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Thread: Prudence

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    Default Prudence

    Ice fishing is sure growing in popularity here in Alaska. And it should be, for we have ice fishing that mid-westerners would envy. Every year I hear about more people getting out to enjoy it and frequently about people catching the biggest char they've ever caught. Who wouldn't be excited about catching a 28" char or 36" or bigger? It's great sport. However, I'm concerned that most of us might be ignorant of what it takes to grow a 28" char or 36" laker. What it takes most is time. These fish grow slowly. They don't generally reach spawning age until they're between 6 and 9 years old.


    A 20 lb lake trout is quite impressive. It is also an old fish. Twenty years is certainly within the realm of possibility, and a 20lb fish could be older than that. Hard to say how old without a scale sample, but if we kill one it will surely take a long time to replace. They can't replace themselves as fast as we can kill them. As the fishery continues to grow in popularity there will be fewer and fewer of those to catch if people keep bonking them.

    I strongly suggest to everyone who wants to fish for trophy lakers to invest in a digital camera and a tape measure and use them to preserve/prove their trophies. A picture lasts a lifetime. So does a fiberglass reproduction. If we become willing to release these magnificent fish and learn how to do it, it stands to reason that our kids will be able to experience the excellent fishing we currently have. I'd like to share some tips on how to release these fish while preserving the memory.

    The first essential is that you be prepared to photograph and release the fish. You'll need your camera close at hand and a soft measuring tape to record length and girth of the fish. Keep this on your person where you can access them easily.

    Big lakers are fairly docile once you get their heads in the hole. You can leave them there until your partner is ready to shoot a photo, pull the fish out for a quick couple shots, take a length measurement, put the fish head down in the hole holding on to the fish's caudal peduncle (the 'wrist' of the tail), take a girth measurement, then revive the fish until it's ready to swim off. Simply lift and lower the fish in the hole to get water flowing over its gills until it shows some strength, then let go.

    If you are alone, keep your camera and tape measure in pockets where you can get at them easily. Get the fish head up in the hole. Big fish will pretty much fill the hole and they do not thrash around as much as little ones. It's simple to keep a taut line on them in that position while you get your camera and tape out. Carefully lift/slide the fish from the hole. Big fish do not flop very much compared to little lakers and you should be able to take a few pics and a length measurement in 20 seconds or less. If you need more time for detailed pics of unique aspects of the fish, put it head down in the hole and give it a breather for 30 seconds or so, then slide it out and take a few more pics. Next, put the fish head down in the hole again. With your other hand, take the girth measurement. Revive the fish and let it go.

    Record the length and girth measurements. You can write them down or shoot a video and say the length and girth. You will need these to get a fiberglass reproduction of the fish done, should you decide to do so.

    Some other tips: Prepare the area around your hole for photos. Keep the area clean and flat. Think about the background of your photos before you start fishing. You'll want the sun at the photo shooter's back if you have a partner with you; off to one side or the other if you're alone to prevent casting a shadow on your subject. I can't stress enough to have your camera and tape on you and readily accessible. The whole idea is to ensure the fish is released and that it survives. The more prepared you are, the better the fish's chances. The colder it is, the less time you have. Fish corneas are very susceptible to freezing. Naturally, the longer they are out of the water, the longer it will take to effectively revive them and the more potential for damaging the corneas.

    Here's a little more about getting the fish out of the hole. I prepare to get an arm wet. First, I carefully slip my fingers under a gill cover, being exceptionally careful to not grab gill arches. Then, if I can get an arm down the hole beside the fish to where it begins to get slim I reach down and gently grab the fish as far towards the caudal peduncle as I can. I lift with both hands and essentially slide the fish out of the hole. As it slides out of the hole, I let my wet arm drift to the caudal penduncle. I then have the fish out of the hole. It has not been laid on the ice, minimizing slime loss, cornea damage and internal injury. I get in position and my partner starts snapping pics. If things are taking too long, I'll put the fish head down in the hole for a breather and pull him out when my partner is ready. This is a foolproof, damage limiting method to get pictures of your tropy char.

