Save a native, eat a brookie

brookiesWhen I was talking with the WDFW commissioners about allowing tenkara in the state’s Fly Fishing Only waters another idea came up in the conversation – promoting the taking of brook trout in order to help native trout species.    I know what you are thinking – but I only practice catch & release, right?  Well, I too am guilty of practicing C&R maybe to the detriment of our native cutthroat and rainbow trout.   In the last two decades I’ve probably only killed a handful of steelhead (hatchery fish of course), some pink salmon and maybe a dozen or so brook trout while out on a  backpacking trip.  This year I’m planning on getting a bit more liberal in eating brook trout and tenkara is the perfect way to catch them.

Why?  Brook trout are not a native species to Washington State, they were planted here mostly years ago and have taken over some watersheds to the detriment of the native fish.   Brook trout will overpopulate small alpine lakes and stunt all the fish where you end up with fish that are all head and very little actual fish.   They do the same in some creeks and rivers.   Boulder Creek near Winthrop is one place where I have in the past and will in the future kill brook trout since they are so plentiful that the native cutthroat have become a rare catch.    The Upper Yakima – yes, it has brook trout and the state wants them gone.  In fact, there is no size limit and no daily limit on them from Lake Easton up to the dam and I catch brook trout in that stretch almost every time I go fishing there.   In the general statewide rules for rivers, creeks and beaver ponds you can keep 5 brook trout per day and there is no minimum size limit on them whereas all the other trout species have smaller limits and a minimum 8″ size.    There are exceptions to the general rule including the Snoqualmie Forks which are totally C&R much of the year and have a catch limit of 2 fish over 10″ during the June-Oct season including brook trout which can be found in the system.

brookie-dollyOne word of caution, our rivers and streams do contain Dolly Varden or Bull Trout which are also chars and look quite a bit like a brook trout.  How do you know which is which?  Well the general rule is “No black, put it back” in reference the the black spots or worm tracks on the brook trout’s dorsal fin whereas there are no distinct markings on the Dolly/Bull.    I tend to catch Bulls & Dollys while swinging for steelhead and they are usually substantial fish since they ate a 3-4″ long steelhead fly whereas most brook trout I get are 10″ or under so size can help distinguish the two but I’m sure with tenkara a smaller Bull can be caught and needs to be carefully released without removing it from the water.