Sunday, December 6, 2009

Salmon Derby, Triploids and World Records

Back in the 1970’s my grandfather would travel from Memphis to Ludington Michigan to fish the Salmon Derby every year. The Derby is the largest fresh water salmon tournament in the US. Because we lived in Michigan, we would meet my grandparents at Ludington and spend the week with them at the Ludington fairgrounds. I was allowed to go on the boat a few times. But this was serious fishing and since I was young, my trips were on pre-fish days before the derby began. I don't remember seeing a fish like this, but I do remember some big browns coming out of Lake Michigan on these trips. I also remember Lake Michigan is very rough!

Before reading any further please understand I can see several sides of this issue. I haven’t made up my mind, and really, I am not sure any of this matters. I would have put this fish back in the river, because a world record doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to me at this point in my life. But, congratulations are in order for Mr. Healy and Mr. Roller.

Tom Healy (holding the Michigan State Record Brown trout) and Guide Tim Roller

Adj.1.triploid - of a cell or organism having three complete sets of chromosomes.

So what does that have to do with fish, fly fishing or the great outdoors? It has more to do with fish than anything. You see the current Michigan State Record Brown Trout apparently may be a triploid. The fisheries biologists, who work in some fisheries management departments, understand triploid much better than most. However, it is common knowledge the trout is sterilized (with heat) shortly after the eggs are fertilized. This process makes them triploid. Surely it isn’t as simple as that and can be made as complicated as anyone wishes. But, the sterilization prevents the fish from reproducing and from maturing sexually. If a fish can’t do these two things then what’s a fish to do?

Hold on I have to get some more coffee, this could get interesting…

OK I am back. These fish eat, and eat, and eat. They can go into a feeding zone and clean up. This part seems to be similar to our local striper population (which I really like to chase). Anyway, the triploid can’t find another triploid interested in movie, video games or anything else for that matter after a good meal. What is a triploid to do? Eat some more, until they become of mammoth size. Apparently these fish never go through the motion of a spawn and never expend that energy. If a fish doesn’t go through the motions of spawning they don’t lose the weight through the spawning process, but they continue to eat like they just spawned. And, they grow some more.

Howard "Rip" Collins World Record Brown Trout (1992)

Sounds good right? Well there are a lot of different angles, thoughts and feelings on this subject. Here are just a few questions:

Is this just a genetically engineered fish?

Where did I put that 8 weight?

Should biologists be messing with the genetics of a fish?

Why are we talking about this fish when it wasn’t caught on a fly rod?

Should a fish that is genetically altered count as a world record?

Does Arkansas still hold the world record brown trout and the Michigan trout is a different species altogether?

Does this fish really matter to the entire fly fishing snob community?

Should we tie some shad patterns, load our stuff and head to Michigan?

All these questions and a whole lot more have been pondered, discussed and argued. With me they were pondered over two cups of coffee, just long enough to do some research and write this article, because it is interesting and I am a little under the weather and stuck in the house.

There is a question that has been bothering me though…I wonder how fast a triploid brook trout would grow in the Caney Fork River?

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