The Wild Trout Debate

February 19, 2024 By: Spencer Durrant

Chris Hunt sparked some serious discussion with his latest story in Hatch MagazineHunt wrote a wide-ranging story that, at its heart, can be summed up in this paragraph towards the end:

“It is time to stop palpitating over which trout belong where and start ensuring functional rivers have the resiliency needed to withstand a climate that’s not going to get any friendlier to coldwater fish.”

What has folks talking, however, is Hunt’s assertion that it’s time to embrace all trout, whether they’re native or not. As the saying goes, they’re not building new rivers these days, so we ought to conserve what we have left.

“Terms like ‘minimum stream flows’ and ‘connectivity’ should replace worries over which flavor of trout swims in Rattlesnake Creek and why it ought to be removed and replaced,” Hunt continues. “The days of fighting those little battles should be over. The effort now should focus on the plumbing of the West and how we can make sure enough water flows down the Big Hole to keep any of its trout alive, let alone its rare natives.”

Hunt notes that there are some places where the fight for native fish should continue; notably, in Yellowstone, where fisheries managers continue to net lake trout from Yellowstone Lake in an effort to save the park’s namesake native cutthroat.

According to Hunt, we should strive less for native trout persisting on the landscape and more for any trout, because any trout living is better than empty rivers.

I’m not going to get into whether Hunt is right. But he’s far from the only angler with this opinion, and it’s worth reading what he has to say in order to form your own opinion on how fisheries in the West ought to be managed.