Thursday, October 7, 2010

DNA Maximus Theory

Whoa! That is a big rabbit. How did this guy get a rabbit so #^& big? Well for starters rabbit breeders selected a species of rabbit that was fairly larger than the rest to begin with and then consistently bred the largest of each litter until finally reaching what I consider to be the “DNA Maximus Rabbit”. Now a handful of rabbit breeders, breed and sell these monstrous rabbits that can get up to 22 pounds.

“Great, Matt.” Angling-mind readers might be saying as they read this. “But what the heck has this to do with fishing?”

The answer is in the DNA. The theory’s premise is that by removing the largest fish in our water systems we could be removing important DNA from the overall chain of reproduction. This removal could be limiting larger fish from being produced more often. If this statement is true then the reverse is also true and releasing larger fish helps ensure quality genetics being passed down year after year. Even larger fish in greater quantities is highly likely to be the result. I know this sounds like a simplistic theory and a lot of odds and factors are involved but I believe this theory to be true and an important piece to the foundation of my fishing mentality.

“Why is this important to my fishing?

Fishing in Colorado is good but could be so much better. Catch rates are mostly above average compared to other states depending on the species, location and about a million other things. But trust me, this is not optimum fishing and a fraction of what things could be in Colorado. If we all worked together on common goals such as “littering should not be tolerated” and “throw a few big fish back” it will certainly make things a lot better than the “take all you can get” or the “I’m only in it for me” crowd. Poachers are taking a serious toll (a few get popped every year and they are made complete spectacles of in the Denver Post and on fishing forums) but limit after limit of the largest fish are hurting many of our local fishing areas in ways we may not fully understand.

(Above: Quick illustration to help support my lunatic ranting on this subject. This could reflect any species in any given body of water with prime habitat and adequate populations with viable DNA to start with. Supporting this dynamic with angler’s help can be the key to optimum fishing.)

Taking fish out is not bad. In some ways it can help.

What we should be removing is the most common sized slot of various species when that species is most common in that particular system when prudent. A lot of fish species breed very well in Colorado and in many cases anglers may or may not be keeping up in regards to harvest. In many cases it helps to remove fish to keep the system healthy and avoid overcrowding.

Yellow perch are a great example. In many Colorado reservoirs we see hundreds if not thousands upon thousands of tiny perch. The bodies are slightly deformed showing signs of stunting. This is a result of overcrowding and hurts the quality of a system greatly. This makes little sense to me, as yellow perch are some of the tastiest fish by most standards, just a pain to clean if you are feeding a small army. Balance the population and you will start seeing larger perch worth cleaning. Crappie, bluegill and sunfish can suffer the same problem. Sadly, with the panfish I see the best specimens removed and DNA Maximus goes with them. They leave all of the smaller fish to overcrowd and stunt. Too many small fish takes down the sport and the overall fishing quality so those same anglers tend to move on. “Too many small fish…not worth it, bro.”

So in essence, we could be leaving the smaller fish to choke the system while taking out the largest fish that regulate the smaller fish. I know this sounds all doom and gloom. Please realize the majority of Colorado anglers practice good ethics and never take more than they need. A full limit or more is not the main goal and the take is from the common sized slot. In this scenario everyone wins and tomorrow will most likely hold better fishing for all.

It really boils down to personal opinion and choice.

For example: I fish quite a bit, approximately 100 times a year give or take. Weekends, vacations and even the occasional evening or early morning bite before work. On the average I catch, well…a lot of fish. If I fished only a couple of local lakes and kept every fish that I caught, you can imagine the fishing action would suffer depending on what was routinely stocked or originally there. Managing my behavior for the better makes less of a harmful impact overall and conditions shall improve as a result. If I chose to remove fish, it should be done in a way that helps rather than hurts the DNA Maximus theory.

Selective harvest gets tossed around in a lot of fishing circles. This term generally means selectively taking fish while ensuring future fishing opportunities. However what we see too much of from the so-called selective harvest crowd is limit after limit of the biggest fish they catch. In some cases they are literally draining the lakes of a precious resource. Yes, it is perfectly legal and many will defend what is sanctioned legal for many reasons.

Drawing these lines angers emotions and creates a lot of dissention amongst the angling brethren. This weakens us as a group making it easier to be picked apart by real estate developers and crazy animal rights agencies like PETA. To achieve optimum fishing we should try to achieve one goal…more big fish for sport and table. Supporting the DNA Maximus theory goes a long way to make that happen.

Selective harvest checklist for DNA Maximus

1. Take a few, leave a few…prudence today will mean better fish tomorrow for sport and table.

2. Target the common size slot to better balance the population overall. Check local regulations and legal keep limits first.

3. The biggest fish should go back. In most cases the larger\older fish may taste the worst as well as have the highest mercury count. The smaller fish (average 2 years old in most cases) are actually the better tasting and healthier overall depending on species and a lot of environmental factors.

