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Russian River Coho - #knowyourcoho outreach campaign

The situation:
Locals noticed an uptick in people catching salmon in the Russian River during early winter this year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that more adult fish were returning. It’s more likely because they were confined to the mainstem of the river due to lower-than-average seasonal flow conditions. Coho salmon and steelhead spawn in tributaries to the Russian River, so in years where there is just enough rain to allow adult fish to enter the river, but not enough water to allow access to their spawning grounds, they may be forced to hold in the river for several weeks until streams become open to adult passage. In water years like this, it is more important than ever to be conscious of the impact of fishing on these protected species.

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Concerned anglers will want to know that endangered coho are particularly vulnerable during periods of low flow during their spawning season. Anglers could easily catch one without intending to and, potentially, face penalties associated with harming them. Knowing how to identify coho salmon, steelhead, and Chinook is a critical skill for anyone fishing in the Russian River.

Please help us share information about this situation with the fishing community using the hashtag #knowyourcoho. The posts below are provided for convenience, or feel free to share your own.

Webpage: Know your salmon species to avoid catching endangered coho: http://go.ucsd.edu/2EbGFEA

ID Guide: Download a PDF Russian River Salmonid Identification Guide at: http://go.ucsd.edu/2F2x1p6

Avoid penalties and help restore the Russian River salmon fishery. Any time you catch a fish that looks like a salmon or steelhead:

Land the fish as quickly as possible

Have a rubber net ready for safe landing
Immediately check for an adipose fin. It will be intact on coho, wild steelhead, and Chinook. In order to avoid injuring or killing these protected fish:
Keep the fish in the water at all times – even if taking photos
Carefully remove your barbless hook and release the fish as quickly as possible
http://go.ucsd.edu/2EbGFEA
#knowyourcoho
#keepemwet

Hashtags: #knowyourcoho #keepemwet
Other related hashtags: #salmon #fishing #silver #coho #wild #catchandrelease #fishpicoftheday #salmonfishing #cohosalmon #angleredits #fishingphotography #outdoorlife #wildsalmon #wildriver #keepemwet #chinook #fortheloveofsalmon #fishing #russianriver

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Thoughts From John McMillan- Wild Steelhead of the OP

No better way to start the new year than with a hen less than 100 yards from the ocean. And while I wish everyone a happy New Year, and some chrome this winter, I also want to raise awareness about the plight of Olympic Peninsula wild steelhead.

No better way to start the new year than with a hen less than 100 yards from the ocean. And while I wish everyone a happy New Year, and some chrome this winter, I also want to raise awareness about the plight of Olympic Peninsula wild steelhead.

By Keepemwet Fishing Science Ambassador John R McMillan

Populations of wild steelhead are in long-term decline in the Hoh, Queets and Quinalt. In fact, since 1980 (when they started collecting data on annual run sizes) populations of wild steelhead have declined by 33% in the Hoh and 48% in the Queets. The Quillayute system has fared a bit better, but it too has been in decline since the mid-90’s and it has experienced some of the smallest runs on record in recent years. In fact, just a couple years ago the Bogachiel escaped only 733 wild steelhead. That’s it, 733 fish. Last year was the smallest run size on record in the Queets, and the Hoh River steelhead have met the escapement goal less than 50% of the time in the past 15 years. That bad news: it looks like the trend will continue this winter. Managers estimate the run size will be only 7800 steelhead in the Quillayute, which includes the Bogachiel, Sol Duc, Calawah and Dickey Rivers. The forecast for the Hoh is a paltry 3,000 fish. Of further concern, ocean conditions don’t appear to be getting better in the next year or two, in fact, they may get even worse. During these poor return years it is incumbent upon anglers to play their part in conserving the fish. We, as anglers, are no longer harvesting wild steelhead in these streams. But, we are catching them, and catching them quite often. Data from 2014 in the Hoh indicates on average, every fish that escaped the tribal fishery was caught 1.44 times. And that is an underestimate, and does not include fish that were hooked and lost. Similar results were found in the Sol Duc. We don’t know what such high encounter rates do to wild steelhead. All I know is I love these fish. I love snorkeling with them. I love fishing for them. So, this year, my New Year’s resolution is to fish a bit less to give them a break, and make up some of that experience with snorkeling. It isn’t easy, but its better for the fish. 

John McMillan is the Science Director for Trout Unlimited's Wild Steelhead Initiative

Explore more of John's work here.

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Ambassador Profile: Jess McGlothiln

Jess McGlothlin. Rob Yaskovik photo.

Jess McGlothlin. Rob Yaskovik photo.

“I’ve followed Keepemwet Fishing since its inception, and firmly believe this is an initiative the industry needs to get behind. Whether I’m teaching fishing photography workshops or shooting for commercial clients, the keepemwet principals apply — and photos of fish in situ are so much more interesting than the traditional ‘grip and grins’. I’m thrilled to be part of the Ambassador team and support this movement.”

"McGlothlin is as much a journalist as an angler, creating a visual with

words and images like a modern-day lady Hemingway." - Outdoor Hub

Jess McGlothlin sees her mission as a simple one: tell stories. Working as a freelance photographer and writer in the outdoor industry, while on assignment in the past few years she’s learned how to throw spears at coconuts in French Polynesia, dodge saltwater crocodiles in Cuba, stand-up paddleboard down Amazon tributaries and eat all manner of unidentifiable food. 

