Conservation helps fishing in the future
By TODD VINYARD, Scripps Howard News Service
November 27, 2002
- New Yorker Fred Mather knew the cunning and tenacity of the brown trout would delight his fellow American anglers after just one fishing trip in Germany.
He was responsible for helping to bring brown trout from Europe to America. It was a move that has probably led to words of anguish and exhilaration from anglers in many places who fish for these often skittish, nocturnal creatures who love cloudy weather and sheltering cover. Mather was right about the impact these big, bruising brown fish would have on American fishing.
Mid-Southerners have felt the tug in Arkansas where the world record of 40 pounds, 4 ounces was caught by Howard 'Rip' Collins of Heber Springs on the Little Red River in 1992.
Brown trout were first stocked in the Bull Shoals tailwaters during the 1950s. They reproduce in Arkansas in the White River, below the Bull Shoals Dam and in the Little Red River and prefer water temperatures in the 50- to 60-degree range.
While they are often hard to catch - which is part of their allure - there is a time when that changes. That comes when brown trout are spawning, mainly in November.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has season fishing closures in the early winter on the White River to protect the most active spawning areas. Some area fly-fishing guides say it is important for anglers to take some precautions during the spawn that can lead to good fishing for years to come.
"Sometimes we love the trout to death," said John Berry, of Berry Brothers Guide Service in Cotter, Ark. "What we are hoping for is wild trout. And the best way to ensure that is to let them do their business in peace and find other just-as-fun ways to fish while respecting the resource."
Brown trout do the business of spawning when the female digs a shallow pit in the gravel bottom of a riffle where she deposits her eggs. After the male fertilizes them and the eggs are covered with gravel, both parents desert the nest.
These areas, called redds, can be disturbed when anglers walk through.
"You can't just walk out there without looking," said Jamie Rouse, a guide in Arkansas with Wolf River Trading Company. "It's important to pay attention to what's going on so you don't interrupt this life-continuing activity."
Plus, when one knows what to watch for, a real life aquarium opens up.
"It's like a 3D show; when you see one, you see a bunch of them," Rouse said, before pointing out some large brown trout moving in huge packs.
Rouse doesn't fish in these spawning areas and prefers to be below them in 7-8 feet of water with an attractor or egg pattern. On this day his first cast is greeted by the slap of a brown trout slurping what it believes is an insect and instead turns out to be his fly.
Rouse quickly pulls the fish in and uses a net with a long handle to make sure he carries the fish properly.
"People sometimes make a mistake of picking the fish up and the fish's body weight can't handle that during the spawn. So they sometimes drop eggs and it can be harmful for the fish," Rouse said. "It's best to keep them in the water and take a quick picture and get back to fishing."
Berry also prefers not to fish the spawning brown trout.
"It's just not as sporting in my opinion," Berry said. "There are other options. I personally find it more challenging when they are moving down river after spawning."
AGFC is taking steps to help the fish on the White River with areas 100 yards below Bull Shoals Dam to the upstream boundary of Bull Shoals-White River State Park being closed to fishing during the spawn from Nov. 1-Jan. 31.
Anglers can make sure future generations enjoy brown trout and other species just like Mather envisioned for his fellow Americans in the 1800s.
"We have great fisheries here in Arkansas if people will remember to do a few little things," Rouse said. "And they can still catch fish and have fun."
E-mail Todd Vinyard at vinyard(at)gomemphis.com.
(Todd Vinyard is a reporter for The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn., at http://www.gomemphis.com.)
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