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> > Piscicides for Reclaiming Trout Habitat

Shawnny3October 31st, 2007, 5:03 pm
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
I read an article last night by Ted Williams about using piscicides to reclaim native trout habitats from alien species and restoring native genetic strains to those habitats. The article was nothing short of a scathing attack against the many extreme environmental organizations that oppose such tactics for reasons Williams terms totally ludicrous and anti-environmental. Williams issues his attack despite admitting that he has helped raise many thousands of dollars for the very organizations he accuses of standing in the way of legitimate stream rehabilitation efforts. Williams writes in no uncertain terms that the two major piscicides in question, rotenone and antimycin, are completely safe and effective means of reclaiming habitat, and that anyone who disagrees with him is a wacko who knows nothing about the science involved. He also accuses the opposing environmental organizations of using a plethora of dishonest tactics to stop the use of these piscicides. I should add that the one prominent environmental group that he specifically absolves is Trout Unlimited, a group he says has embraced the use of piscicides in reclaiming trout habitats.

I haven't really formed any opinion on this issue, but after reading such a strongly opinionated piece by such a big-name fisherman, I thought I'd seek the insights of the fisheries biologists and such that we have trolling these boards. Can anyone comment knowledgeably on this stuff?

Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
GeneOctober 31st, 2007, 9:22 pm
Posts: 107Shawn:

I haven't read Ted's article but I'll take your word on what he said. I really don't wish to get into diatribe on Williams per se because I have mixed feelings on him and it will serve no useful purpose.

1)Rotenone is a naturally occurring pesticide from plants roots, leaves and seeds (such as Derris). It's what ecologist call a botanical insecticide. It has been used for years and years in fishery research including removing unwanted species and in lesser concentrations for other pesticide uses. It works very well for what it is supposed to do. It basically works by inhibiting a biochemical process at the cellular level that inhibits fish to absorb oxygen in the blood. Rotenone breaks down after a few days to a week or more in most waters.

2)Safety: Perhaps I am a wacko according to Williams' line of thought but I happen to be an aquatic scientist. Contrary to what Ted says that there are no real side effects, well perhaps he should go to college and get a few degrees if you know what I mean because there are some real problems with it. The exposure to the people using it have come under real scrutiny in recent years because the agent rotenone in certain types of pesticides is toxic to dopamine other appears it may cause Parkinson's Disease. And I know a number of fishery and aquatic scientist who have Parkinson's Disease that used rotenone extensively in their careers. It is also toxic to young children if inhaled. Studies in laboratory mice that were exposed to rotenone showed that they lost more than half their neurons in two months. There are a number of side effects also that the EPA list such as skin rashes, itching etc.

3)Safety in Aquatic Ecosystems: Well the problem is that other animals such as wildfowl will drink the water that is being "cleansed" with rotenone. The stuff is really tough on birds and varying degrees on aquatic invertebrates. It has also been show to be toxic in the water to small mammals etc.

4)The Truth about Stream Rehabilitation: Rotenone works very well in wiping everything out. It does not kill the eggs of the unwanted species in the stream however. The problem with Williams' blanket approval of the results are not shown in the scientific literature! Yes, in the literature. To put it bluntly there have been varying degrees of success and failure depending upon the statistics of the study. Many studies have shown that the native strains of fish which were reintroduced didn't do that well and that non native species returned. Furthermore, some statistical analysis show that the slight gains in the population of the native species after the stream cleansing were actually due to new angler regulations! Furthermore, a number of well known stream ecologists question the data and studies that the competition from the non native species cause the native species to decline. What is left out is this: Did the original environment of the native species deteriorate so much that it was the main cause of the native species diminishing populations?

I have no problem with its use if done properly and the data support it but there are a number risks involved, and if Williams believes that it is some type of panacea which it appears he does..he is badly mistaken.

Antimycin which is an antibiotic is often used because it dissipates faster that rotenone in the stream etc. However, larger quantities of it must be used compared to rotenone, and you are introducing massive amounts of anitbiotics into the system which does have some interesting problems to say the least.

It's a tool of aquatic scientists and must be used with some common sense but it will not always restore waters to their native populations because you wipe out everything else because the studies show a mixed bag at best.

tight line and dancing nymphs

Jmd123November 1st, 2007, 12:13 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2531
Good response, Gene - scientific with no emotional overtones. I did read Ted Williams' article on piscicides for stream restoration, and parts did make a lot of sense, but I agree with you that he hasn't done his homework on the chemicals when he claims that they're "completely safe". Anything that is poisonous to SOMETHING is more than likely to have toxic effects on non-target organisms. And handling the material is just common sense. Would you apply any insecticide without using a respirator and rubber gloves? I wouldn't - I personally have had loads of side effects from prescribed medication and most of it is not supposed to be toxic at all (unless you eat a handful and wash it down with a fifth of vodka).