She is a passionate writer and photographer who brings a unique, energetic perspective and approach to her work. Her written word is bright, bold, and honest. Jess is a keen traveler and is available any time, any place for assignments.

Subject coverage ranges from Western rodeos to fly fishing far above the Arctic Circle in Russia. She has proven competence covering everything from international advertising campaigns to multi-day survival training sessions in remote, challenging environments to exploratory fishing trips. Her work has been featured in gallery shows from Germany to Israel, and she has received international awards / recognition for both her writing and photography.

Jess is available for contract, editorial, and assignment work, and is currently based in Bozeman, Montana, USA.

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Instagram

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Ambassador Profile: Jeremy Koreski

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Born and raised in Tofino, B.C., Jeremy Koreski has been working as an outdoor photographer and cinematographer since the early 2000s. "Basically, I've just always loved the journey and the simple adventure of getting there. I love exploring new places and being outdoors all the time, and I hope to inspire people, through my work, to do the same." With a focus on surfing, fishing, adventure travel, nature and the environment, his work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, Outside, Surfer, The Surfer's Journal and Condé Nast.

 

Clients include: Patagonia, Clifbar, Ransom Holding Co. Adidas, Nautilus Lifeline, Hurley, Billabong, Quiksilver, Ripcurl, Fox Head Inc., Google, Monster Energy, Sitka, Stussy, Waiola, CondeNast UK, SURFER, The Surfers Journal, SURFING, SBC Surf, Coast Mountain Culture, Explore Magazine, Outside Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, ESPN.

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Jeremy alongside friend and fellow Keepemwet Fishing Ambassador Jeff Hickman.

Jeremy alongside friend and fellow Keepemwet Fishing Ambassador Jeff Hickman.

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Ambassador Profile: Jako Lucas

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Jako Lucas, a Quick Biography

I have fished many of South Africa’s premier fresh and saltwater destinations since I was 4 years old, and represented my province and my country in various competitions throughout my youth.

After completing my BCom Marketing degree, at the University of Johannesburg, I moved to London for a gap year however was fortunate enough to end up working at Farlows of Pall Mall, where I continued fishing many of the UK’s top fisheries including the prestigious River Test

During my time in London, I had the opportunity to represent Sportfish at various fishing shows, most notably The CLA Game Fair.

I started full-time guiding in 2006, guiding, but also taught myself about effective photography and filming techniques.


To me Keepemwet means that we have to be aware of our impact on the environment. It translates to our conscious efforts in protecting our fisheries and wildlife and ensuring that we educate others and our younger generations.

I will tell you that, having been a full time fly fishing guide, videographer and photographer for over 12 years now, my whole life revolves around the water and what lives in it. Not only do a I make a living out of it, but the more time I spend out on the water, the more I realize that we have to make sure that we do whatever is necessary, so future generations can also enjoy our waters and this sport that we love some much.

I believe it is so important that we get this message across in a positive manner. Focusing on the negativity will not help us educate and inform people.
The reason being is that, it is very difficult to deny that the classic ‘grip-and-grin’ is still one of the most effective methods to showcase clients’ or your own trophy fish. Therefore, I believe that, it will be hard to completely stop doing so. More importantly, I believe it is of paramount importance to instead educate anglers on handling the fish in the correct manner.
For example, I always explain to my clients, that they must understand that this fish has been fighting for its life and keeping it out of the water for too long is like me sticking your head under water after running a marathon.  
So, the most effective way I have my clients hold the fish is by instructing them to hold their breath as they pick the fish up and when they need to breathe, they then realize that they should give the fish a breather as well.
The key points to remember when getting ready for your ‘grip-and-grin’ is:
    •    Making sure this fish is wet at all times
    •    Ensure the fish has time to breathe
    •    Hold your breath while taking your photo
In saying this, we also have to consider it from a photographer and videographers’ point of view. We use our medium to share these incredible places with others and by doing this we are able to create awareness. Considering also the advantages that Social Media has to offer, we are able to bring this awareness to a wider audience. Luckily, by using Social Media, we are not just able to educate but also, almost immediately, advise someone who is not following the right procedures and help them.  
There has also been a movement, in the industry, towards getting more creative angles, for example, where the fish is still in the water.

At the end of the day, we all will benefit and we need to drive that understanding through so that we all know that if we just do our little part we can have a huge influence and bring about transformation.
As I said before, not only will we be the ones that benefit, but it will benefit future generations to enjoy the wonders that nature has to offer.

If we damage a fishery by either killing or catching too many fish, we may cause fish populations to shrink significantly or even collapse and in so doing, disrupting the entire food chain.
Oceans and river systems are the largest ecosystems on Earth, generating more than half of the oxygen people breathe, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and helping reduce the impact of climate change.
I could go on and on, yet the basic and most obvious answer is… to survive.

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Interviews from Bonefish & Tarpon Trust International Science Symposium 4-6

From the BTT sixth International Science Symposium: Dr. Andy Danylchuk and Dr. Steve Cooke talk about the state of catch & release research for bonefish, tarpon, and permit with Sascha Clark Danylchuk of Keepemwet Fishing. Watch the video here.

