Thursday, April 1, 2010

Saving trout sub species from extinction

The spread of mankind and civilisation has reduced many of the local varieties of trout to small numbers and very small areas of refuge. Some efforts are being made to prevent the destruction of these trout species. Here are some podcasts describing what is happening in the US.

Dr. Robert Behnke is one of the foremost authorities on trout and salmon species. In an interview for listen to his down-to-earth explanations of the evolution of cutthroat trout, the salvation from extinction of the Greenback and Lahontan cutthroat subspecies, and a little fish called onchonychus clarki behnkeii in this podcast . Dr Behnke is the author of Trout and Salmon of the United States. The Lahontan cutthroat in Pyramid lake one time not so long ago grew to 40lbs but was wiped out by dams and abstraction of it's spawning inflowing river the Truckee River. Thought to be extinct, some Lahontans were eventually found in a far away place, and DNA tested. They were the pure Lahontan strain! So the Lahontan was saved, reintroduced to some places it had disappeared from. But the Pyramid sub-variety of Lahontan cutt is no more. The Lahontans of today don't get over 20lbs. Dr Behnke is fascinating in all this subject.

Podcast about the efforts to save the Ohio strains of Brook trout from . . The remaining purebred Ohio brookies they found were confined to under a 1/2 mile of stream you could jump over, and this in a state with 30000 miles of river habitat!
The bit 8 minutes in to the soundtrack sounds incredible. Scientists had identified only two places remaining with these fish living in them. Then a homeowner with land through which one stream flowed, decided to dam it and build a pond. Despite the best efforts to dissuade the landowner, that population were extirpated when the stream was submerged. Not 50 or 100 years ago, this was in 1993!
There is good news. The fishery biologists have located other suitable headwaters of streams, and some of the Ohio brookies are now living in these other tiny places, so there are now 10 populations instead of the one which remained following the fiasco described above. Their odds of survival sound better.

Podcast in about Joe Tommeleri the well known angling illustrator. This interview talks about Joe's angling art, and then goes into interesting ground about his current project. Joe has been finding new species of trout in the isolated mountain streams down in Mexico. What he has to say about American and Mexican trout and the activities of people applies everywhere.

I am an angler in Ireland, and these activities are interesting because we have seen the extinction of Arctic Char in ALL east coast Irish waters in the past 100 years. Our other native species of Pollan are dropping in numbers at an alarming rate.
The new way is to avoid restocking with new trout where numbers are low. This is to prevent the dilution of local trout genetics with stockies from elsewhere. The local trout will have evolved ways and abilities to live successfully in the local rivers and lakes. Compared with stockies, wildies are a far better bet in the odds for survival.
So the current wisdom has changed. It is to fix up the problems with water quality, and reinstate spawning areas which have been damaged by man's activities. Progress is very very slow, and commercial interests (the cost of avoiding pollution by waterside operations) usually work against the trout. Then there are the problems caused by misguided anglers who move alien species into new places, and further stress the fish already in those waters.
The past 25 tears has been very bad for char and pollan in Ireland. Gillaroo and sonaghan in Lough Derg may also be already gone, if recent failures to find them continue.
Salmon have been netted to the point where East coast rivers have had to be closed completely for salmon fishing, adn after several years closed still show little signs of improvement so few are the spawning fish in numbers.
Even the freshwater eel is threatened. Oddball invasive foreign plants are growing on our river banks and in our lakes and these create their own problems which will have to be dealt with sometime.
Our political leaders have allowed this to happen by the simple method of pandering to the interests of those doing the damage. They have avoided their responsibility to legislate against the enemies of our rivers and lakes, and by inaction, caused great harm.
Hopefully the future holds better news than the recent past.
It appears that EU rulings will force their hand and help bring back the clean water we have all been entitled to, but been denied.
The water framework directive is a big step in the right direction. But I fear that old game of seeking 20 year derogations and exceptions to the simple targets of the WFD has already begun by organisations who fear the costs of being made to get their act together.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Fishing Podcasts

A good way to fish when you can't go fishing is to listen to fishing podcasts on an iPod or other MP3 player. These can be downloaded and heard free using iTunes or other software that manages MP3 files - or they can be listened to on a computer. I carry the little Zen when I tie flies at home, or while I'm out driving in the car.
Two of my favorite fishing podcasts are located at The Itinerant Angler Podcasts and Ask About Fly Fishing Internet Radio. If you have an iPod or an MP3 player, give these a listen. If you like flyfishing, you will have a pleasant surprise.
I recently downloaded very informative interview with Denny Rickards on Fly Fishing for Trophy Trout in Stillwaters from the Askaboutflyfishing site. I've been flyfishing for over 30 years and I still learned from this interview. If you're beyond the beginner level this one is worth a listen.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Well I'm just back in from a weirbuilding session on the Dodder at Milltown.

