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Traditions .... Part V "Respect"

Updated: May 26, 2022

Respect could be defined as holding or having an appreciation or high regard for something. Respect isn’t a quality we are naturally born with; it is the result of learning to appreciate something through teaching or experience. It’s something gained over time. People that have respect for something will be more protective of it. Without that respect, it’s a different story. A close friend recently sent me a few pictures of a twenty something inch wild brown trout that was recently caught and killed on a Pennsylvania stream. The man in the photo was obviously proud of his trophy as anyone of us would be. I doubt that the angler; like many other anglers, knew that the fish they took home that day was a wild brown trout. It was a fine example of a fish genetically adapted to survive and thrive in that stream’s environment, and a mature spawning age fish that would contribute thousands of eggs that would become members of the streams population. It was a fish that could be handled and released carefully to carry on and possibly provide another angler with a chance to catch it. Similar stories happen often, especially where trout stocking programs overlap wild populations. Unknowing anglers catch and keep legal sized fish which doesn’t violate any rules on the books, but certainly has an impact on the wild population of a stream.

A stream near my home is designated as Class A Wild in the headwaters, is heavily stocked further downstream and even holds host to a trout rodeo every year. I fish it year-round because it stays cold and there are a lot of wild browns and a few native brook trout that call it home. It’s also classified as Exceptional Value and has hatches of nearly every common mayfly, stonefly and caddis species present there. Unfortunately, the wild trout that I catch are nearly all under the legal size that would allow them to be killed during the fishing activity of the spring and fall season frenzy that happens on a stocked stream. These small wild trout are the leftovers. An upper section of the stream is heavily posted which fortunately offers protection for mature fish and a place to spawn. I often wonder what the possibilities could be for this stream and many others like it that I fish every year if they were treated differently. I wonder how many people would treat wild fish with more respect if they were taught the difference between the wild residents and the stocked ones.

This week’s pic is a sign I saw along a stream this weekend in northeastern, Pennsylvania. Kudos to the Forks of the Delaware Chapter of Trout Unlimited for trying to teach people about the wild fish in this stream, how to identify them, and why they hold more value compared to a stocked hatchery fish. In the message is a plea to respect these wild trout for what they are and to consider releasing them. Till next week ……. #ItsAboutTheFish


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