Tag Archives: Science

Cleaning out the inbox- IV?

Four sounds good.  Meet the new fishing dog:

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Mitch.  One year, three weeks, five days.  Named after Jon Benjamin’s seminal performance in Wet Hot American Summer.  I thought of the name before I found the dog.  Mitch is a she.

….a-doy.

Turns out regardless of party affiliation, America’s anglers and hunters overwhelmingly support clean water initiatives.  Remember this, dear reader- and register, AND VOTE, in your upcoming elections.

 

Charismatic megafauna. 

It’s the term biologists studying less cuddly and enigmatic things give to pandas, dolphins, whales, wolves, cheetahs, tigers, lions, rhinos, and other critters that steal the spotlight.  In the arguably best case, these species are used to draw awareness and conservation initiatives which benefit entire ecosystems, as opposed to the individual species.

Wisconsin’s taking a different tack, deploying mermaids to keep the St. Croix River clean.  Whatever works!

 

Art and Advocacy. 

Many communities stencil storm sewers so residents know where they lead.  Blacksburg, Virginia is taking it a step further- allowing local artists to paint the drains, using art to connect residents with the local environment.

 

A primer on Magnuson-Stevens.

As much as recreational anglers bitch, marine fisheries in the United States are among the best managed on the planet.  That’s in no small part due to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which insisted upon science-based management of marine fish stocks and input from local stakeholders including state agencies and commercial and recreational anglers.  The Act isn’t perfect, but it’s been credited with recovering numerous commercial and recreational species- and it’s currently under threat by HR 200.  The Pew Charitable Trusts put together a great primer on the changes HB 200 represents, and what it could mean for protection of coastal fisheries.

Summer stewardship.

temps

Question:  I’ve seen these big fish at the bottom of the deepest pools, they’re refusing everything I throw, and I’m determined to catch one.  What do I need to do?

Answer:  It’s alright to leave them alone.

Fish are cold-blooded; they can’t regulate their own body temperature, they have to seek out environmental conditions which are best for their survival.  Most fish species don’t grow throughout the entire summer.  They have a range of temperatures which optimize growth.  Above that, they’re eating just to stay alive- taking in enough energy to maintain homeostasis.

Those big fish in a deep pool are down there because it’s the coolest, most thermally stable, most groundwater-fed portion of the flow.  They’re not eating because they’re not expending a lot of energy in still water- they don’t need to, they don’t want to, and dragging a streamer across their nose to elicit a territorial response isn’t doing them any good.  Feeding them a zero-calorie Zebra Midge and then having them expend valuable energy on the fight, the photo, and the release isn’t doing them any good.  To crib a line from John Gierach: sometimes, they need the sanctuary of deep water.

We talk a lot about values like C&R, barbless hooks, and leaving fish on redds alone.  If a fish spawns in October but dies in June from a combination of high water temperatures and angling pressure, we’re undermining our own cause.  Think about it.  Pay attention to the temperature.  Go on an overcast day.  Make it a half-day morning trip, a night trip when temps have cooled off, switch to bass or carp or gar that can stand higher water temperatures.  But know what you’re doing, and the effect it has on the fisheries you value.

 

 

 

 

 

Last Best Streams: 2.0

leopolds

I had a perfectly good plan last year: winnow down all the streams in the US to the last best ones, the ones science say are least disturbed, their annual pattern of flow today most similar to the historic record.  Add in the nation’s system of Wild and Scenic Rivers, and spend the rest of my life focusing on those…

But there’s better data out there, more exhaustive- not just the great streams, the nice streams, the ones which are protected.  There’s data on the streams that should be protected, if only we had the will- political, social, or otherwise- to do so.  I’m anal about these sorts of things, so I dumped them into the existing list: something like 2,110 streams across the nation, notable for their ecological, fisheries, or cultural significance.  It’s a couple lifetimes worth of work, but I’m happy to try.  You can check out my progress on the Last Best Streams page.

Lurching into the new year.

There’s nothing motivating about six degrees Fahrenheit, especially after spending the week between Christmas and New Years down with the flu.  Maybe it’s a metaphor for 2017 as a whole: an exercise in irrational optimism, in refusing to let the bastards get you down.

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This stream will never look the way it did in my lifetime; record-shattering floods slicked off every tree thirty feet up the bank.  Most of the local streams are fundamentally altered from the places I know.  Elsewhere rivers became more vulnerable to human alteration, access became tougher, watersheds burned.

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It’s easy to be cynical.  It’s easy to say there was better fishing, easier access, and fewer assholes a generation or two ago, and maybe even some of it is true.  But none of it is useful.  It’s a sentiment which justifies poor treatment of our natural resources, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned in 2017 it’s that our last best streams aren’t accidental.  People worked to protect them for every subsequent generation.  As the people who use those outdoor resources we should be more conscientious of that, more willing to practice that sort of forward-thinking in our everyday life.  Disinclined to squander the opportunities our parents afforded us.

I’ve thought a bit about this space in the past couple weeks, about its direction and the expressive opportunities it affords.  I have every intent of being more proactive in its management during the upcoming year, and have been cooking up new content and features which will hopefully be of interest.  Best of luck with your endeavors during 2018, and take care.

Tom

upstream

Last Best Streams: #200.

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This one’s tough because it’s home.  I fished this river first, it maintained my sanity during the Recession, just out of college and underemployed.  A friend in similar circumstances would tag along, two or three times a week, sometimes, paying five bucks to stay in a nearly abandoned campground across the gravel road from the access.  Folks with full-time gigs weren’t going to risk losing them and the ones retired or underwater had bigger things on their plate; most days we had the place to ourselves.

A hundred years ago the watershed was a moonscape. Between 1888 and 1903 timber companies cut 375,000 acres of white oak and shortleaf pine, rafting logs downstream where industrial sawmills turned 800 trees a day into the beams and boards building midwestern metropolises.  By 1920 the roughest hollows and bottoms were the only timber left. After failed attempts to grow corn and wheat, locals who didn’t or couldn’t sell turned out hogs and cattle to forage what they could.  Thousands of acres burned annually, or nearly so, to rejuvenate meager pasture.

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With the Depression came federal buyouts, state parks, and national forest.  The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) projects replanted native pine, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) built roads, bridges, fire towers, park offices, picnic shelters, and campgrounds.  When the war was over, everyone from Aldo Leopold to the artist Thomas Hart Benton clamored to protect the natural beauty of this landscape, and in the 1960s those protections were codified in federal law.

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A third of the watershed is now publicly owned. Mixed hardwood forests are again the dominant landcover, although fire suppression makes the forest more closed than historical conditions.  Imperiled bats and birds call the rivers home, rare flowers and ferns carpet dolomite bluffs, and hundreds of species of fish and aquatic invertebrates- some found nowhere else on the planet- call the river home.

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In a century threats to the river shifted one-hundred eighty degrees.  The river is no longer threatened by logging and livestock, but by ATVs, illegal roads, and poorly maintained horse trails.  Canoers, kayakers, and jet boats rove the river throughout the warm season, dotting gravel bars with black pocks from bonfires and leaving litter in their wake.  It’s a diverse crowd- there’s not many places you’re as liable to run across a baptismal as you are a yoga retreat.  But there’s just too many for the river and the infrastructure to support, and it’s the number of visitors and their diversity which confounds management.  Open houses and public forums are met with protests and counter-protests, one recreation group pitted against another, resentment welling up along the urban-rural divide.

It’s still pretty.  And there’s still good fishing- stocked browns and a few wild rainbows up at the top end, smallmouth bass and rock bass plus panfish, pickerel, and the occasional walleye downstream.  There’s a reason people still visit.

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