Of Bounties, Fines and Plenitude

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Know Your Fish

I fish with a lot of different people in any given season. Many of them are from out-of-state and many are new to fishing altogether. The problem is we, like many states, have an increasingly complex set of regulations; yet the burden of knowledge rests on the angler. Many novice fishers don’t know a peno from a whitefish. In one case, I kept quiet. They would learn at the dinner table.

Go Figure

Your ability to correctly identify a fish caught in the Lake Pend Oreille reservoir and river systems as well as in the Clark Fork River flowing into North Idaho from Montana can mean the difference between reward and violation. This includes North Idaho’s Pack River, the primary river feeding the north end of Lake Pend Oreille and it’s tributary streams as well as lesser streams flowing directly into the lake system, of which there are many. Your knowledge of what fish is which may be the difference between a hefty fine, a sometimes hefty fish for the table or a rather hefty bounty for catching a predator the Idaho Department of Fish & Game deems undesirable to the Pend Oreille Lake fishery.

The Bounty

Though this is likely the last season on this system to carry a bounty on Lake Trout (Mackinaw), IF&G is contemplating introducing its controversial but effective plan on North Idaho’s Priest Lake system in 2013. The objective in this aggressive management policy is to reduce large predators considered responsible for the collapse of kokanee populations in these large bodies of water.

Kokanee (sometimes locally referred to as “bluebacks” are a variety of landlocked sockeye salmon that in good years run12 to 15 inches and populate in very large schools. Hunters and wood harvesters will often see red kokanee in huge numbers on streams that flow directly into these lakes from as early as October well into December as these freshwater salmon go upstream to spawn and die for the next generation of the species.

Kokanee were once so abundant in Lake Pend Oreille and Priest Lake that there was a commercial fishery for them. When I was in junior high school in the early 1960s, we could hand-line for them and keep 50 apiece. By the mid-90’s, the Priest Lake population had collapsed and those in Lake Pend Oreille were in danger of collapsing. The predator management policy introduced first on Lake Pend Oreille was a desperate measure by the department to cull large predators from the system where everything else had failed to revitalize the kokanee numbers.

In 2010, a bounty of $15 per head was placed on Mackinaw Trout (they are actually a char) as well as the Rainbow Trout in the lake as an incentive to reduce the over-abundant populations of these two species, and that under a harsh cry from avid anglers who were sure IF&G was destroying a legendary fishery. However the incentive dominated. some guys, giving in, made a fair living harvesting Lakers and Rainbow despite the fact that specialists from New Finland were brought in to net Mackinaw off their known spawning beds. Biologists radio-tagged some large macks to follow them to their redds and maps were drawn to show the netters where these large lake trout were choosing to spawn.

The third species in this discussion is the brook trout. You won’t likely catch one in the lake and river system other than some fair-sized ones on occasion in streams like Cocollala Creek. I’ve never taken one or heard of anyone catching one in the Pend Oreille River or Lake. Neither one is suitable habitat. I mention Brook Trout because their markings are very similar to that of Dolly Varden. Mackinaw, especially younger first-year and second-year specimens could be misconstrued to be Brook Trout by anyone not familiar with distinctions. So the point is: read the regulations and do as they suggest. Know the differences and respect what you catch. Beyond that, go and enjoy a good day’s catch!

~Dwayne K Parsons on Twitter @IFishWrite

Why Fish Color Varies from One Location to Another

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Camouflage

Coloration within a fish species quite often varies from one lake, river or stream to another. Sometimes these color differences are so slight they can hardly be distinguished from one location to the next.  In other cases, the distinction is so prevalent, the fish can appear to be a variety of the same species; but to my knowledge the variance in coloration is simply a camouflage adaptation to match the general color of the bottom of the body of water.

Fish Wear Camo Too

This unretouched photograph of a prize large mouth bass was taken on a rather dark, grey day. The particularly dark coloration of near black on this bass, however, is typical of MacArthur Reservoir large mouth. It’s a species adaption that allows individual fish to blend with the dark color of this shallow bird sanctuary where fish hawks are plentiful and capable.