    I have taken some pictures of fish on the ice before. I don't like to do this very much as you increase the possiblity of slime loss. Fortunately, as I said before, BIG lake trout don't thrash around much at all. In this situation I slide them out just as I outlined above and work as quickly as I can to take pics and measurements. Then I get them head down in the hole and thoroghly revive them.

    Lake trout are pretty durable, all things considered. However, they are very slow growing and your next trophy might be as old as you are. Again, if we want our kids to enjoy what we still have left, we need to release the monsters.
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    Last edited by Charholio; 11-24-2008 at 23:29. Reason: spelling

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    Default Couple more pics

    Jerry pulled the fish out for a picture, then puts it head down back in the hole for a breather. Little wasted movement or repositioning required. We usually take several pictures this way while minimizing the fish's exposure and lack of oxygen.

    Good luck everyone. I hope you catch some big 'uns this winter.
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    Default Holy Cow!

    That's sum hogs! Nice shots thanks. Haven't filmed any "winter" hog shows yet but here's one from this past summer with Tony Weaver posing for a quick shot. And yes, you don't have to cut the big ones in half and count rings to know they are old although the smaller one's I hear are tasty

    Alaska Outdoors Television ~ Outdoor Channel

  4. #4

    Default Agree

    I kept a pretty big one because my friend really wanted to bring something home, and to tell you the truth they are not very good eating. I treasure the picture, but I wish I would have let it go. From now on it's going to be just pics, here in AK there is plenty of salmon, halibut, rockfish, caribou, moose, grouse, etc to eat that I don't need 20 pounds of lake trout in my freezer. That said, I'm not telling anyone else what to do. If a guy wants to eat lake trout and it's legal, enjoy.

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    Member DRIFTER_016's Avatar
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    Well said Charholio, I have been chasing giant Lakers in the North West Territories for 15 years and have never bonked a trout over about 8 pounds. I have successfully released trout to 64 pounds and have well over a hundred releases on fish over 40. Fish this size are around 100 years old!!!! It has been said that trout in our northern climes grow at the rate of about 1/2 pound a year. At this point in my life if I were to take a relatively small fish, say 20 pounds out of the system it would not be replaced in my life time. The same is true for any of our Northern fishes, weather it be Char, Grayling, Pike or any other species. There is nothing wrong with taking fish for the grill but limit your take to the more abundant small fish and release the big ones. The little guys taste way better any way. As Charholio said reproductions are the way to go for that trophy for the wall. This goes for you marine fishers also. If you catch a trophy hailbut that you want to have a tail mount done take photos and measure then put that big female back so she can do her thing.

    Let the trophies go.

    Getting of my soap box now.

    This little girl is still swimmin'


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    Member High Country's Avatar
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    Default

    That is an excellent post Charholio. Thanks for the advice.

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    Default Lets hope.....

    ...that many readers take this post to heart. Very well written and informative, getting into these habits is the way to sustain the incredible fisheries for slow-maturing fish such as char that are present in our great state.

    Oh yeah, and the photos are great! It does me good to know those fish are still swimming!

    Best of luck to all!

    Jake

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    Well said Charholio! Amen! And I agree with all who have said, the little 'uns taste better anyhow!
    Thank God for people who don't fish!! Not much would get done without them =)

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    Member ak_powder_monkey's Avatar
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    most lakes have plenty of 10-16" fish that are pretty tasty if you want some fresh fish over the winter, plus theres always white fish, pike, and frozen salmon...

    If theres anything that we've learned about fisheries management as a nation in the last 50 years is that minimum size limits are much worse that maximum size limits...

    Also fish in this thread are hogs... dang the biggest laker I ever caught was like 22 inches (haven't tried too much though)
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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    Default AKPM, please elaborate

    I am curious to know more about your comparison between the min/max size limits. PM may be better to not hijack the thread.

    Thanks!

    jake

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    Member arcticfox77's Avatar
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    Default i would have seriously fainted...

    drifter, congrats on that monster fish!!!

