Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Big Buckets & Bass.

There’s a series of ponds, laid out like a puzzle. Gravel pits reclaimed from loader backhoes by snapping turtles, carp, bluegill, bass, and of course, the Boulder County Open Space & Mountain Parks.

Before that, they were the floodplain for Boulder Creek.  

Here at these ponds I’ve seen belted kingfishers chase each other’s chirps through the air like fighter jets, flirting with fate and gravity and each other; and have been harassed by an osprey to whose nest I was unknowingly too close for comfort. (It’s one thing to have one’s head dive bombed by barn swallows; quite another an osprey). Here, I have encountered the largest bull snake I have ever seen, faux rattling my nerves into almost giving up fishing for the day…almost; and here I have seen fox kits playing at the door of their den in the fading light of a late spring evening.

I love this place. It reminds me of home and prairies and flat ground. Of places where you can see. 

Banjo loves it too. Here he is welcome. Here he does not lose me, wading into the current. Here he sniffs and sits and digs into cool bank dirt, waiting and watching cast after cast as the line comes back fishless (I sense that he judges me for this). Here he huffs bass – sometimes, when we’re lucky. But It’s not as good as it used to be...you need more luck than you used to, I’m told -- told by a man who hates what it’s not - what it is now - because he loves what it once was. Without one you can’t have the other, love and hate. Without both of them, you have apathy…that tepid middle ground. Those who tell you (and believe me, they will), that love is not jealous, have yet to experience the real thing.

And you see, this and many other fisheries in the Boulder area have a problem – a problem of apathy, if you will  -- of five-gallon-buckets, stringers, and limits as anxious to be filled as Subway punch cards. And just why exactly is it that “limits” make us feel as though they must be met, anyway?

This past weekend at one of the pieces of the puzzle ponds, I kept an eye on large man (desperately in need of a belt) carrying around a white five-gallon bucket. His aim was clear – catching and keeping big female bass off their nests. I caught and released in clear sight of him -- yes, this made me feel good, and somewhat self-righteous, rubbing it it -- and it didn’t bother me one bit to do so. I told the ranger who was pulling up just as I was leaving that she’d be wise to go check on him, as I didn’t think the bass he was keeping were quite up to the legal limit...plus, he was wading. Not allowed. So call me taddletale. It’s okay -- an inherited trait – my mother scolds tourists for feeding chipmunks. And I’m proud of her.

Now, I’m not against keeping fish, but if you need to fill your freezer, go to the one of many state park lakes stocked with rainbow trout precisely for this purpose. I’ve done it once already this year. But the wild…the fisheries that aren’t put and take…

Leave them there.

Please.

Release.

You know, if I kept my legal limit every time I went out, very soon I’d be able to decimate local fish populations singlehandedly. Now multiply me by every other fisherman you see on the water (imagine one of those informational videos about population explosion), and you get the idea. If we all kept our limit, there wouldn’t be anything to catch anymore.

Many of our local bass ponds are emptied bucket by bucket. And then many those same people complain that the “fishing sucks.” Now…what is it that redneck comic says? Here’s your sign. The fishing sucks because of you, my big-bucketed friend.  

52 comments:

  1. Yes, when I see a family keeping a fish the size of a sardine I have a mixed response. 1 - Thank goodness they are in nature with their kids.
    2 - I would rather you just stayed home instead of teaching them poor resource management. Future bucketeers being trained. bkb

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    1. bkb - Indeed...similar to the shirtless obese man wearing yoga pants riding a bicycle I saw the other day...well...at least he's getting exercise!?

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  2. Right on Erin!!! Obvious law breakers just look that way, and they don't care because of, apathy, you won't care so why should they? Do they enjoy wild fish, king fishers, swallows, flowers? I've always wondered. Thanks, this made me feel better to see someone feel as I do.

    Gregg

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    1. Gregg - Thanks! And I always wonder that too...and after much observation, I don't think they do because for one, I don't think they notice. Sad thing. And like minds are very pleasant company...thanks for stopping by!

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  3. I need to slow down when I read. I first read " Boulder County Space Mountain Parks," which sounded completely amazing. I guess open space and county parks are pretty cool too. I would have told on that guy as well. If I saw him catch one and keep it I would probably have been unable to show restraint and taught him a lesson myself. I don't care much for the trout stockings around here as they are usually an invasive fish in the streams they are put in, so all those are fair game to keep. And a native fish here and there is acceptable to me as well as long as it is legal. But, it really does bother me when someone keeps every fish they catch. Luckily, those kinds of guys are usually the worst fishermen.

