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SD GF&P Angler Surveys – Do Your Part To Help South Dakota’s Trout!

Ryan Gabert Black Hills Fishing Black Hills Fishing Reports Uncategorized

This pertains to any of you that purchased a South Dakota fishing license during this past year – 2013. 

The South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks will be sending out an “Angler Survey” via email in the next few weeks, and anyone that purchased a valid SD fishing license during 2013 should be receiving this shortly. This may seem like another useless piece of junk mail that may or may not squeak it’s way through your spam filter – but in reality, the wild trout populations of the Black Hills are depending on you to fill this short survey out.

This next part is opinionated, and may offend some people.

The trout of the Black Hills of South Dakota are currently more or less a self-sustaining population. What I mean, in a nutshell is this: with the exception of a very, very few select miles of stream that are managed as catch and release trout fisheries, the rest of the Black Hills are covered under one blanket trout “management plan”, if you want to call it that. This plan covers all streams, lakes, ponds, and reservoirs as if they are all the same. Stocked trout or wild trout, they are all covered under the 5 daily, 10 possession, only one fish over 14″ limit. This covers the vast majority of the Black Hills trout waters, and is hurting our trout population significantly, in my eyes. Here’s a few reasons why -

  • Stocked Trout and Wild Trout are not the same – The majority of flyfishers, myself included, would rather catch a single wild fish, rather than ten fin-less, mushy, alien-looking hatchery trout that will eat nearly anything, and fight like a wet paper towel. South Dakota’s current mindset seems to be that if all the wild fish get kept, then we’ll just put a few hundred stocked trout in there, and the people will be happy – rather than putting stream specific regulations in place to protect our self-sustaining wild trout populations we have.
  • Lakes and Streams can NOT be managed the same – I’m not a fisheries biologist, but I can tell you this without a doubt from my fishing and guiding experience; Streams, Ponds, Lakes, and Reservoirs all have significantly different fish populations, aquatic food biomass, and essentially completely different ecosystem from each other, and can not be managed as if they are all the same. You might be able to stock fish into a lake endlessly and have it work out, but our small trout streams can not be managed this way.
  • The Trout streams of the Black Hills can be overfished and significantly diminished in a short amount of time – Ma and Pa Kettle can go to their favorite hole on one of our wild trout streams, and catch nearly every fish out of the pool in a weeks time. The SD GF&P has stated that most of the trout in the Black Hills live their whole lives in a 100 meter stretch. So, theoretically, a single person abiding by the 5 fish limit each day could have a severely detrimental and significant impact on a fairly large section of stream, which could take years to rebound to it’s former self – all while never breaking the law. I’ve seen this before, and we will see it again if the current regulations aren’t changed and updated to cope with our current state of  Black Hills trout fishing.

There are many, many more reasons why I think that the current “Trout Management Plan” is complete and utter garbage, but I’ll limit it to the previous three to keep it brief. This isn’t management, this is laziness. If the walleye population on the Missouri River has a sudden shift or change, there’s all sorts of new regulations by month, size, area, etc., all within a matter of weeks. This shows where the priorities are. Granted, I understand that the Missouri River Fishery brings in a lot of people and economic impact, but that doesn’t mean that only the walleyes matter. I’ve personally guided people from all across the United States, England, New Zealand, and Australia, that came here for the wild trout fishing in our streams. They didn’t come here to catch some of the thousands of mindlessly stocked trout that eat dog food for a living. And many of these people become repeat clients, which is a testament to the quality of our streams. Fly Fishermen come here year after year to catch our quality, wild, beautiful trout.

So, here’s the part that I’m asking of you – when you get this survey, please take 5 minutes and fill it out. It’s a short survey, and won’t take up much of your time. Tell them how you feel about Black Hills trout fishing. Show them that you care about wild, self sustaining trout populations. Tell them you come here to flyfish, and what you think could be improved upon. Stocked trout aren’t the solution, and the current management plan isn’t much of a management plan at all. If each of you that reads this could fill out this survey, the impact could be an exponential improvement of how our wild trout are managed, resulting in better fisheries for you and I both.

This was a little bit of a rant, but thank you for reading this and considering it.

Ryan Gabert



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