From the BTT sixth International Science Symposium: Dr. Andy Danylchuk and Dr. Steve Cooke talk about the state of catch & release research for bonefish, tarpon, and permit with Sascha Clark Danylchuk of Keepemwet Fishing. Watch the video here.

From the BTT 6th International Science Symposium—up next: Dr. Ross Boucek, BTT Florida Keys Initative Manager, discusses BTT Florida Keys research and conservation with Sascha Clark Danylchuk of Keepemwet Fishing #Keepemwet #BTT #FisheriesSymposium #FloridaKeys #Florida#FIshing #Habitat #BonefishTarponTrust Watch the video here.

From the BTT 6th International Science Symposium—up next: Dr. Ross Boucek, BTT Florida Keys Initative Manager, discusses BTT Florida Keys research and conservation with Sascha Clark Danylchuk of Keepemwet Fishing #Keepemwet #BTT #FisheriesSymposium #FloridaKeys #Florida#FIshing #Habitat #BonefishTarponTrust Watch the video here.

From the BTT sixth International Science Symposium: Dr. Jonathan Shenker and Dr. Paul Wills discuss the BTT Bonefish Restoration Research Project with Sascha Clark Danylchuk of Keepemwet Fishing Watch the video here.

From the BTT sixth International Science Symposium: Dr. Jonathan Shenker and Dr. Paul Wills discuss the BTT Bonefish Restoration Research Project with Sascha Clark Danylchuk of Keepemwet Fishing Watch the video here.

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Interviews from Bonefish & Tarpon Trust International Science Symposium 1-3

Keepemwet Fishing Science Liaison Sascha Clark Danylchuk talks tarpon tagging with Luke Griffin at the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust 6th International Science Symposium. Watch the video here.

Keepemwet Fishing Science Liaison Sascha Clark Danylchuk talks tarpon tagging with Luke Griffin at the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust 6th International Science Symposium. Watch the video here.

Dr. Jake Brownscombe discusses BTT’s Permit Tagging Program with Sascha Clark Danylchuk. Watch the video here.

Dr. Jake Brownscombe discusses BTT’s Permit Tagging Program with Sascha Clark Danylchuk. Watch the video here.

BTT Director of Science & Conservation discuss the Fix Our Water Initiative with Sascha Clark Danylchuk with Keepemwet Fishing Watch the video here.

BTT Director of Science & Conservation discuss the Fix Our Water Initiative with Sascha Clark Danylchuk with Keepemwet Fishing Watch the video here.

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Keepemwet Fishing in the Yukon

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Dennis Zimmermann, a Yukon fisheries advocate and consultant presented to a impressive turnout of anglers and fisheries stakeholders in October. Dennis partnered with Keepemwet Fishing to share a wide range of catch and release science, tips and discussion. The overarching message of Keepemwet catch and release principles and education was warmly received.

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Yukon Fact Sheet- Lake Trout and Chinook Salmon

  • Unprecedented turn-out - close to 100 anglers to talk about Lake Trout and Salmon recreational fisheries - all demographics.
  • Considerable interest in ethical fishing practices (spin casting, trolling and flyfishing) and catch and release techniques. 
Dennis Zimmermann has lived, worked and fished in northern Canada for over 20 years.  His passion revolves around the intersection between community, fish and habitat.  Dennis has worked with numerous First Nations in Canada and Alaska on a variety of international salmon planning and management issues on the Yukon River.  He is an award winning professional for his work communicating with, instructing and engaging youth and families in fishing.  Currently he works in Whitehorse, Yukon as an independent consultant on a variety of recreational and subsistence freshwater fish and salmon planning efforts that encourage a connection to our natural world.  Dennis can be reached through his website: bigfish-littlefish.ca. 

Dennis Zimmermann has lived, worked and fished in northern Canada for over 20 years.  His passion revolves around the intersection between community, fish and habitat.  Dennis has worked with numerous First Nations in Canada and Alaska on a variety of international salmon planning and management issues on the Yukon River.  He is an award winning professional for his work communicating with, instructing and engaging youth and families in fishing.  Currently he works in Whitehorse, Yukon as an independent consultant on a variety of recreational and subsistence freshwater fish and salmon planning efforts that encourage a connection to our natural world.  Dennis can be reached through his website: bigfish-littlefish.ca

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Keepemwet and the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust Science Symposium

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Big news with our friends in the saltwater community as we begin an exciting new partnership with @bonefishtarpontrust and their 6th International Science Symposium. Follow along this weekend with live reporting, interviews and presentation articles by our own Sascha Clark Danylchuk. Big thanks to Ed Anderson for providing the rich and stunning artwork to accompany this exclusive reporting.

At the core of both Bonefish & Tarpon Trust and Keepemwet Fishing is the belief that recreational anglers are a key component of fish conservation and that science-based approaches to education and outreach can help create healthier fisheries

BTT and Keepemwet Fishing are teaming up to make the science presented at the BTT Symposium accessible to a wider audience. A selection of the science presentations from the symposium will be summarized and “translated” into non-technical language that is easily understood by non-scientists. These summaries will be available on multiple platforms, highlight pertinent findings, and contain actionable items that anglers can use to help in conservation efforts.

