Monday, December 19, 2011

Stonefly country

I live in stonefly country. It's part of what makes Montana, Montana. The Big Hole, Blackfoot, Madison, Gallatin, Yellowstone - they're epitomes of stonefly water. In the book "Stoneflies" by Arbona, Swisher and Richards, they mention how barely across the border in Idaho, the Henry's Fork is more mayfly/caddis water than stonefly water, but on the upper Madison, there are dozens upon dozens of species of stonefly - many more than the well known (or even known at all) hatches  - makes ya want to try something other than the standard rubberlegs, eh?
Anyhow, Glacier National Park is as much stonefly water as is the aforementioned country. But it might become less so - the rare zapada or glacier stonefly is looking doomed.
Not a zapada; rather, a skwala.
 From the Xerces Sociey (for invertebrate conservation? Really? AWESOME.):

"The western glacier stonefly (Zapada glacier) is a glacier meltwater-dependent stonefly known solely from a small area of Glacier National Park in Glacier County, Montana. Immature stoneflies, including the western glacier stonefly, have very narrow temperature requirements, making them especially vulnerable to extinction from increases in ambient water temperature. This narrowly endemic species is threatened by increases in water temperature and decreases in dissolved oxygen as a result of human-induced climate change in this region, specifically the loss of the glacial habitat on which this species depends. The glaciers within Glacier National Park are predicted to disappear by 2030. Loss of the glaciers, in combination with the species’ limited range, limited dispersal ability, and the inherent instability of small populations, collectively threaten this rare species with extinction."

 Definitely adding that to my "to-fish" list so I can tell my grandchildren that I caught a "cutthroat trout" in a "zapada" hatch. I can see their blank stares already.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ruminations on steelheading in Montana

As I plan a trip to the Olympic Peninsula this February (my first foray into sea-runners), my thoughts end up on the fish. Which got me thinking - what exactly is a steelhead?  
Merriam-Webster defines a steelhead as: "an anadromous rainbow trout ". Merriam-Webster defines anadromous as: "ascending rivers from the sea for breeding". Merriam-Webster defines sea as: "a great body of salt water that covers much of the earth" (among other definitions).
Montana steelhead
But the Great Lakes' tribuaries have steelhead, and the Great Lakes are not seas by that definition. And frankly some of Lake Superior's "steelhead" pale in comparison to some lake-run rainbows of the Rockies. So why can't we call our lake-run rainbows steelhead? Why do they, if they're not technically "sea-run" (they're "big-lake-run"). Where do you draw the line?
I propose we call our big-lake-run, bigger-than-some-of-the-great-lakes'-steelhead rainbow trout "steelhead" as well.
And without a dime of taxpayers' money, Montana could boast some delightful "new" fishing opportunities.