The water was high with a medium fresh coming down, but we got stuck in anways, moving boulders into place fixing up a broken weir.
"Doc" Farrell came along and we met and had a good chat, shifted rocks and formed a pool that will now remain wet even when the water levels fall in summer drought periods.
We also met some of the Dodder AC old hands. Nice to meet, hadn't spoken to them for a long time.
It was interesting to see how much sub aquatic insect life and trout food was attached to the underside of many of the boulders we handled. The Dodder is in much better condition than many people who have a more superficial knowledge of it think.

In fact we watched trout rising constantly within feet of where we were building our weir.

Some of the other chaps dug out sediment collecting rushy weed clumps which were beginning to clog up the run and stickle that leads into the newly deepened pool. That run now has nice clean gravel in which the juvenile river flies and insects can live and thrive, increase and multiply, and feed the trout as they do their thing.
All in all a fine evening's (hard) work in nice surroundings, with a few scoops afterwards and a good fishy natter.
R. Dodder maintenance party photos

Weeded up River Dodder runWorkparty gets stuck into removing undesirable mid-stream weeds

Afterwards - the stickle-run is cleared

R Dodder boulder weir broken by winter floods

Replacing boulders in weir restores pool depth and keeps gravel bottom (and fauna living in it) wet during summer droughts

After work party - weir fixed and an excellent trout pool restored

R Dodder: Prime trout holding water just as the evening rise begins - nearby to the area where fishery maintenance work party operated this evening.It's a satisfying thing to do, "putting a little back" into looking after a place that provides such angling pleasure during the year.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fly Tying: Buzzer sub emergent and dry patterns

What do you use as an emerger buzzer/chironomid midge in/below the surface film?
What do you use after they have hatched and are being taken on top?

I have found that since these flies have shiny bodies their body shows in colour from the side= match the colour of the hatch.
From below they are in colour or in silhouette = black.
From any point of view on a sunny day they can reflect sunshine = silver.
They have a thorax wingcase bulge at the shoulder which can be built up, or just allow the hackle centre area to imitate it anyway.

So these are some dressings that work all season:

Silver Spider and Black Spider.

Many popular imitations of these are made using a bent body going round the hook bend, or using a nymph style hook. It's not necessary. Trout see them in all angles, bent and straight, and know perfectly well what it is when straight.
That means that the stronger conventional hook designs can be used.
The straight body spider pattern is simpler and quicker to tie up and that is two advantages.

I retain the "bent" body only when epoxied specificaly for the technique of static fishing deep from a floating line, under an indicator/fuzzy fly, fished vertical and still, on a fluorocarbon leader.

For all other surface work with floating line, or deep work with sinking/intermediate lines the spider pattern is my 1st choice to imitate these bugs.
I also use bent versions tied up in the days before I learned the advantages of these patterns, but I am only using them up. When the bent (silk/floss body) ones are gone they're gone for good from my fly selection.

COLOUR VARIANTS: Also dress some in claret body with silver rib, and in black body with red rib, and olive green body.
The straight olive body version doubles up as an excellent lake olive imitation.

Dry Bloody Butcher

When fishing on a sunny day, and the trout are on top, fished on top dropper, this is superior to the more popular Duck fly with black body in my opinion.

I use the Duck Fly, Bibio on darker days, the Dry BB in bright days, and alternate the two in intermittent sunshine.

The Dry BB also doubles as an acceptable imitation of the Heather Fly which is prevalent in moorland areas.
For sea trout bob fly fishing my alternatives (in this part of the colour spectrum)would be Claret Bumble or Dry Bloody Butcher.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Using up my spare balsa wood stocks

I was tidying up the tackletorium yesterday.
Lots of stuff I would not be without, anglers will know what I mean.

Anyway I found a batch of balsa that had got covered up. So I made some new floats for deadbaiting.
Instruction link here explains:

And today I made up a balsa wood model bridge.
Here is where I got the plans for the bridge:

it's seems to be that time of the years when home tackle making goes up in my priorities. Next time I will post a bit about making fishing lead weights for beachcasting

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Weighing up the 2009 sonar GPS units (from my perspective)

Comparison of the Sonar-GPS combo units for small craft Irish angling:
Last year's 2008 sonars from Lowrance, Eagle, Northstar and Navman all had similar downlooking display quality. IMHO these makes are better than Garmin or Humminbird as measured by relative clarity for this function (looking downwards). Looking down is the first and primary function, everything else is an add-on, or a distraction, or an improvement.

