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Big changes proposed for how we manage the Smith River fishery

Started by Al, February 23, 2010, 09:54:45 AM

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Al

February 23, 2010, 09:54:45 AM Last Edit: February 23, 2010, 10:05:53 AM by Woolly Bugger

Big changes are being proposed for how we manage the Smith River fishery - Put Thursday, March 18th on your calendar to learn all about it.

We slipped our regular SRTU meeting date a couple of weeks to accommodate conflicts in our guest speakers schedule. This should be an important meeting to all who have an interest in the Smith River.


Smith River Trout Unlimited will meet at Rania's Restaurant in uptown Martinsville, on Thursday, March 18, 2010, at 6:30pm. The program for the evening  will feature Virginia DGIF Fisheries Biologist Scott Smith who will present recommendations to improve the Smith River trout fishery.  We anticipate these recommendations will include proposals from DGIF for regulations changes on how trout are managed along the entire river. These regulation changes, if approved, would go into effect January 1, 2011. (This is a continuation of the December meeting where he presented findings based on recent sampling and studies)

You do not have to be a member of TU to attend our meetings.(You must be a member in order to vote on chapter business).   Anyone who has an interest in the Smith River Fishery is encouraged to attend.

Rania's provides us with a meeting space with the expectation that the majority of attendees will purchase a meal. (Good food, moderate prices).  Address is 147 E. Main St., Martinsville, VA  24112. It is in the historic district of Martinsville known as uptown as it sits on a hill.

For information contact Chapter Pres Shane Pinkston shane@southprintinc.com   Secy Al Kittredge, (910) 868-6235 aakitt@earthlink.net or check our website for more details and directions.  www.smithrivertu.com


rjs123

@#$@ another meeting Ill have to miss :(  big event that weekend and I need to be there on Wednesday.

By the way,  Al or Shane.... if someone video tapes this Id be happy to edit it down and put in on the the SRTU website it you like.


Al

Bumping this to the top ^-^

Be nice if we filled the back room at Rania's ;D


fly4u

I am planning on coming and bringing a friend. I would like to meet you BRFFF guy's.

I recognized a few of you last time but just watched and learned.

" Thank You For Your Support "

Al

I wrote up the minutes to the meeting and have "cut and paste" the portion that has to do with proposed regulation change below:


Featured Program for evening:

Scott Smith, DGIF Fisheries Biologist returned to follow up on the presentation he made at our December meeting where he gave a brief history of the Smith River fishery and presented findings of recent DGIF creel surveys and "shock" samplings of the river. His follow-up presentation was proposals designed to improve the fishery.

Everyone heard the same thing. Some may have interpreted it differently. Here are the highlights of what I heard.

The Issues:

•   Not enough food
•   Water too cold (fish and insects in constant "winter mode"
•   Daily temperature fluctuations stress aquatic life (daily floods)
•   Scouring of river bottom has cut upper river to bedrock
•   Sedimentation in lower river

The Big Money Solutions:  - (Only if you believe in the "tooth fairy")

•   New turbines - more constant flow
•   New Intake Valves - pull water from higher level for better discharge temp (48-55 deg)
•   Removal of Martinsville Dam - resolve sedimentation problem and connect downstream trout with those upstream (current sedimentation likely a hazmat site - requires expensive clean up)

What can we do while waiting for the tooth fairy:

•   Litter pick up - The Smith has a reputation for being a "trashy river". Have more clean up days.
•   Improve access - Access is good if you know your way around the river but it is intimidating to newcomers. More signs, parking areas and trails would help.
•   Stream restoration - Many of the tributaries running into the Smith "bleed" silt, animal waste and agricultural run off on a daily basis. Identify these problem spots, contact the landowners and organize programs of correction. (Funds are available to pay for these types of projects)
•   Political clout - The key to long term help for the river. Politicians  respond to "strength or power in numbers". The current trend of conservation and recreation groups centered around the river is great - we need to coordinate and increase our efforts.
•   Change the fishing regulations - Proposal is now on DGIF website (dgif.viginia.gov) - Details below.