 

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Ambassador Profile: Nick King

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Born and raised in rural New Zealand Nick has had a chronic fur, fins and feathers addiction since he was consciously aware. 

NZ provided ultimate freedom in chasing a dream of working and living in the kiwi outdoors. As an eighteen-year-old in pre internet times Nick took his first guiding trip and 28 years later comes up with a blank page when trying to think of any alternative career. 

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Having been the temporary custodian of a number of the South Islands big brown trout, he has come to understand the benefit to all of the quick, gentle and wet mantra when it comes to these decade old fish. A thoughtful handling of these resident fish living in low numbers waters, hands a gift of hope and fulfilment to the next angler. 

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New Zealand’s fishery is a fragile as they come and as his home waters have become a discovered destination Nick is involved with fisheries managers in trying and solidify future fisheries schemes in order to benefit the environment, the fish the people of the country and all other anglers of the globe that travel to experience these islands in the south pacific. Respecting the fish is one aspect of sustainable fisheries and keeping them wet is a key to successful and healthy release of New Zealands sports fish. 

Website www.crikeycreek.com

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Fishing Paradox- Mongolian Taimen

Fishing Paradox

Photos and text by Keepemwet Fishing Ambassador Josh Udesen

Storm over the Delger Moron, Khosvgol Mongolia.

Storm over the Delger Moron, Khosvgol Mongolia.

 

I packed my bag (six or seven times), made lists for months, spooled reels with new line, strategized grain weights, read airline baggage restrictions, learned how to use a new camera, imagined fly crushing hook-ups, plotted strategies for throwing massive flies, lost sleep dreaming of what was yet to come, spent nights on airport floors, spent a small fortune, bounced on the back roads of Mongolia and rode rowdy horses to the Russian border, all for what? A fish… A mythical fish, a unicorn, a taimen. 

Camels loaded for the two day upstream trip to the headwaters of the Delger Moron. 

Camels loaded for the two day upstream trip to the headwaters of the Delger Moron. 

The lengths anglers go to actually fish is mind boggling to those who don’t fish, but the stuff of dreams for those who do. We live for the chance to explore unknown rivers, to feel the hook set on a fish we’ve worked hard for, to experience new cultures and create the stories we will tell for a lifetime. For anglers the Mongolian backcountry is the stuff of dreams and taimen live in the land of myths and legends. “Bucket list”, trip of a lifetime, a true adventure are some the superlatives used when I told people I was embarking on a headwaters expedition of the river know as the Delger Moron in Northern Mongolian. 

Guides Batold "Bagi" Norovsambuu and Mark Portman anxiously waiting to see if sight fishing is going to pay off.

Guides Batold "Bagi" Norovsambuu and Mark Portman anxiously waiting to see if sight fishing is going to pay off.

By the time I threw my first cast I felt like I was in a dream. Although jet lagged and worn out from days of planes, Land Cruisers and riding feisty Mongolian horses, the dream was elicited by anticipation not fatigue. The lengths to get so far from anything gave the impression of being on another planet. Throwing flies into a river few ever wet a line on, searching for 30-year-old fish capable of reaching 60” skewed my perspective, along with the unrealistic anticipation every angler possesses. In my dreams I imagined years of fishing experience, the lack of pressure and voracious, mean and hungry fish meant there was a good chance of getting regular hook-ups and landing my fair share of fish. 

Boy was I wrong. 

Experience, lack of pressure and targeting an apex predator do equate to unbeatable fishing, but there is nothing easy about it. If a steelhead is a fish of a thousand casts, the taimen is the fish of a thousand casts with flies as long and heavy as my forearm. Beyond their primary diet of abundant lenok trout and grayling, taimen are known to eat large rodents, ducks and whatever else may be protein rich and unlucky enough to float by. With such large prey, they don’t eat often, but do so with ferocity and purpose. Eleven hours a day of arm searing, hand clenching and seemingly unproductive casting is easy when a hungry taimen is imagined. 

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More importantly and far beyond the act of fishing, the taimen is a species to be reckoned with. It is a species worthy of garnering earned respect and wonder. With seeming impossibility, rivers such as the Delger Moron support a fish of epic proportions. For comparison, imagine fishing a river like the Big Hole, the Upper Gunnison, the McKenzie or South Fork of the Boise with the chance to hook a 35, 45 or 55-inch trout. Taimen live in landlocked rivers, meaning they do not migrate to the sea, as a result, they prowl relatively short stretches of river during their impressive 20 to 30 year life span. Much of the river is frozen solid in winter, forcing them to hunker into the handful of deep holes for months at a time. The rivers themselves are pristine mountain outlets with little or no human alteration, at least for now. Certain organisms on earth earn respect simply by their existence, and the taimen is one of them. The bottom line, within a short period of time I came to realize the unbelievably fragile nature of both the fish and fishery I was now exploring.  

I’ve never felt guilt about fishing but I quickly began to ponder whether or not fishing, at least for a species like taimen, is a selfish endeavor with consequence. Other than a hatchery steelhead headed to my grill, for most of my fishing life I’ve done everything I can to make sure the fish is returned to the river healthy and in good shape. With the taimen I began to wonder if fishing for them was a good idea. Furthermore, hooking, fighting, landing and “documenting” the catch seemed an added pressure the taimen may not need. I was caught between the magnificence of fishing for these beasts and simply respecting their existence without casting a line. 