GPS will get you back to the place you want to be. The GPS WAAS ability is (sometimes) accurate to 10' which beats the usual 30' accuracy. So WAAS is necessary.
It seems to me that everyone says "their make" is the best. But based on stories I've heard, and I work beside people in the boating trade, (accuracy - bias??) Both Garmin and Lowrance seem to be well regarded for accuracy. Many Garmin users say theirs is easier to learn.

Navman and Northstar have very clear screens too, but these makes use C-maps which are less accurate for Ireland at present, so I would leave their GPS units, though their sonar units are excellent.
Humminbird, Lowrance, Eagle use the more accurate (in Ireland) Navionics Platinum maps and these cover the Shannon and Erne. These maps include underwater contours, but unfortunately do not go tight into the shoreline , concentrating on the middle sections of the loughs mapped.

Lack of commercially pre-made lake maps in Ireland places a greater need for the ability to make your own angling maps, more than other countries where freshwater maps are available in boat and tackle suppliers.
You can make lcm maps only for Lowrance/Eagle right now.
Garmin recently changed their map file format and I am not sure if we can do our own maps yet, but I am sure the software will soon be hacked by enthusiasts and the freeware Mapedit amended to do it again. Watch for progress if you like Garmin.
Only Lowrance and Eagle allow you put your self made map back into your sonar-GPS unit, so you can plot where you are on your map.
Only Humminbird 700/900/1100 SI series have an affordable look-to-the-side function, and this is the next most important function.
Fishin Buddy has a low cost side scan, and Interphase Color Twinscope 90/ISCAN 180 provide a higher cost semi professional side scan. But these don't make the photo of the lake bottom that the side imaging Hummminbird produces. However Fishin Buddy and Interphase DO give an ability to look around, and ahead of the boat, which the Humminbird does not do.
Many anglers are fascinated by a side image photo of the bottom just passed over (Humminbird style) more than a radar view of the bottom ahead. In truth and speaking carefully I am unsure which is worth more. Both need careful study so as to interpret them and get the most information from what is a confusing display screen if looked at carelessly.
The reason I'm unsure which is more useful, is that locating cruising trout nymphing in midwater while drifting in a boat/tube is impossible with side imaging style units, but the radar style unit can do this superbly. This is a big leveller if the unit is to be used while fly fishing, or casting lures and drifting. And it moves the less romantic Interphase up in value even though I find the nice Humminbird SI screenshots amazingly seductive. The radar view of a cruising, or several big trout cruising towards me midwater from 50 metres away enables a crucial cast or two over them before they come close, and if they don't rise and show themselves, the Interphase is the only chance of an accurately placed targeted cast with a weighted nymph.

The way a 797/997 overcomes this is to troll past an area, locate the fish, and then go back more accurately, provided they are still there. I believe that the HBird SI is a great trolling tool for locating static fish, and a Color Twinscope horizontal scan is a great drifting/static tool for casting to moving fish. It's a difficult choice.

For me it is clear that with all side view instruments, a big screen beats a small screen, since sideways detail is compressed so much and becomes so tiny and hard to see. Unfortunately big screen = cost!

NMEA0183 data down a cable from the sonar is essential to make your own maps, Lowrance, Humminbird, Eagle, Interphase, Northstar, Navman, Garmin all export this data, but Fishin Buddy does not. Check the unit is high enough in the maker's range to include the feature.

If using side image with humminbird, the map goes into a handheld PDA, and you don't use the map that comes on the HB. So it's 797 + PDA.
If using look down with Lowrance - Eagle, the map is inside your waterproof sonar-GPS unit, or on your PDA, whichever you want, or both.

Sonar-GPS 2009 units vs 2008 units?
In 5" screens, the interesting ones are the LMS 522c, it's new 2009 replacement model the HDS5, Eagle 642c, and the Humminbird 797c2si and it's2009 replacement 798cSI
On the other hand, the 2009 new units have caused a fall in the prices for the "old" 2008 units as big sellers try to wind down their stocks fo these particular units. Big price breaks are not to be sneezed at.

Sonar features available for 2009
The new Lowrance has the broadband sounder (LBS-1) built in which removes surface clutter almost completely. Also it will only consume 1/10th of the power that it used to, and therefore will go a lot longer on small batteries, and therefore portability and weight are going to improve with this unit. This really suits me for use in my float tubes.
Despite using small batteries and less power it will show more detail than before, and reach deeper than before. A Broadband Sounder unit shows more detail on just 250Watts than was previously possible with 2400Watts. (By comparison the Eagle 642 is 1500W and the HB 797c2si is 4000Watts so they need bigger batteries for a day's/weekend's use. ) I like the idea of a transducer that whispers rather than shouts, because I always believed the fish were aware of the pings. After all I can feel them when resting the xducer on my hand, and hear the clicks when listening carefully, and a fishes lateral line is incredible sensitive.

