Monday, August 22, 2016

What's Really Going On On Yellowstone River - Outfitter's Perspective

It's been chaos over the last weekend around here. And perhaps more demagogues and misinformation have been circulating in the online world. Some may be true, others aren't. This is the special post. It may be a long one. I go through one category at a time.

My Outfitting operation is open and available, as always. 
Float trip destinations: Madison, Missouri, and Bighorn.
Wade trip destinations: Yellowstone National Park and available Montana public waters.
Private lake/ponds: Burns' Lake in Big Timber, Story Lake in Emigrant, and couple others.

As I've been reporting, Yellowstone Park waters have been fishing well with relatively cooler air and water, compared to surrounding Montana cities and waters. As September approaches, NE streams = Lamar, Soda Butte, Slough = will be better and better. Then soon west side waters will follow = Firehole and Madison.
Now is the time to try private ponds/lakes around here too!! These are lesser-known due to legends of Yellowstone River and spring creeks, however, they host some true trophy trout one can wish for!! Those trout are not easy to catch by the way. You gotta work hard for them - hooking and bringing in!!
As soon as Yellowstone River and spring creeks (and other tributaries) are re-opened, I will keep you updated. 

Proliferative Kidney Disease
On the day of closure

Concise explanation
More detailed explanation
More specific explanation
Please click either one or, might as well, all the links.

We could only guess that perhaps PKX has already been in Yellowstone whitefish. Then this historically low-water, in conjunction with hot & dry summer = high water temperature would have contributed to facilitate its deadly actions.
Here's a big HOWEVER = Why trout are not affected? 
So far ONLY 1 rainbow trout have been found dead by MT FWP.
I actually think I saw the one as I have walked several fishing access sites.

Have You Considered
Following is my own opinion and analysis based on my experience as an avid fly-fisher and a professional guide, including the past few days of "walking".

  • In recent years, whitefish have definitely been overpopulating in Yellowstone River. I have noticed they even seem to have adapted trout rise form during insect hatches and to our dry-flies. 
  • Not to mention whities are taking over where trout usually hold (or where we believe so). 
  • Now consider the low-flow we have this year. Just like everything else with limit & capacity, such as buildings, River has its own limit and capacity - in this case number of fish it can support. That means the most abundant, if not overly-populated, species get treated by nature's own way. 
  • As you have read links above, PKD may eliminate up to 100% of affected species. However we know, on Yellowstone River right now, whitefish are not entirely wiped out.
  • Majority of dead whitefish are 12-14" range, that we can estimate 3-year-old. We have seen 8-inch range are also dead, few among the majority. Then we have NOT been seeing 17" or larger individuals killed and floating belly-up. 
  • What does this fact tell us? 12-14" range whities are most abundant, as our catch experience prove and agree. 
  • But also, those not affected are more likely born immune to or have genes to be immune to PKD. 
  • Why not on trout? Trout seek for cold, running, oxygenated spots/sections of river - that's where we have high potentials to catch them. Indeed major killing occurred from Emigrant to Loch Leven, which we know of to consist of many wide & slow pools. And that's where whitefish are most abundant. 

Gruesome Reality of Closure
First thing first, as a good Montana resident and a sportsman and a state-licensed outfitter, I will follow the rule. Whitefish is indeed one of my favorite catch (may not be for everyone). Have you caught something 20-inch give or take?? That will rock you world - which I will do in the next post. I'd like them to be back. Most Montana outdoors men & women are also conservationists as well. So I bet majority of us, most likely all of us, understand and will be supportive.

However, just like anything else, there are always two-sided stories, that I'd like anglers in other parts of Montana and other states to know. And I feel obliged to report the reality.

  • With the closure of Yellowstone River (float fishing) and Livingston's World Famous spring creeks (my specialty), it's easy for everyone to imagine my outfitting business is heavily affected in a bad way. Certainly not just me. Fly shops are quiet. Lots of guides use Albertson's grocery store as a meeting spot with client, I do too, which has been silent, though I'm not deaf or blind. Suddenly it has become the quietest summer I know in Livingston.
  • It's not just us fishing outfitting businesses. Vehicle shuttle companies, water-craft sales & rentals, furthermore, indirectly hotels and restaurants that accommodate visiting anglers have been heavily affected. Again, it's the quietest summer in Livingston. 
  • Not just fishing - recreational rafting, kayaking, float-tubing, swimming, everything on water is banned. Reasoning is human and our crafts will spread PKD to other water bodies. I bet majority of recreational users are Livingston locals who float ONLY Yellowstone ONLY during summer
  • Besides, PKD are known to die quickly once dried. How can they or their crafts transfer PKD alive? 
  • By the way, boat wash is MANDATE for all the fishing guide after each float trip whether to accommodate different clients or same clients for multi days!! I will do as my routine regardless of how late I get back home. 
  • On August 19th, out of sudden and in the middle of the day, anglers were forced to quit fishing, some directly by game wardens. Is this the act of civilization? Shouldn't be there alternatives? - such as "sunset or midnight of 19th"
  • Those dead whitefish have been left on the banks. Apparently FWP has ONLY counted dead bodies and has not done any acts of cleaning or anything effective. It starts to smell very badly. Shouldn't be there any actions done? 
  • These dead or dying whitefish will attract all kinds of varmints and birds in the area. Aren't they, especially bird, spreading PKD more effectively than human and their crafts?  Shouldn't be there any actions done? 
  • Livingston's spring creeks = private properties.......oh where does this go?

I understand it's also a tough decision for FWP too and I hope they are working on some solutions. However there should be alternatives other than total closures and banning.
Happy Family Photo on the Last Day on Yellowstone River
Will this be the first and last time this youngest client of mine has ever been on the river and fished? 

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