Fishing the Eucumbene spawn run is a pretty controversial topic amongst some. Its referred to disparagingly as “unsporting”, “shooting fish in a barrel”, “not fly fishing” and “disrespectful”. Fair enough I suppose, chucking around a couple of glo bugs and four split shot isn’t everyones cup of tea. For the rest of us though, should we be fishing the run or not?
Firstly, its good to look at what trout in Australia are here for. Contrary to the beliefs of some, trout are not a native species. There is no inherent value of trout in Australian waterways. They were introduced so people could fish for them. They are here now so people can fish for them. That is the only real value of trout in Australia, to provide sport and entertainment for the thousands of avid trout anglers that live in this country. Unlike Europe and the Americas, where trout are native fish that play an important part in aquatic ecosystems, in Australia, they perform no such role. If they aren’t providing anglers with entertainment, the truth is, there really isn’t any point of them being here.
Which brings me to the spawn run, because that is exactly what the spawn run provides so many anglers from around he country. Entertainment. Hours and hours of entertainment. For many who live a long way from Australia’s trout streams, fishing the spawn run is the only trout fishing they will get to do all year. For others it is the best chance they will get to tussle with a 5lb+ fish all season. The spawn run is a once in a season opportunity for many anglers. A chance to catch up with friends and catch world class trout. It is no wonder so many anglers hang out all year for the spawn run. That so many spend sleepless nights driving hundreds or thousands of kilometres to fish it. That so many spend their hard earned cash to fish for a few days in the freezing cold. The Eucumbene spawn run is an Australian fishing institution. It provides exactly what trout in Australia are there to provide. Entertainment by the bucket load.
Of course, there is a little more to it. IF there was evidence that the spawn run was impacting the overall enjoyment of the Eucumbene trout fishery across the year, if fishing the spawn run meant that the Eucumbene trout fishery was in danger of total collapse, then the “haters” might have a point and there may be a strong rationale not to fish it. I am aware of no such evidence. Even if there are impacts, if the impacts aren’t catastrophic, they would need to be balanced against the significant social good, entertainment and economic activity (which is significant and a great boost to the local economy) that fishing the spawn run provides.
Given the lack of evidence that fishing the spawn run does much damage to the fishery, most of the criticism is not about the impact on the resource, but about the uncouth methods, unsporting-ness and general madness of fishing such a popular fishing institution. On a personal level, those criticisms are completely fair enough. If you don’t want to fish the run because of the crowds or the methods or the moral grey area that is fishing for any spawning fish, more power to you. It is certainly not for everybody. That doesn’t mean that it is “bad”, just that its not your thing (its not really mine either).
So if you ask me, as long as you are taking your rubbish with you, respecting the environment around you and not being a dick (and yes many people will be breaking these commandments as they do every weekend all around Australia, which is always a pity), if you want to fish the spawn run, fish the spawn run. Enjoy it. Revel in it. Make the most of it. Heck, you can even spin fish it for all I care. Thats what trout are here for. To be enjoyed by fly fishermen and spin fishermen alike. If you don’t want to, if your idea of trout fishing is catching trout on dry flies and only dry flies, if the idea of fishing for spawning fish with four split shots and two glo bugs makes you dry wretch, don’t fish it. Thats perfectly fine. We each enjoy the sport of fishing in our own ways, which is part of what makes the sport so wonderful in the first place.
If you do see anyone breaking the commandments and using illegal tactics while fishing the spawn run (jagging, bait fishing, using sinkers as lures, keeping undersized fish) you can report them to the NSW DPI by calling 1800043536 or report them online through the NSW DPI website. Remember to include any information you can such as vehicle registration numbers and the like.