Thursday, February 28, 2019

CT Broodstock Salmon Regulation Change and a Message

Salmon and Mickey Finn from last October

A couple years ago, I submitted a letter to the state of Connecticut’s Fisheries Advisory Council (FAC). The letter was in regards to extending the catch and release season for broodstock Atlantic salmon in Connecticut rivers. The gist of the letter was, since we had several drought years in a row, our C&R season was getting shorter and shorter every year. Also, since the final stocking (which happens to contain the largest salmon) occurs after the retention season begins (Dec. 1), anglers who practice C&R never get fish over the total number of salmon in the river. Furthermore, the opportunity to catch the largest salmon is reduced, as they are often harvested right away. From what I was told, my letter was well received. Since it wasn’t official business, the matter was tabled. Unfortunately, it was never made part of the official agenda in subsequent meetings. Fast forward to December 2018…

I was frustrated at how the salmon season had gone. Not only was the lower Naugatuck stocking greatly delayed at beginning of the season (which, in my opinion, was unwarranted), but rain and high water made fishing impossible for much of the season. Before we knew it, the catch and release season was over and C&R anglers had to deal with a declining balance of salmon as soon as the river was ready to fish. The last stocking of salmon occurred and the fish began to disappear immediately, adding to my frustration. 

On the Shetucket River, an angler friend of mine was also frustrated. While Phil was very vocal about what he perceived as problems, I was ready to wash my hands of all of it. Phil got to me and convinced me to share my experiences and opinions. As much as I hate to be the “squeaky wheel,” I shared my thoughts publicly. I was not at all surprised when many others shared the opinions of both Phil and myself. After a while, we could no longer be ignored and CT Fish & Wildlife opened a survey online. The survey asked whether anglers would be in favor of extending the C&R season for broodstock salmon and by how long the season should be extended. The results were published earlier this week (see the illustrations below). 

Click to enlarge (from CT Fish & Wildlife)

Click to enlarge (from CT Fish & Wildlife)

In light of the responses, the catch and release salmon season has been extended to December 15 of each year, adding about two weeks to the season. While I was happy that Phil and I made a bit of a difference, I was unsatisfied with the extension being only two weeks long given the responses to the survey were overwhelmingly in favor of an extension of at least four weeks. Look at the data and see for yourself. 

While I am happy that the (future) last salmon of the season will most likely be able to spread through the river before they may be killed and retained, the data tells me that the majority of anglers who enjoy this fishery are in favor of an even longer catch and release season. One idea I had is to make it C&R until opening day, then allow anglers to retain up to two salmon and/or trout per day (instead of one salmon). As such, anglers won’t need to differentiate between salmon and brown trout, which is difficult for some people. The limit would be a combined limit of trout and/or salmon, following the regulations of the trout season. It would be easy for everyone to remember as the dates (and limits) for salmon retention would mirror those of trout retention. This proposal makes a lot of sense to me, but it most definitely will not be instituted anytime soon considering the recent change in regulations.

After being ignored by “the powers that be,” I was ready tear all of this down. Take down the blog, take down the ebook, stop giving presentations, etc. I felt like my voice was being ignored, despite being a fierce advocate for this fishery. I had offered my consultation and input in the past, but had always been ignored. It was especially insulting, given how much time I have invested in this fishery, much of which was with the ultimate goal of helping people catch salmon and become advocates for the fishery. I hate that I had to resort to being a public “pest” to have my voice heard and acknowledged. That is not in my nature, but I have learned that it is necessary to affect change, as much as I hate to admit it. 

Which leads me to the point of this post...If someone else cares enough, it’s time for you to step up and take some of this on yourself. After many years of learning this fishery inside and out, extensively blogging about it, writing an ebook about the flies and techniques I use, giving a bunch of presentations, and guiding people on the river, I need a break. My son started kindergarten last fall and I can finally be a full-time musician again which, so far, has been going really well. I am going to leave all the information online so anglers can learn from it (attn: young anglers…you need to search and research). I will continue to give presentations. I will answer any questions anyone might have. But I am going back to being a casual angler. Of course, I have more ideas about what could improve this fishery, but I am not interested in pursuing them at the moment. If anyone who calls the shots cares to know, just ask and I will tell it all, but I am not going to pester you for change. 

So, thank you for reading and especially for filling out the survey. I will post here now and then, but in a more casual way. I probably won’t get too heavily into strategy and technique in the future. All of that can be found in the archives and in the ebook. I will probably be a bit of a phantom on the river, but please say “Hi” if we happen to fish next to one another. I have met some really nice folks who happen to read this blog. And, if one or more of you care to take on some of the issues we have on the river, I would be happy to offer any advice I have. Remember, sometimes you have to be the squeaky wheel.