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.
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.
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.