“FISH HOGS,” GREEDY ANGLERS AT IT AGAIN (June 5/98)

According to a recent news report, greedy Canadian anglers nearly wiped out the breeding stock of a Maine trout stream. U.S. wildlife authorities called it “the worst fishing violation they have ever seen.”

Closer to home, a handful of greedy anglers attempted to clean out a popular lake that was recently stocked. People are calling it the worst case of fish hogging they have ever seen. And if the telephone calls and complaints I’ve received are any indication, many anglers are disgusted by what has been happening at Silver Lake in Lakeville.

Silver Lake is usually stocked every spring. The stocking attracts a great number of anglers, which is fair enough. The lake is stocked for the purpose of providing angling that is easy to access. The dollars we shell out on fishing licenses pay for it.

Unfortunately, as well as law-abiding fishermen, the annual stocking of Silver Lake also attracts a class of angler someone described as “out-and-out fish hogs.”

“Once they find out Lakeville is stocked, they turn into a flock of vultures,” one angler commented. “They catch their limit, take the trout home, and come back and fish again.”

David Clarke is one angler who is disgusted by what he has seen fishermen doing at Silver Lake this spring. Recently he told me about watching anglers putting limits of trout in car trunks and returning to the lake again. “They catch trout, put them in their cars, then catch more.”

“I can’t believe what’s happening at Lakeville or why they (the authorities) let it happen,” another angler said when he called. He wished to remain anonymous as far as this column goes but said he had given his name to fisheries officers when complaining about anglers abusing the bag limit. He described scenes similar to what Clarke had observed: Anglers catching the legal limit over and over again. One angler had taken at least 25 trout.

Gerry Bishop has fished Silver Lake every spring for decades and he tells me that greedy anglers are active every time stocking takes place. “Nothing’s changed, they’ve been doing it for years,” Bishop said.

Which I can confirm, by the way. I’ve been hearing the stories about the antics of unsportsmanlike anglers at Lakeville for years.

Is there any way to control overfishing in lakes at stocking time?

David Clarke says that stocked trout are vulnerable and easy to catch when first released, especially in a small lake such as Silver, since they tend to school. And he suggested a way to stop the abuse. “When they stock a lake they should close it for a while, give the trout a chance to spread out,” Clarke says.

Many anglers agree with David Clarke. In fact, this is the perennial suggestion at stocking time: “Close stocked waters until trout disperse and aren’t vulnerable to angling.”

The department of fisheries will tell you there are valid reasons why they don’t close newly stocked lakes. Cynical as it may seem, we’re damned close to put and take fishing in many of our lakes. Much of the stocking of trout is done to please anglers, so fishermen will have something to catch right away. In other words, stocking is the equivalent of the pacifiers mothers place in the mouths of babies to keep them from crying and complaining. Why else would they stock easy-to-reach, highly visible lakes such as Silver?

Understanding the philosophy behind stocking won’t stop overfishing, however. The sort of things that happens every spring at Silver Lake – and other freshly stocked lakes, for that matter – will continue as long as there is a stocking program.

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