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Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!
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Olympic National Park recently announced a set of fishing regulations changes in the Olympic National Park waters. To see this document go to:

www.nps.gov/olym/
then go to fishing regulations proposals.

There is a brief window of time for public commentary on these proposed regulations. Most of these changes are a part of the Park's effort to protect native fish and spawning fish. Some of the changes you may agree with, some you may not agree with. You need to look at the proposal, and comment to the Park about how you feel, within the proscribed time period. Either way, you will have to live with the results of the changes.

Generally I suport the Park's efforts. Especially the proposal to protect native upper, (above the dams),Elwah River Rainbow Trout and Char with Catch and Release only. This is an effort to save the potential gene pool for the dam removal and free running Elwha Restoration project. I am also in favor of keeping people off of the spawning beds during critical periods.

The only thing that I question is the idea of opening up the fly only water, on the Hoh River, to gear fishers,(single hook, etc), during the summer and early fall tourist season. The Park claims this is due to the problems they have with tourists and campers in the park not knowing it is fly only water, and that the Park has to write too many summonses and warnings. I feel like they would do better to post the place a little for it. Or do some creative enforcement, perhaps with volunteers. Though the park does not like to "post" things much, and there are problems with overzealous volunteers, I understand that too.

I just don't see how those same people, who don't know the regs to begin with, and who are already fishing with gear there, are going to know not to use barbless or no trebles or whatever. I think if we let the Park Service take away the fly water, even for a few months a year, then they will do even less enforcement than they are already doing. And those people who are fishing then will be catching fish, Hoh smolts for the most part anyway, with Rooster tails, Mepps Trout Killers, trebles, etc. And since gear will be allowed then, no one will want to get off their ass and out of the truck and walk down the gravel bar to check the gear out. And no unhappy fly fishermen will be bothering them with complaints about the gear fishermen.

However you feel about the fishery in the Olympic National Park, this will be your rare chance to have a say in it. Make it count. And if you really want to make it count- I suggest you write a note on a piece of paper and fold it into an envelope and mail it by hand with a real stamp. That gets a lot more attention than an email. Technically, a "Vote is a Vote", but a real letter shows something of substance, of thought and of care.The correct mailing address is included in the Olympic Park webpage information on the proposals.
 

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I will write a note or two.
Fly only has many advantages:
1. It is easy to police from a distance because the cop has only to watch a cast or two to tell what's going on (so he doesn't have to get out of his truck and can continue with his dozen doughnuts).
2. Flies hook fish, including smolts, only very lightly and thus they can be released without harm. Mepps trebles wipe them out.
3. Fly fisherman have taken the time to master a very difficult form of fishing and so they have a big investment in the river. It's not just a matter of a bunch of kids and some Zebco gear pulling out a bunch of fry for dinner four five. I love kids, but I don't think it is appropriate to let them harm the resource. Tourists who fish without checking the regs. should be helping this state deal with its economic difficulties. As for the park boys complaining about writing tickets, one has to ask what their priorities really are. Are they so busy that they have no time to protect the wildlife in the park?
4. The Hoh is looked upon as a river that has enough fish that it's OK to open it up to general fishing. I think it should be protected at all costs. It may be the only decent river left after the next few years. I would not be opposed to closing the river to all fishing, fly fishing included, until we understand more clearly the disappearance of the steelhead in other rivers..
5. It's ironic but flyfishermen, though they are the most skilled, take fewer fish than the rest of the fishermen, probably including kids if you count smolts. Therefore, you automatically restrict harvest by restricting the method of fishing.
6. Fly fisherman always say,"Have a nice day."x(
 

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Olympic National Park Proposed Fishing Rules Change...

Here's a summary of the proposed rules: (1) Wild salmon and steelhead release on the Queets, Salmon, Quinault and Goodman Creek within Olympic Park. (2) Release of all native fish on the Elwa river within Olympic Park. (3) March 15 winter steelhead season closure within Olympic Park on the Hoh, Bogachiel, and Queets above Tshletshy Creek, instead of the current April 15. The Queets below Tshletshy creek (the main stretch fished in the Winter) will continue to close on April 15. (4) Restrict the upper Hoh to fly only from June 1-September 30, versus the present June 1-April 15. (5) Require single barbless hooks almost everywhere in the Park.

