The Pros and Cons of Aquaculture
by Doc Trout
A gentleman asked me the other day how I felt about people feeding trout in a privately owned section of a stream and I replied to him as follows:
That is a subject about which I have strong feelings so I will try not to rant. However, first of all, the law in North Carolina concerning streams that run through private property states that if a landowner owns property adjacent to a stream, then he also owns the property under the stream to the center of the body of water. Thus, if the same person owns the property on both sides of the stream, then he can legally deny access to that section of the stream unless it is navigable by boat. However, since this law was written and passed during colonial days, the phrase "navigable by boat" is undefined. In addition, I strongly feel that neither State nor Federal government should be allowed to dictate terms to a landowner concerning what he can or cannot do on his property. However, I am also an ardent conservationist and thus I believe that every landowner should treat the ecosystem in which his land is located with profound respect.
Thus, as a conservationists, I have studied the pros and cons of aquaculture and feeding trout in a privately owned section of a stream is a form of aquaculture. So, while I firmly believe that aquaculture is the wave of the future, considering the rate at which we are raping the world's oceans to feed our growing population, in its present form aquaculture has many flaws which are detrimental to an ecosystem. Thus, I believe that many of those same flaws apply to feeding trout in a stream. For instance, the accumulation of unconsumed trout chow and the accumulation of fish feces causes oxygen deprivation which is detrimental to both the fish in the privately owned section of the stream as well as the fish located downstream. In addition, it is my belief that a fish that is fed trout chow its whole life loses the ability to recognize natural foods and also looses the will to pursue those natural foods. In addition, it has been my experience when fishing on Wilson Creek that the fish located within the stocked and Delayed Harvest sections of that stream are far easier to catch than the wild fish I pursue on the backcountry streams because they are used to seeing humans hovering at the edge of their pens and thus they associate humans with an easy meal. Whereas, the wild fish that I pursue are far more wary such that they will spook and go into hiding at the slightest movement at the edge of their cone of vision. Also, they are far more particular about what they eat. Consequently, unlike most guides, I refuse to offer "Trophy Water" trips because such fish are invariably hand-fed on a regular basis and thus, in my opinion, catching a twenty-four inch "trophy" trout is no real accomplishment at all. However, facing a wild and wary twelve inch Brown Trout on his home water and fooling him into taking you fly is very much an accomplishment and any angler who does so should feel very proud of his skills. Therefore, that is why you don't see pictures of my clients holding huge trout plastered all over my web site unlike others.
However, as I have said many times, this is my personal opinion and I respect other people's right to disagree with me. Therefore, I don't believe that it is wrong for people to fish "trophy water" if they choose to do so. But, it is not a pursuit that I would personally choose to engage in.