As a fisherman, you probably hear a lot about how some run of salmon isn’t meeting commercial fishing standards, how some particular subspecies of cutthroat trout out West faces extinction, how all the oceans are being depleted, etc. I suspect that for the average Alabama fisherman all this feels pretty distant. Our streams and rivers are full of the same fish they’ve always had, aren’t they? The talk on fly fishing sites about endangered fish got me curious about our area. I wondered how many of our fish are in trouble. I was vaguely aware of a few cases that have made the evening news, but in truth I was pitifully ignorant on the topic.
So I did a little online research. As it turns out, we have quite a few fish facing serious obstacles to their continued existence, some to such an extent that we probably can’t halt their extinction even were we to try. Some of them I’m familiar with, some not so much. Our fish might not get the publicity of the salmons and the trouts, but that tends to endear them more closely to my heart. They’re like the poor little orphans of the threatened fish world. Some of the larger fish, like the sturgeons and spoonbills, have always fascinated me. As a child I heard whispered rumors, tantalizingly short on details, uttered by my father and his fishing buddies under the street lamp at the Mud Creek boat dock. There were big fish hooked deep in the river that couldn’t be moved with bass tackle, something large bumping a flatbottom jon boat during a night fishing trip, stories passed down from old-timers. Could they have been big sturgeon? Was that big fish you glimpsed rolling on the edge of the river a spoonbill? Maybe even a sturgeon?
My goal here is simply to make you aware of some of these cases. You may or may not care, but I think you should. Each one of these fish is a part of us, a part of what makes our state unique. It’s not just fish, either. There are some pretty cool plants and other animals that are in trouble. We lose a little bit of ourselves whenever one of these vanishes forever. The way I see it, God put them here for a reason, and even if that reason is for His own good pleasure, that’s plenty good enough for me to want to save them. Even if you don’t buy the God argument, I’m sure you’d agree that even the tiniest part of an ecosystem can have profound impacts on the whole, and, therefore, that all parts are deserving of our care and good stewardship. I figure the biggest reason many folks don’t care is because they’re simply unaware. If you have knowledge of something, it seems you’d be more likely to care about its continued existence. Like I’ve said many times on this site, there are rarely easy solutions to problems like these, but half-way to a solution is knowing there’s a problem. So with that goal in mind, let me quickly acquaint you with a few of Alabama’s threatened and endangered fishes. Links are included in the footnotes for further study. Continue reading Alabama’s Threatened and Endangered Fishes