Friday, February 19, 2010

Trout In A New Light

Several weeks ago I attended a Steelhead Society meeting in Langley, BC.
The Society had invited Dr. J.D. McPhail, professor at UBC, to educate and enlighten us with a presentation titled “What is a Steelhead”. 
An older gentleman, he stepped up to the microphone slightly nerved by the abundance of fishermen in the room.  
You see Dr. McPhail, teacher, author and steelhead enthusiast was not an angler, but a sincerely dedicated man truly in love with every detail of the elusive steelhead. 
He loved their genetic make up, their migratory patterns, their can only imagine how much he would love them if he knew how hard they can pull...
: )
His speech was interesting.  "What is a Steelhead" had us all shrugging our shoulders nonchalantly.....our heads were all silently mumbling the same thing;  a steelhead is an anadromous rainbow trout.....everybody knows that.... 
Naturally, Dr. McPhail had some new information he was about to let us chew on.
Suddenly, it seemed as though words from Dec Hogans "A Passion for Steelhead" met with the scientific knowledge of a University Professor and every angler in the room leaned in closer to listen; every word making us a little less sure of what we thought we actually knew.
He went on to tweak our brains and ease our curiosity about interaction in coastal rivers between rainbow trout and steelhead while cohabiting the same stretch of river. 
He spoke of anadromous fish and the genetic likelihood of nonanadromous fish being a base for our common steelhead.  He spoke of the rise and fall of steelhead numbers.  And he spoke of orientation and the migratory patterns of our local fish.
He was an absolute breath of fresh air and a glimmer of passion in the most sincere form.
Perhaps the most interesting fact that Dr. McPhail educated all of us on was the interaction of the steelhead and the resident rainbow trout. 
To put it in some basic terminology, he went on to explain that as the female steelhead lays in wait before laying her eggs, several male steelhead (including one dominant male) and rainbow trout surround her anxiously awaiting their chance to fertilize.
As she proceeds to deposit into her redd, the "alpha male" swoops in, as do the rest of the waiting fish (trout too) to aid in the fertilization. 
Essentially it's a major free for all with a "may the best and closest 'spurt' win" mentality....  Yup, this means that the male rainbow trout is able to fertilize the eggs of a female steelhead. 
So much for all those steelhead snobs who turn their noses up at the "measly trout".
Now as most of us well know, I am no biologist (for God's sake I just found out who Gail Shea is like two months ago.....) I just fish.  So let me direct you to a link that may help to make this a little more clear.  For exact data, please contact me and I will put you in touch with Dr. McPhail.
Happy reading!