Ethics of Fishing over Reds

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Stimulator10, Nov 16, 2002.

  1. Stimulator10

    Stimulator10 New Member

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    I recently had the opportunity to fish one the better known western US blue-ribbon fisheries and it is a very healthy fishery. It was just at the start of the spawn (browns) and was therefore fishing with an egg pattern and a dropper. The question I pose to the board is whether it is ethical to fish over the reds (mindfull not to wade through them). I am wondering what other flyfishers think about this. Please support your opinions with discussion and not just statements like "your a baby killer".

    My own opinion is that it is ok to fish over the reds if: the fishery is healthy; you use a gear that is appropreate for the size of fish (i.e. no 2wt for a 17-in fish); and that you land the fish quickly.

    By the way I had a wonderful day fishing and caught (missed many more)about 15 healthy browns over about a 4 hour period.
     
  2. Joe

    Joe Member

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    I've wondered about this myself. Right now, for example, it's legal to fish for chum in the Sky, Skagit, etc. Some of these fish are on the move, others are resting, while others are actually building their redds and spawning. As far as I know, it's legal to fish for all of these fish, but I don't find it pleasant to fish for those on the redds. In many ways these fish are defenceless. You could even wade in and pick them up (watch out for those teeth!).

    So for me it's a question of ethics (or is it aesthetics).

    Joe
     
  3. Matt Burke

    Matt Burke Active Member

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    I don't actually target spawning fish, especially chum. Egg patterns are good just below those areas for Dolly Varden/Bull Trout. Other than that, there isn't much of a point to messing with half dead fish. Most of them have been through enough just to get where they are. And most people don't or shouldn't disturb their redds.

    Matt
     
  4. ray helaers

    ray helaers New Member

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    I think the question of aesthetics is the interesting one here, as stimulator has presented conditions that would apear to make the practice "ethical" at least from a management/conservation perspective (I would propose that anglers owe no true "conservation" responsibility to an exotic species like a brown trout anyway [unless stimulator was fishing in Europe], but that's a different story).

    Aesthetically, I think it's more complicated. In most types of angling (not just flyfishing) it has long been generally considered "unsporting" to fish over spawning fish. Not exactly poaching (though many fisheries were traditionally closed during spawning season for just this reason), but something akin to sluicing ducks off the water as opposed to testing your decoying/calling/marksmanship skills by shooting your birds on the wing. Angling for fish over their redds seemed to take too much of the skill/luck voodoo out of the equation, and no real gentleman would do it.

    On the face of it, this is a reasonable argument, but of course the chaps who developed this and similar codes were pretty much the same ones who thought women shouldn't vote and any folk not quite pink enough would do better keeping to themselves. So I'm never quite sure how keen I am to blindly embrace their finely honed aesthetic sense, no matter how appealing. (Never mind they would have likely tried to have you arrested by the game warden for the egg pattern and the split shot in the first place.)

    So. While I don't agree with some folks on this board who have said that "ethics" are always subjective, I do think it would be hard to make a case that aesthetics are purely objective (eye of the beholder and all that). I guess you do what you feel (given stimi's presented conditions). I have certainly engaged in a little easy pickings over spawners back in my bass-fishing days, though recognizing even while it was going on that it was not the most shining moment of my angling career. However, I will admit that it didn't make me cut it out or enjoy the 20-fish days any less.

    I do like to think that it's something I've outgrown, and I have to say I consider it cheating a little (which is not to guarantee I might not do it again; I pretty much think trolling a woolly bugger behind my tube or fishing at night is sort of cheating too, and I still do that all the time).

    Of course, outside stimi's conditions, I wouldn't consider it, and if it was part of a practive impacting a threatened population, I'd have to get going on another one of my sermons. :WINK
     
  5. Old Man

    Old Man Just an Old Man

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    What do I know---I'm just an old man

    When you talk about fishing and wading over redds it's kinda hard not to do as you have fish spawning in the west side rivers most of the time. You have the Kings,then Coho,Then chums,Sea Runs. You just have to watch where you put your big feet. If your wading along and you step into a depression most of the time your in a redd. And this time in the Chum run they are all over the river. So the safest place to wade is on the bank.

