May 23, 2022
By Lynn Burkhead, OSG Senior Digital Editor, and Fly Fisherman Staff
As late spring snowstorms promise more runoff and better summer water conditions in portions of the Rocky Mountain West, this week’s edition of Fly Fishing News Briefs also delivers some good news for readers of flyfisherman.com:
Idaho Reports Increased Chinook Numbers
In a late April update, Joe DuPont, regional fisheries manager for the Idaho Fish & Game, gave anglers some good news. According to DuPont, Chinook salmon counts at Bonneville Dam are up sharply compared to last year and the 10-year average. DuPont shared a graph that showed a good jump for Chinooks over a four-day stretch, a move on the graph that brought the total counts for adult spring Chinook Salmon at the dam to 18,748 fish from March 15 to April 26 this year.
“This is the highest count at Bonneville Dam for this date since 2015 which is an improvement over what I reported last week,” DuPont wrote in his April 27, 2022 online report. “In case you were wondering, the highest daily adult count we have seen in the last 10 years was 17,409 adult fish in 2014. The highest daily adult count we have ever seen at Bonneville Dam during the spring Chinook return was 27,020 fish in 2001. So, there is still room for improvement. If we can maintain counts above 3,000 adult fish for a two week period, that could result in some meaningful fisheries.”
Milkfish Myth Busted
Milkfish (Chanos chanos) are a mysterious and highly sought after gamefish in the tropical Indian and Pacific Oceans, one that lures many fly anglers to the piscatorial riches of the islands making up the Republic of Seychelles. A saltwater creature that biologists are still learning about, milkfish have a deeply-forked tail that resembles a bonefish, with the generally larger milkfish—the 2012 IGFA all-tackle world record for the species is 43-lbs., 7-oz—typically being reported as a stronger fighter according to anglers who have hooked up with the species.
With the persnickety nature of milkfish feeding on algae and presenting a carp-like difficulty in being caught on the fly—there are currently no line-class conventional tackle or tippet class fly fishing records for milkfish in the IGFA record book—many legendary stories are attributed to casting a fly for these powerful fighters who can melt the drag of a large arbor saltwater fly reel and approach the territory of never giving up.
And as it turns out, there is also a myth or two, including one about how the fish species can fight so long and so hard because they do not produce lactic acid, which can cramp muscles and cause a fish’s demise if too much builds up during anerobic muscular activity. In true “Myth Busters!” fashion, however, that myth was recently debunked by a group of marine scientists and partners from the Alphonse Foundation, the Alphonse Fishing Company, Blue Safari, the Island Conservation Society, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Carleton University.
In fighting a number of milkfish just offshore of the reef crest of St. Francis Atoll, and on the nearby flats of the lagoon, scientists were able to perform a series of tests that included non-lethal blood sampling after milkfish were landed, tests that used portable blood lactate meters to check concentrations of lactic acid.
What were the results? “(What) we can safely say is, the myth is busted,” noted a news release from researchers conducting the tests, a group that included Dr. Andy Danylchuk, Dr. Luke Griffin, Dr. Steven Cooke, Dr. Michael Lawrence, and Sascha Clark Danylchuk. “Milkfish produce lactic acid and blood lactate and the concentrations of it increased with fight time. However, what we discovered is that for fight times greater than an hour, blood lactate in some fish started to decrease. This is not something we typically see in other fish species.”
While the process is still not fully understood—milkfish may have this rare ability due to the large amount of water moving over their gills, helping them to recover quicker—the researchers still suggest that a species-specific best practice for milkfish would be to keep fight times to less than 20- to 30-minutes. And in general, “Until the rest of the capture and handling data is analyzed, we also encourage that anglers continue to Keep Fish Wet Principles and Tips.”
Click here for the full story.
BTT Trip Auction Off and Running
On the other end of the tropical angling spectrum is the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust as it continues to bring science to the fight and perform the critical work of conserving and restoring bonefish, tarpon, and permit fisheries and habitats throughout the world.
To that end, a couple of more days remain this week for the BTT's most recent fundraiser, an online effort that is auctioning off trips to three exotic fly fishing destinations, helping to raise money for the South Florida based conservation organization and its ongoing work.
The first is a Rio Marie Amazon Experience where anglers get to fish with Untamed Angling on the legendary Rio Marie River along with fly fishing Hall of Famer Chico Fernandez. On that trip, there should be ample chances to catch fly tackle busting double-digit peacock bass deep in the Brazilian Amazon.
The second trip being raffled (there are also “Buy Now” prices for the trips to be sold outright) is a one-week adventure in the Florida Keys, with a four-room villa at The Islands of Islamorada serving as a base camp for those who love the tarpon, permit, and other saltwater critters finning their way through Florida's tropical beauty.
The final trip for this fundraising cycle is a cast-and-blast adventure to Argentina, where wingshooters and fly anglers will combine the region's legendary dove hunting and golden dorado fishing while staying for five-days at the Los Laureles Lodge.
