Anyone who fishes for very long will eventually find a river they consider to be their “home river.” I never really understood what that term meant until I moved to Eugene, and discovered the Mckenzie River. There is something about the Mckenzie that draws me in, and I have really come to care about it after spending the better part of my free time walking it’s banks during my 3 year stay in Eugene. That said, I take any threat to my home river very seriously, and that’s why this article by Karl Mueller got my attention right away.
The article points to research by E. Richard Vincent, of the Montana Department of Fish and Wildlife, on the effect of hatchery trout on wild trout poppulations. The information is startling. I never really thought about how dumping truckloads of hatchery fish would effect wild fish, but the numbers tell a grim story. Vincent’s research showed that after 3 years of stocking catchable-sized trout in a previously unstocked stream the total number of two-yeard-old and older wild trout was reduced by 49%. Vincent also found that trout under 10 inches in size showed no significant negative effect. So dumping these hatchery fish into the stream primarily harmed the more mature, and more important broodstock fish. In the most recent assesment of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s tagged wild trout in the Mckenzie, 257 out of the 307 tagged fish were under under 10 inches, just as Vincent’s research predicted. ODFW is very aware of these facts, as Vincent’s research was conducted in the 1960’s and is very well known. Despite this knowledge 140,000 catchable-sized hatchery trout were dumped into the Mckenzie last year. If you are interested in getting involved, follow the link and email local state representatives about the issue.
As a stand alone article the blog post that I chose to analyze would be a very incomplete profile of the issue. This blog post is one in a series of updates on the issue of hatchery fish in the Mckenzie River, but they make it rather difficult to find the other articles on the site. Also, I felt this article concentrated too heavily on the natural science side of the debate without discussing the political side of the debate at all. I think it would have made the article more hard hitting if the authors had put in some information about the fact that besides ODFW, the Mckenzie Guides Association is the only group with any control over the hatchery program. The Guides Association sends representatives out with ODFW officials during stocking, and many of the fish are planted from boats in areas where bank anglers cannot access them. I found this particuarly upsetting, because the fish are public property, and are being planted under the notion that they are for the general public. So why are Guides Association representatives allowed to tell ODFW officials to plant fish in areas where only their paying customers can access them?
Overall I found this blog post very informative and interesting. It definitely served as an excellent jumping off point to begin researching this issue further. I will certainly continue to follow this story as it develops further, so I guess the blogger did their job well.