>Jones tells how to land, release fish without harm
The salmon made another strong run. After finally stopping the third blistering run I was able to bring the fish towards my boat. I swung the stern of my drift boat around to avoid getting the line wrapped around the prop of the electric trolling motor. The fish tired and I brought it alongside the boat to determine if the adipose fin was clipped. It wasn't, so I used my line to pull the fish alongside the boat. I reached for the camera hanging on my neck and took a quick shot of the native Coho salmon.
Using a pair of long-nosed pliers I turned the debarbed hook out of the fish's jaw. With a swirl the large Coho buck surged towards the depths of the river to continue it's journey to it's biological destiny. Somewhere upstream the male salmon would participate in the aqua dance of reproduction and shortly die. The salmons body may feed an eagle or bear. Or as Bill Bakke of the Native Fish Society told me it will feed the insects of the river. Some of those insects in turn will feed the salmon after the fish emerge from the gravel. Natures circle of life, death, food and birth.
I sent Bill and the Native Fish Society my dues for 2002. Regular membership is $50. Membership for seniors and students is $25. Bill Bakke and the Native Fish Society have been working on the re-liscencing process for the Round Butte and Pelton Dams on the Deschutes River. They are working on riparian protection for Trout Creek on the Deschutes. Trout Creek is a major spawning tributary for wild steelhead on the Deschutes. Bill told me that they are working for a native fish conservation policy to be adopted by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. I have been receiving e-mail reports and quarterly reports from the Native Fish Society for some time.
Bill Bakke and I both have a passion for fly fishing steelhead. We both favor removing the hatchery steelhead from the rivers and helping them find their way onto our tables. My attitude is that the hatchery fish are there to be taken and eaten. I also don't want them interbreeding with the wild fish we still have in our rivers.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is offering a Hatchery Harvest Tag which is an Annual Tag to record hatchery salmon or hatchery steelhead. The fee is $12. There is information on this new tag on page 9 of the 2002 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations. What you won't find on page 9 is that you must go to an Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife office to get the tag. The Bend office has them. The Prineville office doesn't. This tag will allow an additional 10 fin clipped hatchery fish to be taken. One must also purchase the regular Combined Harvest Tag.
Although I won't take a native steelhead, even where it is legal, there are some cases when I would take a fall or spring Chinook. Last fall I counted over 70 spawning spring Chinook on one gravel bar behind a motel on the North Umpqua River. Chinook are allowed to be harvested up to the confluence of the North and South Umpqua. After that they are protected and allowed to spawn. This is as it should be. I will record fall or spring Chinook taken on the Umpqua next summer and fall on my Combined Harvest Tag. I plan to purchase a Hatchery Harvest Tag to record the hatchery Coho I harvest.
If this year goes like last year on the Umpqua I won't get many hatchery Coho. I hooked around a dozen. Only one was a hatchery fish.
A couple I "released" by setting the hook too hard. I joked with some anglers that the fish knew I was a fish conservationist so only the natives bit my line. Oh well, it was fun.
I brought our discussion back to the Umpqua to ask anglers not to bring native fish into your boat. Although most anglers didn't, I saw some that netted fish and let them flop around in the boat while they got the lure out and identified the fish. In most cases it is easy to release the fish in the water with a twist of the pliers. On some occasions a net may be used to hold a hot fish alongside the boat in order to restrain it for release. Recovery of a favorite lure is much easier if the hooks are debarbed. Keeping a tight line will allow the fish to be brought in.
If a picture is needed it is easy to use an auto focus camera with flash to take one as the fish lays on its side alongside the boat. Please do not take a native out of the water. They are too precious a resource to stress and kill by mishandling.
DAVID MICHAEL JONES'S OUTDOOR COLUMN for February 2002. This column is copyrighted by David Michael Jones and is released to newspapers with which I have an agreement.