Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Jammin' on the Gallatin

Winter fishers are familiar with ice jams. They can restrict flow, wedge a section of river with huge ice chunks and create 10-foot-plus-tall banks when the ice thaws. It can also cause dangerous floods, as shown in the video below. A fisherman had to be saved by Search and Rescue last month when one broke upstream of him.

Furthermore, friend and fellow-blogger Will Jordan reported that when he fished the Gallatin Canyon last weekend he saw floating fish in many holes. An inquiry with FWP revealed it was apparently the result of the flood (although other reports said the fishing was EXTREMELY good for the next few days). Here's hoping the kill wasn't too great an event.

There are times when anglers make poor decisions and get themselves in hairy situations, but something like this is hard to predict. My best advice would be to stay off islands and close to the banks if you know you're fishing below an ice jam. And get your line in the water ASAP afterward.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Fifteen Percent

The latest US Fish and Wildlife Service participation numbers were recently released (click here for Brett French's Billings Gazette story for a Montana-centric article), and are a good source of blog fodder. Especially when they're not what you expect, and I was kind of shocked by some of the statistics.

From French's article:
"Between 2011 and 2009, (Montana) angler numbers fell 35,500... The fishing participation rate nationally is only 14 percent. The mountain states region, which includes Montana and Wyoming, can boast a 15 percent participation rate. The west north-central states, which includes the Dakotas and Minnesota, leads the nation with a 23 percent participation rate. Oddly, the watery Pacific states -- Washington, Oregon, California and Alaska -- have a participation rate of only 9 percent, the lowest in the nation."
The elbow room of 15 percent.
Fifteen percent? That includes bait and spin-fishing. I am blown away. I imagine that because I spend much time fly fishing and I associate with mostly fly fishers, that my perception has been skewed. If I'm being honest, I love that so few flog our rivers, but if I'm being considerate and in it for the industry - I gotta think that at least some of the 85 percent don't know what they're missing. I've said it before - we live in a state with thousands of miles of fishy water that the law allows us to wade through - it's an incredible thing in which only 15 percent of the residents partake. Sheer madness.

As an angler, I like this. As a member of the fly fishing industry, it's less likeable. It tells me there is a ton of opportunity for expansion of the industry via popularizing the sport, which the industry is all over - another reason I am shocked it's 15 percent. And while I love the elbow room of 15 percent participation, I also enjoy cameraderie. And the more who participate, the more innovation, the more places to buy flies and tying materials, the more magazines, books, etc. Ultimately, in my opinion, it's kind of a mixed bag.

Are you surprised by these numbers? Would you like to see more participants? Why?