The 2009 798 series Humminbird has the same side imaging as before, but now can take two SD cards, so it can record and display a Navionics map simultaneously, something only the bigger units could do until now. The screen got more pixels which is a good thing for showing details.

My Setup for the 2009 Season
With an unlimited budget I would use both Lowrance for GPS and down view, Humminbird SI for looking out sideways, and Interphase for looking ahead! If only!
A strong temptation is a Lowrance with a Humminbird SI, and disable the downlook ability of the HB.
On cost grounds I decided to get a 2009 Lowrance HD5, and use it together with my present Interphase scanning unit (set on horizontal). The next time I can upgrade the Interphase if I feel it's necessary.

Background info here:
The LBS-1 which is inside the new Lowrances:

These are my opinions, others may disagree. I did check out the subject matter very carefully and try to stay up to date with the latest information on this subject. I try to avoid fooling myself that the unit I currently own, and have invested my cash in, is the best, or that that make is the best. It is an easy trap to fall into, undeserved pride in your current gear.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pike Fishery Management, Trout Fisheries, Catch & Release

The great thing about pike is their size and fighting ability.
The trouble about pike is their fragility.
So how can it be that I'm suggesting such a strong fish "is fragile" ?
Well it's gets a little complicated, but read on ....

There are three basic types of pike population in a lake:

Type 1 is where there is lots of spawning marshy weedy areas, and many baby pike are born every spring. There is a tendency for the lake to have too many pike cropping the other coarse fish species, and the growth rate of the pike is low due to intense competition.
So a type 1 lake has lots of tiny jack pike from 1 to 4 lbs, and maybe only one or two double figure pike in the whole lake. Maybe it has only one twenty pounder in the lot.

Next we have type 2 pike lakes. In this case there is limited suitable pike spawning areas. Maybe it is rocky and deep at the shore, or maybe it's a reservoir where the pike spawn, but the water gets drawn down soon after and the pike eggs dry out and die. Either way the result is fewer baby pike every summer. So this lake has fewer pike but faster growing pike.
The fishing in these lakes is hard, very hard, with many blank sessions, but when you hook into one it might be 10lb, or it might be 25lbs. There are monsters in there, and if they are not there this year, the mid size fish grow through to create new 20 - 30 pounders next year.

Then there are type 3 pike lakes. The middle lake version with some of the features of both. There is a generous pike population with a good mix of sizes. A 30 is so rare and turns up only once every many years, but enough twenties to keep you happy. These lakes give the best pike fishing. The type 3 lakes are usually good general coarse fishing lakes.

Until mankind enters the scene that is ......

So what happens is this:
The pike killers return the little pike, and kill the medium 5 - 10 pounders for eating. That's next years 20 pounders gone. They kill the very few big fish as trophies, and now the lake is converted into a type 1. With few big pike left the jack pike have no natural predator. So they ALL Survive and compete with each other. Soon there are thousands of jack pike and not enough food to feed them.
If the lake is a type 2 with limited spawning, the numbers of pike will be so few these "pike killing anglers" go away due to catching nothing. Then because there is enough food, the remaining pike will grow and the lake recovers eventually. A normal pike population pyramid returns after about 12 years. Then the word gets out and back they come and hammer it again.

On trout lakes it happens differently:
The lake in question is a fertile type 3. But is designated as a game fish trout fishery. So the fishery board come along and net the pike when they come in to spawn. They remove all the pike they catch, of all sizes. So the perch have no natural predator and increase into vast numbers until they outnumber the trout by 500:1.
If the board managing the water do it right they should remove perch in proportion to the pike they remove.
But it's hard dicipline and work (and unpopular too!) to remove tons of perch and ease up some pressure on the pike, taking only some. The pike are easier targets. So the fishery boards don't get it right, too many pike, not enough perch,and the perch population explodes anyway.
In the "bad" old days they rotenoned the spawning perch, and took out all the pike they could, and the trout fishery was back in balance, and more biomass of trout was possible. But rotenone (fish poison) is frowned upon nowadays.
Atferwards the remaining pike find themselves in a type 2 situation. Loads of perch to eat, the perch living right in the weed cover the pike like to hunt in. And trout wandering around in open water as an extra snack from time to time.
So the very few pike remaining pack on the weight and become amazingly fit, healthy specimens.
A 30lb fish is not rare. But going piking and coming back without ever seeing a pike happens easily on this water. They are few, and the water is big, it is difficult angling for small numbers of huge pike.