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    Default Agreed

    Lake Trout in Hidden Lake have a one fish limit starting this year due to higher pressure and the time it takes for a 5# fish to get there. Handle them carefully in really cold weather. Non stainless hooks erode away much quicker than stainless, if you have to clip off a deep hooked fish. I certainly disagree with how they taste. Lakers are right behind kings for my favorite to eat. With that said, I haven't put a 20# laker on the grill, only up to 8#.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Charholio View Post
    Jerry pulled the fish out for a picture, then puts it head down back in the hole for a breather. Little wasted movement or repositioning required. We usually take several pictures this way while minimizing the fish's exposure and lack of oxygen.

    Good luck everyone. I hope you catch some big 'uns this winter.
    One Word.....Sweet!

    THanks for Sharing.

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    http://www.youtube.com/growden1

    Nothing makes a fish bigger than almost being caught.

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    Member akjeff's Avatar
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    Excellent post.

    Give the man a bump to his rep. I have.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AKanders View Post
    I am curious to know more about your comparison between the min/max size limits. PM may be better to not hijack the thread.

    Thanks!

    jake
    Well if you take all the big fish you have less big spawners and the big spawners are more likely to be successful spawners whereas smaller fish have less of a chance to be successful in spawning. Its kinda the same theory as taking spike fork moose well sorta... Of course the big plus is that the big fish are allowed to be caught multiple times by many fishermen as opposed to just once and by taking a small amount of smaller fish you keep the fish from getting stunted. A whole lot of different fisheries have slot limits for this reason, the high end so that folks could potentially take home a world record or something... Examples from Alaska are Kenai River ER Kings, Kenai River Rainbows and dollies, Alexander Lake Pike etc.


    Also with lake trout (and some other fish like rockfish) the older (freaking huge) ones can have problems with mercury poisoning, which is never good for eating...
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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    Default Leads one the wonder...

    ...so the best approach to sustain a healthy population of TROPHY fish (in the simplest of terms)is to limit the harvest of the big spawners by instating a ceiling or max length, over which no fish could be retained? Then the bulk of the sport angler harvest will come out of the more abundant stocks of juvenille fish(spawnee of the big biys and gals), who have a lower spawning success rate?

    If I have a good handle on the general concept, my next question is why isn't this type of management used on lake trout in AK, since it is well documented that they are slow to mature and susceptible to overfishing?

    Does anyone think that a system like this is needed for certain waters here?

    Just curious!

    Tight lines-

    Jake

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    Member Dirtofak's Avatar
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    A true trophy laker is what the person catching it believes a trophy to be. The more 20 pounders taken = less chance of anyone here breaking the state record. Cameras, seamstress tapes and digital scales are cheap use them.

    To make the state record it would appear that you would need a 42" (severely fat) to 46" normal girth fish. Fiberglass reproductions are cheaper, they last alot longer, are easier to move and they don't require the fish to be killed.

    I release all lakers unless they cannot be revived. Then I try to revive them some more. I hope the karma will help me toward that one fish that I seek........

    P.S. I have seen him. He has lockjaw.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AKanders View Post
    ...

    Does anyone think that a system like this is needed for certain waters here?
    That's a good question, Jake.

    I personally think Hidden Lake lake trout are in trouble. I know ADF&G has cut the limit to one, but I think even more restrictive measures are necessary if they ever want to have 25 lb lakers in there again. Trustworth Hardware in Soldotna holds an ice fishing derby every winter and Hidden gets fished hard. A fair number of lake trout are killed there every year. The most telling sign to me that it might be in trouble is it's rare for even a 10 lb laker to get entered in the derby. I think the vast majority of big fish in that lake are gone. Only by putting an upper limit will many fish get a chance to live long enough to get big. A bait restriction would be wise too.

