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Well Guys and Gal’s we are facing some tough times on our States Salmon Lake’s that is for sure. I have not posted anything yet because I wanted to sit back and digest all the coming and going info as well as discuss some of these things with the States Biologists. I have had a chance to do this and now I would like to share some of my thoughts on the Lake’s, The Derby and the future of our States Salmon program.
We have all known now for years that we are in a changing world. We have discussed the fact that technology, bigger boats, the ability to run more lines more knowledgeable fisherman and woman with access to more readily available information, better gear, lures, speed and temp sensors, jigger boxes, jigger balls, planner boards, easier to talk boat to boat, radio’s cell phones etc. All of these factor’s increase the success of each and every one of us. This has not just hit us, we have seen this coming and have discussed this at the Gathering and on the site for the past five years or better. We have discussed the need to use rubber nets and ease in handling fish. I’m sure many here remember John’s great talks urging us to practice these and many other conservative fishing methods. There is no question that this combined with many more people fishing the Lake has caused a linear decline in the Salmon’s size.
Another big factor is that many anglers will go out catch fifteen Salmon and than harvest the two largest fish boated for the day! What happens is we unknowingly cull the Lake in the wrong direction. Imagine you have a trout pond with 100 trout and when ever one gets big you take it out, this is how you end up with a overall decline in fish quality.
One of the Biggest factors and one that is very alarming and in my opinion the BIG PROBLEM is we are stocking fish at 20 plus to the pound instead of the targeted goal of 8 fish to the pound. Due to water temperature problems at the hatchery. What is happening, is these fish are being eaten by all other predator fish, Loons etc. This is very scary because there are so few two year olds combine this with the pressure and hook wounding and we have a dark cloud looming that looks like a perfect storm! If we can’t harvest enough eggs to grow the number of Salmon needed then what happens to our self sustaining Salmon program? I think you all know where I’m going with this!!! Scary I know but a grim reality! Don’t get me wrong the State is not doing this because they want to. They are trying to fix what they know is a big problem.
With all of the above said “if you build it they will come” our state stocks Salmon in our Lakes for one reason and one reason only, to sell more licenses to get more people to come to our State to spend more money to improve or local economy. It is a business and our Salmon are a commodity. They have done a great job having guides do seminars at Fish and Game launching a media campaign to sell licenses doing fishing shows, sending reps to sportsman shows to promote the fishery success and sell more licenses. Our State has done a great job because the Lake was plentiful with nice Big healthy Salmon and many came from all over. The problem is that with our current stocking program and management practices we can not sustain the pressure !
The Derby being canceled, all though I will miss it as will the local economy, in my opinion is going to be a jump start that will with out a doubt help the lake as well as bring awareness to the problems we are facing. For three days or more as many Angler’s come to Pre-fish the lake. You have thousands of skilled Angler’s trying there hardest to catch as many Salmon they can to catch the big one! Many have huge success numbers well into the double digit’s as they fish longer and harder than any other weekend the entire year! Not having the derby will allow Fish and Game to stock the lakes earlier which will allow the fish more time feeding on Smelt and aquatic hatches to grow these fish. Salmon grow much faster in the Lakes than they do in the hatcheries. Many of you know how bad the fishing is just after the derby as the lake is still in shock from the past weekend’s massive amount of pressure.
In the past we have had problems with the fishery. The past problems were do to bait and lack there of. Angler’s who wanted to protect the forage got together and put a stop to smelting on our Salmon lakes now we have a great base of forage both in high numbers of Smelt and White Perch Frye. I point this out for two reasons according to the data forage is not our problem this time and second the angler’s banded together then to make a change it may be time we ban together again!
What is the resolution?
We all need to band together and unite to help protect the sport and fish we all love. The future of us catching Salmon in our NH Lakes is in jeopardy.
Some ideas I have:
First, we need to resolve the stocking problem of twenty fish to the pound. If we can’t correct this mark my word we are done I have no idea how much it costs to buy eggs to supplement the program but I’m sure it’s not cheap and I also do not know if the state would want to run the program if it was not self sustaining.
