I live in Vermont, where brook trout are undisputed kings of the streams. Find any clear, cold stream, and it'll have trout. I don't fly fish (yet), but I've netted a few while going after other stuff and they're pretty amazing little fish: (see rarecichlids' pics at http://forum.nanfa.o...?showtopic=3063). I'd *love* to see them in an aquarium, but I've never had a setup that would be close to appropriate and wouldn't consider keeping them in anything less than ideal conditions. I'm thinking that'd mean at least a 125g tank with strong current and guaranteed low temps.
Anyway, I'll admit that I've occasionally collected fish that aren't strictly legal under the laws of the states where I was living. To some extent, I'm comfortable obeying the spirit of the law if not the letter -- and only because I'm confident that I know enough to understand what it is that the laws are *actually* trying to accomplish. To me, it makes absolutely no sense that I can kill and bring home 50 breeding-size yellow perch per day (and repeat day after day), but it's illegal to scoop up one 2" perch and put him in my aquarium. That aspect of the law is intended to prevent people from keeping live fish and reintroducing elsewhere, and I understand that. There is no chance my fish will ever be released, so that's a moot point as far as I'm concerned. But... your average fisherman isn't as clued in as I am, and so the states have written the law in a way that makes it easy for Fish & Wildlife to enforce -- when you leave the lake, everything in your bucket must be dead. Period.
Back on topic: If I ever did have a tank setup appropriately to keep brookies, I still feel like it'd be regarded as a cardinal sin to grab one or two 3" fish from a well-populated stream (there are plenty of places here where you can find a school of 10-50 little ones in every pool). Folks will look the other way to some extent on sunfish, bullheads, or perch, but I doubt it'd be the same with a trout. That's despite the fact that it's perfectly legal to kill and bring home 12 breeding-size brook trout per day.
What's the deal here? Do trout have this special status because it's so easy to wipe out an entire stream of them by polluting or habitat disturbance? Is it because there's such a fly-fishing industry dependent on them? Would it really be so much worse to grab a trout from a stream where they're incredibly abundant than a sunfish from the pond?
This isn't just an academic rant... My girlfriend and I just signed papers to buy a house right on a beautiful little mountain stream. I love the idea of keeping a 125g or larger tank in our basement set up to mimic the stream that's only 25 ft away. Yes, I could probably buy some small trout legally from a hatchery or something, but it seems to me like it would be far *worse* to have those in a tank inside than fish collected directly from the stream. I'll certainly never release fish back into that stream, but there's always the outside chance that a 100yr flood might knock the house into the steam or something. In that unlikely case, I'd much rather have it be a local brookie going back into the stream than some hatchery-bred fish coming from a completely different watershed...
Thoughts? What's an ethical fishkeeper to do? Have any non-professionals successfully gone through the process to get scientific collecting permits or whatever?
It's be *really* nice if we ever got some regulations recognizing native fishkeeping as an acceptable alternative use of fish on equal footing with angling, but it'll never happen. Fish & Wildlife agencies are too underfunded / understaffed, and there's just no incentive to develop and enforce regulations that would govern such a relatively tiny hobby as ours (tiny at least as compared to angling). I'd be surprised if there are even 100 people in Vermont regularly keeping native fish in aquariums -- I don't see legislation/regulations ever being passed even recognizing that it exists as a hobby.
Edited by jase, 05 April 2008 - 08:23 AM.