Don't blame anglers

By Chris Wood

Douglas M. Thompson author of “The cost of Trout Fishing,” in the New York Times (April 10, 2015) is correct that poorly managed fish stocking programs can sometimes create problems for native and wild trout. But then he wades in over his head, suggesting that anglers and fishing itself have somehow caused broad declines in native trout. 

Wrong. Habitat loss, not anglers, is the problem.

Wild and native trout have diminished in range and numbers, due to habitat loss caused  by several factors, including development, drought, and yes, stocking of nonnative species. In fact, Trout Unlimited was founded over 55 years ago by anglers frustrated over the state of Michigan masking habitat loss by pumping out ever-more hatchery trout rather than repairing damaged rivers and streams. 

Today, climate change, not hatcheries or angling pressure, poses the greatest threat to native and wild trout populations.

Anglers are the strongest advocates for trout and salmon habitat restoration in this country. For example, each of the 400 Trout Unlimited chapters around the country donate more than 1,500 volunteer hours each year to stream restoration projects, teaching kids to fish, and helping wounded vets to heal through fishing and time spent on the water. 

And this work yields big benefits. In Montana, a state that eliminated trout stocking decades ago, the fishing remains as good or better than "the good old days." In places such as Wisconsin and Minnesota, habitat restoration projects can lead to a 10-fold increase in trout populations. Dam removals along the Penobscot River in Maine have re-opened over 1,100 miles of habitat for endangered Atlantic salmon, shad and striped bass. 

Countering the effects of climate change--the ever more damaging floods, fires and drought--requires that we protect intact habitat, and reconnect and restore fragmented rivers and streams. 

Instead of carping at anglers from the bank, Mr. Thompson should join his local Trout Unlimited chapter, dust off his fly rod and wade into a stream—it’ll be good for both his home waters and his soul.

Chris Wood is the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. He lives in Washington, D.C.



said on Friday, April 17th, 2015

Amen, Brother Chris. We stock some fish here in Wyoming, but we do it wisely. Do I feel bad about us stocking catchable a in the pond in a city park? No. My grandkids learned to fish there, and we're not stocking them over wild fish. And I can assure you that in my home water, the river Marc Reisner called the American Nile, native fish are in better shape than they were 50 years ago. That's due to the great work that TU and other outfits have done. 

I'd be happy to take Mr. Thompson fishing on the Green when he comes down out of that ivory tower. Saving a seat in the truck for him.

said on Saturday, April 18th, 2015

Mr. Thompson in his original NY Times article fails to reference the history of the Connecticut River drainage and all that has happened along its 410 miles throughout colonial and New England industrial and agricultural history. More than two million people now live in the area surrounding Springfield MA and Hartford CT. Wiki lists the Connecticut River among the most extensively dammed rivers in the United States. The surrounding farmland is extraordinarily productive and fertilizer rich.


Agriculture, industry and damming have warmed, polluted and nitrogen enriched that watershed and only since the Water Quality Act of 1965 has there been real effort to reverse the pollution of the river and its tributaries. Atlantic Salmon had been missing from that watershed for more than 200 years (Mr. Thompson, guess why your favorite ten and a half mile long tributary of the Connecticut is named The Salmon) barred from their native spawning grounds likely in waters close to North Westchester and Moodus. Native fish have been destroyed by development and contamination. Were it not for stocking and for angling license fees and Trout Unlimited, those waters might be warm and sterile.

said on Friday, April 24th, 2015



said on Friday, May 1st, 2015

I concur whole heartedly that habitat issues override all else other than population demands on water resources and their content in general. What I dont get is why in the face of a cleaar inability to turn back the clock we insist on pandering only to native species. The Brook trout will forever forward be an anamolous member of the cold water that remain in the east. He will never flourish as he once did. So to spend all of our energies on native fish seems ludirous to me. We need to get over this nativ especies thing and recognize that if we want fisheries we need to not only clean up what we can but also let man participate in the process of keeping trout in the streams and rivers.that remain. We can breed them smarter for sure. This native species only approach is folly. Continue it and you will have museurm fish in 3ft wide steams ant thats all. With a real effort you will get a returning fishery as has happened in the west but it wont stand the fishing pressure of today evern with catch and release. Only a few probbly the rich will be allowed to see and or catch them. Foilly pure folly  

said on Thursday, May 14th, 2015

As long as we fish, we will stock some. HABITAT is key, but it costs money. Hurricane Irene did some extensive damge to many northeast streams and we need to repair the damage, and stock at the same time. ONCE the river is geomorphologically correct and habitat structures are in place, the stream may be able to fully support a fishery that doesn't need replacements by stocking, but it will take time and money.

As far as natives, Browns and rainbows are here to we must deal with it. Brookies can be stocked or protected in headwater areas and cold water streams, but browns will be downstream at some point.

Lets get the old dams out of the river, connect the floodplains once again and get some riparian vegetation back on the banks and move forward! 


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