I have trout fished for 49 years and I have personally seen the many
transformations of Trout Management in Wisconsin. In the early days the
battle cry was: “Limit your kill, Don't kill your Limit.” This seemed
like a very appealing alternative to what I had seen in the early days. I
observed many anglers back in the 60s that limited out every time they
went out and they even took young family members along so they could
double or triple their limits. The views of stringers with 30 trout on
them were revolting to me.
The thing that even burned me more
was the same people would go back to the same stream 2-4 times a week
and harvest 30 each outing. A family could easily decimate a trout
population in a single season. My father always told me to not be a fish
hog and to only harvest what I could actually eat. The 30 on a stringer
crowd took many of those trout home and they eventually were thrown
away due to freezer burn.
The Wisconsin Department Of
Natural Resources changed the regulation a while back to five trout a
person from ten each. This seemed like a logical move to conserve and
protect the trout population. They even made a few streams catch and
release only and no bait also. I questioned the wisdom on these types of
stream 15 years ago.
The conservation effort paid off in my
home waters. There were many streams that did not hold a natural
reproducing population of trout back in the old days that had a booming
population. “This Limit your kill, Don't kill your Limit.” was paying
big dividends I was on board and singing its praise.
started using a Yearly Log Book back in 1975. It told me the streams I
fished and the weather conditions on each day I fished. The log also
told me how many trout I caught and their sizes. I average 120 days on
the trout stream yearly since 1980. By 1995 my success on stream had
doubled from my early 1975 log books. The average size of the trout was
constant. I thought that more trout and still big ones is great. This is
really working well. The Wisconsin Department Of Natural Resources
really seems to have the right thinking going on here. When they changed
the limit in my area from five to three a few years back I was in
support of it.
I use to be a keeper of large trout to put on
my wall. I loved showing them off. Nine years ago my wife told me that
the only way I could put another trout on the wall is for it to be
bigger than what is on there already. I have not mounted a trout in nine
years. I have continued to fish the same amount of times yearly also.
My numbers of trout have increased each year.
Back in the
60s when I began as a trout angler, I kept my limit every time I went
out. My log books from 1975 show I still routinely kept my limit back in
1975. I totaled up my keeps every year and my range was very different.
The most keeps was in 1975 where I kept 350 trout to my fewest in 2009
with a total of 9.
My 1975 total trout caught for the year
was 1,123 for the year. My 2009 total trout caught was 2,201. This is
almost a doubling of the trout I caught back in the 70s. In 1975 I kept
30 percent of the trout I caught. The percentage for 2009 was less than 2
percent of my total.
Two years ago I was fishing with a
friend and he caught a nice trout. It was obviously going to die but he
insisted on releasing the trout. He said: "It may live and I want to
give it every chance to make it." I respected his wishes and off we went
upstream. We walked back the same way. Out in the middle of that hole
laid that big trout dead. I asked him if he was going to wade in and get
it. He looked at me in disbelief. I waded over my waders to get the
trout. I told him I was going to take it home and grill it. I do not
believe in wasting trout.
I drove home and we talked all the
way there. This angler had been trout fishing for 10 years and NEVER
had harvested a trout. He watched me clean the trout at home and wanted
pointers on how to do it because he had never cleaned a fish before.
Finally he took it home with him. He called me the next day and told me
that he grilled it and it was excellent.
I was on board with
the “Limit your kill, Don't kill your Limit.” movement until about 5
years ago. The same groups that were using that limit your kill
mentality changed to Catch and Release, period. I looked in my log book
for 2010. I caught 2,357 trout this year. The beating of the Catch and
Release, period drum had no effect on me this year. I kept 73 trout this
Catch and Release period is not the solution. Sure
the population of trout have skyrocketed in the area since the groups
have gained influence. I went back to my log books and evaluated my logs
again. Yes I know that it is unscientific but most people make their
decisions on their own life experiences. Although the trout population
has double since the 1970s here, the average size of a trout has shrunk
yearly and has continued to shrink even more dramatically in the last 5
years here. I have thought long and hard about this and conferred with
many other anglers. It is a trade off. There will be fewer big trout but
there will be more little ones. More fish in the waterway means more
competition for food. Less food means slower growth rates and eventually
a large trout in the Wisconsin Driftless Area will be 16 inches and it
will be illegal to keep any if the conservation groups have their way.
This is not conservation this is elimination of the large trout and the
anglers that love the taste of trout. I am glad the Wisconsin Department
Of Natural Resources has educated fisheries staff that see the error of
the Catch and Release, period mantra.