Trash Fish

A Silver Redhorse from Minnesota's World Class Root RiverThe dominate human dimensions of angling culture as a nation describes Gar, Bowfin, Buffalo, Drum, Redhorse, and Suckers, amongst several other species as trash fish. This group is composed or predominately native species. Angling for these species is largely unregulated compared to sport species and an “angler” can net, shoot, or spear huge limits of these species.

The hypocrisy blows my mind.

Here in southeast Minnesota, the state government funds programs through the Outdoor Heritage Fund that are meant to spread the habituation of wild, mostly exotic, trout while not taking into consideration our world class Redhorse fishery. There are no programs in place to restore habitat for the endangered Blue Sucker or the rare Spotted Sucker and Shovelnose Sturgeon.

The funding comes from a state Outdoor Heritage Fund which was created as a result of a constitutional amendment passed by state voters in 2008. For the next 25 years, 33 percent of a new state sales tax will be dedicated to the restoration, protection and enhancement of wetlands, prairies, forests, and habitat for fish, game and wildlife.

Unfortunately this amendment did not specify between native and non-native species.

According to John Lenczewski, TU’s Minnesota Council Chair, “Habitat restoration improves wild trout fisheries and increases Minnesota anglers’ enjoyment of our coldwater ecosystems. This tangibly reconnects people to the land and motivates them to support watershed improvements.”

Trout Unlimited’s rhetoric says that they are restoring the habitat. My logic and expereince leaves me with the questions, “Then why don’t I catch Brook Trout, Chub, Suckers, Redhorse, Buffalo, Sturgeon, Panfish, and Pike in this creek” and “Why are trout stamp sales slumping?”

Maybe we ought to start considering starting a group dedicated to the preservation of Native Species habitat, population, and education, to combat such evil lures of ignorant media and ignorant rhetoric.

Native Species Unlimited perhaps?

I have had more encounters with ignorant anglers killing spawning natives this year then ever. When I put my cards down on the table with the offending angler the answer is always, “I thought we had to kill them.”

I always take the time to try and make a friend out of these people by explaining them the virtues of naturalism and ecosystem biodiversity prior to saying my good byes. Some agree to return the fish to the water voluntarily. Other experiences have required me to site Minnesota’s wanton waste laws and threatening a call to the game warden.

While on an annual visit to the MNDNR’s Lanesboro Trout hatchery a few years ago I was dissapointed to find that someone had left scores of dead White Suckers on the bank along Duschee Creek direclty adjancent to the gate over the creek that you must drive over to enter the hatchery. A blatant wonton waste offense just outside of a state run hatchery.

I do feel anxiety that it may be too late in certain instances for native sepcies however if we can “restore” German Brown Trout habitat in the Driftless area, spread their range by hundreds of stream miles, and increase the population density 10 fold, then we can certainly restore degraded native species spawning beds. Further, if we can specially regulate and license anglers seeking German Browns and Ganaraska Rainbows then we can certainly specially regulate and license native species anglers.

This is but an example, I do not believe that special licensing is the bottom line however I am passionate about an educative component being instituted to fishing license applicants in order to participate in the activity. A “rod” license if you will.

I do not believe that it should be something that anyone can just go to the store and buy without a bit of a Q + A. In my mind it is sound pedagogy in order to further protect and enhance our waterways sensitive and often threatened bio diversity.

This could be but a start to end fish species ignorance and segragration. Its a fight that will take many years in order to reverse the common rhetoric to one that is more correct for Mother Nature.

Many ecologists have understood for years that you want to kill all the non-native species in order to protect the environment and restore the biodiversity. They further understand that this process needs to be gradual in order to maintain the senstive carrying capacity of the eco-system. This may include special management considerations for non-natives as part of a long term program to inihibit their habituation. You’ve just got to ask yourself if you would rather see a field of Dandelions or a field of Coneflowers and “Do you want your children and grand children growing up describing pheasants as natives?”

I suggest and encourage all anglers to understand the impact that one individual can have on an ecosystem by understanding as much of it as possible.