Proposed Regulation Change for Smith River Fishery - Virginia - Post Awards -
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Proposed Regulation Change for Smith River Fishery - Virginia

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Awarded by , 03-23-2010 at 08:49 AM (821 Views)
Quote Originally Posted by al k
I wrote up the minutes to the SRTU meeting and have "cut and paste" the portion that has to do with proposed regulation change below:

Featured Program for evening:

Scott Smith, DGIF Fisheries Biologist returned to follow up on the presentation he made at our December meeting where he gave a brief history of the Smith River fishery and presented findings of recent DGIF creel surveys and "shock" samplings of the river. His follow-up presentation was proposals designed to improve the fishery.

Everyone heard the same thing. Some may have interpreted it differently. Here are the highlights of what I heard.

The Issues:

Not enough food
Water too cold (fish and insects in constant "winter mode"
Daily temperature fluctuations stress aquatic life (daily floods)
Scouring of river bottom has cut upper river to bedrock
Sedimentation in lower river

The Big Money Solutions: - (Only if you believe in the "tooth fairy")

New turbines - more constant flow
New Intake Valves - pull water from higher level for better discharge temp (48-55 deg)
Removal of Martinsville Dam - resolve sedimentation problem and connect downstream trout with those upstream (current sedimentation likely a hazmat site - requires expensive clean up)

What can we do while waiting for the tooth fairy:

Litter pick up - The Smith has a reputation for being a "trashy river". Have more clean up days.
Improve access - Access is good if you know your way around the river but it is intimidating to newcomers. More signs, parking areas and trails would help.
Stream restoration - Many of the tributaries running into the Smith "bleed" silt, animal waste and agricultural run off on a daily basis. Identify these problem spots, contact the landowners and organize programs of correction. (Funds are available to pay for these types of projects)
Political clout - The key to long term help for the river. Politicians respond to "strength or power in numbers". The current trend of conservation and recreation groups centered around the river is great - we need to coordinate and increase our efforts.
Change the fishing regulations - Proposal is now on DGIF website ( - Details below.

Proposed Regulation Change:

Affected area - Philpott Dam to Mitchell Bridge (Approx 10 miles downstream of Martinsville Dam)
Rainbow Trout - 7 inch minimum
Brown Trout - 10-24 inch protected slot. (Fish the size must be released) - Brown Trout smaller than 10 inches may be harvested. Only one brown trout larger than 24 inches may be harvested.
Creel limit - 6 trout (both species combined) with only one brown trout over 24 inches
Current Special Reg Section of the river will "go away" and bait fishermen will be allowed to fish and harvest both rainbows and browns under the above rules. However this section will continue to be considered "non-stocked waters" therefore you can continue to fish it without a special trout license. (This rule makes it easier for the CPO's to enforce the same size limits throughout the fishery)
This is a DRAFT only. It can be modified or "killed" at several steps along the way. If it or a modified version is approved the earliest it could go into effect is January 1, 2011.

What we think proposed change in regulation will do:

Satisfy bait fishermen who primarly target rainbow trout for their stringer. They will also be able to harvest brown trout less than 10 inches.
Thin the overpopulation of brown trout which may increase growth of those that survive because there will be fewer fish competing for a limited food source.
More 12-14 inch brown trout below Philpott Dam
More 14-20 inch brown trout below Martinsville Dam
Likely to see this effect within 2 years
Win-win for those that harvest their catch and those that practice catch and release - Plenty of fish still eligible for harvest while at same time protects and increases size of some brown trout.

What will happen if we do nothing and maintain the status quo:

At best the fishery will remain as is but will more likely continue it's slow but steady decline.
Lots of fish but very few larger then 9-12 inches
Reputation as a "trashy" fishery where locals do not care will be counterproductive to recent tourism efforts.

Enforcement of current or new regulations:

We had a very spirited and vocal debate about enforcement of the current rules and what we might expect with any new rules.

Many feel there is very little visible enforcement at present. Just about everyone had a "poaching story". Sightings of CPO's (Game Wardens) is very rare. Scott Smith and Al Kittredge promised to relay these sentiments to their enforcement contacts at DGIF. In the meantime we should all add 1-800-237-5712 to our cell phones and not hesitate to report fish and game violations. You can also call 911 and the Henry County Sheriff's dispatch center will either contact the nearest CPO or send a sheriff's deputy.