~Dwayne K Parsons on Twitter @IFishWrite

The Proof’s in the Picture

How to Capture the Exact Moment in Photography

One of the strongest reasons we fish is to show others what we caught. The advent of video and digital cameras and their subsequent migration into cellphone technology has made picture taking a part of everybody’s trip to the lake. Sites like Facebook, Flickr, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn have given us the place to show what we caught.

Rick Lawrence of Fish N Fool Lures being photographed by Ben Fiest

Rick Lawrence of Fish N Fool Lures displays a fine largemouth bass taken from the edge of cattails on MacArthur Reservoir north of Sandpoint, Idaho where I live. His success is recorded by fishing buff, Ben Fiest of Sandpoint, and yours truly (for the sake of illustration).

Four Basic Types of Photos

The mug shot is when someone holds their catch up in front of the camera and that’s about all we see with a smiling fisherman in the background. Sometimes that’s worthy, especially with an exceptional fish; but more often it’s quite boring to look at. You won’t receive many comments from a mug shot.

Another type of photo common in the outdoors is the standard scenery or landscape photo. Some of those are absolutely gorgeous; but in my younger days of photography when I had to study in order to compete, I discovered that I sold more scenics when they showed human involvement and almost guaranteed when the human in the shot was either looking into the scene or doing something in it. Why is this? Because when there is someone else in the picture and they are anonymous or representative (not hogging the viewer’s attention), then the person looking at the photograph has reason to imagine themselves playing or standing in the same scene.

The action shot is usually best when the sport or activity is caught at the pinnacle of involvement. If you don’t have high speed digital settings on your camera (and cell phones don’t), you have to train yourself to see the pinnacle moment coming before it happens.

Combine All Three in Illustrating the Story

It took many years of shooting and analyzing before I learned to combine all three when I could. In the photo above, I anticipated the moment when outdoorsman, Ben Fiest lifted his cell phone and Rick Lawrence of Fish N Fool Lures held up his catch, lure dangling. Rick sells these fantastic plastic swim baits so he’s always looking for photographs that show proof. Ben, on the other hand, who works in construction just wanted to record the memory. I was there, not only to fish and write about it, but to illustrate my blog. So here was the perfect opportunity.

I saw it coming. I barked no orders. Just grabbed my camera from its case, turned it on and took a rapid succession of photos as Ben and Rick got into the action. The one you see here was my illustration for this article. That’s MacArthur Reservoir in the backdrop, June of this year. The photo is a mug shot, a scenic, an action shot and an illustration all in one.

Here’s a different kind of illustration, one I took this spring specifically for Idaho First Realty, owned by long-time friend and broker Ed Ostrom. That’s my famous Bijou, the registered long-haired chihuahua, an unpaid model posing as I captured the southern shore of Sandpoint, Pend Oreille River, our infamous Long Bridge and the Cabinet Mountains in the back drop–all in one to give Idaho First Realty’s website a unique and truthfully illustrated banner.

Last, I want you to look another kind of story illustration that can provide memories for you on your trip. I took it when I had no fish to photograph and little to write about accept the topic: what you do when you’re not catching fish.

Get the picture?

~Dwayne Parsons on Twitter @IFishWrite

Wind Swept

A Northeast wind bore down the river like a freight train, but we found the bass despite it—two fishing fools in a boat that shouldn’t have been out there.

This 3-pound smallmouth was ample reward.

This 3-pound smallmouth took aggressively under adverse water conditions because we were in the right place.

When the owner of Fish-N-Fool Lures called me mid-morning to see if I wanted to fish with him, I couldn’t say no. I’d attended one of his seminars in Spokane at a General Store sport shop a couple of nights before. I was primed, impressed with rich notes from listening to an innovative thinker. In my opinion, Rick Lawrence fishes well-outside the normal paradigm of accepted techniques. So I said “yes” and was on the road by noon to meet him an hour later.

We knew weather conditions were less than favorable, but we’re persistent fishermen. A hefty Northeast wind, not common in the Panhandle of North Idaho, had blown in over night carrying weatherman predictions of 25-mile-an-hour strength. Holding a boat steady in rippling currents with an electric motor under that kind of wind could prove impossible, but we had to try. We hoped for shoreline pockets where the wind would have less control over our profile.

