Monday, November 30, 2009

The more we know, the better stewards we can be...

I fly fished this past weekend, which is nothing new. What is new, however, is what I caught - the Rocky Mountain Whitefish. I'd caught them before but never as many (or as big) as I caught last Friday. The whitefish is considered by many to be a 'trash fish', but in reality it's a indicator of a healthy ecosystem. I've actually heard of anglers catching these fish and simply throwing them on the bank to let them die, thinking they were actually helping the local trout population. This myth couldn't be further from the truth. These are wonderful fish to catch and put up a great fight.

From Wikipedia:

The mountain whitefish Prosopium williamsoni is one of the mostly widely distributed salmonid fish of western North America.
The body shape is superficially similar to the cyprinids, although it is distinguished by having the adipose fin of salmonids. The body is slender and nearly cylindrical in cross section, generally silver with a dusky olive green shade dorsally. The short head has a small mouth underneath the snout.

It is a fish of mountain streams and lakes, favoring clear cold water and large deep pools of at least a meter depth; the Lake Tahoe population lives just above the bottom in deeper water. Mountain whitefish are bottom feeders, stirring up the substrate with pectoral and tail fins to expose insect larvae and other invertebrates, including snails, crayfish, and amphipods. Their main feeding time is in the evening, but they will also take drifting prey during the day. The mountain whitefish frequently feeds in the lower strata of streams, but populations may rise to the surface to prey on hatching insects, including mayfli

Perhaps if more anglers knew the importance of this fish species to the water they inhabit, there would be greater respect and understand for the entire ecosystem.

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