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This Guy Is My Friend Photo by Louis Cahill

I wonder what the Great Lakes Steelhead would think if he knew what a controversial fish he is.

No, he’s not a native fish. Yes, it’s a completely man made fishery. No, it’s not a wild and scenic experience. Is he a real steelhead? Who cares. I love fishing the tributaries of the great lakes for the biggest toughest trout this side of the Mississippi and so does everyone else who’s tried it. I have to wander though, as I stand in the river with my fly rod watching the horde of bait fisherman stack their catch on the bank, if these fish got the respect enjoyed by their west coast cousins, couldn’t this be a whole lot better? I’m not dogging the fishery, it’s awesome, but it just seems like common sense. It’s true that great lakes steelhead do not successfully reproduce but left in the river they will continue to come back year after year, providing a better angling experience and saving state hatcheries money. I’m with this angler who’s license plate I found in New York in a parking lot on the Oak Orchard. PUTMBAK!

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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10 thoughts on “PUTMBAK!

  1. Well said. I think the river’s managers and the growing ranks of two-handed fly fishers are slowly introducing a good code of ethics.

  2. Its pretty appalling, and deserves some attention. But the fishing is SICK! I can only guess 2 things. That the state has serious budget issues to regulate it as it should, or they let it slip to shoulder to shoulder, snagging illegally crap to get the most fisherman in the area as possible during the salmon/steelhead season. Its a shame to see such a sweet fishery get disrespected, overrun and under-regulated…….But I cant wait for my April trip………

  3. Naturally reproducing Rainbow Trout/steelhead have been in the Great Lakes for over 100 years, with virtually all of Ontario sustained with natural reproduction (this is nearly half the GL’s!), along with wild Chinook, Coho and Pinks. Additional areas of the GL’s also hold large amounts of natural reproduction, such as Wisconsin’s Brule River, Michigan’s Pere Marquette, etc. There are small areas without natural reproduction, such as Steelhead Alley, but these are a microcosm in the bigger picture.

    Additionally, not only do steelhead naturally reproduce, they’ve been doing it long enough that there are now genetically distinct populations, and in larger watersheds with lots of tributaries even tributary specific genetic local adaptation.

  4. In some of the New York and Michigan Rivers, these lake-run rainbows do reproduce naturally and have been doing so for over 50 years

  5. So great lakes Steelhead don’t reproduce and spawn in rivers?
    Huh , I always thought that the hundreds of fish on redds that are clearly going through the motions are producing young that return to their roots a few years later.

    I would definitely have to argue that you are wrong on this subject , the introduced rainbow trout and salmon in our river systems are definitely reproducing on their own in countless streams and rivers in Ontario.

    I’m not saying they are keeping the rivers full of fish spring and fall but they are reproducing to a certain extent and thriving just like the brook trout and brown trout that haven’t been stocked for decades in some of the streams and creeks I’ve been fishing for 35 years. They are still there and they are as strong and healthy as the natural fish anywhere.

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