I do think restoration of native species is a very noble goal and one that must be implemented when and where feasible. Obviously, it's a complicated process with lots of variables and varying rates of success. I do enjoy reading Ted's commentaries, but sometimes he gets a little heavy on rhetoric and kinda light on scientific background. But he certainly makes his readers aware of environmental issues that can (and will) affect our favorite pasttime. My first encounter with Ted's writing was back in 1992, while honeymooning with my (now ex-) wife in Arkansas (yes, we did some fishing, and if I remember correctly, she caught more than I did). The article was entitled, "The Spotted Fish Beneath the Spotted Owl" - and this was just a few weeks before I moved to Coos Bay, OR and witnessed exactly what he was talking about...

Tight lines and dancing steelhead,

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
Shawnny3November 2nd, 2007, 4:28 pm
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
...perhaps he should go to college and get a few degrees if you know what I mean...

Unless they find some way to revive his cryogenically frozen corpse, I doubt that will happen anytime soon.

I do enjoy reading Ted's commentaries, but sometimes he gets a little heavy on rhetoric and kinda light on scientific background.

I did find it a bit strange to be getting an authoritative science lecture from a former baseball player. From having read the article and knowing a bit about Ted's demeanor as a ballplayer, I got a pretty good sense of where he was coming from and what he might be glossing over to make his point. I certainly appreciate your caveats, gentlemen - much as I suspected.

Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
CaseyPNovember 2nd, 2007, 6:16 pm
Arlington, VA/ Mercersburg, PA

Posts: 653
I did find it a bit strange to be getting an authoritative science lecture from a former baseball player.

oh, man, i'm glad you said that. there was only ever one Ted Williams in my life, and i knew he fished a lot as well...yep, he was an opinionated soul, and focussed as well--in everything. there have been some amazingly well educated ball players, but our Teddy was not necessarily one of least not in the world of science. y'know, DDT was a savior of mankind when i was a kid, back when the prevailing mood was one of "fixing" what Ma Nature had got wrong. times do change, and we still tinker. at least we're asking more questions these days.
"You can observe a lot by watching." Yogi Berra
Shawnny3November 3rd, 2007, 6:54 am
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
Ted Williams was clearly one of the best hitters, if not THE best hitter, in baseball history, and was as great a student of hitting as anyone has ever been. When you can sit down with Tony Gwynn, already on his way to the Hall and probably the most cerebral hitter of our time, and in one conversation convince him to change his approach to hitting, you must know what you're talking about. Williams also identified Mike Piazza when Piazza was only 16 years old, confiding in Tommy Lasorda that Piazza was the best 16-year-old hitter he'd ever seen. So the Dodgers drafted Piazza, a complete unknown, in the last round of the draft, and he went on to become the greatest hitting catcher of all time. Just a few examples of Williams's acumen.

But he was also cantankerous and eccentric. And the problem with being the world's foremost expert at one thing is that it's easy to start thinking you're the world's foremost expert on everything. I have no doubt Ted was a great fisherman for many of the same reasons he was a great hitter, and for a layman he was probably above average in his understanding of environmental issues. But he was still a layman. And while I'm sure his criticisms of the extremist groups he was lambasting have some merit, I surely wouldn't be persuaded to think a certain way on his word alone.

Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
LamNovember 3rd, 2007, 6:59 am
Lancaster, PA

Posts: 81
Call me a tard but the guy that writes for Fly Rod and Reel magazine, Ted Williams, is the same as Ted Williams the baseball player|? I thought you guys were joking when baseball was first brought up.

Didn't the baseball player die in 2002? Are the recycling his articles in the magazines or are you guys really joking?
Shawnny3November 3rd, 2007, 7:28 am
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
Now you make me doubt myself, Lam. Because Ted Williams the ballplayer was also in the Fishing Hall of Fame, I was under the impression that the article to which I was referring (which was in a book) was written some time ago by that very Ted Williams. On the other hand, if there's a Ted Williams still writing for a magazine, then I am clearly in the wrong and all of my comments should be disregarded, because the ballplayer has (as you said) been dead for 5 years. It may well be I who is the "tard." Can someone clear this up?

Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
LamNovember 3rd, 2007, 7:35 am
Lancaster, PA

Posts: 81
I read an article in Fly Rod and Reel regarding using chemicals to wipe a stream clear to allow natives to reinhabit and it was by Ted Williams. So, that's what I thought you were talking about.

check out scroll a little down and you will see that a Ted Williams has a blog. So, I guess it isn't the baseball player.

