November 19th, 2001

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

Not a Four-Letter Word

By Johnny Irvin, (Hillfisher)

I spent my childhood life around a generation of ranchers, farmers and outdoors men who have taught me to respect the land and animals we share our lives with. Things like; keep only what you can eat, leave only footprints and have a lot of fun doing it.

I bring this up because recently I had an experience that has altered my whole attitude towards teaching new people in the art of fly fishing. By this I mean that when I have taught people to flyfish, it was just that, fly fishing. I never thought to include any conversations on conservation. Believe me, I do now and this is why...

There was an individual who wanted to go fishing with me and having known him for several years from work and swapping many fishing stories, I gladly took him along for a day of fishing. Now he is not a fly fisher, but was content to sit on the bank with his bait rig and catch one large perch after another. We both caught and released many good size perch that day.

Monday a couple of other people at work were boasting about catching over a 100 large perch before they stopped biting! As it turns out he went back with a couple of buddies and they cleaned out the holes I shared with him. The fish didn't stop biting, there weren't any left.

It will be another few years before this area recovers. So as you can see, conservation is now an entire topic whenever I am teaching anyone.

Understanding conservation isn't just catch and release, but when and where as well. Some creeks have wonderful holes with great fish to catch but their ecosystems are fragile during certain times of the year.

During the summer some of the smaller rivers here in the south will dwindle to a small stream with the fish congregating in pools. During this time the fishing can be non-stop action. It also means that a fisherman can de-populate a large section of the water very quickly, even if catch and release is practiced. The reason is some creeks will actually stop flowing during the hottest part of the summer and although the now separated pools have a nice population of fish, the high water temperatures and depletion of oxygen can cause a fish to die after you have caught and released it. At this point they are just trying to survive until the next rains. It's best to avoid these areas until they are flowing again.

There are rivers that flow extremely well all year long. They have strong flowing springs and maintain a fairly constant temperature. A great example is the San Marcos River. It has springs so strong that no matter the season of the year, the river maintains a constant 74 degrees. These rivers have good populations of large panfish and bass. These rivers can be fished throughout the year with little stress on the fish. Keeping a modest catch for dinner does not pose a problem. However one has to remember these fish have an area in which they do not range out of and you can still deplete that section of the river by keeping everything caught. If keeping your catch is a preference, then catch a couple in one area and move on to other areas for a few more. This keeps from putting too much stress on the population of one area.

So the next time you are out on our rivers and streams, take a look at the conditions and determine if they are favorable for you . . . and the fish. ~ Hillfisher

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