So what do we get? A few big, fast growing pike. Millions of perch. The quantity of young perch is so vast that trout switch from feeding on insects to pinhead perch fry and 4" length perch instead. They become harder to catch by traditional fly fishing. The fly fishers often come home with little to show for their efforts.
But the trout grow well on this diet. They essentially occupy the niche that 5 - 10 pound pike would otherwise fill. So the lake now earns a reputation of having huge 5 - 12lb trout.
The big trout are very hard to catch, and there are possible record pike for pikers who perservere.

This is a very pretty accurate description of how the Irish trout loughs are now. Loughs like Sheelin, Owel, Ennell, Corrib, Mask, Arrow. Under present management practise these loughs have become specimen hunter trout and pike paradises, but heartbreaking for beginners. The big perch fishing on these loughs right now is top class. But not everyone appreciates how special those big perch are.

Is this so bad? I don't know. An 8lb trout is more memorable than an 8lb pike (in my opinion).
But management killing fish is reprehensible to some. You need to look at the end result. Pike anglers complain about the pike kill. But it makes a 40lb pike a real possibility in these lakes. And those lakes are trout lakes, so that might be a pike bonus of a sort?
Are the trout anglers losing out? They have monster trout in their trout lough. But the flyfishing is not brilliant. They wish a return to the older "kill all coarse fish" policy. They remember well how it used to be (except they forget the greater number of anglers removing trout nowadays). They grumble for more anti pike management. But the perch are the reason the trout don't eat their flies. Their trout are eating perch instead.

When it's left to nature ..... a mixed fishery.
But nature is not running affairs for long because in swoop the pike killers, out got big pike, and all the pike go small. Now the young trout have thousands of jack pike to avoid every day. They're reduced in numbers. So the trout goes down too.
The mixed fishery now has small predators in great numbers. Small fish of all species get eaten. This reduces the numbers to grow through, but simultaneously increases their growth rate.
Pike change to type 1 stunted numerous. Fish of all other species change to type 2. Fewer than is natural, but big. Big ones to save the name of the fishery. But fishing quality is below the best possible IMHO. The specimen list looks good. But the list would be better if more fish grew through their young years. So it seems to me the pike killers (and stunted pike) damage even the biggest of Irish lough mixed fisheries.
It's unfortunate these loughs are so large it is impossible to measure this, but it contributes significantly to the overall result in smaller loughs.

It seems to me that for the best pike fishery, you need to remove SOME small pike to speed up the growth of big pike. But the middle size pike MUST be returned, and those 20s are tomorrows 30s, so they ALSO MUST be returned. No killing pike over eg 4.5lbs.

It's very simple really.

A mixed fishery is dependent on catch and release of medium and big pike.
It is dependent on stocking of trout, or protected enormous natural trout spawning areas.
Unfortunately the mixed fishery is very easily ruined by thoughtless killing of big pike and both the pike and trout anglers suffer worst fishing for years as a result.
I suppose pike protection, and trout supplemental spawning/stocking is the best compromise for a mixed fishery.
Mixed fisheries are complex ecosystems.They could be either trout or pike/coarse and managed pro-actively as such. I think we have a situation where nobody is happy. But managing it makes other people unhappy at the fish population techniques that must be used. Not all the complainers are well informed as to the implications of this action, or that alternative.

Is there a better way for Loughs Ree and Derg for example? Im sure there is. But I'm sure it would be impossible to get anglers as whole to agree on it. the trout anglers are begining to realise that big trout spawn best, and removing them ruins the trout fishing quickly.
There is a move to returning trophy fish to reproduce and produce more fast growing fish, and killing only the smaller trout who have weak slower growing genes. Those alglers have got the idea, the enlightened ones that is.

The other anglers who will never understand that idea of genetic selection in catches, pike and trout angler alike, must be forced with legal slot size limits. All fish over a cetain size must be returned. All fish under a certain size are juvenile and must be returned. Fish between this stipulated length, and that length can be retained up to a stipulated bag limit, then all foish go back whatever their size.
The bag limit per season ( as currently used by salmon anglers with their tags ) is better than a daily bag limit, due to the mayfly season when a disproportionate number of fish can be removed on the good days where an large influx of numerous extra anglers descends on the water while it is producing quantities of fish. The cumulative effect of all the extra anglers all taking their fish has a big effect on the water. This means a "full season bag limit" is better for the water.

Article from Float Tube Ireland Website reproduced with permission :