Proposed Regulation Change:

•   Affected area - Philpott Dam  to Mitchell Bridge (Approx 10 miles downstream of Martinsville Dam)
•   Rainbow Trout - 7 inch minimum
•   Brown Trout - 10-24 inch protected slot. (Fish the size must be released) - Brown Trout smaller than 10 inches may be harvested. Only one brown trout larger than 24 inches may be harvested.
•   Creel limit - 6 trout (both species combined) with only one brown trout over 24 inches
•   Current Special Reg Section of the river will "go away" and bait fishermen will be allowed to fish and harvest both rainbows and browns under the above rules. However this section will continue to be considered "non-stocked waters" therefore you can continue to fish it without a special trout license. (This rule makes it easier for the CPO's to enforce the same size limits throughout the fishery)
•   This is a DRAFT only. It can be modified or "killed" at several steps along the way. If it or a modified version is approved the earliest it could go into effect is January 1, 2011.

What we think proposed change in regulation will do:

•   Satisfy bait fishermen who primarly target rainbow trout for their stringer. They will also be able to harvest brown trout less than 10 inches.
•   Thin the overpopulation of brown trout which may increase growth of those that survive because  there will be fewer fish competing for a limited food source.
•   More 12-14 inch brown trout below Philpott Dam
•   More  14-20 inch brown trout below Martinsville Dam
•   Likely to see this effect within 2 years
•   Win-win for those that harvest their catch and those that practice catch and release - Plenty of fish still eligible for harvest while at same time protects and increases size of some brown trout.

What will happen if we do nothing and maintain the status quo:

•   At best the fishery will remain as is but will more likely continue it's slow but steady decline.
•   Lots of fish but very few larger then 9-12 inches
•   Reputation as a "trashy" fishery where locals do not care will be counterproductive to recent tourism efforts.

Enforcement of current or new regulations:

We had a very spirited and vocal debate about enforcement of the current rules and what we might expect with any new rules. Many feel there is very little visible enforcement  at present. Just about everyone had a "poaching story". Sightings of CPO's (Game Wardens) is very rare. Scott Smith and Al Kittredge promised to relay these sentiments to their enforcement contacts at DGIF. In the meantime we should all add 1-800-237-5712 to our cell phones and not hesitate to report fish and game violations. You can also call 911 and the Henry County Sheriff's dispatch center will either contact the nearest CPO or send a sheriff's deputy.


troutrus

Quote from: Al on March 23, 2010, 08:11:37 AM

•   Rainbow Trout - 7 inch minimum
•   Brown Trout - 10-24 inch protected slot. (Fish the size must be released) - Brown Trout smaller than 10 inches may be harvested. Only one brown trout larger than 24 inches may be harvested.
•   Creel limit - 6 trout (both species combined) with only one brown trout over 24 inches
•   Current Special Reg Section of the river will "go away" and bait fishermen will be allowed to fish and harvest both rainbows and browns under the above rules. However this section will continue to be considered "non-stocked waters" therefore you can continue to fish it without a special trout license. (This rule makes it easier for the CPO's to enforce the same size limits throughout the fishery)
along the way. If it or a modified version is approved the earliest it could go into effect is January 1, 2011.

[b

Thanks for the information Al. Appreciate all your work toward improving that fishery.
One question, will there be a minimum size limit for Brown Trout?

Al

Quote from: troutrus on March 25, 2010, 08:02:24 AM

Quote from: Al on March 23, 2010, 08:11:37 AM

•   Rainbow Trout - 7 inch minimum
•   Brown Trout - 10-24 inch protected slot. (Fish the size must be released) - Brown Trout smaller than 10 inches may be harvested. Only one brown trout larger than 24 inches may be harvested.
•   Creel limit - 6 trout (both species combined) with only one brown trout over 24 inches
•   Current Special Reg Section of the river will "go away" and bait fishermen will be allowed to fish and harvest both rainbows and browns under the above rules. However this section will continue to be considered "non-stocked waters" therefore you can continue to fish it without a special trout license. (This rule makes it easier for the CPO's to enforce the same size limits throughout the fishery)
along the way. If it or a modified version is approved the earliest it could go into effect is January 1, 2011.

[b

Thanks for the information Al. Appreciate all your work toward improving that fishery.
One question, will there be a minimum size limit for Brown Trout?
Nope, I specifically asked that question and was told if you like to eat french fry size brown trout to have at it as long as you limit your take to 6 per day.

rjs123

Thanks for the info Al!

