Recently, I have seen a number of discussions on whether web sites should share specific location information. The fear is that the spots discussed will immediately become fished out as folks descend on them in droves.
Here's an analogy.
Scenario 1: A store opens and sells chocolate and vanilla ice cream. It's an instant success and, as the word gets out, people flock to the store to try it. The store has a limited storage locker and it runs out of ice cream must restock. When the new shipment comes in, they publicize the event and folks return. Over time, fewer customers return because it's the same old two flavors in the same place and there is no guarantee that either flavor will be in stock by the time they get there. Instead, they decide to go to the doughnut shop where there is plenty of variety. At the same time, the store does have a few hard core customers who continue to return - the chocaholics. As the shortages persist because of the limited locker size, their remaining customers refuse to recommend the store to anyone else who may never have tried chocolate and vanilla either by giving them vague directions on how to find the store or just sending them to the doughnut shop. The store recognizes that it needs a larger locker, but lacking a solid, broad customer base to support the purchase, it finds itself in a dwindling, downward spiral and goes out of business. The hard core customers spend time moaning about the unfairness of it all.
Scenario 2: A store opens and sells 31 flavors of ice cream that they rotate. They have a few standard flavors that everyone can depend on, but offer other options. Customers enjoy the ability to choose and know that the store will have something interesting for them to sample even if they are temporarily out of the customer's favorite. So they continue to return. The customers spread the word about the quality and variety of the product. Additional customers come who do not like chocolate but are interested in cherry, mint and other flavors. The store is able to expand; offering even more flavors and building a larger storage locker to accommodate the demand. While some folks enjoy the same chocolate and vanilla, there is enough variation in customer preference that the store rarely runs out of anything. In fact, they buy additional locations, expand access and invest in new technology to produce better ice cream - low fat, low carb, etc.
You are either a scenario 1 or 2 person. The odd thing is that many of the scenario 1 folks are the same ones who strongly encourage folks to take up the sport, extoll the wonders of being on a river yet assume everyone is going to rush to eat their chocolate. Instead, if there are 31 flavors, your particular favorite is probably going to be in stock and maybe you should try some of the other flavors anyway as you might be part of the problem by going back to the same place over and over and over.
The other reality is that the DNRs run on income from license sales. If people feel like they are not getting value, they stop buying. When that happens, the DNR has fewer dollars to improve access, support stocking programs, buy more land, and do more enforcement. It's a deadly spiral. Fewer licenses reduces the voting block of sportsmen and increases the probability of local governments passing bad legislation that restricts access or limits funding available to keep the resource in top shape.
Beyond that example, the anglers in West Virginia learned that secret water does not get protected. If nobody knows about it, nobody stands up for it and poor environmental decisions are made. The Eastern Brook Trout Venture took this to heart. This group is dedicated to protecting brook trout on the eastern seaboard. To make sure people knew where the trout lived, they released data that can be overlaid into Google earth that shows EVERY brook trout stream on the east coast - now, that's spreading the pressure! AND building support. Give people more places to fish, more people buy licenses, the DNRs can buy more access, more land is protected, more people stand up to protect the water when threatened.
Here is an example of a real situation on the Elk.
The solution is to give folks an unlimited number of choices on where to go. This spreads the pressure, increases license sales and gives the fishing community a larger voice / voting block to push the right legislation through their state and local governments.
Now, what are my sources? I do not share secrets told to me by others. I do not discuss wild trout water that is not already public and documented (in other words, if I find or am told about a blue line, you will not see it on this website). I rely on what is already out there.
My key resource is the published list of streams from the various Departments of Natural Resources in VA, WV, and MD. Folks can find water the exact same way I do - just read through the list and start working through it; going to the closest places first. Here's the Virginia list - prominently displayed on the VDGIF web site. They have these for all types of freshwater fish. Need Maryland? Here it is - I've already started to work through this list based on the distance from my home.
Now, add the books. Flyfisher's Guide to Virginia is over 500 pages and probably covers over 100 locations in Virginia. That's a lifetime of fishing. Even Penrod's Potomac guide is huge. Gelso's book (Guide to Maryland Trout Fishing) is another great reference. The info is out there.
Now add the other websites. For example, on the old WVAngler.com site, you could click in the left area on any of the links titled "Fly Fishing Streams", C&R Bass Streams", etc. Detailed directions.
So... there are no secrets. Public water is public knowledge. Somebody who can find their way to my blog will have an even easier time finding their way to the public lists.
So what's the value add of this site? Clearly, it is the shared experiences, the additional detail on what to expect, and one person's opinion on the quality of the water. I hated Jeremy's Run (public wild trout water) - you can look at plenty of trout forums and find other people who think it is a great place. I add a specific topo map, show the exact route that I followed up the river or stream and report on what I experienced. Without the map, the report does not have a context. How can you comment on fishing on the Potomac when it stretches for a hundred miles?
The fact that I am a "trout hiker" further reduces the pressure on the water I describe as not that many folks are willing to walk for an hour to get to the places I enjoy the most Those who do are pretty much guaranteed to be the purists who value the environment and will protect the resource as I do.
Finally, if I do not like a body of water, it's probably because it does not support a good population of fish anyway - so the bad review I gave Jeremy's Run protects it during its recovery - assuming that anyone follows my advice. Water I think is good is probably robust enough for some additional traffic - that will not amount to much given the filter of the "trout hike" to reach the good spots.
My bottom line is that I see no value in anyone being secretive about public lands. Private land is another matter - you do not want a landowner pestered with requests or, even worse, experience a spike in trespassing that ruins his/her perspective on allowing gentle users to share the bounty of their land - so keep private land private. Again, I do not comment on blue lines found that might have a sensitive native population.
If you prefer to keep where you go a secret, I have no quarrel with that,
Finally, while I like fly fishing, I have absolutely no problem with folks who use spin gear or bait - as long as those techniques are used where it is legal.
Catch and Release Comments:
My personal catch and release policy is simple:
- Release all trout as soon as possible
subject to location
- Release all bass regardless of size
- Walleyes? If they are legal size I keep them.
Picture of me releasing a 24 inch rainbow caught in the North Branch of the Potomac: