We are having a motherfucker of a drought here in BC, (and Montana, Washington, Oregon, California, Mars, etc.)
*warning, the following is the same info you’ve probably read somewhere else, written in a more cogent and grammatically correct way, so in the interests of not creating more pointless internet noise for you tune out skip to the last paragraph.*
This is resulting in rather unprecendented low stream flows/high water temperatures/ and in some cases low in stream dissolved oxygen, and fish mortality. Thankfully regulatory bodies whose usual body of work appears to rarely cross into the realm of competency have been forced by a great deal of noisy conservation groups to implement stream closures across BC and much of the western U.S. This by proxy is forcing many anglers (who in some cases have been forced against their will to consider their impact) to focus on the “ethical” water temperature range to practice catch and release fishing for salmonids and char.
Now look this isn’t the first bad drought in the history of salmonids, nor is it the last, these fish by and large are very hardy and have adapted to their environment, but ask yourself, in these days of such grim returns in so many places do you really want to kill or harm them for catch and release fishing?
A typical range that is stated by many anglers to stop fishing for salmon steelhead and trout is 65 degrees Fahrenheit or roughly 18.3 degrees celcius. My suggestion is to:
a) Do some homework on the tolerable temperature ranges of the fish you are targeting and the effect of lactic acid buildup in the body of a fish while being “played”.
b) Follow that as a basic guideline, keeping in mind that in some places there are springs, weirs, dams, salt water influx, deep pools/ cover etc. that can create a difference between surface temps and stream bed temps but that is highly variable between locations or even within the same system…and if you start thinking that you might want to stretch it then you probably shouldn’t be fishing, in warm temps it is very easy to play a fish to death even if they swim away.
c) On a nice hot day ( like 30 degrees celcius say) try out my warm water salmonid catch and release simulator. Go up in your attic, sit for an hour and then do a bunch of push-ups and see how you feel. *warning: may induce cardiac arrest, heat stroke, nausea, vomiting, exhaustion, hyperventilation, headaches, dizziness, fainting, incapacitating muscle cramps, and or death*
Here’s a few guidelines on what you can do to minimize your effect on salmon, steelhead, trout and char in these high stress conditions:
Consider that if you have to ask the question, you probably shouldn’t be fishing. As stewards of our fisheries (and all anglers are) survival of the fish you love should trump your good time. If you still must fish it is imperative for their survival that you play them very very quickly.
Carry a thermometer, they are cheap and easy to find, measure water temperature before you fish, do some homework before you leave the house.
There are tons of other fisheries out there so go and explore, find places where water temperatures are lower, find species that are more hardy, for example on South Island we have many fine smallmouth bass fisheries, largemouth bass, vile invasive perch in several lakes (and Colquitz creek) deep cold water trout in every big lake, sunfish and carp in most south Island systems, lingcod, rock cod, flounder etc. etc. etc. as well as saltwater salmon fisheries like pink salmon and Chinook (water temps are usually fine here). Every one of these species will readily take a fly and fight hard. A 3 lb smallmouth on a 5 weight is a lot of fun (see below) and they readily take surface flies too.
Forget about all this “Is it still ethical if” BS and take a page from Lee Spencer who has dedicated his life to protecting Oregon’s North Umpqua river summer steelhead whose canyon pooling behaviour at steamboat creek leaves them vulnerable. He also fishes with hookless flies.
Where is Vancouver island’s Lee Spencer? We have just as many storied summer steelhead runs who remain just as vulnerable in specific key over summering canyon pools, and yet the only people you usually find there are poachers or clueless anglers. There are so many examples out there of stranded low water Chinook and summer Steelhead who are mercilessly and endlessly harassed by anglers. Three or four months from now, this drought is going to be the last thing on everyone’s minds yet every single one of the issues will still remain. How about you figure out a way to step up and protect your resource instead of blaming the weather, natives, the lack of 22. ammo or whatever other garbage is clouding the collective minds of anglers these days.