More good then bad here. Have never been able to understand why the Park allows wild steelhead harvest. Am happy to trade wild steelhead release and barbless hooks for a one month shorter season on the Hoh and Bogachiel. If we don't take some steps to protect the resource now we may be faced with mandatory closures in a few years.

Comments are due by April 18, 2003 to Superintendent - Fishing Regulations, Olympic National Park, 600 East Park Ave, Port Angeles, WA 98362.
 

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Mother Nature's Son
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Olympic National Park Proposed Fishing Rules Change...

You asked the question of why the Park allows wild steelhead to be harvested. I asked the same thing to a Park ranger about a month ago and his explanation was that the park has to allow wild steelhead harvest because the Park and the Indians split the count of fish. The more the Park claims (by increasing bag limits), the better the odds of wild steelhead actually making it into the Park (Park gets half, indians get half).

The hope is that most people will leave the wild fish, because we would understand the value of leaving them. Unfortunately, I've witnessed tons of wild fish taken out because it is legal.

The laws regarding harvest to the aboriginals is not going to change anytime soon, and it sounded like the increased harvest was one of only a few options that the biologists have to curb the harvest by the indians.

I'm not trying to defend or promote either side, just relaying the information that I was given. Reality is that more and more people compete for fewer resources.

Skinny
 

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This recital of flyfishing conventional wisdom isn't necessarily true

Sports fishermen have to start speaking with one voice. The various other lobbies historically have allowed a divided sportfishing community to largely defeat itself. Irrespective of anecdotal evidence, I'm not aware of any studies on hooking mortality on steelhead that show a significant difference in methods, up to and including using bait and barbed hooks.

For what it's worth, I prefer single barbless hooks as they're easier to take out of the fish (and my family, and guides and friends). But there's no hard science supporting the "common sense" notion that hooking mortality is substantially lower by going barbless.

So my strong recommendations are to stop the in-fighting in respect of gear restrictions in order to add clout to the political lobby. Let's face it, if there aren't a lot of people fishing for steelhead then the chances our grandkids will be able to fish for them on public land is that much more remote.

Since the single barbless rule is already in effect for much of the Hoh, we may has well leave it as-is. As for the fly-only portion of the park, I don't think that the incremental benefit to fly fishermen (or fish) is sufficiently large to justify keeping it in force.

As for enforcement issues, my suggestion is that park officials check EVERYONE's terminal gear -- a hell of a lot of fly fishermen are using barbed hooks in barbless water in BC. I suspect it's the same in the ONP.

On the issue of a 100% C & R vs. kill fishing, the paradox is that more wild fish may be preserved by having a limited kill fishery on the Hoh. This remains true unless and until the Indians contractually agree not to lobby and/ or litigate for additional quotas due to the doctrine of "foregone opportunity". It's weird, but it's true. And remember, every steelhead license sold adds another voice to the pro-steelhead argument. (And allowing wild steelhead to be kept helps sell licenses. So it's not all bad -- but I can appreciate why someone might think it is!)

* * * * *

Do you notice how many fishing bulletin board posters have a stereotyped view of fly fishermen as "elitist", "know-it-alls", etc? It's because of statements (perhaps made slightly tongue in cheek) that fly fishing is the "most skilled" way to fish, that fly fishermen have made (more of) an investment in learning the river and are more conservation oriented, and, finally, that kids or inexperienced people fishing with inexpensive gear are somehow less worthy than flyfishermen.

You're a smart guy, Bob, so I won't waste time rebutting these comments except one: a highly skilled fly fisher using a sinking line in medium- to low-water is every bit as effective (maybe more so) in hooking fish than someone fishing Mepps spinners or other gear. Mr. W. Gremlin, Jim Teeny and the inventor of the shooting head have more or less levelled the playing field, so if you're not catching as many fish maybe it's not the gear that's to blame . . . :rolleyes
 
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