    Jim
     
  6. dlw

    dlw New Member

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    Although I don't know much about the affects spawning has on trout, I would say fishing for spawners is not a good idea. In my opinion fishing over spawning salmon is very unethical, because they are too tired to put up a decenet fight, make bad table fare, and if released will usually die before being able to complete spawning. A fly fisherman targeting spawning salmon is just as bad as any white trash hillbilly snagging em. But thats salmon.

    Trout, since they stay somewhat fresh looking during spawning, have a better chance of c&r survival, but it is still a risk. I would think that c&r'ing a spawner would be very disruptful to the whole process. Although it may live, its chances of spawning successfuly will be greatly reduced. Even if the stream is healthy, fishing for spawners is in my opinion very unethical.

    A good alternative would be to fish around and behind these areas with a dead drifted egg fly. Many oppornistic trout & dollies will be waiting for an easy meal. Although it's tempting when you see so many fish just sitting in the shallows, there are usually always fish to be caught in deeper water that are not spawning.
     
  7. Bright Rivers

    Bright Rivers Member

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    It's a good question and I think I agree with your conclusion. Whenever I find myself beginning to get a little too religious about spawners & their redds, I just remind myself of the numbers involved. Let's say I kill a spawning chum by tiring her out or step in a redd by accident and therby kill the entire batch of eggs. The odds are so highly stacked against those little fry surviving to spawn themselves (something like 1 in 150, I think) that the only real impact my carelessness has probably had on the environment is to deprive some herons, otters, & other fish of a meal. If I catch a silvery chinook out in the salt (don't forget, she's on her way to spawn too) and keep it for dinner, I've done graver harm to the fishery than if I stomped on her redds in the river a month later. No one would blame me for the former, but some would want to string me up by my thumbs for the latter.

    Please don't misunderstand what I'm saying -- I like to think I am as conscientious about these matters as most anyone on this board. But sometimes its easy to let your sportsman's ethic evolve into a fish based religion. It's then that I like to step back and put it all in perspective.

    db

    "If I don't catch them today, I'll catch them another day." Art Flick
     
  8. Rob Blomquist

    Rob Blomquist Formerly Tight Loops

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    Ethics of Fishing over Redds

    Actually, if you step in a depression, then you aren't in the redd, you are just upstream of it.

    Salmon dig a hole, lay eggs in it, then dig upstream with the gravel covering the egg pit below.

    And yes, I would say it is very unethical to fish over a redd, but fishing below a spawning pair for the fish that are trying to eat the eggs sounds pretty fun.

    But then again, if the fish turned out to be hatchery zombies spawning, it would seem ok to me. I jest, as it would be quite hard to tell.

    Rob
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    stocks, bonk those Hatchery Zombies!
     
  9. Rob Blomquist

    Rob Blomquist Formerly Tight Loops

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    DON'T STEP ON REDDS!!!!!!

    Actually survival to a returning adult is more in the 1-3% range or between 1 in 100 and 1 in 30. Now, if a redd is stepped on, and the eggs are crushed, then you have destroyed 2000 to 6000 eggs depending on the species and the size of the fish. So you have just killed 20 to 200 returning fish.

    Now, if we look at the fish caught in the ocean, they are part of the 97-99% that don't make it back to spawn. When one steps on the redd, you are stepping on the thouslands of eggs that 1-3% laid.

    IF YOU STEP ON A REDD, YOU ARE KILLING MORE FISH THAN YOU HAVE PROBABLY RELEASED ALL YEAR.
    ---------
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    stocks, bonk those Hatchery Zombies!
     
  10. circlespey

    circlespey Member

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    DON'T STEP ON REDDS!!!!!!

