Recently I found out that the rainbows in Lynn Camp Prong in the Smokies will be poisoned and native Southern Appalachian brook trout will be reintroduced to the stream. There was quite a discussion about this on the Little River Outfitters Message Board. David Knapp over at the Trout Zone also wrote about this plan (David appears often on the Little River board as Plateau Angler). I pondered this idea and its implications over several days, and I’m still torn a little bit. I’ve never fished Lynn Camp Prong, although I have fished Tremont many times, of which Lynn Camp is a tributary. I am generally a proponent of restoring native trout, but I also enjoy fishing for rainbows and browns. In the case of the brown trout, it’s always a non-native species if you catch them in the US, and rainbows are non-natives anywhere except west of the divide. What I ask is, how do we decide which streams to restore with native fishes? How do we deal with this native versus non-native issue? How should we manage our waters? These aren’t easy questions. There are probably no all-around perfect answers to them. Let’s explore the options.
We’ll start on one of the extreme ends of the spectrum. This would be the view that we should restore all our streams and rivers to their native condition. We would tear down our dams to restore anadromous runs along with native fishes no where close to the sea (like, for instance, smallmouth in the Hiwassee River). We would poison out brookies, lake trout, rainbows and browns from where they didn’t exist originally. We would restore the native fishes to their waters whether it be brook trout, cutthroats, smallmouth, or flathead catfish. I think this view is a little extreme, but I do think it has some merit. There are lots of dams we should get rid of, and I do think we’ve caused a lot of harm with some of our non-native introductions. But should we go to this extreme? Don’t some of our dams provide more benefit than harm? Maybe.
In the middle you have those who favor some native restoration projects, but who believe some areas with non-natives are better off that way, or at least acceptable in their current states. I guess this is where you will find me. I want native Southern Appalachian brookies to be restored to lots of areas, but I also see the value in some of the better rainbow and brown trout streams. I will be happy to see Lynn Camp Prong restored, but I would be saddened if I no longer had the chance to catch a big brown from the main stem of Little River. And I don’t even want to think of the Madison without it’s big rainbows and browns. Tailwater fisheries are a conundrum for fly fishers who fall in this middle category. We don’t like dams in general because they destroy native fisheries, especially when you look at Pacific and Atlantic salmon and sea-run trout. But we sure do love pulling big trout out of the waters of the South Holston, White and Frying Pan rivers. I guess my stance on dams is that we should avoid (and dismantle) most dams that destroy anadromous runs of fish, but others should be evaluated carefully. I definitely want runs of Atlantic and Pacific salmon restored, but I’d be sad to lose the Hiwassee, and I really see no good reason to destroy the Hiwassee tailwater. Being a conservationist who likes fly fishing on tailwaters puts you in a difficult position, between a rock and a hard place in a manner of speaking, when attempting logical arguments about fisheries management. I guess I’m ok with that because my position makes sense to me, if not to anyone else. Continue reading Native Versus Non-Native Trout