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Will saving frogs destroy Sierra fishing?

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POSTED July 1, 2013 12:47 a.m.

I got a notice the other day about a pending decision by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. It seems that the USFS is considering declaring the Sierra Nevada Red Legged Frog as a threatened species. In addition the Fish & Wildlife Service is seeking to designate as Critical Habitat over a million acres in a host of mountain counties stretching almost the entire length of the Sierra Nevada. According to the USFWS website, the proposed critical habitat area would run from Lake Tahoe in the north to Mount Whitney in the south. To the casual reader, saving the Yellow Legged Frog might sound like a no brainer. After all, who wouldn’t want to save the cute little critters?  Like most things in life however, there are at least two sides to the issue. Some 100 years ago Yellow Legged Frogs were common all over the Sierra and then man came along and complicated things. It seems that wherever lakes or streams had no fish populations, we humans decided to plant trout there. Within a few decades trout were being transplanted almost everywhere. The trout prospered and were a great hit with California fishermen.

Unfortunately for the frogs, trout love to eat frogs for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. In fact whether you are a bait fisher, spin caster, or flyrodder, one of the most productive lures of all time is either a live frog, or a lure that resembles a frog. Fish love frogs. Now 100 years later the widely transplanted trout have darned near wiped out the Yellow Legged Frog populations. Any way you slice it, man has an effect his environment. OK you ask: What’s the solution to saving the frogs?’

Here comes the kicker. The way you increase the frog population is by decreasing the trout population. Seems logical doesn’t it? Unfortunately, there are dozens of resort communities that rely upon the revenue generated by anglers. Pick almost any community in the mountains and ask them if they count on fishermen for a substantial part of their living. From Truckee to Markleeville, from Lake Alpine to Mammoth Lakes, and from Bishop to Lone Pine, anglers contribute a huge portion of the money that supports the local economy. They buy gas, meals, fishing supplies and guide services. Considering how the economy is without the money generated by visiting anglers many Sierra Resort communities would go belly up, just like a dead fish.

Mountain communities are unanimous in their opposition to the listing & critical habitat designation.  The question that we have to answer is; What’s more important to us, frogs or fish? If you’d like to comment on this issue, I suggest you contact both the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and your local Congressman. Let’s see if anybody gives a damn.

Until Next Week,

Tight Lines

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