    I've said it before on this site but gotten no reaction. I think it's really interesting that we draw an ethical line between fishing for fish on visible redds and fishing for fish on redds that we can't see or fish that are on spawning runs in general. All of the anadramous fish that we look for are on their spawning runs, or they wouldn't be in fresh water. All of them need all the energy/strength they can get. None of them are programmed to eat heavily in fresh water to rebuild energy (although I have seen steelhead eat dry flies and eggs too).

    I don't fish for steelhead or salmon on visible redds either, but I often wonder why I draw that line there. But, that has never stopped me. I guess I love fishing for them too much.

    Circlespey
     
  11. Randy Knapp

    Randy Knapp Active Member

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    DON'T STEP ON REDDS!!!!!!

    Good points and well said. Another issue is that it seems acceptable to fish over the redds of other species such as smallmouth and bluegill by those who wouldn't think of getting near a salmon or steelhead redd. It truly is hard not to fish over a chum redd this year because they are simply everywhere, but one should definitely try to avoid stepping in the redds if they want more spectacular runs in the future. I can honestly say that I have not caught or snagged a salmon this season in freshwater and I have caught and released more fish than anytime I can remember. There are other more interesting species for me but I don't mind others who find chum a great flyrod fish.

    Randy
     
  12. Rob Blomquist

    Rob Blomquist Formerly Tight Loops

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    DON'T STEP ON REDDS!!!!!!

    As to fishing for bass and bluegill over their beds, well they are exotic species here. Native to the Mississippi drainage, they don't belong here.

    Personally, I treat our indigenous species as sacred, and our exotics as food. So I bet you can understand how I feel about releasing bass that have been feeding on salmon fry in lakes. Hook 'em and cook 'em, I say.

    Rob
    ---------
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    stocks, bonk those Hatchery Zombies!
     
  13. Bright Rivers

    Bright Rivers Member

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    DON'T STEP ON REDDS!!!!!!

    Tight Loops -- I'm not an authority on this (and you kinda sound like you are), so I can't tell you you're wrong. But your reasoning is quite different from the explanation I've heard from those I consider authorities. The 1-3% return rate you mention is for the actual smolts. The survival rate for eggs in nowhere even close to that, as the overwhelming majority of eggs never become fish in the first place. If your math is correct, and every redd left undisturbed results in 20-200 fish returning to spawn, our salmon runs would get so big so quickly that we could walk across the water on them. In reality, even in a totally natural environment (no people and healthy runs), salmon will stick pretty close to just replacing themsleves (in other words, each batch of eggs, on average, will result in not much more than 1 fish that makes it past all predators (and other obstacles) and all the way back to spawn successfully (some years less, some years more, but on average, 1 for 1).

    For me, the bottom line is this: Be consciencious and try to not unduly interfere with any aspect of a salmon's spawning run. But if you happen to disturb a redd by accident, don't lose too much sleep over it.

    db

    "If I don't catch them today, I'll catch them another day." Art Flick
     
  14. FishPirate

    FishPirate New Member

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    DON'T STEP ON REDDS!!!!!!

    Watch your step, and make a conscious effort to stay clear of redds.

    Ok, here are the average rates for egg to fry survival for the 6 major anadromous salmonids in the Pacific in order: Steelhead~52%; Chinook~46%; coho~23%; chum~22%; Pink ~16%; and sockeye with about 15% survival. Now, keep in mind that these numbers are for naturally spawning fish, and are averages. For the high density spawners (chum, pink and sockeye) these values can be improved dramatically by artifically created spawning channels.

    As for the 1-3% survival that Tight Loops is talking about, that refers to the long-term average number of adult spawners produced by an individual spawning adult salmon(not taking into account whether the fish is a female or male---an oversight in my opinion). Keep in mind, that is the number of fish on the spawning ground, not the number of fish that produce a viable redd. This is also known as the "replacement rate". Although hatchery fish fare much better than wildfish in the egg to fry survival, they do MUCH poorer in the smolt to adult category, resulting in a low replacement rate. If you're interested, Trout Unlimited wrote a good issue paper on their position on hatcheries.

