My good friend Michael Gracie brought up an interesting discussion this past week regarding managing our fisheries today, and into the future. He brought up some fantastic points in regards to how the world would look if the state required permits to fish some of our “spawning” waters.
Let me start by saying that I completely agree that a program of that nature would do nothing but help improve the fisheries. I also think that there are some other aspects of that idea that would be worth exploring, if for nothing else to just be the devil’s advocate. Let’s imagine for a moment that we did mandate that permits are required to fish some of our tail-waters like The Dream, Frying Pan, or Taylor.
I think the first obstacle would be to convince the stores, hotels, and restaurants that this was a good idea. I would venture to say that if you were limiting access then you would limiting yourr customer base. I would also venture to say that many of those shops would have a hard time staying afloat. Most of the fisheries are situated in small towns that rely on outdoorsmen (and a lot of them) to keep their businesses open. Implementing a program that could endanger local business that employ and provide for real people for the sake of fish might be a tough pill to swallow. If you owned the fly-shop in Almont near the Taylor, I wonder how many flies you would sell if you saw a substantial reduction in fisherman?
Secondly, requiring permits for a public stretch of water whose roads are funded by tax dollars would probably do nothing less than incite a riot…at least initially. Convincing not only fisherman but the general public that this is a responsible management policy would require substantial effort to accomplish. Many I’m sure would feel that public water should be open to the public, and that additional funds to harvest its resources would be an infringement of their liberties. I’m not sure that there are many examples of this being done before in our sport, and being the first (or one of them) would be a major change to the status quo.
Overall, despite the possible drawbacks, responsibly managing fisheries is in the best interest of everyone. Will having a limit on the number of fisherman increase the productivity of the fishery? Absolutely. Will it also provide intangible environmental benefits, of course. While many fish may die if mishandled, I would feel much more confident having guided trips and “serious” fisherman on our waters. While paying money does not make you good at handling fish, I would like to think that it would have a positive impact. Allowing fish to complete their spawning rituals undisturbed would provide tremendous benefits almost immediately. Our population continues to grow and the more pressure we put on our fisheries, the worse they will be for our children. Hunters have paid to access our wilderness areas for years, and have had stringent rules on harvesting. These rules that were put in place have helped hunters enjoy a sustainable recreational hobby, regardless of the amount of people that want to do it. While today we may sit and discuss this thinking it might never happen, I assure you that sometime in the future it will. Unfortunately, I fear that by the time we realize the damage we do to our rivers that we will face a long road of recovery before our streams return to their former grandeur.