I get (I understand that I am not normal) excited when I go hiking and I go to the top of some tiny stream that eventually turns into something people value and I see various trout parr, so long as they are native, swimming in what amount to connected puddles with a current. I can stand there for hours watching tiny trout go here and there. I get the same excitement when I see wild and native salmon and steelhead.
I was fishing the lower Snake River upstream of Lewiston and Clarkston and Buffalo Eddy. I caught a steelhead smolt (yikes) I immediately put him back unharmed, though it was only a hatchery fish. Then I caught a spawned out wild steelhead. It wasn't much to look at with his snake like body (emaciated from the journey from sea and spawning) and giant cyst above his left eye (that would occupy his curiosity until his death, I suspect, as when I released him he kept jumping as if to rid himself of the cyst.) The fish was still colored as spectacularly as are the wild steelhead that swim back to Idaho waters, nothing like the pale hatchery smolt I had released earlier. My God that fish was still beautiful despite its anorexic appearance and giant cyst above the eye.
I'm bothered by all the non-native and unwild fish we have swimming in our western waters. The first trout I caught in the North Fork of the Payette River (which has always been no more than a mile from me since I moved to Idaho) was a huge, 20+ inch rainbow trout that I caught on a dry fly of all things on my third cast ever in Idaho (the first two casts ended in the back cast hooking a small willow-type tree behind me). I performed my normal ritual, any trout or bass over 20 inches and I light a cigar, which then acts as anti-mosquito agent more than something I actually allow to poison me. I was stoked (literally and figuratively). Then, I learn that it wasn't native and it wasn't wild and chances are real good that it couldn't even pass along those very good genes it obviously had to allow it to grow to that great length in such a small stream because the Idaho Department of Fish and Game had been stocking sterile rainbow trout in the river and lakes for several years now (standard operating procedure). And that got me thinking, a few weeks later I was unhappy with how my grasshooper fly had landed on Goose Creek that I pulled back on the rod in disgust to go into a backcast and deliver it where I wanted it in the first place when a small nonnative brook trout latched on at the worst time and promptly got flung (at an amazing speed) into a large boulder behind me. Massive trauma.
We still plant non-native fish we grow in hatcheries (i.e. not wild) in all kinds of waters throughout this country. We've planted Chinook in the Great Lakes, brook trout in the west, lake trout in the west (some places we now have bounties for them and in other places the regulations favor them over the wild, native fish like my home lake Payette Lake). Smallmouth bass ( a fish I would fight to the end for in Missouri where it is both native and wild, is all over the west where it doesn't belong and quite frankly is an exotic species and should be eradicated from western waters). Walleye, best tasting fish on the planet, they are great in Minnesota and Missouri and other midwestern locales, but out here (despite how great they are to eat) they are non-native and not wild and do not belong in the Columbia and Snake River systems (comprende?)
Recently, due to some sockeye returns that required a comma be used, Idaho got the go ahead from the forces of evil, I'm sorry from the power marketers who have more money than God to build another sockeye hatchery. OK, that's fine, you lost the Redfish Lake sockeye already (though you won't admit it) in the early 1990s and now all you have are the frankenfish we created from Larry and his sperm bank donations. Now you want to double down on your success with a new hatchery in eastern Idaho (spread the love around I guess). And no matter what you accomplish in this endeavor, not a single fish you make will actually meet the criteria of native and wild and therefore this is smoke and mirrors for the Endangered Species Act so many want to minimize today. If you want to minimize the Endangered Species Act you want to impoverish future generations. If you don't want to strengthen the act then you are ultimately stealing from future generations. No, seriously, you actually are. PROPERTY RIGHTS! You say? You and I own, no we lease, all the animals, fish and plants in a trust from or for future generations, so destroying them so you can build a vacation home you visit for two weeks out of the year or whatever stupid, modern day (I'm bored let's destroy something) mentality you must manifest in order to feel alive makes you a common thief.
I guess the point of all this is quite simple, there is an effort to make more non-native, not wild fish and eventually when the returns of sockeye (natural and hatchery, notice not native or wild) reach a certain number some elected pinhead (and I think it is a requirement to actually be a pinhead to be elected these days) will weaken the endangered species act and call it good. "Sockeye recovered," some pinhead will proclaim and so many of you ignorant (no offense but it is true) people out there will think "oh, what a great day, the sockeye have been recovered let us go dump selenium into Redfish Lake so as to make a Redfish Hydra."
The goal is native and wild, not natural, not hatchery, not sterile hatchery (though that at least limits the damage). Does anyone out there get any of this?