Wednesday, October 28, 2009

When is it unethical to fish?

The Thompson is open. For those who live in a box, free from steelhead lore, fish photos or legends of steelhead rivers past, the T was once arguably the greatest steelhead river on the face of the earth. An exceptionally large, fierce race of steelhead call the Thompson home. Fish easily avearge over 10 pounds and fish longer than 40" are relatively common. They enter in the late summer and early fall with numbers building into October and November when the fishery was historically at its best. The fish are huge, wild and responsive to floating line presentations....GASP.

As recently as the 1980s well over 5000 fish were returning to the Thompson everyyear. Today the run is close 1000 fish most years and is teetering on the precipice of no return. As a new hoser (resident of Canada) I've been intrigued by the steelhead angling options in the province. Undoubtedly the T ranks high among the rivers in our area when one considers only the lore surrounding a river. Sadly I am not sure I'll be fishing the Thompson. My question to myself and readers is this, when are wild populations too depleted to justify even careful catch and release? When does fishing become selfindulgent and reckless? Of course I would never intentionally hurt a fish, but on one occasion they have just inhaled a fly and forcing me to release a bleeding fish, facing the fact that I probably just killed a wild steelhead. If that happened on the T how would it feel? What would my impact on this precious and imperiled stock be?

I'll hold off. Its a sad day when we are forced to settle for second hand steelhead highs but the Thompson looms large in the legend of the sport and I can always reliably ask a friend about the 40plus inch fish that he caught on a greasy little blue charm on Thanksgiving many years ago. I can see it now....

either this guy is tiny or that fish is bloody massive

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