This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm
May 5th, 2008

Walk Lightly

More of us are getting out on the streams as the weather warms up and the Spring rains taper off. We don't always remember everything we should about how we function in the outdoors, a little reminder on manners doesn't hurt. There probably isn't anything chiseled in granite, but here are a few 'rules.'

Walking lightly, if you've read the suggested 'rules' above, is very good sense. First you don't want to destroy any part of our stream - or any of the water we fish. It just makes sense to do the right thing to preserve your own fishing, much less to have it for years to come.

If you live in a region where there are Salmon and steelhead, you have another very serious reason to walk lightly - in fact, not to walk at all. Salmon and steelhead and a lot of other fish use streams and lakes for spawning and rearing at the same time people use them for recreational activities.

Salmon and steelhead lay their eggs in spawning nests called "redds". A redd is a spawning site where the eggs are buried in the gravel of a stream or a lake shoreline. For the eggs to survive and develop, they need clean, loose gravel - usually smaller than two inches. If silt fills in the spaces between the gravel, clean water cannot circulate and the eggs may die from lack of oxygen or from accumulated waste products.

Even seemingly casual recreational activities may decrease the spawning success of the very fish we enjoy. Many recreational activities can cause impacts that we don't even consider.

When boats, jet boats or jet skis speed across salmon or steelhead nests they often create turbulence that may churn up gravel, dispersing or crushing eggs.

Stirred up sediment can cover redds, causing the eggs to die from exposure to their own wastes. When boaters drop and retrieve an anchor in spawning gravel the anchor can also damage or destroy redds.

Off-road vehicles, such as mountain bikes, motorcycles, three-wheelers, quads, and four-wheel drive trucks and cars are capable of being driven into aquatic zones where they can impact redds.

When driven through vegetated areas along streams and lakes ORVs can cause erosion or destroy vegetation that benefits fish.

When driven through streams ORVs can cause siltation, gravel compaction, and disruption of eggs. Even seemingly dry gravel bars may contain redds. Salmon and steelhead may have spawned in those areas during high water flows.

It's fun to wade and play in streams. Temporary dams sometimes are created to provide wading pools for children. These can block fish trying to get to spawning areas and the pools can strand young fish. Walking on spawning beds while wading or fishing can disrupt incubating eggs, compact gravel, or stir up silt.

One more thing, don't use streams as travel routes and don't remove any woody material from stream channels or gravel bars. The woody debris goes back into the eco system and provides food for the growing fish.

Walk lightly - or don't walk at all. It's your fishing future you are walking on. ~ The LadyFisher

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