During my time fishing I have can to realize what will do now can impact the future of trout fishing. Trout fishing is something I am very passionate about, and would love for future generations to enjoy this sport as well. However, the road we are going down doesn’t look so promising. I also have a lot to say about the way the stocking system is implemented, and changes that might help preserve fishing in the future. There are many things I am going to talk about in this post that has been bugging me for some time so I will make a list in no particular order, and then go over them in detail.
1.) Leaving Trash
For me this has to be the biggest threat to being able to fish in the future. This can lead to posted signs being put up everywhere if not taken seriously. It can also lead to trout being killed, as well as, other wildlife which is never good. I have fished a lot of different places, and here in the mountains it seems the people are the most disrespectful to our environment. I have seen beer bottles, worm cans, treble hook packages, cut fishing line, soda can plastic, sinker packaging, and much more. I have stepped on broken glass inside the creek far away from any road. I have tripped over fishing line that was still laying on the ground. If an animal swallows this stuff they are probably not going to make it. They will either get chocked on it, or it will block the stomach making it to where they can’t eat anything else. It makes the mountain streams less desirable with all the clutter.
Leaving trash also has another impact on fishing that you might not really think about. If you are fishing on someones land which 100% of the time you are unless you own it, then you need to be respectful to their land. I have seen many of my favorite fishing holes become posted. After they become posted I asked the owner why they finally decided to post the land. Most of them told me that they hated seeing their land covered in trash. They didn’t mind the people fishing their land at first, but after people started not respecting the land they posted it. This ruins the fishing for everyone. I always try to pick up trash regardless of whose trash it is. I just cannot stand seeing the creeks or creek banks littered in trash.
Seeing my favorite fishing spots become posted means one day when I have children they can never experience fishing they way I did. It will only get worse with time if we don’t act now. Fishing will become more of a who you know type deal. Where you have to get permission to fish the land. This also means that these places will not be stocked anymore. Not that it is a bad thing I have a whole rant about the stocking program North Carolina has that will be talked about later on. If we want to preserve trout fishing in the mountains for future generations we should be more respectful towards the environment. Fishing should be fun for everyone, and anyone who wants to go should be able to enjoy the experience without limitations or unsightly trash.
2.) Poaching & Fishing Illegally
Poaching fish is another way people are ruining fishing for everyone. There is a new delayed harvest section in Ashe County on the South Fork New River. One day I decided to wake up early and make it to the river before daylight because they had just stocked it the day before. It was about 5:50 am when I arrived. I got out of the vehicle to see a small light in the distance up next to the creek. I sneaked around the creek until I could get a close look. At this point daylight was breaking. I noticed 2 men standing on one side of the creek and 2 men standing directly opposite from them. There was also 1 person standing further down the road with a hand held radio. I watched them for a few minutes they were taking a net throwing it into the water and putting fish into buckets. At one point a car came and they all ducked out of sight after being radioed from the spotter. I was in shock that people would even think about doing this. I have had this same thing happen right after a stocking truck came through out Helton Creek. I would imagine it happens in just about every creek we have in the mountains. If there is no fish to catch people will not enjoy the trip, and might even decide not to go fishing again. I am all for sharing the love for fishing with everyone else, and if we want to do this we can’t stand for letting people do this. In this story I called the Game Warden, and they never came. I stayed on that creek for a few hours after the people left too. I can understand people want to get fish for food, but let’s do it legally and obey the fishing limits for the day. They are there for a reason to let everyone be able to enjoy fishing here in the Appalachian Mountains.
Fishing illegally is also another major problem. I see this happen just about every time I fish somewhere. People are always wanting to get ahead or cheat their way through anything. I have been fishing Helton more times than I can count, and see people fishing with worms or treble hooks. It isn’t illegal to fish Helton with a spinning rod, but it has to be a single hook artificial lure only during the Delayed Harvest season. I have had people ask if I wanted to try the rod they were using. I of course refused to use it. There isn’t any point in calling the law, but you still should make the report to the Wildlife office from what I have been told. However, in my experience it doesn’t do much good. I can understand it is hard for 1 Game Warden covering the entire county to be able to deal with all the hunting and fishing violations going on. Maybe it is time they look into a new approach for this. Hiring 1 more person, and each of them be out working. Have 1 person working hunting, and the other working fishing violations. Something has to be done, or this problem will just keep getting worse. In Ashe County the population is rising every year so I expect this problem to get much worse if something doesn’t get done.
