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Giant Fly Caught Steelhead Killed Legally - Washington State, USA


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Ronan's report

Wednesday 4th March, 2009

First of all, I'm sorry for the subdued tone of this FP. By now, most of you know that I'm passionate about C&R for all wild steelhead. So, when I heard about this I just about lost my head, first with anger, then sadness, and finally frustration. For the sake of maintaining objectivity (and perhaps my own sanity), I've decided to try my best to remove my emotions from this piece. There are a number of interesting, highly discussable issues that this story brings to light. The issues are complex, and the circumstances unfortunate. Here in the US we like our scapegoats, but in this case it's not clear what or who, if anyone, is to blame. Like most of the issues surrounding our anadromous fisheries, it's easier to point fingers than find solutions. Perhaps we can take the discussion over to the Board.

This story was released on a blog called The Big Pull.

As you can imagine, the local fishing community is buzzing. For one, it's a really big fish. But the comment and controversy mostly surrounds the facts that...

1 - The fish was killed.

2 - Legally. Since regulations still allow for harvest of wild steelhead on some rivers.

3 - The five photos (when ordered chronologically based on the automatic photo numbering on the photos attached to the original email from the angler) show no blood on the fish until after the fish was held up by the gill plates. It is worth noting that the five photos were not consecutive, and multiple photos were taken in between the released photos based again on the automatic photo numbering.

And the opinions that...

1 - Fly fishing may not be an ethical method for fighting big, strong fish like steelhead quickly enough for a proper live release.

2 - The angler may have caused the bleeding through improper handling of the fish.

3 - Official record keeping encourages and rewards removal of big-fish genetics from wild populations.

The fact is, we can't do anything to change what has already happened. And facts aren't always as interesting as opinions, so I'll finish up with one of mine.

What's done is done, and all we can do is look forward and make sure that we do everything in our power to keep something similar from happening again. That means continuing to campaign for mandatory C&R regulations for wild and native fish. And, on a more personal level, it means that each and every one of us who dreams of hooking a giant steelhead should do some soul searching and commit to a code of ethics that includes more than just letting them go. Prepare mentally and physically to fight and land a huge fish quickly. Test your gear. Know the limits of your rod and tippet. Reel all the way down and pull hard, because if the fish is hooked well you will not lose it. Practice fighting big fish and landing them fast at your local stockie pond. Talk to anglers who have more experience than you and have them show you how to do it properly. Make sure your fishing partners know the code too, so if you aren't thinking clearly in the big moment, they might be able to remind you... the fish is more important than your recreation.

Fish On,

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