Second, education we have all been trying to do better with poor fishing practices using rubber nets etc. we need to do our best to mentor to other’s explaining use of rubber nets, not keeping big fat quality non hook wounded fish, harvesting skinny hook wounded fish, harvesting old skinny fish check fin clip, moving off Salmon bite after you have already had a good morning. There is more on this topic I’m sure and I think we need to take a pro active responsible approach in our ever changing future.
Third, I would love to find a way to raise the fish to a larger size before stocking them. It’s my opinion that the fish that are most effected by hook wounding are our small 1 year olds that simply can’t handle a hook.
Fourth, We have spoken of a Salmon Stamp I love this idea to help raise money that would be ours to improve our Salmon program. God only knows or at least I don’t how much of our license sales money ends up helping the Salmon program. As a guide I would be happy to may more for a stamp or fee!
Fifth, One of the problems we had this past season was there were not enough quality three year olds to harvest good eggs from on Winnipesaukee. Maybe we should try a slot limit even if every other year on our three year old class like 18-21 inches. We should also consider reducing the amount of Salmon you can keep to one per day.
Sixth, I think a line reduction at this point is needed I think that one line per licensed angler would be fair and drastically reduce pressure. I hope it can be a temporary change but feel as though it is necessary! Any less lines and it will topple the sates license sales and be even more drastically counter productive to the states media campaign. Any more lines I don’t think will be effective. Also keep the number of boats in check What I mean is if we go to two per boat well my dad will be fishing in his boat and me in mine instead of us fishing together.
Lastly in a ever changing time we need to attempt to improve the fishery to the pressure not the pressure to the fishery. We need to make changes on both side of this equation! We can not just throw a Band-Aid on the problem and walk away we all need to take a active role to ensure the future of our fisheries and Salmon program. If we can fix the Lakes and the Salmon fishing is great then the pressure will come again, can we be fit enough next time to make it through the perfect storm?
This site is full of really great people we have all enjoyed the site, the Lake and the Salmon and we will continue to because together we can make it happen!
***I’m not a Biologist, I’m not a Salmon expert, I do not work for the State, I am one of the most active Salmon fishing guides on the lake a sportsman who loves this sport and this is my opinion***
Very well thought out post. The only point I don't agree with is #6. I feel that 1 line per boat would unfairly target those who fish solo and favor those who fish with multiple partners and in larger boats. As I previously stated, I think 3 lines per boat,regardless of how many fisherman,would be the best compromise. Most people prefer to fish with others and I don't think you would see a huge increase in single anglers running 3 lines. Three rods per boat might keep most people happy.I'm not sure; just a thought. Lastly, the topic of cheater lines should also be addressed. These should be banned. Bottom line: 1 lure per rod. I've lived with 2 lines per angler but going to 1 line per angler would unfairly target solo anglers, in my opinion.
I enjoy the site and thanks for providing it to us!
Travis... well said.
Chris... cheater lines already ARE illegal in NH. I also believe there are more people fishing solo on the lakes than you think. Upping their legal line limit to three rods is counterproductive.
Well thought out post Travis, Very informative, and very informational. Would you be willing to come into a classroom and talk to a bunch of first graders?????? I'm sure my little guys and girls would love learning from an outside source besides me the Teacher LOL I agree with all of your opinions if it is going to be beneficial to the sport we all hold dear to our hearts. I know I've gone fishing up on Memphamagog up in Canada and it is only 1 line per fisherman up on that lake. Every time we've gone up there we've had a blast and caught all kinds of fish, it was actually nice because it helped to clear up Cluster smucks on the back of the boat from having to many lines out, and you could efficiently try Lead Core, Downriggers, and a flat line all at the same time without worrying about tangles. I'm in for whatever needs to be done to save the fishery for future generations. I know I'm personally still looking for my first 5 pounder, but I want them to be there when my kid grows up and when I have grandchildren. Great Post and thanks for all you do not only for this website, but your passion for what you truly love doing. Take Care God Bless LOL Dave
Well put Trav, I agree with all of your points and do believe that a salmon stamp would work.
What was the point being made on the temperature at the hatchery? IS it a temporary problem and something that can be fixed, or is it that the salmon need something they can't provide?
As a guide I like work to educate those who fish aboard the Kool-Aid about the hatchery program and the proper ways to handle our beautiful, delicate fish and I'm sure the rest of the guides on the site do as well. Even though most of the people I take out do not fish on their own, it still helps to educate... most of those that do fish enjoy learning about, which I know isn't huge but I think every little bit helps.
