Fishing trip to Alaska prompts thoughts on wolves, trout, and conservation

Tim LesmeisterJust a few days ago I was chasing halibut in a boat on Kachemak Bay out of Homer, Alaska. There was a group of eight on the boat including the captain and his first mate. Three of the anglers were from Pendleton, Oregon and in between the excitement created when a big fish bit we told jokes, stories and debated current topics. What I noticed is that no matter the political leanings of a group and no matter where they’re from there is always something worth discussing when the topic turns to the control of our resources.

When the discussion turned to wolves our Oregon friends requested we ship them some of our Department of Natural Resources operatives from Minnesota to convince their rule makers to push for a wolf hunting season. They felt Oregon already has enough predators. There are over 5,000 cougars in the state and over 25,000 bears and not enough open country to support an expanding wolf population. This means those wolves are going to eat livestock, which directly affects our fishing partner’s bottom line. Government might reimburse the ranchers for livestock killed by the wolves, but it doesn’t really reflect all that goes into raising that animal.

But then most environmentalists don’t consider the effect reintroducing predators into the landscape creates. The real nuts and bolts of the situation are lost in the fantasy of releasing what they see as a majestic creature, back into an ecosystem that might not tolerate this incursion.

So our solution. Surround metro areas with invisible fencing. Release the wolves into the heavily populated areas with collars so they cannot leave the invisible enclosure and let them feed on people’s pets and forage in garbage bins. This will give those environmentalists, since most of them live in urban areas, a chance to discover first hand how predators really function. They can have some up close and personal experience with the animals they worship.

I also had an interesting conversation with a top guide on the Kenai River. The Kenai in Alaska is a tremendously popular fishery. With salmon runs diminishing due to heavy harvest the world-class rainbow trout fishing is receiving more pressure than ever, especially during the spawning period when the fish are most vulnerable.

We discussed whether it was good or bad for the resource when anglers target fish on their spawning beds. I was amazed to hear this guy, who makes his living creating successful fishing trips for clients, say fishing bedding trout is wrong. He even admitted it might not hurt the resource if the fish were handled properly, which he is perfectly capable of doing. This guide said that those in the guiding business should set an example and let the rainbow trout spawn in peace because if they’re seen fishing the shallow trout, people who are not capable of handling the fish properly will think it fine to target the species at that time and cause irreparable harm to the resource.

So it seems no matter where you go, no matter who you meet, everyone has a resource issue that will strike close to home and provide fodder for discussion. What’s yours?

Categories: Tim Lesmeister

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