Fly Fishing Conservation Corner
This page has basically two sections to it. The first section is
designed to make you think and to hopefully make you realise that,
"One small step," can, in the long run, make a big difference
to the health of a river. The second section will give you information
on some of the unsung and often misunderstood fish species in the
Just Saying ...
At some point in their life, at least once or twice, everyone has
to stop and think. Hopefully those folk working in air traffic control,
performing brain surgery or designing a jet engine have more of
those thinking moments than your average man on the street, but
you never know. Most fisherman do think, as in "I think I will
go fishing on the weekend if the wife lets me." So, I put this
section together with the hope of enhancing your thinking, or perhaps
making you say something like, "I didn't know that." Now
you may want to be careful saying that out loud. For example: If
your Dearly Beloved says to you, "Do you know it's our anniversary
to day?" Replying, "I didn't know that," could have
serious ramifications. Similarly while you are putting your fishing
gear into the car if she says, "Do you know I go in for open
heart surgery to day?" You won't score too many points by saying,
"I didn't know that."
All About Thinking
When it comes to conservation many fisherman think about it, but
fail to act. Just because there are a few fish in the pool they
are fishing, they are for all intents and purposes happy. Sure,
they would be happier if they were catching those fish, but generally
speaking they are content by just being there. And while they are
there, they may start thinking, "I wish someone would pick
up that empty can of pop or that pile of monofilament on the bank."
But, they never think about wandering over and picking it up. What
they do think is, "I didn't make the mess, so why should I
have to clean it up?" What they don't think about is that it
only takes a few seconds to clean it up and they will be following
in the footsteps of countless fishermen who make the effort. Plus,
they may have prevented a bird from getting tangled up in the monofilament
and strangling itself to death. If you think about it, that's what
discarded monofilament does ... it kills things.
An Important Safety Tip
Stomping on a pop can will "squish it flat," and you will
hardly notice it when you put it into your vest. However, stomping
on a beer bottle is not such a good idea, especially if some big,
heavily tattooed guy happens to be drinking from the beer bottle
as he sits on the tailgate of his pickup truck.
Don't Blame the Bait
Now before you get on your fly fishing high-horse, each year I pick
up more and more empty tapered leader packages on the riverbank
than I did the year before. Now while fly fishermen will use bait
fishing gear like bobbers and floats, I have yet to find a bait
fishermen using a tapered leader.
Game Fish? The Name Game
I've been fishing for four decades, if you are mathematically challenged
that's 40 years, and I have yet to find a working definition of
the term game fish which actually works. As far as I can see, if
a fish takes a fly it's "game" regardless of what species
of fish it is. They said it best in the movie Spinal Tap, "It's
all about perspective."
In other words, one mans preferred species can
be another mans pain in the butt. For example, when I am guiding
for ice-out carp and my clients are hooking into 2-pound Steelhead,
those Steelhead are a nuisance fish.
It's much easier to look at the fish species in
a watershed and ask, are they an indigenous species or are they
an introduced species? Here in Ontario, Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout
and Carp are introduced species whereas Brook Trout, Northern Hogsucker
and Quillback Carpsuckers are indigenous fish. The one thing all
these species have in common is that they will take a fly, and in
fact, all of those will take a size #14 Pheasant Tail Nymph fished
tight to the bottom.
The Spotted Sucker
In Canada the Spotted Sucker (Minytrema melanops) is a very rare
fish, with a very limited distribution. Spotted Suckers are so few
and far between in Canada, that they have been found less than 50
times in southwestern Ontario and in no other Province. This Spotted
Sucker, it's the same fish in all three pictures, was caught and
released not on a fly but by the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).
It was identified by three very experienced MNR personnel, who are
well versed in fish identification. I was just happy to see the
little chap "up-close and personal," because the Spotted
Sucker and the Bigmouth Buffalo are my nemesis fish species. Although
I have hook one of each, I have failed to land them.
How rare is the Spotted
Sucker in Ontario?
Very few of them, as I said less than 50, have ever been recorded
in Ontario as southwestern Ontario is the northern limit of their
range. Although they have been found in the St. Clair River and
Lake Erie, finding this one within the London City limits helps
to maintain the Thames River watershed as the undisputed center
of the fly fishing universe. For those of you who do not have the
Thames River as your "home water" please pause and take
a few seconds to feel woefully inadequate, and species challenged,
because your river probably does not have them. However, one was
found in the Saugeen River, so if you are up in that neck of the
woods, don't feel deprived.
It's interesting to note that in some southern
States in the USA, the Spotted Sucker is classified as a game fish,
and there are several recipes for them floating around on the Internet.
