Thursday, September 16, 2010

Eastern Invaders

September is a great time of year, as we start to get our first frosts and snow in the mountains. For many, the defining event of the month is the annual elk rut and coinciding archery season. Many Montanans and others from all over are out prowling the mountains listening for the resonating sound of an elk bugle. There is, however, another smaller event happening in the fishing world at the same this is the time of year that brook trout choose to spawn and show of their brilliant colors.

Now, I have to admit that I am big fan of brook trout. The history of fly-fishing in America really revolves around this little fish, and I would be hard pressed to think of a more gorgeous fish. With that said, I can now say that I wish that they weren't in Montana. This fish has flourished in our cold, clear headwater streams and successfully out-competed the native cutthroats that were there originally. The brook trout can reproduce swiftly and in many streams they will over-populate and stunted growth results. The issue gets even more complicated in western Montana where brook trout overlap with populations of our native bull trout. These two fish are closely related and can readily hybridize producing sterile offspring. Bull Trout caught with vermiculations on their back are the classic example of this. Unfortunately, the brook trout has caused a serious headache in Montana and now the taxpayer must help fund the resulting eradication efforts. This was the case here locally when government agencies decided to poison these trout (and others) out of Cherry Creek. This creek flows mainly through Ted Turner's Flying D ranch, and so Ted was willing to foot a large portion of the bill. Without going into to much detail about the controversy, I would just like to applaud the effort to help restore native cutthroats...especially when private parties are involved financially. Brilliant. Projects like these are what will help to keep the Westslope Cutthroat off of the endangered species list, and keep federal wildlife management out of the state.

For the average angler, perhaps the best contribution we can make is to knock a few of these eastern invaders on the head. There are several great reasons:

1. Brook trout are very tasty
2. Brook trout are just the right size for the average frying pan
3. Getting the occasional meal helps out with the cost of a license
4. You are being conservation-minded
5. There is a liberal 20-fish limit on "brookies"

Your contribution may seem insignificant, but if it catches on we may have a real impact. The Teton River in Idaho/Wyoming is a great example of anglers seriously diminishing brook trout populations. I know that I will be prowling some mountain streams looking to put a few in the freezer for the winter. Hmmmm...Maybe I should trying smoking them this year.

1 comment:

  1. I keep meaning to smoke some (people tell me they are great that way), but they seem to keep finding their way over a campfire before I get the chance.

    Now if I could figure out something to do with all the dinky invasive channel cats that I catch out of Colorado's westslope warm water streams...