Community, Wildlife

Fishing with Drones

Montana’s Fish and Wildlife Commission is considering a new rule, specifically a ban on the use of drones while fishing. As it happens, many states have already done so. But my question was this:

How are drones used for fishing in the first place?

The simplest use is a reconnaissance drone, specifically helpful for fishing in an unfamiliar area. A drone can fly around, noting logs and the like in shallow water, and giving a fisherman the lay of the land, as it were. This provides information that can be used to guess where the fish will be.

That’s the simplest use, though. A drone can also be used to extend a cast, vastly increasing the distance a fisherman can cast. Fancier than that even, drones can not only cast for fish, they can actually catch them and bring them back. Learning that made it much more clear why the Fish and Wildlife Commission might object.

Of course, not everything that they are worried about is in the air. Modern technology allows for underwater exploration as well, with the same fish catching capacities.

The same technology that makes over-fishing a region easy is also useful for conservation efforts. It allows endangered populations to be monitored, and for more detailed examination of how populations move and interact with their environment.

Personally, while the reconnaissance capacities of drones sound very neat, especially the underwater varieties, actually having the drone catch the fish just seems a bit… unsporting.

What do you think?

Community

Salmon Snagging

Salmon snagging is not like other forms of fishing. I was introduced to it as an adult, and to me fishing is the art of deception, of all those careful and clever tricks to convince a fish to bite. Fishing is fancy lures, artfully designed to mimic a tasty insect, or endless patience (it’s possible that better fishermen might require less patience).

This isn’t to say that snagging doesn’t require skill, as it does, but it’s a very different process. It is also not generally allowed. Our District Fishing Regulations note that “All waters are closed to snagging of game and non-game fish, except as otherwise noted under District Exceptions”. A closer read provides details for the very specific where and when that snagging is permitted.

Salmon snagging is not about getting the fish to bite. Instead it involves snagging any part of the fish on the hook and then reeling the fish in. The Kokanee salmon, for which snagging is allowed (seasonally) were introduced to Flathead lake in 1914. They’re now common throughout the western portion of our state.

Most salmon spend a majority of their life in the ocean before returning to spawn in their home stream. While Kokanee salmon do not spend any time in the ocean, they do still journey to reproduce. They either travel up streams or to the lake shoreline to spawn.

At the end of their four year life cycle, towards the end of the year (November-December), the salmon travel in order to spawn. When adult salmon begin their journey to spawn, they stop eating. As they aren’t biting at this stage, snagging is a more effective method for catching them during their spawning runs. After they spawn, the adult salmon die.

Salmon snagging is only permitted in certain locations, at certain times. Limits on salmon vary by location, so be sure to check the regional fishing regulations.

Community, Wildlife

Trego School Annual Fishing Field Trip

As the first chills of autumn hang in the air, and the salmon run, the older students of Trego School spend the day fishing with their teachers and support staff. While this year’s trip was marked by somewhat fewer salmon and smaller fish, students returned grinning and eager to show off their catch.

Photos by Lindy Ziemke-Smith

Field trips are a favorite for students and an opportunity to take the classroom outdoors. The salmon themselves offer a chance to talk about the way nutrients flow through ecosystems, the ecology of our streams, and of course the life cycle of the fish themselves. Of course, it’s also an opportunity for students that have never gone salmon snagging to experience it first-hand.

When the students returned, school board chair, Ken Smith, and school cook, Joe Puryer, cleaned the fish. Cheerful students sat around them, talking about their day and asking questions about the fish.

School Board Chair Ken Smith cleans fish and explains how to tell the difference between male and female salmon

It was, by all accounts, a very good trip, though many of the adults came back rather sodden from wading into the water to rescue tangled fishing lines.

Fish were carefully packaged and chilled before they were taken home.