This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm
April 16th, 2005

Just Stockers?

Steve Zweber and I were walking back up the stream to where JC was fishing. A lovely almost summer day, laughing and pointing out the various rainbows in the stream, when we spotted a dead trout. A rather large dead rainbow. We both commented on how sad it was, and I mentioned I had also seen another near the outlet of the first pond. We have fished Rocky several times, and I believe these were the first dead fish we had seen.

1st Pond

I asked Steve (Z) if he had noticed there seemed to be fewer fish this year, and he thought a bit and said the numbers might be down, but since the water level was down considerably perhaps it just seemed that way. He's fished Rocky for 20 years and should have some idea of what is going on there.

As we continued to walk upstream, we talked about the marvelous fishery we have in Rocky Ford Creek, and the dead fish topic came up again. Steve's comment has stuck with me all week, and it is upsetting. His comment was to the effect that many who fish Rocky have the attitude of "what the hell, they're just stockers."

Rocky is a catch and release (C&R), fly only, no wading spring creek. FREE to anyone who wishes to fish it. It is on state land, managed by the Washington State Dept. of Fisheries.

Perhaps some of those who fish Rocky have no frame of reference - they've never seen or been exposed to Pay to Play fisheries. (Many of which are also stocked from time to time.) The going fee for most of the Montana Spring Creeks is $100 per day per rod. They are also C&R, flies only and you can wade. In the years we lived in the Livingston region, I never saw a dead trout on Armstrong, Nelsons or DePuys spring creeks.


Is it a matter of attitude? Of respect for the fish? If you've spent a lot of money to get to Livingston MT, and paid for the privilege of fishing on a marvelous spring creek on private property do you have more concern for how you release and revive the fish you catch? Or, the catching is so tough you just don't catch as many so the possibility of killing a fish is less? Or, since we've not lived in the Livingston region for many years, perhaps the number of dead fish is visible there as well?

Perhaps those who are willing to pay to play are also just better anglers? The Montana spring creeks have a rod limit - Armstrong for example says they allow 10 rods per day. Perhaps knowing there are 9 other people fishing there acts as a deterrent to mis-handling fish? Or the fact that the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks are so famous that folks who do fish them are in a bit of awe and just are more careful?

Or is it something else?

There have been times when I was so disgusted with the behavior of a fly fisher, kicking a salmon back into the water instead of doing a proper release, or in some other way mis-handling a fish that I wish I could just beat their heads again a brick wall. It would take that because they just don't have a clue. Do whatever you want, it's not my fault, I'm not responsible.

Not responsible? Opps. Just who do you think is responsible? Someone else to clean up your mess, make things right, pay to raise stockers entertain you? Unfortunately, living in the Seattle area, there is a 'not responsible' attitude, out done only by the la-la land of California, the attitude is one of absolute privilege. Everyone owes them everything. They have no responsibility for their actions, including how they handle fish. The 'state' will take care of them.

Before you jump all over me for making a 'political' statement, it is not one. It is just a true statement of how a great majority of the folks living out here think and believe.

They don't have to take any care in the handling of their fish - the state will plant more! "They're just stockers."

I don't have the full story on Rocky Ford Creek yet - I'm working on it. But what I've been told so far is the 'state' doesn't stock Rocky. It is stocked from time to time by the two hatcheries there by an old agreement concerning water rights with the hatcheries. What if the hatcheries don't have fish of a proper stocking size? What if the hatcheries have a bad business year? Is there a firm number of fish which should be present in the stream? Who is in charge of such things?

At one time, Rocky was not a C&R stream. I was told there was a great uproar when the C&R restrictions when into effect. (I'm guessing the flies only was instituted at the same time.) Maybe it's time to change things again.

Just maybe folks would have a little more respect and concern for the fishery if it was a 'Pay to Play' stream? Or since a lot of wet flies (scuds in particular) are fished and are sometimes taken more deeply than dry flies, perhaps it should be just dry flies? Maybe a volunteer River Keeper should be on duty to police the stream? With the ability to ticket those who don't care enough to act like responsible fishers? Rules which prohibit removing a fish from the water to release it?

I don't have the answers, but something is amiss at Rocky. I hope those who fish it on a regular basis will take a serious look and find solutions. It is just too valuable a resource to be abused.

Just stockers? How about some respect - they may be the only fish you ever have. ~ DLB

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