Who is responsible for hook scarring?

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For several months, FWP has solicited public comments on proposals to change statewide fishing regulations, including requiring single point hooks when fishing the three Flathead forks above Teakettle FAS.

I support regs that are based on biological data and I have not seen convincing evidence that FWP really knows WHO is fishing the river and HOW they are fishing throughout the year.

In other words, what segment of the fishing public is responsible for hook scarring?

Below is the essence of my letter to FWP:

“Here’s my proposal to reduce scarring in westslope cutthroat trout in the Flathead’s three forks:

• EDUCATION. Not just press releases but concerted outreach efforts by FWP and concerned anglers to show the general fishing public, outfitters/guides, retailers, and media that, although west slope cutthroat trout in the forks of the Flathead are not imperiled—actually stable—there is a high incidence of ‘unnecessary’ hook scarring. Emphasize proper fish release techniques.

• VOLUNTARY COMPLIANCE with single hooks. Re-visit in four years.

The 30-40 percent hook scarring number in sampling or general population cannot be blamed only on treble hooks. Hooks aren’t the problem. Improper fish release techniques are the problem.

At this time, neither the biology nor relevant hook studies (showing NO significant differences (single vs treble; large vs small; barbed vs barbless) warrant a single hook regulation in the three forks of the Flathead.

I encourage FWP to not take the easy route and just change the regs, but rather to help promote and encourage change in angler behavior.”

Public comment closes September 15 at www.fwp.mt.gov.

Jerry Smalley’s Fishful Thinking column appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.

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