3.) Keeping Fish & Not handling fish properly
Trout stream limits are meant for a reason. They only stock a number of fish is streams a year. Many of these fish might not make it through the summer either. Predators can kill them, change in temperature can kill them, and humans kill them. If you are fishing Hatchery Supported waters you are only allowed to keep 7 per day during the season. Each person has to have only 7 fish. I have came across groups of people fishing where just 1 person has the stringer, and they have about 15-20 fish on them. I have seen 1 person keep 10 fish leave the stream, and then come back by me an hour later. He only caught 3 after that, but still that totals him to 13 fish kept in 1 day. I won’t even get started on people keeping the wild trout. I just get so irritated by people having these 6 inch wild brook trout or rainbow trout on stringers. They act all proud of their catch. Those fish are the ones repopulating the streams, and if we keep them then all we can reply on is the stocked fish. I suggest report anyone who is keeping over the limit, take pictures or video evidence if able, and write down the tag number on the vehicle. If you have this evidence then you might be able to get something done about the problem. Just remember don’t approach anyone doing a fishing violation. You don’t know there intent, or how violent they might become if you aggravate them. If people are keeping all the fish then other people can’t enjoy their fishing trip because there might not be any fish left to catch.
I am opposed of anything other than fly fishing. I will go ahead an admit that. I have read a lot of research that suggest treble hooks and fishing with worms is a sure fire way to kill a trout. Even if you handle them with care there still is a good possibility the fish will die. The fish swallows the worms making the hook go deep inside the fishes throat. This makes getting the hook out much harder. You can break the fishes jaw or rip out the fishes tongue. Treble hooks will do the same damage except you have 3 hooks instead of 1 to deal with. If you are holding a fish by the jaw it will break it. If you pick up a fish a lay it on your clothes, hold it without wetting your hands, or have a wire mess net it can hurt the fish. It will hurt the fish by removing the slime off of the fishes body. This is what protects the fish against bacteria. This makes the fish weaker and ultimately kill the fish. If you are wanting to take a picture with the fish we your hands before touching the fish. Hold the fish up for just long enough to take the picture then put it back in the water. I wouldn’t recommend doing this for the fishes sake, but it is always a nice reminder of the fish you catch by taking a picture. The safest way to handle a trout is have the net still in the water with a fish, then you remove the hook while the fish is still in the water and release it. Next time you go fishing be mindful about these things. It will only help trout fishing in the future, and maybe even keep up the streams we once loved to fish available for future generations. If you fly fish it is also a good idea to use barbless hooks. In some areas this is mandatory, but here it is a suggestion. It makes unhooking the fish easier, but it makes it harder to catch the fish. If you are fishing wild waters or catch and release only waters this is my suggestion.
4.) Cattle Farms & Christmas Tree Farms
This will be a much longer topic I will go into greater detail, but for now I will go over it very quickly.
Cattle farming in the mountains is a huge business. We have many cattle farmers with hundreds of heads of cattle. They might own land located near a stream. It is an easy source of water for them. However, cattle can impact fishing as well. If they have access to a creek bed it erodes the creek banks. This in return silts up the creek, and makes the banks of the creek less stable. They will defecate in the creek as well. The creek banks are meant for protection of the fish. They hid the fish from dangerous predators, and also allow shrubs and other trees to shade the creeks. Trout need cool streams to be able to thrive. If they don’t have shade or places to hide then they are more likely to either die from predators or die from the hot summers temperatures. Having good creek banks also allows insects to be close by falling into the creek. These insects are food for the trout. Less food means smaller and much unhealthier fish. Silting of the creeks also damages the creeks. It makes the creeks uninhabitable. Even minnows can’t thrive in most of these conditions. If you are a cattle farmer even though it is an easy way to give them water, it would be beneficial if you could find another way to get water to your cattle.
Christmas tree farms or other farms also cause harm to the fish. The chemicals that are sprayed onto the plants get into the streams. This pollutes the streams killing the fish. It will also kill the insects they eat. I have also seen deforestation next to creeks to add these farms. This has about the same effects as listed above. If you are wanting to have a Christmas tree farm it would help out the environment if you do it away from the streams where runoff will not enter the streams. It might be easy to get water out of the creek if the farm is right next to it, but the impact on the ecosystem is very high. It wouldn’t cost that much more to move the farm back, and add more hose line to be able to pump water out.
No matter what we do in life people will always find the easy way to do things. These things can be detrimental to the future of fishing for later generations. What we do now to protect these streams will be important for the future. If you are one of these people fishing illegally then I would kindly ask you to rethink your position. Ask yourself is what I am doing now worth more than the enjoyment my child or grandchild will have if you take them fishing. If you are the ones leaving trash how would you like it if someone came to your house and started littering everywhere. Do you have a pet? What if they got choked on some fishing line, and had to be put down because it got wrapped around their intestines. Everything has an impact on the environment for better or worse. I would just ask everyone to rethink their situation on how they fish, and ask themselves how will this impact the future.
If you have any suggestions about ways we can save fishing for future generations please comment below. Thank you for taking the time to read the post.