If we could simply manage our fish catches more in line with what the water needs as opposed to what the angler wants, the water will act in turn. Hopefully this article sways the opinion and personal choice of anglers more to the true selective harvest mentality as well as practice more C&R. Working with nature helps provide more beauty, bounty and sport for today as well as tomorrow.

Thank you for taking time and reading this. Hopefully this does not come off as too

Good luck and good fishing.


MNAngler said...

Great post.

A few years ago, I caught the biggest smallie of my life at 21". I kept it and was feeling a little guilty about it. After all, it could have gotten bigger.

I felt worse after finding out that it didn't cook well or taste as good as smaller fish I've harvested. Now I release all bass over 14". Bucketmouths included.

The only big fish I tend to take are Northern Pike just because the lakes I fish are so abundant with them that they are taking them over.

Dog Hair in my Coffee said...

Three points - two essential, one not. This is a very convincing essay, and I am making a copy of it to use in my writing classes when it comes time to work on persuasion. Hope you don't mind - they're only 10 and 11 year olds. I don't know a lot about fishing, obviously, but the fact that it is well-written, well-thought out, makes it VERY persuasive, and has swayed me completely to your point of view. Secondly, it points, once again, to the all-too- pervasive attitude of a self-central point of view - it's MY fish, and MY actions and the heck with them affecting anyone else. THINK of someone else? THINK globally? Yeah, right. All too little of that - in fishing and in MANY areas of life. Sad. And thirdly, "crazy animal rights agencies like PETA" makes me chuckle. I agree with many things they stand for, but a) they are against dogsledding, which means I simply CAN"T take them seriously, and b) they are SO self-righteous and so full of counter-productive actions, that who would WANT to be associated with them? The good that they MIGHT do is so overshadowed by how they go about it, they will NEVER persuade anyone but the fanatics and loons out there. But then, there are many of those as well.
Stepping down off my soapbox now.

Fish Whisperer said...

Well said, And if you are not opposed I would like to make copies of this article and give it to my fishing club.

Autumnforest said...

Very intelligent and awesome post. You really know your business. I have to chuckle over the photo first off. Reminded me of the 70s movie "Food of the Gods." That being said, I know lobster fishermen know the rules for keeping the right breeding stock still in the waters for their long-term benefit. The problem is the Joe Saturday fisherman who doesn't see it as a big picture, just a once a weekend crap shoot. What you're saying about releasing some of the bigger fish is the right way to do it. My sister and her husband fish for catfish in the river in front of their home in West Virginia. They do that very thing. They are happy they managed to catch them, but one heavy catfish is enough for their meals, the rest can breed. That's the attitude others should have. Still, the thought of a trout the size of that bunny is kind of daunting... could capsize a boat (hee hee)

Coloradocasters said...

Oh thank you so much folks. You have no idea how much crap I get from both sides of this argument. There is a huge amount of discontent between the “Don’t kill anything” and the “Kill everything” crowd. Most sports-folks want to reach the optimum between bounty of harvest and best of species. We simply need to manage the “kill” for today and a better tomorrow so that there is a tomorrow and it can possibly be even more amazing than it is right now.

nimrod243 said...

Why didn't I thnk of that? I am going to start letting the big ones go.

Now all I have to do is start catching some big ones so I can let them go!

Wolfy said...

Well done DNA analysis. I'm not sure I agree with everything, though. (I do agree with ALMOST everything) I think the analysis of the the big bluegills is slightly flawed. If there are a few big gills in an otherwise stunted pond, I don't believe that the DNA in those big ones will have any impact on their fry. They'll still be stunted becasue the biomass of the area has reached its carrying point. When the big 'gills die, that's it until there's a die-off and the biomass is reduced, allowing for some more fish to grow large. Generally acepted principal on 'gills (as I've understood it) is that you need to harvest a certain percentage of the fish over all sizes on a fairtly constant basis to sustain a healthy fishery with big fish.

But - I'm not a biologist and I could be wrong - wouldn't be the first time today!

BTW - I need a bigger frying pan for those rabbits!

Coloradocasters said...

Wolfy, I understand and agree with your premise. Prolific fish such as bluegills, sunfish and perch need to be managed with some liberal take practices. Leaving the largest gills ensures that reproduction stays viable. A great source of reference on this subject is “Pond Boss Magazine” by Bob Lusk.

There are quite a few examples and exceptions to this overall theory. A few paragraphs had to be trimmed out such as: A percentage of the largest\oldest fish may be sterile and not actively reproducing in the system as well as counting fish during spawning activity helps gauge the populations overall. Humans are wrong more often than they are tight when they make changes to the ecology…the good news is that nature usually has the tools to sort this out and it just takes time.