After two entire weeks of not fishing I finally had a chance to go this last weekend. No big trip just a trip to the Sac Trail to catch some small LM. I only fished for three hours but it was so relieving and therapeutic. For all of you that don't know about the Sac trail I will enlighten you being that the place has all but been blown out. Plus I'm sure its no secrete. When I first started going there about three years ago it was a great little local place to do some fishing. In the past I've caught fish that were close to 3 out of a stream that is smaller than the upper part of The Finley. The north-side sewage treatment plant dumps its effluent into it so there is algae growth and of course there is the recovery zone down from the plant where you can find no SM. But the largemouth that are there enjoy a somewhat good life living successfully off the pumped up base of the food pyramid. Or at-least they did. Lately it has been hard to find fish down there that are bigger than 12" and the number of fish I've been catching has dramatically decreased. When I first started going down there I saw no one, or I should say no fishermen. But as the years have gone on I keep seeing more and more people fishing down there, not so much actual fishermen but I see something worse, fishermen trash. Fishermen who don't care about the environment in which the fish they love to catch live, really upset me. I don't think that my ability to catch fish has degraded and I can't imagine that anyone would keep and eat a bass out of a stream that is directly down from a treatment plant, even though I don't think it would hurt if done occasionally. So where have all the fish gone? It could be that an increased amount of pressure has forced them to disperse to other areas of the river, but I don't think that is the case being that not all the places down are really all that accessible to people who don't want to bush whack. It could be that the increased pressure has made them unwilling to bite, but I've never come across pressured fish that wouldn't bite all the time, I've fished the river with every technique I could think of at different times of the day at different times of the year. The increased amount of flooding we've had in the Ozarks over the past couple of years could have had an effect on them, maybe but it doesn't seem to have effected fish from other streams.
I could come up with a whole list of hypotheses, but the best one I can think of has to do with large non fish predator that has been enjoying the easy task of taking big fish out of a shallow, somewhat clear stream. Last year during the dead of winter I was down there fishing/practicing with my fly rod when I looked up into a tree that was up river a ways and saw one of the most beautiful creatures that exists on this continent, a mature Bald Eagle. Over the course of the winter I went back a number of times and was able to ID two individuals. I never was able to see one capture anything out of the stream so I can't say with certainty that this is the reason why the fish population has decreased but it could be a possible answer to why it has. If this is the reason I can't expect it to last too long because the Eagles will eventually reduce the number of fish so dramatically that it will be hard for them to feed themselves and they will move on. This last weekend I didn't see the Eagles I saw last year but I did see what was either a juvenile eagle or a female Harrier, I couldn't tell i didn't get that good a look at it. I don't know, I which I had time to really go out there and do more research but I'm busy staying inside reading about biology instead of actually doing it. At least not yet. What a great idea for a field project, "The Effect of Birds of Prey on Game-fish." It would involve my two favorite animals.