The typical foam and fur gurgler with tooth marks from taimen takes that did not connect

The typical foam and fur gurgler with tooth marks from taimen takes that did not connect

I was not alone in my dilemma. My trip was organized and arranged by the outfitter Fish Mongolia, and they clearly understand the paradox of fishing for a species that is both unique and potentially threatened. 

Their efforts to preserve the fish are profound and clearly not motivated by business alone. First off, I was astounded by the almost fanatical reverence and respect for the fish by both the Mongolian and western guides. In conversation and action, it was clear protecting the fish was part of their psyche. Every fly, no matter the size, was limited to a single barb-free hook. Each guide carried a ridiculously monstrous rubber net the entire time we hiked, fished, floated or otherwise had the chance of catching a fish. The minute a fish was hooked the guides sprinted (not hyperbole) to the river and immediately began the process of netting the fish. There was no standing by to watch the fish run or wear it out. If the fish could safely be netted, it was. The guides often doused their waders and ended up soaked to their toes with no second thoughts just to get the fish in the net. The largest fish I caught was hooked, fought, landed and released in about 5 minutes. Before anything else happened, the fish was measured and documented for data purposes. All the data is collected and collated to keep tabs on the numbers, size, distribution and particulars of each fish landed on the Delger Moron. Rarely, if ever, did the fish leave the water. In the end and only if the fish was clearly doing well was there an opportunity for a photo, but a photo was not a given. The guides, who I commend, were not obligated to allow for grip and grins. In one case, a fish I caught was netted, revived and released with little more than a glance because it appeared fatigued. Even with the opportunity for a photo, the angler is asked to keep the fish submerged and release needed to be done in short order. By the time it was all done, the experience was often a blur, as it should be.  

Feeling small floating the upper Delger Moron

Feeling small floating the upper Delger Moron

I came to realize fishing for, promoting and reverence for this fish is the only real way to make sure the habitat, watershed and fish are protected. After discussion with the other anglers and guides, there was consensus about how little it would take to quickly diminish or completely eliminate the species from the last few remaining watersheds they are found. It seems one of the only ways it is not going to become a declining species is getting the recognition it deserves. As is stated by the Fish Mongolia website: 

In an era when biologists struggle to assign financial value to endangered species—and nature’s blessings have been re-branded as ecosystem services—people who like to catch fish with bits of foam and feather represent a rare demographic.

Nobody has to convince this group that native fish, clean water, and pristine landscapes are precious commodities. In fact, some might rather fore-go the word commodity altogether, given its association with prices and markets, to argue instead that the world’s finest fly fishing destinations are holy places, shrines, temples in which humans have both rights and duties. The right to worship. And the duty to protect.”

Josh Udesen with a 45" Taimen showing its true colors. Photo: Mark Portman

Josh Udesen with a 45" Taimen showing its true colors. Photo: Mark Portman

In Mongolia, the taimen is revered but certainly fragile. As a result, there is a concentrated and remarkable conservation effort developing. As of right now the Delger Moron is designated as a “sanctuary” river and is both regulated and supported by the Mongolian government. The government should be commended for being so proactive in designating wilderness status for a river that could be developed for resource extraction. Additionally, the awareness brought by people who fish, practices like “keep ‘em wet”, the efforts of companies like Fish Mongolia and intrepid anglers willing and able to key in on a species using these methods, there is a tangible motivation for both fishing, reverence and preservation. The “Keep ‘em Wet” mentality and practice is actually accounting for the preservation and continuation of a species, and that is a good thing.

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Thoughts From John McMillan- Salmon & Steelhead Part 2

Continued from part 1 via the Instagram account of Keepemwet Fishing Science Ambassador John R McMillan. @rainforest_steel

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Here we have a very simple statistical model that evaluates the relationship between variation in annual run size and the total number of life histories in each species. Of note, I changed the juvenile life histories from one to two to include yearling coho smolts, which I assume exist to some degree in the Skagit, based on a suggestion by @fisherfreak. Thanks! Someone else raised that same point to me about a year ago, in which case the total number of life histories for #cohosalmon increases from 3 to 6. I needed to standardize the variation in annual run sizes so I calculated the Coefficient of Variation (CoV) for each species annual run sizes over the period of record, which is represented by the 1-100% scale on the bottom (x-axis). The CoV tells us how much run sizes disperse from the mean run size. The higher the percentage, the more variation in run size there is from year-to-year (think pinks). The lower the percentage, the less the variation. On the vertical (y-axis) scale is the total number of life histories for each species. I used a simple regression model that allows for non-linear relationships (which just means the association does not have to be straight, or linear, and can curve). The solid black line represents the best fit of the model, and it was a very strong fit, with total number of life histories explaining 85% of the variation in run size. All this means is: Life history diversity among salmonids (in this data set at least) in the Skagit is strongly linked to how much run sizes vary from year-to-year. The theme is pretty consistent with steelhead, diversity matters, a lot. It is their evolutionary calling card, just like home runs were for Barry Bonds, steals were for Ricky Henderson, and 100 mph fastballs were for Nolan Ryan.