I dont think we will see any thinning of small fish due to people taking them though.  Who would want to clean and eat 9 inch trout?  I wonder though if the small browns will provide food for the larger browns that I hope will grow in size and numbers if the slot limit does go through.


phg

I keep seeing that argument that people won't keep small trout.  That's total nonsense.  With 4" to 6" trout, you just split them open, pull out the guts, roll what's left in flour and deep fry them.  The scales are too small to notice, and the bones are so soft you have no trouble eating them.  Six would make a nice serving for one person.


rjs123

I never said you COULDNT eat them I said people WONT do it.  Some will,  but I think it will be very few.

It may be nonsense to say they CANT be eaten but I think it makes a lot of sense to say people WONT and here are some reasons why:

-Most of the people I talk to who keep fish are taking them home to families.  I talk to a lot of people on the river and not just people fly fishing. 6 little fish arent going to feed the wife and kids.

-I watched a guy fishing Lemmons Hole last week pulling fish after fish out with bait.  He put the better sized fish on the stringer and threw the others back. Who doesn't do that when you are keeping fish.

-I saw a guy a while back down river from me take a small fish he caught and THROW it across the river like he was pissed off it was small.

-After a stocking I here the bait and spin fisherman complaining whenever they stock a lot of the 8-10 inch rainbows if they dont like 8-10 inch fish then why would they take 6-8 inch fish.

-More than once Ive fished downstream from someone fishing powerbait and saw dead or almost dead 8-10 inch rainbows come floating by

Ill end with one of my favorite lines I hear all the time on the river from the people who keep fish when I ask how they are doing.  "No size to 'em"


Al

The comment period is still open for all the changes proposed by DGIF. Some folks have let me know they are having a hard time location the proper page on the DGIF website. Here is link

http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/regulations/comment2010/

Once you get there you still have to ID yourself and register. More pages open and you get to all the proposed changes. Scroll down and you see the ones pertaining to Smith River along with rational for proposed change. Make your comment and click off.

You can also comment on other changes and return for additional comments as many times as you like. If you click the "remember me" box you don't have to register on subsequent visits.


dossphoto


22midge

dossphoto I believe some of the local people have not been told what is being proposed and feel left out.I think someone needs to have an answer to the gentlemans questions.Is it possible to have some kind of town meeting or local get together to explain to the landowners and local fishermen what the changes are all about.

never let a day go by without telling your children how special they are----make a child smile today and gain a friend for life

bugman

The sort of response in the Martinsville Bulletin was inevitable.  As we approach the possible implementation of the new regulations there will surely be more akin responses.  And these retorts should surprise no one.

This comment is the one that should send up the warning red flag.

"Local fishers should have a voice in this proposal, maybe even start a petition. I suspect this proposal originated among the North Carolina fly fishermen who consider us local hicks with mealworms and powerbait on small hooks beneath their purist standards."

There appears a need for some education.  Misinformation will be the norm if not nipped in the bud.  And who will do the tutoring?  Scott and his crew at DGIF public meetings?  Local TU Chapter?  Fly anglers?

Where did this burr-under-the-saddle for NC fly anglers originate?  And is Lane Thomasson's view in the minority among the locals that use the river?

Many questions – this should be fun and a learning experience.


dossphoto

Here is the response that was written and submitted to the paper by Brian Williams.  Yet again our responses are going unpublished.

More at stake than just trout fishing
Should the brown trout be protected by proposed fishing regulations in the Smith River?  Yes.
Should all river users be considered in any proposed changes. Absolutely.
In a recent letter to the editor, On trout proposal   Monday, August 30, 2010

The writer stated: "... ; If those proposing this atrocity would walk the river, they would see the tossed away tires and household refuse that cannot be cleaned up in one Saturday of volunteers with boots and trash bags. If anyone wants a pristine trophy trout stream here, it will take a lot more than this ridiculous proposal."

I welcome all fishermen, and letter writers, to spend some time removing trash instead of just trout from the river.

The letter stated: "Local fishers should have a voice in this proposal, maybe even start a petition.

