While I am disappointed with the IDFG commissioner's vote to reopen the C&K season I am going to stay positive on the subject. I am also not going to diss anyone at the IDFG or on the catch and keep side. I am willing to eat tacos with any of these guys anytime. We might have our differences but everyone involved on this subject loves steelhead.
I was at the meeting in Lewiston, ID on Tue night when Mr. Dupont laid out some numbers and IDFG's reasoning for their position on the subject. This was a good meeting with everyone being respectful of our various opinions. The C&K crowd offered some valid points and some good suggestions. The turnout by anglers wanting to keep the C&R season was shamefully low, and while no one at that meeting except IDFG commissioner Dan Blanco was going to vote on the proposal, Eric Barker from the Lewiston Tribune was there along with his cameraman. Just think about a picture in the next days paper of a couple hundred C&R anglers crowded into the room. Instead what we had was pro C&K about 3/1 over the the C&R group.
Now to Mr. Dupont and his numbers. First I don't hear to good and I might have missed something but this is what I think I heard. I've heard many statements that steelhead are in short supply in Idaho, when in reality "wild" steelhead are in short supply everywhere. They have been negatively impacted by dams, loss of habitat, over logging, natural predation, nets, commercial over harvest, and unfavorable ocean conditions, and I might add rough handling by anglers, many of whom claim to have wild steehead's best interest at heart.
The way I heard things at this meeting the IDFG doesn't deal with individual steelhead. They deal with steelhead as a group, hatchery and wild, and while the numbers this year might be low the IDFG believes there are sufficient hatchery fish to allow a harvest. I believe the mindset is "if we need more we have hatcheries to take up the slack", and as long as that giant chunk of concrete sits on the point of land between the Clearwater North Fork and Clearwater Middle Fork this is going to be the prevailing mindset.
I also believe I heard that the Feds have control over "wild steelhead". They allow the IDFG a wild steelhead mortality rate of 3.2%. I haven't figured what what number the 3.2% is taken from, but I heard it was from an Oregon study that is 15 years old. I am going to research this some more and may find I'm wrong.
After thinking about this subjetc for a great deal of time I'm thinking maybe the C&R group is shooting at the wrong target. Our goal is to protect wild fish. Instead of wanting to shut the C&K fishery down it seems to me we would be much further along to our goal by lobbying for no bait allowed for steelhead fishing and absolutely no unclipped steelhead being removed from the water for any reason. Getting these two things passed would be a huge help to combat wild steelhead mortality.
I wouldn't think the guides and anglers that are pro catch & keep would have any issue with the no wild fish out of the water rule. As to the outlawing of bait, the guides running the big sleds are all expert anglers. I believe they are so good that not using bait would only be a slight challenge to them. I really don't think their businesses would be that greatly impacted if the just changed what they sell.
In closing, calling the IDFG people names and belittling them is not helping the cause. The are not making these rules, the IDFG commissioners do. The commissioners are appointed by the Governor. The commissioners and the Governor are the people that need to hear from us. This is no different then writing to our various representatives in other forms of government. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Please be respectful.