When I moved to Idaho, smallies were the non native fish and to me, a native fish angler, they became pests. It's simply a waterway discriminatory personal bent I have toward catching what should be there and not what bucket biologists, be they illegal contractors or state approved, thought would make me happier as an angler. For me, a bent rod doesn't equate to my angling pleasure. Having a native fish on the line gets me the giddy up I seek. I love catching smallmouth bass where they belong, but not out here. Walleye are the best eating fish freshwater has to offer, but I don't want to catch transplanted walleye.
Idaho has about 100 species of fish swimming in its lakes and streams, but only 39 of those are native. I did note a study done in either 2005 or 2007 that noted that 14.3 percent of Idaho's fish are non native, so while non native species far outnumber native species the plurality leans in favor of the natives (yay!).
Native fish still hold the majority in raw fish numbers in many western states, but non natives are certainly present in alarming numbers according to that study I failed to bookmark.
The study found that 25 percent of all fish in western streams are non native. Colorado was the worst of all with two out of every three fish being non native.
California has 67 native fish species and 53 non native fish species. Oregon had 75 native species and 33 non native. Washington had 37 native and 30 non native. Montana had 56 natives, two more that might be and 35 non native.
Utah had 41.5 percent of all its fish being non native. Montana had 31.6 percent of all its fish being non native and California had 39.6 percent of all its fish being the non native variety.
Washington and Oregon had 18.4 and 24.5 percent of their freshwater fish being non native respectively.
I think most anglers know of or have participated as bucket biologists. Pond owners know this well, state fish and game agencies know this well, but it isn't like there are many who have an orthodox approach to this problem that has been around as long as we've been developing this most developed nation in the world.
There are certain hypocrisies abound that I can point to locally. Idaho Fish and Game has twice used Rotenone, a fish toxin, to remove non native perch established by bucket biologists in Lost Valley Reservoir in my seven years in the Gem State. Meanwhile, they have protective regulations on non native lake trout in Payette Lake while they stock a non native (Deadwood Reservoir) version of the native Kokanee salmon in Payette Lake mostly as a food source for the non native lake trout. Non native to the North Fork of the Payette River coho salmon have been stocked in Lake Cascade, a man made reservoir on the North Fork, to swim around with non native perch and smallmouth bass, as well as stocked rainbow trout. Meanwhile in the Idaho panhandle anglers are paid a bounty to remove non native lake trout.
There are positive actions being taken in some places to remove non native fish and restore native fish, but I don't see where these piecemeal efforts are going to make a macro view difference.
I would prefer my state take an orthodox view toward restoring Idaho's native fishery, because our native fish are truly special. Our native fish include chinook salmon, sockeye salmon, Kokanee salmon, extinct coho salmon, westslope cutthroat trout, bull trout and steelhead to name a few of what consists of our proud natural heritage. However, it would be a daunting undertaking with a lot of heartburn as anglers who only want a bent rod would likely yell louder than the natives crowd.
But oh how special it is to catch the right fish from the right water. What do you think about this subject? And while thinking about that be guided by this question, what would you do if you knew you wouldn't fail?