We had to work for these fish; let me tell you. In the spring of the year one of our favorite crankbaits is the medium diver Rebel Crawfish because the river system is loaded with spawning crayfish. Rick took a 15″ Westslope Cutthroat on that crankbait, and I took one smallmouth, a full pound of fighting flesh. Using pinched barbs, we released both. But the wind was fierce and the currents near the small town of Priest River were excessively strong as the gates at Albany Falls Dam west of us were open to prepare Pend Oreille Lake above for possible flood conditions.

Anybody in his right mind would pass up a day like that, but when Fish-N-Fool calls you, you don’t turn him down. We fished first a small private lake for largemouth bass, skip-casting beneath willows thinking the trees would protect us, but with only two small fish landed and few strikes, we left for the river hoping to find shelter from the wind along Pend Oreille River’s steeper banks.

A mile or so downstream from the boat launch at Priest River, we realized no part of the channel was free of that ghastly wind. Sand blew off the low-water beaches as if we were in the Saharah Desert. You had to whip your rod tip to cast into that wind. We shifted from crankbaits to tube jigs, him using Gitzit Tubeworms and me, my usual Strike King Tubeworms, favoring 1/2 ounce over 1/4 ounce in those conditions.

Fishing the current lines and eddies we found pockets of smallmouth in various places. Rick proved to be a master handler of his Minn Kota Maxxum 101 lb electric trolling motor and we needed every pound of it to hold us in the powerful blend of wind and run-off current.

By the end of 2 hours under severe conditions, we took 12 bass apiece for a 24-fish total catch, the largest being the one in the photograph posted here, roughly 3-pounds–all released. When you’re a Fish-N-Fool like Rick and me, there are no bad conditions. Some are just worse than others. There’s always a way to catch fish if you can figure it out. First you have to find them, then you have to offer something they’ll take. I like it that way, and so does Rick. You’ll read more about him in future postings on this blog.

All in all we had a good and memorable wind swept day. #

Fulfillment Is The Dream Come True

Something Really Large Is Swimming In Your River

When we land a river-run rainbow this size on a fly, we know we've completed something begging inside. Tom Gower knows for sure.

There’s something fulfilling swimming in every good river and it’s part of the upcoming story co-authored by Montana Guide, Russell Moore and myself in a new book In Clear Water due out this June.

When we’re boys just learning (it happens to girls too) a trout the size of the one above is only a dream. A stream-caught trout eight-inches long is as rewarding to a child as the one caught here was for Tom.

Incredibly, while we’re still young, the stream on occasion gives up a relatively large fish, like the 16-inch Brookie I remember from Berry Creek. I was 10, shaking in the cold dew of a June morning and I caught it on a fly. You weren’t there, I know; but it was a dandy! We’re always dazzled by a fish bigger than the norm, and once dazzled we advance the dream. The great thing about fly fishing the dream is that it promotes catch and release, which translates to sustainability and fish that grow as large as this one.

If we continue to fish as we grow older and manage to keep that dream alive, one day we walk out of the river and photograph a memory like the one Tom Gower gives us in this photo. But it only happens if we believe and if we’re fortunate enough to learn from a fly fishing guide as qualified as Russell Moore. It’s as much about understanding the fish, the aquatic life and the moods of a river as it is about the art of casting and presenting flies, whether dry flies or nymphs.

Russell has been fly fishing, guiding and teaching fly fishers for more than 30 years. He’s added a lot of knowledge to fly fishers like Tom whose great trout we admire in the photo above. Many of today’s fly fishers learned to cast and present from Russell or someone like him. Having Russell Moore on board for this upcoming book is not only an honor; it’s like a scoop on a hot news story.

If we believe, we learn; if we dream, we believe. Figure it out. A truly large fish like this one can be understood and caught; but you’ve got to go to the experts to find out how.

When I was in high school some forty years ago, we thought we’d run out of good fishing. But the fact is, thanks to sound management and people who care to release fish back into the water from which they came, we enjoy today some of the finest fishing the world has ever known.

To help revitalize your dream, stay tuned for the upcoming book, In Clear Water, by Russell Moore and Dwayne Parsons. It will soon be available online as well as in book stores and fly shops near you. It’s a treasure of method, story and dream spiraling through the pages of experience and memory, with new techniques and river wisdom you just won’t want to miss.

# Dwayne Parsons  @ifishwrite on Twitter