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If these trout could talk...they might say
theories of fish management are wrong
The mute trout shown on the preceding pages—male and female in the first act of the spawning process—have no voices with which to express themselves on the subject of man and his works as they apply to trout. They do, however, have Dr. Paul Robert Needham (below), on whose unique experimental station on Sagehen Creek in the California Sierra these pictures were taken. And with Dr. Needham around, what trout needs to talk?
There is probably no man in the world who knows more about these fish, and certainly no one who can express himself better on the subject. A deceptively gentle-looking, roly-poly zoologist at the University of California, Dr. Needham has spent most of his 58-year lifetime studying trout and developing explosive opinions about them. He believes, and backs up his beliefs with factual research, that most of the methods now practiced in the name of fish management to insure the continued satisfaction of the fisherman's enormous appetite for fish are ridiculous, wasteful and morally degrading.
Dr. Needham does his best to bring the knowledge he has gained to the attention of fishermen, as well as fish and game professionals but, curiously enough, he has found they hate to listen. Fishermen live by fixed beliefs handed down through generations, and their opinions are hard to budge, even when they are faced with indisputable evidence. On Sagehen Creek not long ago, for example, Dr. Needham encountered a disgusted angler, homeward bound after a morning spent in futile lashing of the waters. Dr. Needham listened with a sympathetic smile to the fisherman's complaint that the creek was "fished out." "As it happens," he said, "we're pumping a pool dry downstream. Care to have a look?"
The fisherman did, and while he watched, four graduate students of Dr. Needham's staff pumped out the pool. As the water level sank, the surface was shattered by more and more skittering fish. When they had been carefully netted, anesthetized with Chlorotone, weighed and measured, Dr. Needham turned to the frustrated angler. "That makes 48 fish over six inches," he said, "including a 2�-pound brown trout. Not bad for a fished-out pool, is it?" The fisherman said not a word. It was a pool he had fished in vain that morning.
"You know," said Dr. Needham after the angler had departed, "he saw all those fish, but I don't think he really believed it. He'll probably go home and holler for more fish plants. He'll still say this creek is fished out. But there are more than 8,000 trout over four inches long in Sagehen in the five miles above the highway. And there hasn't been any stocking here since 1951. The plain truth is that, except in very special circumstances, I don't believe a stream can ever be fished out. It's just that most fishermen don't know how to fish."
The statistics bear out Dr. Needham's statement. A study by the California Department of Fish and Game showed not long ago that 65% to 75% of all fishermen do not—and apparently cannot—catch any fish at all even when hatchery fish are dumped into the stream right in front of them. Five percent of the fishermen—the real experts—catch 25% of the fish; 10% account for half the total catch.
doubtless a great many fishermen who are secretly aware that they belong to the
65% to 75% who never catch anything, but what annoys Dr. Needham is that their
solution to the problem is so often simply
PRETTY EXPENSIVE HORS D'OEUVRES