Getting things done

Catch & Release, or Catch & Cook, I’ve logged my catches in Montana’s Fishing Log Program, now on hold.

“Git ‘er done.”

That’s the catch phrase of “blue collar” comedian, Larry the Cable Guy, and getting things done was the theme of last week’s brief return to Indian Summer weather.

This was an opportunity to pick up leaves and clean up the lawn before winter comes. Of course, that’s a project that’s never completely done, as my lilac bushes and apple tree hang on to their leaves long after other trees have dropped their leaves. Even after those leaves get picked up, leaves get blown in from around the neighborhood.

All those leaves, sooner or later, end up in a compost pile, to which I’ll be adding throughout the coming year with scraps of greens, peelings and other kitchen waste, along with some dirt to add compost-digesting microbes to the mixture. I turn things over periodically and by next October that big pile of leaves will be a small pile of rich compost that I’ll spread over my garden. I also planted next year’s garlic crop, covering the bulbs with a thick layer of compost and mulch.

Compost has been a wonderful addition to our local decomposed granite that masquerades as soil. My garden now is a black, fertile growing medium ready for the challenge of producing vegetables in our short high elevation growing season.

Our annual pheasant trip to the Rocky Mountain Front was also the end of our camping season, and yesterday’s job was to winterize the trailer’s plumbing system so it’ll be ready for springtime outings.

In fact, much of the work of late fall is geared to spring, even if we think of it as getting ready for winter, just as much of what’s happening in nature at this time of year is in preparation for spring.

One end of season task that I won’t be doing this fall is sending in my fishing log to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. For a number of years I’ve been participating in FWP’s Fishing Log Program. The Program started in 1951, and is funded through the Dingell-Johnson Act that provides funding for sport fish restoration. Dingell-Johnson funding has declined so FWP is unable to finance the program at this time.

I chatted with Beth Giddings of the Fisheries Division, who has been running the program in recent years to get some insights and background.

Some 1,050 people are technically classed as active participants, though she cautions that just 747 people were asked to return their log booklet at the end of last year.

Over the years, 5,742 people have participated. The majority of participants live in western Montana, though they’re not just trout anglers. “Lots of them are warm water anglers, who specialize in walleyes and other warm water species.” The longest-participating angler on that active list has been submitting his log since 1958.

Going through all the log books at the end of the year has been quite a labor-intensive part of the program, and it’s often a challenge to decipher handwriting, as well as identify the various waters described. “We try to use data entry persons who are familiar with Montana waterways, though we sometimes have to talk to our people in the Regions for clarification.”

I certainly have sympathy for those poor people who have struggled to decipher my handwriting these past years. I often can’t read my own notes, so I feel for those who pick up my booklet and try to make sense of it.

The program has provided a lot of valuable information over the years. It was fishing log data that provided early clues to the impact of whirling disease on the Madison River, as well as some little-known waters.

Giddings says the Department is looking at options for devising an online reporting system. “Today’s anglers are a lot more technically savvy about these things, so hopefully the suspension of the program will be temporary until we develop a reporting program that will be within our budget.”

Now that I’m caught up in fall chores, I’ll get back to chasing pheasants and grouse.

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