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Wrapping up the first part of the discussion here on steelhead life histories. As mentioned previously, they display the most life histories of any salmonid. Up to 32-38, and that does not even include repeat spawners. As smolts, most steelhead spend 1-4 years in freshwater before migrating to the ocean. However, they have found fish as old as 7 migrating to the ocean! It suggests that some fish are maturing as rainbow and then going out to the ocean to become a steelhead. Shape shifters. And once they get to the ocean, some fish spend only a month or two, while others may spend up to five consecutive years. The result of this diversity is an incredible array of ages at maturity. Some steelhead will mature by age-2, others not until age-9. Consequently, we have mature steelhead ranging from little ones as small as 2lbs to huge fish that tip the scales beyond 40lbs. Given all this diversity it is not surprising that biologists and anglers were long confused about what a steelhead actually was, and the delineation of species was further muddied by the inclusion of resident rainbows (which I have not yet touched on). Steelhead have so many choices in life history they are basically like a Baskin Robbins or a Costco. Options, options, options. Or, think of them like a leatherman tool, while species like pink are a phillips head screwdriver – not many options with the last, and if the environment in a given year requires a flat head screwdriver, the pinky phillips won’t do as well. Steelhead populations on the other hand will not fare as badly, while their phillips head won’t work well, they can simply pop open the leatherman and choose the right tool. This is what helps them occupy the greatest geographic distribution of any Pacific Salmon, all the way from Russia across the Pacific Rim down the Baja California. No other species of salmon comes even close to matching this. They are not leathermen.

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Decided I can’t just walk away with figures and tables. I will continue the presentation tomorrow, until then, here is a small summer run steelhead. Nothing is more rewarding than spending all day snorkeling to finally capture an underwater photo of the most difficult species to shoot. I love these fish! 

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Thoughts From John McMillan- Salmon & Steelhead Part 1

From the Instagram account of Keepemwet Fishing Science Ambassador John R McMillan. @rainforest_steel

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Let’s begin! Steelhead are a species of #PacificSalmon, which includes sockeye, coho, chum, pink, chinook, steelhead and cutthroat trout – in addition to cherry/masu salmon. They all descended from a common ancestor millions of years ago. Despite the shared genetic heritage, each species has evolved a unique set of characteristics, such as optimal range of temperatures, metabolisms, age at smolting, time spent in ocean, size at maturity, and whether or not they go to the ocean. These attributes differentiate the species, in addition to a variety of other features. The challenge with steelhead is that they are often managed in the same way we manage salmon such as coho, sockeye and kings. In those management schemes we tend focus almost solely on abundance, aka: How many fish do we get back each year? Though an important metric, for a species like steelhead their abundance does not exist within a vacuum, it is partly – and sometimes strongly so – a function of their diversity. The question is then: What is the big difference between steelhead and salmon?

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The Skagit River in Washington state provides a good starting point for comparing salmon and steelhead because it has so many species of salmon. I start with #pinksalmon. Here we have the total annual run size of pinks, the number of fish for pinks is on the axis on the right. Below we have #chumsalmon, and their abundance is depicted on the axis to the left. I separated pinks from other species because they are incredibly abundant and make it almost impossible to see the variation in lesser abundant fish. In any case, wow, that is a tremendous amount of variation from year to year in both species. In some years you have over 1.5 millions pinks, in other years you have less than 100k. Similar variability with chum. In some years over 500k return to the Skagit, in other years it is less than 20K. The point is we see a lot of variation among years in terms of run size for these two species. This is probably not a surprise to most anglers. Chum and pink – and sometimes sockeye – have evolved to rely heavily on their abundance as a means of sustaining themselves. Next post I focus on the other species of salmon, and then finally, steelhead, before we get into looking at the diversity within the diversity.

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Day 2 of the presentation. Here we have all the other species of salmon and steelhead for the Skagit. The abundance of #cohosalmon#kingsalmon, and #wildsteelhead is found on the left axis. We can see there is more variation in coho annual run sizes than there is for kings and more variation for kings than there is for steelhead. For instance, coho run sizes have exceeded 400k fish in one year, but are lower than 10K in others. For kings we run sizes from about 7k up to 25k, rarely more, while steelhead are basically going from 3k up to 12k. Essentially, steelhead display the least amount of variation year-to-year in terms of population size. The big question is: Can we attribute any of this variability among species to some aspect of their biology? That is what I will cover in the next slide.

