The Rambling Stream
By Rene Limeres
Welcome to my new blog and thanks for reading! This promises to be an interesting, informative, entertaining and at times, hopefully engaging forum on sports fishing and fisheries in Alaska and Russia, in addition to other related topics like the environment, science, politics and what-have-you. I will try to keep the tone upbeat and positive, for I truly believe that no matter how bad things seem, that collectively we have the power to change the world for the better. We must not be complacent in these times, but should speak our minds and share our experiences to enlighten and inspire others, so I invite you to please participate and weigh-in on any of things we cover here.
With that in mind, I would like to inaugurate this blog with something that has been kicking around in my head for some time, and that is the concept of how people’s perspectives of their fisheries change through the generations and how it creates widespread diminished expectations for the resource and the fisheries managers in charge. I find myself more and more in the presence of younger anglers these days (Strange how that works the older you get!), kids in their early twenties or thirties, who have come up to fish Alaska from elsewhere. Invariably, after some good first days on the water, they exuberantly proclaim how awesome the fishing is compared to back home. This is understandable, considering the quality and kind of coldwater angling available in most of the populous Lower 48 states and Europe. Having been raised in New Jersey and been almost a teenager before I caught my first wild trout, I get that. But in the four decades I have been seriously fishing the 49th state, I have seen some tremendous changes in the resource, with few being for the better, and can now see, quite clearly, the process by which vibrant wild fisheries are diminished over time, without appropriate outcry from the public.
It’s no secret that the fishing in Alaska is not what it used to be. Salmon runs, particularly king, chum and silver, have become very diminished and/or inconsistent across wide areas of the state. King salmon, once the big Alaska draw for early summer visiting anglers, have become a total luxury item for most of us here, and I no longer prop up any hopes of my clients for taking any on my guided trips, nor do I even target them personally anymore. It’s that bad. Halibut have been overfished to the point where the average size of fish caught in most near shore waters is a fraction of what it was when I first got up here. Other desirable saltwater species like rockfish and lingcod have fared similarly, and you have go farther and farther from port to find areas with decent fishing for them.
The effect of the diminished salmon runs on resident stream species like rainbow trout and charr has become quite noticeable on some of the rivers I fish, as these opportunistic feeders depend heavily on the roe, flesh and young of their returning cousins for sustenance. I talk to some of the guides who work in Bristol Bay about their rainbow fishing and their observations affirm that the trout fishing has really gone downhill in terms of average size and daily catches. And yet, as poor as it may seem compared to yesteryear, it still is great fishing, if you listen to the young anglers who are new to the state. Their perception of what constitutes great fishing is far different than mine, for sure, and their expectations for the resource are considerably less. That means that fisheries managers will get off the hook with each generation’s diminished expectations, allowing the quality of our once-great wild fishery to dissipate over time, without most folks even knowing or caring.
I can remember king fishing when the bag limit was five per day, and magic floats through the braids of western Alaska salmon/trout streams where there were so many husky rainbows and Dollies you couldn’t throw a fly out without hooking up, and weekend launches off Deep Creek where we took 100-pound halibut not far from shore. In the not too far future, I will be of age to be considered by most an “old timer”. Will I be like those wizened souls I encountered way back in the day, shaking my head and saying, “You should have seen what the fishin’ used to be like, sonny!” Or will I make a stand, draw the line and hold those in charge accountable to preserve the wondrous vitality of one of the most amazing wild resources left on this planet. And if I do, will I be alone, or will others join me? Anyone want to share their observations and experiences on this?