The more people that know about the problems we are facing with our salmon program, and the ways to help rebuild it, the better the chance we have of turning it around.
Power in numbers!
Everyone on this site are good people and good fishermen/women. I believe that all of us chipping in and doing our part will have a great impact on the fishery!
Excellent Points Travis! I'm in complete agreement with you on all the above.
I too will miss the Winni Derby and the exictment that goes along with it. I also realizse the economic impact to area business too. But it is also a weekend that puts tremedous presure on the lake and is a weekend that takes a lot of the larger fish out of the lake.
I realy like the idea of a slot limted and I would be in favor of a salmon stamp too help fund the hachery operations too insure salmon can be rasied to a size where they don't suffer a 99% mortality rate when they are stocked.
Speaking as a guide I would have no problem with a one line per license limted and/or a 3 or 4 line per boat max.
Thanks Travis for the info ....
Well said Travis. Let do something now while we can. So the little ones in our lives will get to enjoy what we have today.
Great post Travis!
Something I just don't understand is the complaint I am hearing is that the SIZE of the salmon is going down - now the NUMBER of salmon. In fact I am hearing more and more about more fish being caught. Yeah sure, we are getting better at it BUT could it be that more are caught because more are there? Isn't it true that as population densities increase, size will decrease...is it possible we are overstocked????
My point is, almost all proposals are targeting increasing SIZE where it seems that the proposals that should be getting looked at are those that increase SIZE and perhaps even decrease numbers.
A slot limit seems to be an obvious and non-economy-impacting solution for the region. Smaller fish have less PCBs and are better to eat so slot them. The slot Trav recommended I think needs to be slid back to 14-18 inches. If you are worried about numbers then lower the daily limit to 1. I just don't know how the derby could be run if there was a slot unless they added "one fish over 24 may be kept".
Stocking fish at 8 per instead of 20 per should help also.
Cancelling the derby actually helps with size as only the large fish are killed. Not a lot of fish numbers wise are taken but those that are, are over 21". Perhaps if some derby revenue could be used to buy a high end live well to hold all fish captured, they could offer a 2 ounce bonus to any salmon brought in alive that live until the end of the event (or maybe they could live in a stocking truck)...tag them in the tank of course. Tagging the fish instead of punching the tail would probably help biologists learn more about the fishery for surviving fish.
Line limitations seem to target numbers decline and I think would have two bad effects:
-sportsman would be very unhappy with the change
-many would be so unhappy that they would not take the long drive up to the lake and dump much needed money into the local economies. It is very expensive for guys who live over an hour away to pull a trailer up there at 3AM and then to be able to only put 1 line out (if solo) would probably drastically drop the number of those willing to do it.
Good post Trav, I wish I could agree 100% but I am against the line/rod limit. I really think it should be left as is for now and perhaps be the last ditch effort. I also feel it is discriminatory against the lone fisherman.
It would result in loss of license revenue, people will not come afar to fish Winni or from out of state,etc. Let's face it Winni is a draw to the area, to handicap those that fish Winni will no doubt lessen the pressure. I do think it will handicap those that fish alone as well, bigger groups or charter groups would be less effected. On Squam, 10 lines don't catch a fish sometimes, dynomite might be better.
I think a stock rate reduction would be more productive as far as increasing the size of the Salmon which is the main gripe here as I understand it.. Fish and Game would like to reduce the stock rate too I'm sure.
Barbless hooks should be mandatory and I like the idea of a slot limit and culling out hook wounded fish more. You can't blame a guy that fishes Winni and catches a 5+ pounder for wanting to keep it, most people will fish Winni a lifetime trying to land one of these.. with one line he'd have a better chance at making the NBA.
I'm hearing they have may fixed the problem at the hatchery and the Salmon are on target for normal stocking size. I hope it's fixed, Squam has virtualy no 2 or 3 year old year old Salmon left as a result of the 20 to a pound stock size. With smaller stock size they are putting in closer to 40,000 or 50,000 a year in Winni as they do "stock by weight". It's impossible to tell how many are left, I'm thinking allot more than we think. With normal stock size they have a track record to go by and can adjust more easily.
