Is catch and release killing cutthroat restoration efforts on the South Fork?

Hatch Mag –

If the determining factor in the effort to save the native Yellowstone cutthroat trout of Idaho’s South Fork of the Snake River is how hard cutthroats fight at the end of a leader … well, then, the fight is already lost.

The perception that introduced rainbows—spawned from mongrel strains engineered in hatcheries over decades—offer anglers a better “fight” than their native cutthroat counterparts might prove to be the deciding factor in the ongoing cutthroat conservation effort on this iconic Western river. Despite years of determined effort by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to educate anglers on the need to protect the native fish by harvesting rainbows from the South Fork, invasive rainbows still outnumber native cutthroat 2 to 1. And the ratio grows with every rainbow or fertile hybrid that spawns with a native cutthroat.

And that’s because many anglers—and, honestly, many guides—are reluctant to harvest a wild trout, regardless of the flavor. There’s a fundamental disconnect that’s been brought on by an effective catch-and-release campaign that’s has likely worked too well, at least in terms of native fish protection and recovery. We need to hammer a simple message home: killing non-native fish to protect native fish is a good thing.

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