There are more of us than you think.
I’m not talking about German Brown trout in the Bitterroot River, it’s the number of bait fisherman that like to fish for larger trout in the lower stretches of the river. Prime areas used to include the part of the river from Tucker to Stevensville and to Florence. Fish and Game took that away and now want to trade Corvallis Bridge to Tucker for the catch and release area one mile below Darby Bridge to Como Bridge. According to Pat Saffel, Montana Fisheries Biologist, this is to simplify the regulations and put more pressure on Brown trout in the upper stretches of the river.
Simplify the regs for who and how is this change accomplishing that goal? If you know the area by Darby to Como there is very little access. Even crossing the railroad tracks is trespassing. It’s very hard to hike up and down the banks and the only real way to access this stretch is to float the river. At the Corvallis Bridge you can walk up and down the river and stay within the high water boundary. It is also well known that larger fish inhabit this area. Fish and Game regulations encourage you not to eat the bigger fish because of the mercury content. Several rivers are listed, but as far as I know the Bitterroot is not included and has never been on that list.
I am 63 and have fished in the Bitterroot Valley since I was old enough to hold a pole. I, like many other fishermen, like to catch and eat bigger fish. When we go fishing, my wife and I keep a couple of fish and if we are lucky a big trout. The catch and release fishermen hook many trout and probably kill several fish from stress, but let’s not get into the percentages that several studies have suggested.
This whole idea of simplifying the regulations makes me wonder. Pat Saffel stated that 90 percent of the people who showed for the public meetings were fly fishermen and guides who float the river. They were also upset by the war on the Brown trout. We know that these catch and release advocates probably spend a lot of money on equipment, float trip permits and out of state licenses. Seems like a case of money talks and well, you know the rest. Pat also stated that no ones knows where the area below Darby starts. What’s wrong with a sign? If you have ever been fishing the upper part of the river and the East Fork or West Fork while a raft floats by there is hardly room for them to avoid your fishing hole. Nobody is trying to restrict this area from floaters. The lower stretches of the river have more room to avoid conflicts and accommodate foot traffic.
Simplify the regs, yes! Change the limits, fish with barbless hooks in all areas. Open the river to all fishing. Don’t take away our area and the opportunity to catch a big fish for me and my great grandchildren. But alas, Pat indicated that they have already made up their minds for the next year’s regulations and maybe they would have one more public meeting. For who? Pat Saffell says nobody keeps the fish anymore, if that is true why worry about the small percentages of fish that the bait fishermen harvest?