I am writing this letter in order to clarify a few items in (the) article regarding the proposed brook trout regulation changes.
First of all, we disagree on what I said at the public meeting. So, I would like to clarify what I said: “Brook trout fishing has declined in the drainage and that in some areas of the drainage you are lucky to find a brook trout.”
Secondly, your paragraph regarding the elimination of the delayed harvest is unclear. That paragraph leads readers to think that the proposal will discontinue the stocking of the hatchery-raised trout anywhere upstream from the impoundment. To clarify, the proposal will eliminate stocking of hatchery-raised trout only in the delayed harvest area.
I’d like to offer my perspective to the situation. As fishermen, we are extremely blessed to have the Savage River drainage in our area. There are areas of the drainage that support a great quality brook trout population. I fish some of these areas regularly. These areas are extremely remote and often require an hour’s hike. The areas are deep into state land and sometimes landlocked by privately owned ground. The landowners respect the resource, and quite often protect it better than the current Maryland regulations. I have also noticed increased traffic and reduction of the brook trout (both size and quantity) in those areas.
Unfortunately, there are areas in the very same streams that have been greatly impacted by fishing and over-harvest. We cannot attribute the reduced populations to any other impact simply because the very same streams support healthy populations of the brook trout in the remote areas. The impacted areas are very easily accessed by road or ATV. I support the proposed changes because the changes will help RESTORE the impacted areas and will also PROTECT those areas that currently have the healthy populations.
We are fortunate because the Savage River drainage has had very little environmental impact. There are very few acid mine drainage issues and there has been very little development, thus greatly protecting the brook trout. Step out of that drainage in any direction and you’ll find quite a different scenario. Unfortunately, other drainages in our area have been greatly impacted. Citizens in those drainages are putting in thousands of hours and millions of dollars in efforts to restore those drainages. They would be thrilled to have drainages that would even support a brook trout, while we’re bickering over our choice of tackle and satisfying our personal palate.
When I first read of the proposal, I contacted the Maryland DNR Fisheries group and inquired why they had included the “no bait provision.” The DNR’s response referenced extensive surveys that document fish mortality when caught and released using various tackle. Based on that data, I choose to support the DNR’s proposal. I knew that this provision would be unpopular with you, but for the sake of the future brook trout fishery, I think it should be accepted. I understand the concern of raising children and not allowing them to use bait, however the areas of our brook trout streams that are easily accessible by children are those very areas of the streams that have reduced populations. So, what are the kids going to catch?
Speaking of nothing to catch: I was raised to love trout fishing at Muddy Creek in Garrett County. As a child, I heard my father and uncles tell the tales of catching native brook trout and wild brown trout out of Muddy Creek. I also remember seeing slides during science class in high school of very large brook trout that had been caught in the Cranesville Swamp. In the mid 1980s, I experienced something catastrophic. During an annual “opening day” outing to Muddy Creek, my brother and I discovered that all of the trout were dead. Further investigation by the DNR revealed that Muddy Creek would no longer self-support trout of any species. Muddy Creek is an absolute gorgeous stream and it reminds me a lot of the upper Savage, except it is “deader than a door nail.”
Hard to imagine isn’t it? My point here is that a similar event could occur on any stream in the Savage drainage. Only a healthy brook trout population may survive.
Imagine spring gobbler season with only 10-pound jakes coming to your yelps? That’s where we’re at with some of our brook trout streams: All 5-6 inch brook trout. I have to wonder at what point will they become too immature to spawn.
I’ve served as the president of the Youghiogheny Chapter of Trout Unlimited at various times in the past 20 years. During those years, there has been one reoccurring comment that I have received from non-TU members of all fishing disciples. That comment has been: “When is TU going to do something to protect the brookies because they’re slowly disappearing.” Well Mike, we are doing just that. We are supporting the DNR’s proposals.
Change comes hard in all aspects of life; if the brook trout of Savage are going to survive we need to make this change. Otherwise I imagine a Sawyers’ outdoor article in the future calling for the DNR to raise brook trout and helicopter drop them into the Savage drainage on an annual basis at no additional costs to the fisherman.
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