For about two decades, the Grand River in Ontario, just north, south and through Fergus has been hyped as a grand brown trout fishery.
I’m having my doubts.
I’d like to investigate this further – but many folk might be surprised to find out that Brown Trout are not even native to Ontario. Indeed, there are no “trout” native to Ontario – what we call Brook or Speckled Trout are actually members of the Char family, as are Lake Trout. Aurora Trout, native to a few rare northern lakes are also Chars.
At one time, there were fresh water fun Atlantic Salmon that could be found in tributaries of the Great Lakes. But Brown Trout? Not until some folk decided to import them from Europe.
And in many rivers and streams, Brown Trout have been able to reproduce naturally and maintain population. They’ve even migrated into other tributaries, and brown trout today, in Ontario are widely found.
But let’s consider the Grand River for a moment.
Earnest stocking of Brown Trout began about 20 years ago. Since then, between 20 and 25 thousand brown trout are stocked annually into the river below the Shand Damn. Some miles south of Wilson’s Flats, there is little expectation that Brown Trout could survive, let alone reproduce in the Grand River due to water conditions.
And if it weren’t for the Shand Damn, it’s unlikely too many trout of any species would survive in any part of the Grand River – being more historically and naturally a warmer water river in summer – conducive to bass, walleye, etc.
Let me also be clear: I very much enjoy the opportunity to fly fish and catch brown trout on the Grand River. It is so much fun, especially in the evenings while the fish are sipping on caddis to trick a few into thinking that the immitation I’m presenting is caddis looking enough – or edible enough – and watch and feel a brown trout attack it.
But is the Grand so grand and great? If for some reason, financial issues for example, were to be such that 25,000 trout couldn’t be stocked into the river over the course of two years in a row, would it be as pleasant as it is right now, in the pursuit of the brown trout?
I have my doubts.
Isn’t it interesting that after “Opening Day,” the Brown Trout action on the Grand kind of sucks – and the excuses are “it’s too cold,” or “flow rates are too high,” etc etc. – but after an influx of a stocking of 25,000 new trout – suddenly, things get better?
Merely co-incidence? I’m not so sure.
When you look at what various folk say about Brown Trout reproduction on the Grand, it’s interesting. Some say, “Success! We’ve seen some reproduction,” while others say, “There is little reproduction.”
Neither are lying. Perhaps to some, the fact that there is evidence of even a few new “naturally” reproduced trout in the Grand is success, while others are quite disappointed with how little the numbers seem to point to.
Are there some who just become “orgasmic” at the thought of brown trout, while ignoring other species that in the long run, might have done, and might do better? I don’t know.
Will the Grand be a “success” as long as 25,000 stockies are added each year? And while there are reports of folk catching some monstor browns in the 24+ inch category, what really keeps them coming back is the ability to hook one year old and some two year old stocked fish?
I’ll agree: Between the Shand Damn and quite a bit below Wilson’s Flats, on a good day – there is a lot of “brown trouty looking” water. But – there is a lot of water there that not only is “brown trouty” looking, but smallmouth bass looking – rainbow looking, migratory atlantic salmon looking, so why the emphasis on a species that is not even natural in the first place, and up to this point in time, evidence of reproduction is measured as “successful” when a few eggs hatch?
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not suggesting that the entire “Grand Plan” be done away with. On the other hand, is the “Plan” so prejudiced toward Brown Trout, that nothing else is being looked at?
And why do non-native trout get so much energy and resources when it is possible that some amazing wonderful game species like smallmouth bass, that might do as well or better in an improved fishery, get no attention at all? Hell, if we assisted species like smallmouth bass, perhaps there wouldn’t need to be so many “catch and release” regulations; you could actually eat something you caught.
Pound for pound, I’d put up a Smallie any day against a Brown Trout for sheer enjoyment experience on the end of any line, whether fly line or that coming out of a baitcasting reel. And when cooked correctly, just as tasty too.
When the folks who first came up with the idea of having a great tailwater fishery on the Grand, did they oooh and ahhh over Brown Trout, and then spend equal time on thinking about other natural species? Or did they just keep on ooohing and ahhhing over Brown Trout? And since then, with 25,000 stocked each year, it’s the only direction they want to go, and will “make it happen, even if takes a thousand years” attitude? And I’m not suggesting that Brown Trout aren’t the best selection for the Grand Tailwater – but if there is an expectation that these Browns are going to reproduce naturally – well that hasn’t happened much at all – so why aren’t things being reviewed with this fact in mind?
The more I think about it, the more fraudulent the “Grand Plan” seems to be. Many are well meaning, but have bought into the masturbatory dreams of of some brown trout anglers, a few decades ago – and the cost of maintaining that masturbatory dream will never stop – as long as there are funds available to stock brown trout, that is the only thing to do, I guess.
Again, perhaps browns ARE the most suited for the idea of a “fishery” on the Grand’s Tailwaters. But why are Browns now being introduced into the Conestogo tailwaters when we’ve already got bass that can actually reproduce in that river? Why not be focussing attention on the fish that are native and instead of trying to create another brown trout fishery, improving what is already there?
That’s what baffles me.