The answers to this question and others can be found on the same website that the author pulled the experts from in his original letter.
http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/regulations/comment2010/
DGIF strongly encourages the public's participation in the regulation review process. Other than via the DGIF website, other methods for participating during this biennial review are:
1. Email sent to RegComments@dgif.virginia.gov.
2. Mailed letters sent to: Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries, Attn: Policy Analyst and Regulatory Coordinator, P.O. Box 11104, Richmond VA 23230-1104
3. Public comment at a total of five Board meetings. (Public comment on the regulatory matters under review is accepted at any Board meetings held during regulatory public discussion or public comment periods.): March 2; April 20; June 8; August 17; and October 5, 2010; all are 9 AM at 4000 West Broad Street, Richmond Virginia.
4. Meetings on request. On request and subject to availability, DGIF staff will meet with constituent groups, local government officials, or other groups in local communities to address specific regulatory issues of interest.
Key elements of the regulation review and amendment process are:
* Three public comment, public discussion, or scoping periods.
o September 1 - November 30, 2009: Regulatory Issues Scoping Period. Scoping period for staff, including solicitation of public input on fishing, wildlife diversity, and boating regulatory issues.
o March 12 - May 11, 2010: Sixty-Day Regulatory Issues Public Discussion Period. Public discussion of identified regulatory issues and opportunity for the public to raise additional issues.
o July 16 - September 16, 2010: Proposed Regulations Public Comment Period. Additional meetings for receiving public input may be scheduled at appropriate locations depending on subject matter, level of public interest, and at the Board's discretion.

The letter stated: "I suspect this proposal originated among the North Carolina fly fishermen who consider us local hicks with mealworms and powerbait on small hooks beneath their purist standards."

Actually, the proposed regulations by DGIF were based on studies of the Smith River and the data collected that showed a declining population of larger fish based on creel studies and electro fishing data collected over the past 10 years.  Historically the Smith River produced record trout when river conditions and available food supply to trout were different than conditions of today. The trout population has changed but the fishing pressure, especially from those who remove the larger fish, has remained.  This has allowed smaller and fish to breed over the course of time further decreasing the genetic pool of larger brown trout.  A fishery cannot be sustained n this way no matter how many fishing license are purchased.  The simple fact of continually removing large brown trout from the breeding population will continue to decrease the average size of browns that are caught.  Even the proposed regulations for the slot limit may not help without stringent enforcement, but the economic value of trying to boost the fishery far outweighs the wants or needs of a single fishermen.

The Smith River is a resource that belongs to all residents of all the counties and states it runs through. There are 44.5 miles of  river alone from Philpott Dam to the confluence with the Dan in North Carolina.   All stakeholders must be taken into account when making decisions regarding water usage, water quality, fisheries and other forms of recreation, and the Smith can be  an economic engine for the recovery of a severely depressed region.

According to the letter: " Lower Smith stocking area is what we need to preserve for residents who buy the trout fishing license.
Should stocking trout be based solely on the use by resident fishermen who purchase trout licenses.  Doesn't anyone else have a say?  What about those who practice catch and release.?  Do they have a stake in this as well ?  What about out state fishermen who purchase a license at a far greater price; should they have more of a say than the local fisherman who buys a license ?
Resident trout fishing fees = $36.             Non Resident trout fishing fees = $72

The letter also states:  "The area south of Fieldale is suited to them and where I have caught Brownies in the 14- to 20-inch range."

I wonder how many of these were released to become breeding stock to produce larger fish ?  It sounds like any fish bigger than 7 inches is going home to this perosns table.  That is part of what the proposed regulations are trying to mitigate and therefore increase the average size for all to have an opportunity to catch. The Smith River has a reproducing population of beautiful wild brown trout. There is no reason to stock browns. Not every trout fishermen wants to catch stocked trout. Currently, the DGIF post the stocking schedule and by the second day after stocking, most of the fish are gone due to the "hawks" that follow the stocking trucks to the river...that's real sportsman like now isn't it?  Is that fair to any other fishermen?  Just because one buys a fishing license, does that entitle anyone to catch and keep everything they want.  What about others who may not be able to spend as much time on the river but would occasionally like to catch a brown trout bigger than 7 inches but always releases everything they catch ? Do they have a say so in fishing regulations as well as the person who only wants to catch fish to eat ?

The Smith has become perceived as a played out habitat although the catch rate is one of the best on the state (based on DGIF data).  Fishing pressure, polluted water run-off and riparian habitat destruction has increased the degradation of the resource but it can recover with the right regulations and habitat protection.  Instead of complaining about fishing rights and regulations, why not do something to help protect the resource?  I encourage all to participate in river clean-ups and stream restoration.  Protect the water quality of the Smith, protect the resource.  It's been abused far too long but still can make a recovery and that recovery can be one of the economic engines that help Martinsville / Henry County recover from our current woes, but apathy, shortsighted attitudes and selfishness, will only further the decline of an incredible resource that all of the residents of MHC should be proud to call their own and the preservation of the river for future generations.

Brian Williams
Smith River Chapter, Trout Unlimited



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