Ethics of Fishing over Reds

Bob Triggs

Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!
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.
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.