I'm in favor of limit on Salmon being 1 fish "if it will help", but I think in reality, not enough are taken out. If they go this way you should still be able to take a Bow or Laker with your 1 Salmon.
Let's face it 1 Salmon, 1 rod per boat doesn't make it a very enticing sport, more folks will go to the salt or stay home.
I really agree some changes need to be made or tried, but lets not go crazy all at once. I think Fish and Game will take a more scientific approach
and evalutae each change before making too many others.
It will be interesting to see what additional steps for 2010, if any, are taken.
Bottom line, "it is, what it is", it's our decision how we live with it.
I hope the next open meeting in 2011, to let them know what we want or think, more of us will attend.
My biggest thing on wounded fish is "treble hooks" these just destroy the fishes face almost everytime.
When you guys say to go "barbless" (i know what a single barbless hook is), do you also mean to get rid of lures with treble hooks?
As I stated back on my Dec. 21st post.
* I would support rod reduction to 1 per license on all N.H. salmon lakes.
I fish alone 2/3 of the time and would actually benefit from having a 2 rod per boat limit. I see alot of guys fishing alone so either way would be o.k. with me....not really sure of all the pro's & con's on this. Either way will definately go along ways to reducing the hook wounding.
* salmon stamp
* everyone seems to agree on barbless requirement and rubber nets. let's do it.
* maybe a limit of 1 salmon/ 1 rainbow and a bonus of a couple of "lake trout" a day would take more pressure off salmon & rainbows and help keep the lake trout population in check which is another problem ???
** N.H. F & G biologists are doing a great job and I would support whatever they decide.
* regards Jim
I've tried twice to post a comment but it would not go through
Thanks Travis for the information. The problem didn't happen overnight and it won't be fixed overnight.
We have fished with Big John with multiple lines and have been skunked and have cought several nice salmon other times. Most of the time, I fish alone, and have been skunked many times. If only one rod allowed, I may not fish as much as the gas needed would not be worth it.
( I usually keep only one salmon /year) I crimp the barbs on the hooks and use a rubber net.)
I hope that any fix for Winni will not be detrimental for the other lakes.
Seems to me, small size equals two possibilities;
1. Not enough food or over population.
2. Both of the above.
1. Barbless hooks. (reduces hooks damage)
2. Allow taking salmon while ice fishing. (reduces numbers and hook mortality)
3. Get a smelt stocking program to support the salmon population. (this should be done with out saying)
Boy are you guys lucky to have Travis at this site!!
I've watched the salmon fishing changes at Winni for the last 5 yrs. At this point things are bad but not terrible. You still have lots of salmon but they are smaller and many are deformed from hook damage during their first year in the lake. Like Travis I offer my opinion which results from years worth of fishing with the best salmon fishermen and many hours talking with the biologist who created the Winni fishery. I think I offer much more than 2 cents worth.
1. Regular Winni salmon fishermen and guides are way to efficient when fully rigged. A little arithmetic tells me that only fifty of you can catch and release nearly all of the annual stocking in one five month season.
2. Fewer rods per boat will help. I like 4 rods per boat compared to charters and the large number of well equipped sports who regularly drag 10 to 12 line even without stacking on riggers.
3. Single barbless hooks to be cut off if the fish has swallowed the bait.
4. Rubber nets are super unless you think that they are a way to get more fish in and out of the boat so you can catch and release more fish per day.
5. Don Miller assures me that the smelt numbers are fine. If so there is another reason why 70% of the salmon seem skinnier than in the past.
6. Stocking should be done as early as possible. Fish grow faster in the lake than in the hatchery.
I hope that the hatchery can figure out how to stock salmon bigger than the 6-8" fish that they are now producing. Salmon stamp funding might help.
7. I do have concern about the number of salmon brought on the ice in winter. Cut the line at the water and tie on a new hook!!
8. I believe in education and voluntary conservation practices. This site should lead the way.
9. Everyone should offer to help Travis and other guides that are willing to share equal burden.
10. For those who want a quick fix or simply blame NHF&G , Derbies, or guides, GO TO Champlain or NY!!
As Scrooge said, "Reduce the surplace population"!!
As far as Winni fishing look forward to my regular May week at Ame's Farm and I'm sure I will have a great time.