This summer has been hot, we have seen abnormal high water temperatures for June and July. There have been voluntary fishing closures across the state, wildfires, and at times a stressed trout population. It has many anglers including myself thinking about the health of the fisheries and all the different aspects that go into the conservation of these fisheries.
At Vail Valley Anglers we take sustainability and conservation seriously within our business practices, and as a result, in we 2017 created the fish first initiative. The initiative implements sustainable actions into our business practice in order to decrease our impact on the environment, local economy, and community. Our livelihood within fly fishing is dependent on the how we take care of our resources. Learn more about this program here.
So what can you do as an independent angler to ensure conservation and sustainability for your local fisheries?
Of course, when we are on the water we can practice good ethics like proper fish handling, picking up trash, and other tips explained in this past blog. But, it doesn’t stop there, most of our fisheries are managed by government agencies like the Bureau of Land Management, United States Forest Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, local governments and towns/ cities. When these agencies are making decisions, politics comes into play, and fish health isn’t the only thing that drives decisions. As a “fish first” minded angler, I recommend all independent anglers to take action or awareness in these 5 ways to give back to our trout. Making a difference not only on the water but off the water as well.
1. Join a Conservation Group
This is the easiest way any angler can give back and get involved in the fishing community. There are various different conservation groups across the U.S. that support and advocate for our fisheries. To name a few, Trout Unlimited, Back Country Hunters and Anglers, Bonefish Tarpon and Trust, Coastal Conservation Association, The International Game Fish Association and many others. It’s easy to sign up for email newsletters from any of these groups. Or pay for an annual membership (it’s usually under $50 annually). It is a great way to give back and support the work that these organizations put forth. I recommend looking into if there are any active local chapters of conservation groups in the area where you like to fish and getting involved with them. Here in the Vail Valley, we are lucky to have quite a few, which are listed in action item number 2, below.
2. Volunteer with Local Conservation Groups
The next step after joining a conservation group or non-profit is getting involved with them and volunteering your time. Here in the Vail Valley, we have quite a few very active conservation groups including the Eagle River Watershed Council, Eagle Valley Trout Unlimited, Eagle Valley Land Trust, and Walking Mountains Science Center. Give them a follow on social media. Or join their email list to stay up to date with upcoming volunteer events. River clean ups and river shocking are some great ways to volunteer and learn about your fishery.
3. Attend and Participate in Local Meetings
Politics play an important role in public land and fisheries management. With an ever-changing political landscape, new regulations and developments can alter fisheries forever. Staying in the know of certain regulations and developments coming down the pipe can help make a difference. Make your voice heard, attend these meetings, and go out and vote! Staying connected with local conservation groups and fly shops is a great way to learn about the happenings of these meetings.
4. Stay up on regulations
Regulations are put in place to protect our fisheries, it is important to understand and abide by them. In order to fish colorado’s fisheries, you are required to purchase a fishing license every year. At every license dealer, there are current fishing regulation booklets. I recommend every angler to pick one up when they get their new license. While most regulations don’t change year to year, it’s important to understand every fisheries different regulations. Also, regulations can change throughout the year due to environmental impacts. This year due to the high water temps, CO Parks and Wildlife issued a voluntary closure in the afternoons. Stay in the know with regulations by following the CPW on your favorite media channel or stopping by local fly shops.
5. Educate others
Educating other anglers, friends, family and other community members is a great way to make a larger impact to benefit our fisheries. With an ever changing management of the local fisheries, talking with fellow anglers on and off the water is a great way to understand the current conditions.
As fly anglers, we are stewards of the local fisheries. We genuinely care about the fish and the ecosystem supporting them. We can do our part on the water to respect the fish by handling them properly. But, off the water, our fisheries will always face changes that will negatively or positively impact them. We can all do our part by getting involved to make a difference that will put our “fishfirst.”
Patrick Perry, Former Guide, and Content Contributor @patperry