In Canada, possession of a Spotted Sucker, including Spotted Sucker
fillets, smoked Spotted Sucker, Spotted Sucker chowder or steaks-o-Spotted
Sucker carries a heavy fine.
S.A.R.A. Who Gives A
The Spotted Sucker is identified by the Department of Fisheries
and Oceans (DFO) as a Schedule 1 listing under the Species At Risk
Act, (SARA). Under this legislation, "Schedule 1: is the official
list of species that are classified as extirpated, endangered, threatened,
and of special concern."
Along with the Spotted Sucker, on the Schedule
1 list you will find several other Canadian creatures like: The
Eastern Wolf, the Barn Owl, the Northern Map Turtle and the Spotted
DFO SARA Schedule 1 list.
Why You Should Give A
Here's the thing. The Spotted Sucker is a native Ontario fish. It's
an indigenous species. On a broader scale the Spotted Sucker is
just as Canadian as the beaver or the maple leaf, yet because they
don't look "cute" and because there are not a lot of them,
they often go unnoticed. In Ontario, introduced species of fish
like; Chinook salmon, Coho salmon, Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout and
even Rainbow Smelt receive recognition, but here is a part of our
aquatic heritage which has been allowed to slip down to dangerously
low population levels. Plus on a personal note, I have always believed
that, "A fish, is a fish, is a fish and all fish were created
My Request For Information
As there is very little known about the Spotted Sucker in Ontario
I would like to find out more about them, and here is how you can
help. If you have any information about this species, or if you
know someone in Canada who is doing research on them, or someone
who has done research on them, please contact me. Yes, there is
some information out there, but it's rather scant. If you want me
to I will keep your name confidential.
A Word About Copyright
Let's be clear about this. Like all the photographs on my website,
I own the copyright to the images of the Spotted Sucker. However,
if you want to use them for a one time use, for no-profit or educational
purposes, please ask and I will sort something out for you. If you
want to use these images in another medium like print, let me know
and I can send you some high resolution JPEG's.
When I was working on the layout for this page on December 8th,
2005, I inadvertently posted something which I should not have.
The following day I was informed of this and within 10 hours I made
the changes which were required. It was an honest and a genuine
mistake on my part, which I corrected as soon as I could.
Up: More About Suckers
This is my first page featuring the unsung fish species found in
watersheds across Ontario. I am building the pages with the hope
that someone, somewhere, will take an active interest in these species
as they are native Ontario fish. They have never been stocked so
they are truly wild fish, and although they can be super selective,
they will take flies. The Northern Hog Sucker pictured above was
caught and released by the MNR, but I have taken many of them on
small flies and nymphs. So, in 2007 look for pages on species like:
Golden Redhorse, Silver Redhorse, Northern Hog Sucker and Quillback
Shows You ...
It's not hard to put 5 and 5 together to come up with 10. Judging
from the e-mail I have received about this page, it's also not all
that difficult to figure out the "mental state" of the
folk who visit my site. The Spotted Sucker and Hog Nose jokes are
rolling in, so here is a few:
"Yes, I have information about the Spotted
Sucker. Apparently they are found in the Thames River in the city
of London in southwestern Ontario. That is a province in Canada.
There is a chap named Ian James and if you go to his web site it
has information about spotted suckers."
"Did you know you can squish 21 Spotted Sucker
into a 5-gallon white bucket?"
"Hard to find? I bet ya Ted Nugent could bag
one. Nothing gets away from our Ted."
"Spotted sucker, spotted bass, spotted gar
pike ... who cares? They all taste the same when you grind them
"I am not a biologist, but that's nothing
more than a fish with a bad case of acne."
"Awesome fish. Makes me want to grab a bag
of Cheesy Poofs, take over a radio station, hike the volume to 11
and scream through the mike, Who wants to go for a walkies? Walkies!
Walkies! That'll 'learn folks' to leave the radio on for their dogs
when they go to work."
"Thank God that has spots. When I got one
I thought I was drunk. Nothing like popping the top off a few cold
ones while watching a sunrise over the sucker pool."
"If the brilliant minds, visionaries and forward
thinkers at the MNR and the DFO rename it the Poke-a-dot Sucker,
it would get more kids into fishing. I need to rest now. It's hard
to put all those words into the same sentence as MNR and DFO."
"Nice 'glove' in the hognose photo. Did you
have to tail it? They don't look all that vicious, but then again,
neither do my wife and kids."
"If a tree falls in the forest or if a spotted
sucker bangs his head, will he see spots?"
"Ian, I hoped you joined the dots before you
let it go."