To find out more about these BTT fundraising trips, and to learn more about the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, please visit the website link before the mid-week deadline.
St. Croix Back in Fly Rod Manufacturing Game
In the aftermath of the recent International Fly Tackle Dealers show (IFTD) in Salt Lake City earlier this spring, a former major player in the fly rod making game has returned full force to the industry playing field with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.
That seems apparent after St. Croix announced the hiring of Tom Larimer as fly fishing brand manager for the Park Falls, Wis. manufacturer. With fly shop retail experience; starting his own guide business at age 22; guiding from Michigan to Oregon to Alaska; serving as an advisor, ambassador, and product designer for several prominent fly-fishing companies; and being the national sales manager for G. Loomis Fishing in recent years, Larimer brings a unique skills set to his new job, which he began last week.
“My obsession with fishing has always been driven by innovation,” said Larimer in a news release. “Whether designing equipment, tweaking a fly pattern, or developing new techniques, I’m always thinking about how I can improve the game. The industry knows me as a fly angler because of my background, writing, and teaching, but I love every style of fishing, regardless of the equipment.
“I’ve always admired anglers who fish all disciplines and try to absorb information and experience from every aspect of the sport. Ultimately, that breadth of knowledge makes a better angler. St. Croix operates in that same way and is constantly looking to apply its experience and technology in new ways for the benefit of anglers.”
While the 75-year old rod making company was once a familiar face in the fly rod game, the Wisconsin company moved away from fly rod manufacturing a number of years ago as profit margins became more difficult to manage. The company—which has a strong management team, years of experience making the Imperial fly rod, two manufacturing plants (one in Wisconsin, another in Mexico), and battle tested fly fishing industry veterans on board—definitely drew some attention at IFTD as it announced its presence in the fly-rod industry once again.
Will the re-entry work? Larimer thinks so and media reports indicate that the Imperial fly rod will remain a staple, along with new high-end and mid-range fly rods expected to be announced in coming months at either this summer’s ICAST Trade Show in Orlando or at next year’s IFTD Show.
“So many of the pieces are in place, and it’s obvious to me that St. Croix’s Leadership Team knows what it will take to compete in today’s fly-fishing market,” said Larimer.
That’s clearly the vision moving forward according to St. Croix vice-president of marketing Jesse Simpkins.
“We are committed to handcrafting more and better tools for all anglers, and that requires a focused expansion into fly fishing, where our technologies, materials, resources, and Tom’s knowledge and expertise are already being leveraged to meet the needs of the fly-fishing market in exciting new ways,” said Simpkins, in a news release.
Look for coming announcements on St. Croix's fly rod line-up soon and stay tuned to flyfisherman.com for more details as they become available.
Washington and Oregon Set Anadromous Seasons on Columbia Drainage
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) recently set the seasons for salmon and steelhead.
According to a news release: "Due to the low forecast for upriver summer steelhead, protective regulations will include a one hatchery steelhead daily bag limit when open, area-specific retention closures, and Thermal Angling Sanctuaries encompassing portions of Eagle Creek, Herman Creek, the Deschutes River, and the Columbia River near the mouths of these tributaries. Tributary fisheries in the Deschutes and John Day rivers are also restricted until additional information about the strength of the wild upriver summer steelhead run becomes available." The ODFW forecasts about 100,000 upriver summer steelhead.
For more information and the full news release, click here. For continuing coverage, visit ODFW's online fishing reports at https://myodfw.com/recreation-report/fishing-report/columbia-zone.
New York DEC Sets New Muskie Seasons
The New York Department of Environmental Control (DEC) recently announced new fishing seasons for muskellunge. June 1 will be the new opener for inland fisheries and June 15 is the opening date for Great Lakes waters (Lake Erie, Upper Niagara River, Lower Niagara River, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River). DEC will allow muskie fishing starting on the last Saturday in May (the previous opening day) to accommodate previously planned trips.
According to a news release: "Popular hotspots for trophy muskies include the St. Lawrence River, Upper Niagara River, and Chautauqua Lake. Other quality fisheries can be found at Waneta, Greenwood, Bear, and Cassadaga lakes and the Susquehanna, Chenango, and Great Chazy rivers."
Click here for more information.
Court Orders Hatchery Steelhead Released into North Umpqua
The Marion County (Oregon) Circuit Court issued a court order to release 70,000 hatchery steelhead smolts into the Rock Creek, a tributary of Oregon’s North Umpqua River. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) had previously decided to discontinue the North Umpqua’s hatchery summer steelhead program, but petitioners including Douglas County, Umpqua Fishery Enhancement Derby, Inc., and fishing guide Scott Worsley file for a preliminary injunction to overturn the decision. The smolts were released starting Friday, May 20.
The decision on whether to release hatchery summer steelhead in the future has been delayed “until the case is decided on its merits or is otherwise disposed of by the court.”
Click here for more information.