Bygones. (Yes, that was an Ally McBeal reference, good job!)
Anyway, on Saturday, Horsethief Reservoir, located a few miles east of Cascade, Idaho, will become one of those fish salvage fisheries because apparently somebody with a bucket and a like for catfish decided to stock the reservoir with brown bullheads, I believe. Anyway, Idaho Fish and Game will ask anglers to basically fish that reservoir out over the next couple of months so that they can restock it with nonnative rainbow trout and brown trout (from Europe originally). I understand this and I simply disagree with it. I would rather they restored actual fisheries, rather than restore invented fisheries (for lack of a better term). Yes, catching brown trout is fun. I loved doing that on the Current River in Missouri. Yes, catching rainbow trout are fun, and I loved catching them in the Eleven Point River in Missouri (though not as much as the native smallmouth bass there).
But at some point we've got to ask ourselves strategic questions. Why is it bad for some nonsanctioned bucket biologist to stock a reservoir with nonnative catfish or nonnative yellow perch (a common problem in these parts), when it somehow isn't bad for the state to stock nonnative species of a different kind that they wish anglers to enjoy in a particular angling setting? If it is bad for the nonsanctioned or to use the parlance of the generation, if it is bad for the bucket terrorist to do essentially the same thing the state is doing, why are we allowing the state to do it? And there, lies the ethical question that needs to be answered, especially when we consider ecosystems, biodiversity and trophic cascade and all that stuff. I guess to say it plainly, what is wrong with a watershed having the original fish God or Nature (whatever your persuasion, I don't judge) saw fit to be there?
So, let's get into it. Nonnative species threatening salmonids.
Another disclaimer, man, I love walleye. There is not a better tasting freshwater fish on earth. Sure a nice crappie sandwich near Reelfoot Lake in extreme northwestern Tennessee comes to mind as a contender (I'm picturing a crappie that looks like Marlon Brando in the backseat of a car letting his brother know "You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it. It was you, Charley") Anyway, walleye, great eating fish. They taste great and they eat a lot of our salmon and steelhead smolts in those unnatural reservoirs created by all those dams in the mainstem rivers. And they belong in places like Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, you know, not here.
I'll tell you though, I was extremely disappointed in a Wall, South Dakota restaurant that ran out of walleye the night I was there last month. I mean, come on, facebook said walleye was the most popular dish in South Dakota in one of those clickbait things they had awhile back and there I am in your state and did I get to eat walleye? No, disappointed, that's all I've got to say about that.
Anyway, they aren't native to the Snake or Columbia rivers, somebody got a hankering for some walleye, probably went to the same restaurant I did and had the same experience and went back and convinced their state fisheries managers to dump a bunch of walleye in the Snake River. OK, maybe that's not exactly how it happened, but I bet I'm marginally close to something that was near what went down. Bottom line, I guess a huge part of me wishes I lived in Minnesota next to one of them roadside walleye food truck/trailer operations.
Anyway back to the narrative, yes, I'm lost, too. Just remember the humor is free, because believe me I know no one would pay for it. Freeloaders!
We've dumped all manner of nonnative species in our critical salmonid habitat. Half of the fish species in the Columbia River are nonnative, think about that for a second, no, a minute. Heck, we even like to take native fish and stock the same type of fish, but from an entirely different area, polluting the native gene pool in the meantime. Here is a list of nonnative species threatening our salmonids in the greater Columbia/Snake basins.
Walleye tasty, but they like eating salmonids who lose the river's narrative in those slackwater reservoirs and the confused salmonids that get through the dams.
Smallmouth bass (my favorite fish to catch in Missouri and Kentucky, not here, though, they don't belong)
Brook trout (those are some pretty eastern fish, not so pretty when you know they are eating sockeye up in the Sawtooth Valley)
Channel Catfish those fish can really pack away the calories.
OK, I'm adding one for argument sake.
Nonnative Rainbow trout (yes some of them are native, heck some of them are steelhead, but let's not forget that in 1959 some Michigan men met to form Trout Unlimited because they were disgusted with all the hatchery trout that were ruining it for the native trout in Michigan streams, the idea of hatchery rainbow trout from the west to the east also rebounded back west). Make no mistake that hatchery rainbows are present in the basin and eating juvenile salmon.
The actual list is quite robust-walleye, smallmouth bass, brook trout and channel catfish and...
shad (thanks to fish culturist Seth Green in 1871, 19th century ignorance, some milk jugs with some 10,000 shad, a transcontinental railroad and California state fish and game commissioners who wanted shad in the Sacramento River, shad now represent the single largest biomass of fish in the lower Columbia River. They outnumber the salmon.)
red bellied pacu (yes, from South America)
And those are just from the middle Columbia River. And no, not all of those fish directly threaten salmonid survival.
I want to also point out that even though fish and game agencies recognize the predation on salmonids these nonnative species represent (again not all of those nonnative fish are eating salmon), it is still difficult for those agencies to simply deregulate those nonnative fish fisheries and operate the Columbia/Snake river basin as salvage fisheries until the walleye, smallmouth bass, brook trout and other nonnative salmonid predators have been either completely removed or at least severely diminished in number. But what you do see are state agencies that essentially want to deregulate those fish to a certain degree but allow the largest fish some regulation shield that is counter intuitive to what we know about these fish and their impact on our wild salmonids. And it doesn't take a genius to figure out that a 24-inch walleye can eat more salmon than a 10 inch one.
It all comes back to that silly idea we all seem to have that we can somehow manage the natural world better than it can. We even consciously do this while we freely admit we know but a fraction of the processes at work in the natural world that we spend most of our time destroying in one way or another. I always hope that nature can survive man's hubris, but that hope can seem foolish in light of the evidence.
I know what you are saying, "well, that's 10-15 minutes I'll never get back." And you are correct, but thanks for reading anyway.