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    1. Stealth - That's a hoot and a half! Space Mountain Parks. :-) And thankfully, you're so right...often, the fishermen with big buckets, are the worst at the catching. Cheers...and thanks for stopping by!

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  4. I once told a doubtful fisherman that the legal limit on Guadalupe Bass was 18" when in fact, most don't grow to 16" and... There is no size limit on our state fish.

    He threw it back, and I was okay with that lie.

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    1. OneBugIsFake - That's just absolutely fantastic. I'm okay with that lie too. :)

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  5. What about Yellowstone Lake, where the regs require either killing or keeping Lake trout, a 'native' (small n) fish that now reproduce and crowd out the cutts? Or the brookies that Montana FWP encourages anglers to keep? I rarely keep fish, but when I do, once or twice a year, it does not cause me to be concerned. I think it has a lot to do with how much pressure a body of water gets, and less with a sense of morality.
    Cheers
    Mike

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    1. Mike - What about them? Well for one, that's an entirely different situation that bass ponds. When I keep fish I don't feel guilty either...because they're kept from bodies of water that either can sustain it, or actually need it.

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  6. Should Fish More - Lake trout in Yellowstone Lake are a non-native, invasive predator introduced by either a lazy park employee or an individual with no concept of the problems he has caused, that has all but decimated a once healthy Native Cutthroat population. More than sixty park species rely in one way or another on the cutthroat as part of their food chain. This includes Grizzly Bears, Eagles, Osprey, Wolves, and Otters.

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  7. Nicely said Erin. It's always a good idea when there are legal limits, moral considerations or water in trouble to keep an eye on the bucketeers!

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    1. Howard - Thanks! My eyes are always on the lookout....I always had dreams of being a park ranger. ;)

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  8. Good on ya, Erin. Poachers suck.

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  9. Go on with your bad self taddletale. I have good friends that walleye fish and I can hardly stand to fish with em anymore. I just got a braggin photo last night from one with a clearly egg filled female about to become a filet. I've taken guff from them for putting fish back, but some folks are just meat hunters. Maybe some day they'll evolve. Until then...dog help us, and I won't think twice letting the proper authorities know "there's a goon over there bending the rules".

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    1. Rhythm Rider - Goon! Style points for that word. And the egg thing! Ahhh! Makes me SO mad. But that's another rant for another time and place. Being "highly evolved" is infuriating sometimes. ;) Anyway, thanks much for stopping by....and hey, how'd your varnish turn out!?

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    2. Varnished blank looks pretty swanky. I've wrapped most (sorry, none done to Run DMC) and have the detailed end wrappings to do, then varnish wraps and voila....a billy club of a fishing rod (may turn out to be about an 8wt.....I need to go tarpon fishing I guess).

      Have you fished your boo yet???

      Also, the picture at the top of your blog is incredible! That looks like a mythical cabin I read about last year...eh?

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    3. Rhythm Rider - None to Run DMC!? You disappoint. ;) Still another dip or two and some other odds and ends to finish up...the reel seat, etc. A couple weeks. But by that time the streams will be prime...all in good time. And you do pay close attention, don't you?! "That mythical cabin" it is. Not in existence, of course...

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    4. Rhythm Rider - And making a rod, so as to require a fishing trip...not a bad strategy at all. ;)

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  10. wow... you build one cane rod and now your bucking for President of Trout Unlimited.. he he.. I was born into a family of "whack em and stack em" fanatics, life has graciously allowed me to shed that affliction. We all have some sort of inner tide that pulls us one direction or another.. its a shame that so many seem to have such a minus tide-

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    1. Fish Tales - Ha! No...I just have opinions. ;) I'm glad your inner tide righted you...a "moral compass" my mother always calls that sort of thing.

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  11. Seems like all the small productive bass ponds on the front range get absolutely hammered. Not sure what to think of it. On the one hand these are all of our resources and what is an appropriatre way to use them (within the constraints of the law) is a matter of opinion and culture. From that perspective it can be a good thing because it would be a bigger shame if they went to waste. On the other hand these are all of our resources and it seems like some take advantage of the situation to the detriment of everybody else.

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    1. McTage - Yeah, they just seem to get clobbered. Good point about them being "resources" but it's when they're pressured so hard they start to cease even being able to be that...we have a problem. Thanks for the comment!

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  12. Totally true Erin. Same at the coast here. I've seen anglers fill bag after bag with Mackerel that in all probability will go to the cat. What a waste. I believe in taking only what you need, not to stock the freezer (or feed the cat).

