to you.

The fishing has been good in large part because the water is at an all time low for this time of year and the fish are not moving.Stacked up and concentrated in a much narrower stretch of water than normal. They are living there. These are fish that usually have the cover of high water to make their ascent in relative obscurity. These are wild winter steelhead and they are getting absolutely hammered. Now don't get me wrong, I like to catch fish as much as the next guy but, at some point you gotta say enough is enough don't ya?Reports of double digit days swinging flies are common. That's cool and fun but after a few days like this doesn't it start to dawn on you that you are literately shooting fish in a barrel? Whats the fun in that. The fish have nowhere to go and are being repeatedly hooked.Those using egg imitations and bait are recording numbers off the charts.  A discussion board recently had a post from a guy( a guide I think) that was boasting of boating 186 fish in 11 days.That's to the boat, who knows how many were hooked.That's 186 wild winter fish! And that is just ONE boat people,and he wasn't happy about it either.He was vociferously complaining that only one or two of that almost 200 fish were clipped and could be kept. The locals and others are all up in arms that they can't kill fish, yet they do kill fish on a regular basis. There is no real Law Enforcement presence to deter much of the bad behavior so it continues. Mishandling of fish is at an all time high as wild fish after wild fish is reeled into the boat or bank, netted,to flop around on the bottom of the boat or the sand or rocks,held up by the gills for a few hero shots and then unceremoniously,booted, tossed, or dropped from 4 or 5 feet in the air, or over the shoulder back into the water. People are actually cussing as they wind in another fish to find out it's "just another nate". Sad indeed. Meanwhile, as a testament to the sheer numbers of fish being hooked and mishandled,the back eddies and big pools have dead wild fish littering the bottom. This is a travesty.Most of these fish are heading much higher in the system and many will not survive the mishandling and repeated hooking that they will go through. It's like crack though as people can not stay away or limit the numbers of fish they hook in a day.This will go on for the next 4-5 months as hundreds of boats fish questionable tactics and gear, and repeatedly hook and mishandle fish that are to be released.The fact that ODFW regulations allow for treble hooks and bait on a strictly wild catch and release winter fishery is just ludicrous. Hundreds of boats hooking thousands of fish in a season, and as I mentioned many, many of those beautiful wild fish will never make it up into the upper fly water where they can spawn. A month or two of low water where fish are mercilessly pounded can harm/kill a large portion of the run and have far reaching effects. When an anomaly like what is going on right now with water levels happens, the fish are exploited to unbelievable levels.These low water events have happened in the past and the corresponding return years of the offspring have been poor. Pray for rain for the fishes sake!

I will be controversial here but here goes.I am not saying that we should change the current ruling,which is No Kill, but I do think about these regs in the Main stem a lot. I think that in many ways a catch and release fishery when bait and trebles are allowed can be worse than a kill fishery. Yes you heard me right. Think about it. In a kill fishery they have to stop fishing when they have their limit of fish. In a C&R fishery they can catch and continue to catch fish after fish. Ripping gills with trebles,mishandling in the boat or on the bank, deep hooking of fish swallowing bait etc. One angler could potentially kill or seriously harm a half dozen fish in a day if he hooks 20. Hooking 20 fish on bait or yarn in a day can be rather common at times.I don't know the answer but I do know that there is a serious problem with the way the fishery and regulations pertaining to fishing methods and wild fish are being handled. Something to ponder for sure.

Catch and Release regulations should be enforced(that means give tickets to jackwagons who abuse fish) and fishing should  be No Bait and Single Barbless Hook basin wide. These rules should be enforced.

Maybe adopting a "keep the fish in the water policy" would be something that would help.

Life is about choices, lets make good ones.

Off the soapbox,

Merry Christmas......Remember it's about Christ!


  1. Ken Campbell Says:
  2. Sport is tradition, ethics, and restraint. Without all three...well...

  3. Unknown Says:
  4. Wow...Tough to read. So many people I know would never think about it this way, including myself not too long ago. Thanks for speaking up...Merry Christmas!

  5. Anonymous Says:
  6. I hear ya Mark, and 100% agree. Those fish are too sacred to be abused, and I think your point about the end result of Sloppy C&R vs Kill Limit is sadly true.

  7. I posted comments on Speypages as well. Totatlly agree with you here and also very concerned. I've had already been concerned about fish mortality with the high numbers of fish caught and "released" by the gear crowd. My worst fears have been confirmed with the reports of many dead fish due to mishandling.

    You are right that the low water conditions put these fish in a vulnerable position. As you mentioned, all should show some restraint. Catching numbers of fish should not be the name of the game for those concerned about the future and well-being of our native steelhead.

    Thanks for the post and have a blessed Christmas and thanks for the reminder that Christ is the reason for the season.


  8. Anonymous Says:
  9. what a rant. if anything this has brought more attention to a fishing hole and not for the better. If they can get over deadline than they can get over sawyers. I know exactly where steelhead would be in high mortality years and I have yet to see the littered bedrock bottom of mummified steelhead haha.
    The manner in which the steelhead are being released is something to be considered and would be a huge step in the preservation of wild steelhead. This epic of fishing has been going on since steelhead were in the Umpqua, particularly in November before early december rains. With the advancement of spey lines geeks from all over oregon have branched out in search of winter steelhead swing water and the perfect storm collided with an extended low water year. Thanks for letting more geeks know, now they can get their trophy too.

  10. Mark Says:
  11. Thanks for the comments all.

  12. chaveecha Says:
  13. While your main questions of self control and C&R are very valid, and I share your concerns over fish handling, bait and trebles, it's hard to focus on those issues when your post is so ill-timed, so seemingly irresponsible in shedding light on the fishery at this busy time.

    And then there are your assertions, preached as facts, that don't align with reality on the water. For instance, I'm happy to report that the fish are, in fact, moving. There's enough water for them to go, and you can watch them zooming by at regular intervals. I would imagine they are making even more mileage at night. Furthermore, I've been paying close attention, and I've only seen one dead chromer in and below the area receiving the most abuse. I've really looked, many times, expecting the worst. Some holes are too deep to see the bottom, so pardon me if your reports are coming from divers.

    Lastly, I've seen and/or spoken with an able-bodied state trooper several times. He glasses the main pools from the road, stops at ramps and is keeping tabs.

    Great intentions, all the same. I have struggled with my greed several times, including recently, and your point is well taken. Hard to be a self-controlled chrome addict, especially in the early season. I will be more mindful, thanks in part to you. A good lesson for the New Year.

  14. Mark Says:
  15. Thanks for the comments Chaveecha

  16. Randall Says:
  17. Great write-up, Mark

    It seems to me that fishing for these fish that are stacked up like that does as much, if not more damage than fishing directly over redds. It's a matter of (what should be) common sense. I also don't understand the legality of the use of bait (and trebles) on a wild steelhead stream. And yes, I agree that they should hand out more tickets for poor fish handling practices (i.e. kicking a fish around in the bottom of a boat, dragging it up on the sand, etc.)



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