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poaching fish

Ken Crowne

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A big reason I haven't smallmouth fished some area and some not-so-area rivers this year are that water temps are consistently above 80 degrees. To me, that means oxygen levels really plummet.




I am even feeling guilty a little bit for chasing LM bass in a local lake. When I wet wade in, its like a hot tub !!!


So for those of you knowingly fishing conditions like this, these days, a question: how confident are you that a well fought battle ending with a release isn't doing damage or killing your population. Another question: how much easier has it been to locate fish in this extreme heat which is aggrivated by a severe lack of precip---when water levels are 15% lower on my favorite streams; condensing the fish-in-a-barrel situation.


Can smallmouth that are getting condensed into horribly low water survive and thrive in these conditions? I thought smallie preferred temps and o2 levels were a little more sensitive.Have I been mistaken all this time? I ask in earnest because there's obviously a lot of c&r and conservation minded guys here on the board.


Is there some magic list of constant cool groundwater fed rivers out there that I've missed in my 20 years of smallmouthing? Are they much tougher than I thought, and am I needlesly concerned?

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To be clear, river fishing during low water conditions does not constitute poaching.


How confident are you that a well-fought battle ending with a release isn't doing damage or killing your population.

As confident as any other time of year. They give the typical 'smallie splash' on release, often soaking my sunglasses. With any fishing there's going to be a percentage of loss, despite your best efforts. You have to be willing to accept that as part of the game. If you can't, don't fish.


How much easier has it been to locate fish in this extreme heat which is aggravated by a severe lack of precip?

Although high water fishing is what I prefer, finding fish in low water is easy too ... if you can read water. Riffles and chutes have current, oxygenation, and forage. Although it's not uncommon to find fish in very shallow, slow water. How many schools of minnows have you spooked out of the warm shallows? Lots!


Can smallmouth that are getting condensed into horribly low water survive and thrive in these conditions?

River smallmouth are more tolerant of warm water than many other fish species that inhabit the same river. If there is flow, I'd say they can survive. Thrive? No. If they are locked in a stagnant pool, they are vulnerable to catch & keep, predators, high heat, oxygen depletion, algae blooms, ammonia spike.


Judging by the types of conditions you are describing, you have me envisioning the Vermilion River and places where you've got more bedrock exposed than you do water. Those "fish in a barrel" type situations are dicey. But it's a choice left up to the individual angler of whether or not to fish -- just as it's a choice whether to catch and release, what types of lures or hooks to use, to fish during the spawn, to fish in winter, etc.


Reading between the lines, it seems you're wondering why the ISA has not issued a decree to cease fishing during drought conditions for the sake of conservation and protecting the fishery. Like you, some have stopped or restricted their fishing, and for some it has been business as usual. It is an individual choice anglers make as they evaluate the conditions on their favorite flows. There is no one answer that is going to satisfy both sides.

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#1 - Much like Eric I'm very confident. What few smallies I have landed have given the usual healthy strong fight and have all released with the same healthy strong, with a bit of an attitude, kick that soaks the face and glasses.


#2 - Personally I have found this "condensing the fish-in-a-barrel" thing to not be true. I have fished many areas on my home water where the fish should be condensed only to find that it's just not so. I have pulled 2 to 3 smallmouth out of these areas but that's it. I believe this may have been true maybe a month/month and a half ago for a short period of time. Not so at this time.


#3 - The conditions are tough out there with the low levels and high water/air temps. Smallmouth (much like the Borg of Star Trek's "Next Generation") adapt very well. As of the last couple of weeks I have been finding the smallmouth in their usual summer time spots. Not where I think (or where people may think) they should be bunched up and condensed at.


#4 pt1. - No, I don't think you are needlessly concerned. I think most of us are a little concerned but I have yet to see that the Borg, I'm sorry, the smallmouth, have been affected by the conditions. #4 pt2. - Apparently smallmouth are much tougher than you thought. They are the Borg after all. It probably won't be long before they assimilate us into their collective.

Resistance is futile

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I've been fishing my river for over 40 years. That spans the year when most of the historic lows were set. I've yet to see a smallmouth die off due to drought conditions. Many of the fish move to predictable spots in both high and low water, that doesn't necessarily mean they are easy to catch.


Last week I had a day where the fish were eveywhere from shallow slacker spots 6 inches deep out to the main channel. They were all highly aggressive and i had prolly the best numbers day of the year. The last three days fishing the highly predictable spots have seen catch rates in the single digits. I know the fish are there, I fish low light morning and evening and during midday but the results just aren't there.


I fish this flow over 200 days a year, in as many parts of it as there are to fish. I've been out almost every day during this drought and was out every day in the low water episodes the previous two years, have not seen a smallmouth kill. I believe they are tougher than you posit and are definitely highly adaptable to climatic and environmental conditions.

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Thanks, you have me wondering.


I will also clarify a poor choice in post title. Just a doofus choice of words.


When waters are super warm for the trout and steelhead I like to pursue, a common complaint we utter is that the fish should be left alone to tough it out. as in.....they are being "poached alive" aka a cooking technique.


As to Erics reading between the lines, incorrect.....I am not looking for a decree. I tend to be very open on my thoughts; as you've seen in my post.


The only conclusion I haven't spelled out with crystal clarity is this: I dislike fishing for fish in conditions I believe are off the charts stressful, and the last 6 weeks have ben one of those times in my opinion. Thats it.



And when waters get this hot, I know where fish like/need to be. and it aint slow deep hidey holes.


See ya on the water (provided its under 80F!!!)


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A little while back, I made a post similar to yours.


Responses were similar even down to Terry wanting to get a shot at some of those fish in a barrel.


Problem is that we are trying to have a trout discussion with bass fishermen. Trout are more sensitive to water temps above 70; likewise, trout fishermen are more sensitive to the conditions. This is about the time of year when trout sites begin to carry posts that ask anglers to refrain from fishing western rivers like the Yellowstone due to high water temps and fish in a barrel conditions. The Michigan DNR is reporting Pike kills in some rivers in the Lower Peninsula. The brown bass and the green bass are both tough customers compared to trout and pike in hot water. Their weakness is cold water. No SMs or LMs in Alaska. Lots of pike and trout. Maybe we do not need to worry about the fish right now, bass, that is.


I will let it go at this. You are not the only one who wonders if there is a problem coming or already here. And please send me the GPS co-ordinates for those fish in a barrel.

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