    I like Bass but I'd rather eat a Rainbow anyway. Feels better. Sea Bass take soooo long to grow.

    Btw, been watching your rod making exploits with envy. Just wanted to say well done. :-)

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    1. Chris - Thanks for the good words on the rod....it's coming right along! And yeah, you'd think by this time the American public would learn from our past mistakes and wipe-outs of species, to only "take what you need." Apparently not though. Insert big sigh here...

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  13. What you write about is one of many reasons why I can't stand fishing ponds. My mouth gets me in trouble when I see abuses of any kind, and my physical size does not match my attitude.

    On the rivers I don't worry about this. Bucket people tend to stay within 100 yards of their cars. There aren't that many parking spots. This leaves mile after mile of river and creeks with virtually no one to be seen. This makes keeping the occasional fish a part of the fishing process, something my daughter enjoys doing as a way of commemorating a nice day out with dad.

    And it can be done guilt free.

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    1. Ken G - Exactly...at ponds you have to stare at these people and steam starts coming out my ears. And your Father/Daughter outings sound wonderful. I hope those keep up for a long long time.

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    1. Kevin - I'm not sure exactly if that guy was poaching, per se, or not...but I didn't like his attitude one bit.

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  15. The greedy and the narrow minded constantly screw it up for the rest and not just where fishing is concerned. You bang that drum Erin, long and loud......(bad pun alert!) I suppose its a bass drum : )

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    1. Dave - You're exactly right. And a bass drum it is! :) I'm an appreciator of puns.

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  16. Oh, wow! Makes you wonder if we are devolving as a species? We have next door neighbors who are careless with FIRE! And we live in a woods.

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    1. Hart - I think we are, sadly. I remember last year, there was a wildfire raging to my north, and a neighbor up the road was burning slash in a barrel. I was fuming.

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  17. Oh, and thanks for the visual compliment.

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  18. Forgive me taking the liberty of quoting one of your giants. It seemed apt.

    The trouble ain't that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain't distributed right. M Twain.

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    1. Alan - Somehow, that Twain quote has escaped me these years...and it is so perfect! Many thanks for bringing it to my arsenal. :)

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  19. Hi- A compromised landscape makes a comeback in a totally cool way, only to be dissed again. The Sunfish family is a noble species. And as you so aptly state worthy of respect. It's about a conservation ethic and not letting the fierce green fire die out. Responsible, insightful and brave, my friend.

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    1. Herringbone - A never-ending cycle it seems. And on we fight...for the "fierce green fire." I like how you put that...thanks for the good words!

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    2. Erin "the fierce green fire" is taken from an Aldo Leopold essay...I think it's Thinking like a Mountain in his classic , A Sand County Almanac. If you haven't already, check it out. The stuff he was talking about 60 years ago, seems so relevant today. It's not out of control enviro, but sensible stuff. Scientific and experiential. Reasonable discussion of our natural resources.

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    3. Herringbone - Ah you know, it sounded familiar to me. I read A Sand County Almanac years ago...I must go back to it...thanks for refreshing my memory!

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  20. Great job tipping off the ranger! We need more people who care enough about the resource to say something when others aren't playing fair. I've often followed the same train of thought about single-handedly decimating fish populations. It's not far fetched either. A really good fisherman without scruples can seriously hurt a wild fish population...sad but true. Just look at the cod fishery off of New England or West Coast salmon runs...

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    1. David - Indeed...one lone organism can cause a heap of a lot of destruction, in many ways. Thanks much for stopping by to read, and keep fighting the good fight, eh?

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  21. We need more "tattle-tails". Good onya for fighting the good fight.

    Long live the bass pond.

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    1. Master of Kung Fu and Jelly Making and Guitar Practicing - I think you should add that last bit! :-) Long live the bass pond indeed. They're so incredibly fun!!! Cheers and thanks for stopping by!

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  22. Fish must have an amazing scent to a dog's nose..Banjo seems to like it! But maybe not..his ears are laid back..

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    1. penbayman - Banjo likes brown trout the best....haven't figured out just why yet. I think the largeness of the bass-mouth scares him a scosh. ;)

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  23. As with you Erin, I preach moderation, not abstinence, and common sense as well. Similar to the UP 10 brookie limit issue. "Remember when you could catch your limit on the Fox?" Yeah, that only lasted one season.

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    1. FR - "Remember when you could catch your limit on the Fox?" I think that sums it up entirely.

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  24. That is some mouth on that fish......................

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