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time to look for potential explanations. Life history diversity is one feature that could help explain such variability. For example, in recent years scientists have coined the term “Portfolio Concept,” which basically means that different life histories survive at different rates at different times and places. Such diversity can potentially help dampen annual variability in run sizes by spreading risk across time and space. To determine if that is one cause, we first must identify how many life histories each species displays. Here is a table that describes the number of life histories found in each species. First, I have freshwater life histories: the number smolt age classes in each species. Steelhead have four because smolt ages range from 1-4 years old – though one-year olds are rare in the Skagit. Kings have two, yearlings and sub-yearlings. There is only a single strategy for all other species, sub-yearlings for chum and pink, and yearlings for coho. Next I considered ocean ages, which ranges from 1-4 years for steelhead. For kings we have 2,3, and 4-salt fish, though historically there were also 5-salt. Chum and coho also generally have about 3 age classes for adults, though they tend to be younger than kings. In contrast, all pinks do the same thing – go figure! They are putting all their eggs into one basket each year. Last we have run timing. There are two for steelhead, summers and winters. Same for kings, summer/spring and fall, while there is only one run timing for coho and chum. I gave pinks two run timing because while most are odd year fish, there are a few even year. I was being generous. I think multiplied freshwater life histories by ocean life histories, and then that number by run timing. The result is a total number of potential life histories for each species, excluding repeat spawners for steelhead. And what we see is that #wildsteelheadhave many many more life histories than the other species. Back to my original question: Can this diversity help explain the variation in annual run sizes? I dive into that tomorrow, until then, may the diversity be with you.

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Keepemwet Fishing Receives The AFFTA Fisheries Fund Grant

Keepemwet Fishing is an honored recipient of support from the American Fly Fishing Trade Association Fisheries Fund. Thank you AFFTA!

The AFFTA Fisheries Fund is pleased to announce the St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana Black Mangrove Planting Program and Keepemwet Fishing as our newest Fisheries Fund grantees.

Here’s a bit about the missions we’re supporting:

• St. Bernard Parish Government (SBPG) and Nicholls State University (NSU) forged an informal partnership last year to initiate a Black Mangrove Planting Program in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana.

The program is focused on increasing black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) habitat along the eastern outlying islands of the Biloxi Marsh Complex in St. Bernard Parish for the purpose of: (1) restoring/creating essential fish habitat; (2) increasing the overall health and resilience of the coastal ecosystem, including providing habitat for a number of threatened and endangered birds and (3) reducing risk to life and property.
• The mission of Keepemwet Fishing is to minimize the impact of catch & release (C&R) angling on fisheries by uniting conscientious anglers, organizations and companies to promote science based practices for handling fish that are released. The age of social media has made photographing nearly every fish standard practice, resulting in extended handling times and elevating impacts to C&R (catch & release) fisheries.

“Keepemwet C&R 2017” is an outreach program aspiring to educate angling communities with science based facts, empower individual anglers to make positive change, and unite a culture of conservation.

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Ambassador Profile: Shannon Bower

Photo- Raja PK, metaphoronline.in

Photo- Raja PK, metaphoronline.in

Shannon Bower is a fisheries researcher and PhD candidate in the Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology Laboratory (Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario) and a passionate advocate for freshwater conservation.  This advocacy was born out of decades spent discovering, experiencing, and enjoying wild spaces. As a researcher, Shannon studies the growth of recreational fisheries in developing and emerging economies, an undervalued and understudied sector with enormous potential for both benefit and impact.  In this research, she uses a social-ecological systems approach to understand the biological, social, and economic dynamics of catch-and-release fisheries using a variety of methods to provide fisheries stakeholders with the information they need to manage these target populations sustainably.

 

Shannon believes there is a pressing need for study of recreational fishing that adopts transdisciplinary and participatory research approaches to address key issues in the sector. Issues such as conflicts situations, concerns regarding fishing rights and subsistence harvest needs, cultural norms related to catch and release practices, and data deficiencies surrounding species-specific responses to typical recreational fishing activities need to be addressed to support sustainable management of fish populations and benefit fishing communities.

I've been fishing since I was little. My grandfather was a reporter who had a column called Rod and Gun in the local paper during the 50's, where he advocated for catch and release of trophy fish. He taught my dad to fish and my dad taught me. I love learned new tricks and techniques from people and learn something new from everyone I fish with. I love all kinds of fishing, but small rivers and streams are my ultimate favourite.

I took up fly fishing about four years ago, but am still pretty terrible at it. Rumour has it sucking at something is the first step to being great at it, so I expect to magically turn pro any day now.

I'm in love with my study species and the rivers of India. Mahseer (of any species) are really cool fish, and it's been amazing to have the chance to get to learn about them and work with all of the fantastic people involved with recreational fishing in India. This is a fish that should be on everyone's bucket list, and India is an incredible country to visit. I'm super excited to be the Director of Recreational Angling for the Mahseer Trust, a UK-based charity working towards mahseer and river conservation in mahseer countries across Asia.

Rec Fish Reels is just an FB page I use to talk about recreational fisheries research (and associated topics). Most of the people who follow it are from South Asia, so I try to post content that's relevant to that area and I'm excited to introduce #keepemwet over there.

Twitter: @shannonbfishin

Facebook: Rec Fish Reels

Photo- Raja PK, metaphoronline.in

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Ambassador Profile: Dr. Aaron Adams

Aaron is the Director of Science and Conservation for Bonefish & Tarpon Trust and a Senior Scientist at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute of Florida Atlantic University. He received a bachelor’s degree from St. Mary’s College in Maryland, a Master’s degree from the College of William and Mary, and a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts Boston, and also holds a Coast Guard Captain’s License. He has lived, worked, and fished on both coasts of the US, as well as throughout the Caribbean, where he has been conducting fish research for more than 25 years. His pursuit of effective fisheries and habitat conservation are rooted in his years growing up near Chesapeake Bay, where he witnessed the decline of the Bay’s habitats and fisheries.

