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Ronan's report

Tuesday 29 October, 2013

The fall in Alberta is a wonderful time. The smell of the leaves, the visual assault of colours, the crisp morning frost. It is a time when you can wake up to snow in your beard and frost on the tent, or birds singing and a warm breeze.

It is a time when some of the best fish choose to spawn, over beds of bright gravel under a canopy of golden leaves. Some of these fish were seen as trash in the past, some are seen as trash now. They are all amazing fish and worthy of the moniker "sportfish". Here in Alberta, they have withstood the test of evolution, of storm and flood, and of man's constant manipulation and exploitation. From status of pest to prize and jewel to invasive, these fish have earned their place.

Unfortunately, there is little protection for them during their autumn activities. Anglers go west into the mountains to follow them up small streams and pull them off freshly cleaned redds. Large specimens are taken as they rest, tricked into an aggressive strike at a flashy lure or snagged by a hook passed over their backs.

Where is the protection for these gems? Where is the education about the morality of leaving fish alone so they can propagate the next generation?

Here is where we can take a lesson from those managers of the lowly pike. The great and under-appreciated quarry for the fly angler.

In Alberta, there is a period in the spring where the pike is protected from anglers. Although this is a great time of fishing, for the pike strike hard and aggressively around their spawning, it is also a difficult time for the fish- they are low on energy and spending what reserves they have on reproduction.

I've recently had a chance to design some spawning areas for pike in a pond and I am looking forward to seeing pike spawning without a horde of anglers trying to "get them". The research that I did has really raised their status in my book- to a status that had been reserved for only the daintiest of trout.

With an optimistic eye on fisheries management, there are now some streams protected from fishing in the late fall, but not enough and not soon enough. And with the trend towards native fish management at all costs, there is little protection for all the gems that we have introduced and have endured and evolved to become part of our stream ecosystems.

We should spend more time managing people and letting nature sort itself out.

Off to find my pike hooks,

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