    The mortality associated with stepping on a redd, depends entirely upon the development stage of the embryo.

    I'm with Old Man, the best place to wade, is on the bank.
     
  15. Rob Blomquist

    Rob Blomquist Formerly Tight Loops

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    DON'T STEP ON REDDS!!!!!!

    Thank god that someone spoke up who actually knows what he is talking about.

    Listen to the Pirate, He hasn't steered me wrong yet. And I only know a microscopic amount compared to him. But I am better looking. :TONGUE
    ---------
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    stocks, bonk those Hatchery Zombies!
     
  16. Bob Triggs

    Bob Triggs Your Preferred Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide

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    Well here we go again... Anytime the word "Ethics" is used in a topic we can be sure there will be a stampede of responses. The question was pretty clear in it's intent, and there was mention of not wading on or near the redds too. The intent, I believe, was to ask about trout fishing near salmon redds.Am I correct on this? I don't know why people "go-off" on these "ethical" issues, especially when they don't read the question. The guy said nothing about chum fishing, snagging, damaging redds etc. Just about every guide in Alaska knows you have to drift eggs, egg flys, near or behind salmon redds if you want to hook up on trout with any regularity. This can be done without snagging salmon, wading in redds or doing anything else you shouldnt. It's simply good predatorial practise to hunt for TROUT where they are feeding, offer them a plausible imitation in a plausable way, and maybe catch a few.If and when they are eating eggs, which is much of the Alaska season, then it makes sense to give them what they want. Maybe not exactly match-the-hatch fishing for some, but when the salmon are digging, let the trout eat eggs.Drifting flies over fish that are spawning, trying to catch the spawning fish, is, I feel, unethical.
     
  17. ray helaers

    ray helaers New Member

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    Actually, I think the question was about fishing for spawning brown trout over their own redds, which is why I thought it was more an issue of sporting aesthetics, rather than conservation ethics (brown trout are every bit the exotic pest that Tight Loops [I think it was him] considers bass and bluegill).

    That said I thought the discussion was intersting enough (although I'd be interested in the sources and data for Fish Pitate's egg to fry survival estimates; they seemed quite a bit higher than the figures I've generally seen. Not doubting, just genuinely interested).

    One thing that strikes me is that many people seem to think it is not only unethical, but bordering on catostrophic to be stepping into salmon/steelhead redds. If that's the case then it seems to me we ought to be considering the public-policy implications of allowing fishing in rivers with spawning fish at all, given that most anglers wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a salmon redd and a hole in the ground (sorry, couldn't help myself). Seriously though, when we think about the "ethics" of fish conservation we have to consider it in that public-policy context, and not simply as a personal code (without of course ignoring the personal context). Allowing all the sensitive, well informed souls on this board to go fishing, all the while watching their steps, is different than just telling the whole state, "go fisihing."

    Of course someone made the point (which got the whole egg to fry thing going) that stepping in redds may be killing some eggs, that maybe weren't going to make it anyway, while keeping a chinook in the Sound gets all the eggs, so what's the diff? Well first, I'm not sure everyone WOULD give you a pass on that chinook (I don't think I would). But I think the point, which should be well taken, is that some of the damage we do is likely to be absorbed into what's called the "background" mortality. I think that's true to some extent (it's certainly an argument managers like). But I've never been convinced how we tell when our damage is "absorbed" and when it starts adding to the background. How do I know which is the magic redd, or the magic egg?

    I'm kind of rambling here, but I guess my point, which I've made before, is we damage fish when we go fishing, no matter our intent or our practices. We have to face that and all its implications, personal and public. I think it's probabaly more important to consider where you fish and over what fish. Then start thinking about how. In some places over some fish, it may not matter how.
     

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