    I also believe Big Lake is suffering from over harvest of large arctic char. 12 and 13 lb fish used to get caught every year there (prior to the mid-to-late 90s). I only know of one bona fide 10 lb fish caught there since about 2001. More revealing to me is numbers of char seem to be down based on me and my friends' declining success over the past few years, and the 28 inch and bigger fish have gotten much harder to come by. Again, ADF&G has taken some action, primarily aimed at protecting burbot, but a slot limit of say 16 - 22 " might be helpful (this would work in Hidden as well). I think this would allow all char to spawn at least once, and the bigger, more productive (in terms of numbers of eggs) char would get a free pass after 22". Unfortunately, Big Lake has pike now and has for several years. However, it is a BIG lake and it's possible that with the slot we might again see numbers of 10+ lb char there. I think there is enough open and deep water to provide a sanctuary for the char.

    Next on the list is the Loise/Susitna lakes. They provide relatively easy access. With more and more homes on the lake and increasing fishing pressure from the crowds who aren't aware of the fragility of lake trout, it will suffer fewer and fewer big fish as people bonk 15 and 20 pounders for bragging rights.

    Big Lake and Hidden already suffer from fewer as well as smaller fish. Louise/Susitna isn't far behind, and people who have lived up there will tell you about 30+ pound lakers being caught way back when. I haven't seen or heard of ANY that big being caught up here since 1994, though I imagine there have been some. But pressure has increased dramatically, especially in winter. I think a wider slot in this bigger system would be reasonable, say from 16 to 26" or so.

    Keep in mind, ADF&G doesn't necessarily value trophy fish. The look at numbers more than size. And they operate historically. What I mean is they wait until a potential problem is a no kidding problem before they become willing to make changes in regulations necessary to provide for what we're talking about--healthy populations with some truly big fish.

    Is it hopeless? Hell no. We can all propose regulation changes at the next board of fish cycle. I'm not sure when it is, but I think it's in 2 years for southcentral. Don't take my word on that though. I will write proposals for each of these locations for that board.

    Two years is too long for some of these fisheries though. Hidden and Big Lake are already in trouble in my opinion. It is up to individual fishermen to have the foresight and gumption to tell themselves, "I'm not killing any fish over x inches." Or perhaps even better, "I'm not killing any lake trout, char or burbot (the big three slow growing fish) today." Finally, no pike should be released should you catch one. Kill it and eat it.
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    Last edited by Charholio; 11-26-2008 at 00:06. Reason: grammar

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    There are plenty of put and take fisheries here in Alaska. I think all lakers should be returned to the water as well. But I am against any regulation imposed to that effect. We will end up will massive regulation of the fisherie. Just like the Kenai. Next thing will be electric trolling motors only on the Kenai . One fish per year with a check in requirement would be nice to see but I do not beleive the armchair biologists would stop there. I am still waiting to see slot limits imposed for the stocked trout because of the hatchery shortages. Vigilance and education are the key factors in maintaining a healthy and successful fisherie. Educate your fellow fishermen on the damages created by overharvest and the advantages of catch and release, dont be affraid to report the knit whits that dont follow the rules. If you need to feed your family, dont keep the lakers just drop me a pm, I will give you some fish. My kids are tired of Copper River Reds anyways ...

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    Member DRIFTER_016's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKanders View Post
    ...so the best approach to sustain a healthy population of TROPHY fish (in the simplest of terms)is to limit the harvest of the big spawners by instating a ceiling or max length, over which no fish could be retained? Then the bulk of the sport angler harvest will come out of the more abundant stocks of juvenille fish(spawnee of the big biys and gals), who have a lower spawning success rate?

    If I have a good handle on the general concept, my next question is why isn't this type of management used on lake trout in AK, since it is well documented that they are slow to mature and susceptible to overfishing?

    Does anyone think that a system like this is needed for certain waters here?

    Just curious!

    Tight lines-

    Jake
    This is exactly the management stratagy used on Great Bear Lake in the NWT. Regs say you may keep 1 fisch under 28" in fork length. The lodges take this one step further by not allowing any fish to be taken home. The only fish we remove from the lake are for shore lunch. That big laker I posted earlier is what we and the DNR are trying to preserve.

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