His scientific focus has been on conducting applied research with conservation implications (from coral reef to recreational species), with a particular interest in fish habitat ecology. As Director of Science and Conservation, Aaron is responsible for formulating and implementing BTT’s science and conservation plan.

In addition to his duties at BTT, Aaron is also an avid angler, and spends considerable effort translating fish science into fishermen’s terms – including authoring three books and contributing to numerous other books.

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"River Week" with Keepemwet Ambassadors Marty & Mia Sheppard

River Watchers Description
Riverwatchers week started in 2015 with the purpose of fostering an appreciation and understanding of healthy rivers for our community by encouraging an ethic of stewardship that incorporates the conservation of fish and healthy rivers. Through hands on activities and science, including fly-fishing, art, fly-tying, exploring Backoven Creek, dissecting fish, and floating the Deschutes River. Students will increase their knowledge of river ecosystems and gain a deeper ownership for fish and wildlife, and the watershed in their area.  In partnership with the Maupin Summer SLAM program, Mia Sheppard, a local fly-fishing guide and outfitter will lead the group through daily activities and coordinate community volunteers to give kids a quality learning environment and experience.

Why Summer SLAM and River Week

Maupin is part of the South Wasco School District and Maupin Grade School that overlooks the Deschutes River. The Deschutes River is a Mecca for recreation including, hunting, fishing and boating.   In 2014, the median household income of Maupin residents was $37,917 and 13.2 percent of resident live in poverty. One significant issue Maupin school faces, is that they predominantly serve students from low-income families.  Because many families do not reinforce educational learning in the summer months, the students lose reading and math skills over the long summer vacation and families don’t have the financial means to enjoy recreational activities close to home.

When Mia and Marty moved to Maupin in 2015, they enrolled their daughter Tegan in school. They immediately discover that a number of Tegan’s class mates had never played, swam, or floated the Deschutes River, in their backyard. They then started to discover locals have a tremendous fear of the river and the fear has been passed down from generation to generation. The perception is; the river is too dangerous and kids are told “they can’t play by the river.”  This was heartbreaking to hear and discover that most Tegan’s class mates feared the Deschutes River and didn’t know about the fish, or the watershed that brings economic value to the community and makes Maupin, the gateway to the Deschutes River. 

Highlights of 2016

2016 marks the second “River Week” at the Summer Slam Program. This year’s program was a huge success. With 27 eager students, this was more than double from 2015, for many of the kids; this was the only week of the 8 weeks of camp, they attended. On day one, we gathered at Maupin City Park on Bakeoven Creek, a spawning tributary for steelhead and identified Conservation Opportunity Area.  Volunteers were; ODFW biologist and local parent, Jeremy Calvert, local resident Dale Madden, and fly shop owner, Joel Lafollette.  Kids collected and identified macro invertebrates in Bakeoven Creek and talked about the importance and link to fish and water quality.  They also dissected trout and learned about the life cycle and learned about the importance of clean water and how the earth naturally filters our water. At the end, we picked up trash along Bakeoven and talked about the principles of “Leave No Trace.” This day was packed with information and exploration, and the students gained a greater understanding of the watershed in their backyard.


The second day, students learned to tie flies with community volunteers, Marty Sheppard, Chase, and Joe Ringo. The students were extremely proud of their creative buggers, and each got to take home their fly. They also learned to cast a fly-rod and practiced accuracy and painted river art.


The third day we went to Sandy Beach, a local beach about 6 miles downriver from Maupin.    For about 10 kids, it was their first visit to the Deschutes River and some kids didn’t know how to swim and still got in the water with their life jacket.


The kids enjoyed swimming and playing at the beach and took turns learning to fish at the boat ramp down river from the swimming hole. There were 5 volunteers – Joe Ringo, Marty Sheppard, Chase Jackson, Phil Black, and Nenette Cole helping kids fly fish, and appreciate the concept of “not catching fish.”

 

The fourth day we rafted from Maupin City Park to Blue Hole with local companies, All Star Rafting and Little Creek Outfitters. This day 18 kids joined us, the numbers were lower than the rest of the week because kids during the week expressed fear of rafting and water and didn’t know how to swim (this is the barrier that we are working to break through. ) One student, Justin, who attended the camp last year and was terrified and would not float last year, this time, joined us, and even jumped out of the boat and floated down the river.  At the end he said, “I want to do this next year!”  Before launching, Silas of All Star Rafting gave a safety talk and talked about boat safety. Some students took turns rowing.  Many of the students had not been actually on the water, and were thrilled to have their first rafting experience.  It was a wonderful conclusion, to an incredible week.

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C&R Tips for Bonefish

Image of BTT's Best Practices for catch & release fishing for bonefish from thier website bonefishandtarpontrust.org

Image of BTT's Best Practices for catch & release fishing for bonefish from thier website bonefishandtarpontrust.org

 "Although catch & release fishing is a valuable conservation tool that can lead to more and bigger fish in the fishery, just because a fish swims away doesn't mean that it lives to be caught another day. The tips below for increasing the chances that a released fish survives are based on scientific research focused on experimental angling for bonefish. Be a responsible angler - use Best Practices for Bonefish Catch & Release." Click here to view the full article.

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