10/06/09
Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.   Blue-winged Olives
3.   Little Yellow Stoneflies
4.   Slate Drakes
5.   Cream Cahills - hatching in Isolated locations
6.   Little Yellow Quills
7.   Needle Stoneflies
8.   Beetles
9.   Grasshoppers
10. Ants
11. Crane Flies
12. Helligramite
13. Streamers - matching sculpin, baitfish and small crawfish

Re-introduction of Otters in the Park
During the last month or so, I have received over twenty questions and comments
via email where anglers were concerned with the re-introduction of otters in Great
Smoky Mountains National Park. I have answered a few of them but will try to cover
them all here since there is an apparent concern of at least a few of you.

We have noticed only a few otters in the park. Abrams is one of those creeks that
we have spotted them in. All I can say in that regard is that as far as we can
determine, it certainly hasn't affected the trout population in Abrams. We have been
able to catch fish after fish there, each and every one of the numerous times we
have fished the creek. I'm not certain as to how long the otters have been there and
I haven't ask any of the park officials about it. I haven't spotted any near Elkmont
although I am told they were some released there. If so, it certainly hasn't hurt the
fishing in that area.

Although it isn't in the park, we have spotted otters in the Middle Prong of Little
Pigeon River for the past several years. We rarely drive down the river without
seeing them. One of our favorite smallmouth spots, a few miles downstream from
the park, has plenty of otters. You can see them from the big high concrete bridge
that crosses the river just about anytime you cross it. That is also one of the best
places to catch smallmouth bass we know of in the river. They certainly haven't hurt
the fishing there.

What I have noticed and am very familiar with, are the otters in Yellowstone National
Park. We have spent at least a month there during all but two of the last ten years.
We have video taped otters for the past several years at numerous locations. They
are very interesting creatures. The speed at which they can swim amazes me. They
sure don't appear to have any problem catching plenty of fish to eat.

One stream that has plenty of them is Grayling Creek. If you could say anything
about Grayling Creek, it would probably be that the small stream may be
overpopulated.  It is full of smaller trout, mostly cutbows, that are mostly less than
twelve inches long, but also some small rainbows, browns and cutthroat trout. Four
years ago, we parked at one of the bridges along highway #191 and spotted an
otter on the side of the bridge we parked on. I knew better than to fish there (they
do scare the trout) so we fished the other side of the bridge in a downstream
direction. Angie caught over twenty trout in less than a couple of hours. I swapped
places with her ( I had been running the camera) and proceeded to catch about
that many more during the next two hours. When we walked back to the vehicle, I
cast on the side of the bridge the otter was in the very pool we spotted it in. I caught
a twelve inch cutbow. Two years ago, we stopped at the same bridge, saw an otter
in the same pool, fished the same way as we did two years prior to that, and caught
trout just as fast as we did before. The otter certainly didn't damage those fish to
any adverse extent.

Two other places we have video tapped the otters on several occasions were in the
Gibbon and Madison Rivers in the park. There are some otters in the first meadow
section upstream from the Seven Mile Bridge where it is legal to fish. We video
tapped a family of them there about six years ago and during four other  years
since. Last September, we were able to catch several nice brown trout along that
same bank on hoppers. We have caught plenty of trout there each and every time
we have fished there. We have been able to catch plenty of trout everywhere we
have spotted the otters in Yellowstone Park, never in the same spot at the same
time, but at various times after we spotted them. They obviously scare the trout. I
am told by those that are supposed to know, that they will eat trout.

We have done the same thing on the Gibbon River. Like Grayling Creek, if
anything, the lower section of the Gibbon River below the falls has too many trout
because they too, are plentiful and average a small size. Of all the things I have
heard complaints about in Yellowstone, otters hasn't been one of them, although I
am certain there have been people that have complained about them. There are
plenty of otters there and there are plenty of trout there. There are even otters in
some of the lakes in Yellowstone that have good populations of trout, such as Trout
Lake.

There has been some concern that the otters are reducing the native Yellowstone
Cutthroat, but I don't know if that amounts to a real problem or not. I do know the
non-native lake trout have greatly reduced their population in Yellowstone Lake. I
haven't seen any documentation from the park regarding the otters.

I could go on with more examples, but it is obvious to us that where otters exist,
there are plenty of trout. In fact, in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I would
go as far as to say the otters may possibly even be a good thing if they did reduce
the population of trout. I think there are far to many trout in many of the streams in
the park. The fishing is much better now that the drought conditions reduced the
population of trout.

Neither the brown or rainbow trout are native to the streams of the park. Only brook
trout are native. It is my understanding that years ago, when both otters and brook
trout existed in all the streams, there were no adverse affects from them then. I read
where brook trout existed in plentiful quantities and much larger sizes than they do
now, even in the streams of the lower elevations. That changed when among other
things, we cut the trees, built roads and stocked rainbow. Brown trout eventually got
into the streams from being stocked outside the park.

The reason the park still allows anglers to keep trout within certain numbers and
size limits is the fact that doing so has never shown any adverse effects on the trout
population. Personally, I don't like the current regulations, but it has nothing to do
with the fact I think keeping trout would adversely affect the population. If anything,
keeping some would probably help. I don't like the regulations simply because it
takes away from promoting sport fishing.

I had a doctor tell me last week that he loved to fly fish (I got him started) but his
wife, who goes with him, hated the smell of fish. I couldn't believe he was keeping
the trout he caught. I laughed out loud and embarrassed him. He though you were
supposed to do that. I don't like the park rules regarding keeping fish because that
automatically turns many people off about fishing. Many, if not most people, still
think that is why people fish. Many don't like the idea of killing fish or having to
clean and eat them. Rarely does a day go by without someone noticing the gold
marlin I always wear around my neck. After guessing wrong, and then learning what
kind of fish it is, they often ask if people eat them. I always get a little upset at their
ignorance. As soon as I try to explain modern sport fishing to them, they like the
idea of fishing much better. Although the current rules and regulations don't hurt
the trout population, I think the park rules on keeping trout are as backwards and
outdated as making and selling moonshine whisky.

It is not unusual for some of the locals to think they somehow own a part of the park
that other citizens don't share. Some of them like to complain about any and
everything, including tourist. It has always been the locals that opposed every
national park that has been created from the get go. The remaining old fogies need
to watch the currently running TV series on the history of national parks. Thank
goodness, the National Parks belong to the people and are for everyone's use and
enjoyment. As the saying goes, it's the best thing the government has ever done.

The re-introduction of wolves in Yellowstone didn't hurt the elk or buffalo
populations, both of which probably need reducing. Otters in the streams in
Yellowstone hasn't hurt the fishing much, if any. It is still far better than anything in
the Eastern U. S. I'm just glad responsive people are in charge of making decisions
regarding the park, the balance of nature, etc. I'm sure they will do fine (as long as
we don't get a Czar in charge of them). Although I don't agree with everything they
do, I'm positive they do a far better job than the Davy Crockets.

Copyright 2009 James Marsh