Although the baseball player was a fisherman and in the fishing hall of fame, I think the opinionated writer is a different guy, as he appears to be alive and kicking (writing, anyway).
Shawnny3November 3rd, 2007, 8:51 am
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
Your post, Lam, got me to do some looking. You're right and I'm wrong - the article I was reading WAS written by the guy for Fly Rod and Reel, NOT the baseball player. Don't I feel stupid. My apologies to the ballplayer and the writer for confusing the two. I hope people find this thread interesting and informative in spite of my comments, or at least have a good laugh at my expense.

Thanks, Lam, for the correction,
Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
FalsiflyNovember 3rd, 2007, 9:08 am
Hayward, WI.

Posts: 660
Will the real Ted Williams please stand up.
When asked what I just caught that monster on I showed him. He put on his magnifiers and said, "I can't believe they can see that."
CaseyPNovember 3rd, 2007, 9:34 am
Arlington, VA/ Mercersburg, PA

Posts: 653
oops. my resolution to close down the computer before sunset will be implemented immediately! sorry to cause confusion. thanks for doing the legwork, Shawn.
"You can observe a lot by watching." Yogi Berra
GeneNovember 3rd, 2007, 10:09 am
Posts: 107Gentlemen:

No Ted Williams the baseball player is not the same as Ted Williams the writer. I let it slide because I thought someone was making a joke. Ted Williams the baseball player was a great fisherman and probably one of the best fly fisherman ever. The legendary Charlie Fox met Ted in Canada salmon fishing. They had a cabin not too far from each other. Charlie said that Ted could swear with the best of him but he was a nice guy and very knowledgeable. Ted fished everywhere and for everything. He also hunted. He was a true outdoorsman. Cantankerous...yes but so what...a very colorful and probably the greatest hitter of all time.

Ted Williams--- the fishing writer. Well I know nothing about his skill as fisherman or a fly fisherman. I believe some of his articles are good but like the one on fish piscicides he sometimes needs to check his facts.

tight lines and whiskey for everyone because it's getting cold

Shawnny3November 14th, 2007, 5:47 pm
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
At the risk of bringing new attention to this embarrassing thread, I was wondering if anyone knows anything about Ted Williams the Living Flyfishing Writer. Gene suggested at one point that he needed to get a degree, and I thought that to be fair his qualifications should be made known. I did some searching around and couldn't find anything (too much stuff about the Dead Baseball Player pops up). Does anyone know anything about the guy other than that he serves as some kind of environmental editor of Fly Rod and Reel?

Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
FalsiflyNovember 15th, 2007, 1:42 pm
Hayward, WI.

Posts: 660
I donít know if this will be of much help but itís a good reference to his many writings.
When asked what I just caught that monster on I showed him. He put on his magnifiers and said, "I can't believe they can see that."
CaseyPDecember 10th, 2007, 6:41 pm
Arlington, VA/ Mercersburg, PA

Posts: 653
here is a very interesting article that shows why some people think piscicides are a good idea:
"You can observe a lot by watching." Yogi Berra
TroutHookerJuly 4th, 2009, 6:32 pm

Posts: 3
Since so many political or sociological discussions are usually student body left or student body right, I will weigh in on the Ted Williams side of the teeter-totter but with qualification. There are those who attack the use of piscicides who are professional fear mongerers uhhhh I mean environmentalists. Few have taken up the cause for piscicides and we could lose a valuable tool if they become seriously restricted.

Most certainly all of the unintended consequences should be anticipated and a baseline assessment is invaluable, but do not throw the baby out with the bath water. As scientists we most commonly learn via errors, not successes! What progress would we ever gain if we are continually condemned for past mistakes? Learn and move forward.

Solutions are rarely perfect, but rotenone and AM are the tools we have at the moment and we need to preserve their judicious use.
accepts beer for trout fishing tips
but not for trout habitat
CrikChickAugust 24th, 2009, 12:50 pm

Posts: 1
I must take issue with some of Gene's points. I too am an aquatic scientist with graduate degrees, 20 years experience in fisheries and water quality, have worked on rotenone projects, and have scoured the scientific literature on the subject. The supposed links to Parkinson's disease is a red herring. These concerns reference a study where high levels of rotenone, along with other chemicals, were continually injected into the jugular veins of rats, with concentrations of 1 to 12 mg/kg body weight maintained for up to 2 weeks. (See Betarbet et al. 2000. Chronic systemic pesticide exposure reproduces features of Parkinson's disease. Nature Neuroscience 3:1301-1306). The delivery and dose were radically different than any human or wildlife exposure would be from field application of rotenone. This study simply does not provide a model for potential risks from fish removal projects, which involves concentrations of 1 ppm in water over the course of one day.

I would be interested in Gene's references for studies showing that rotenone is "tough" on waterfowl that ingest the water. I've reviewed many studies investigating risks to wildlife and humans from ingestion, and at concentrations used in fish removal projects, the amounts of water a critter or person would need to ingest to receive a lethal dose are astronomically impossible to meet. Rotenone is a highly reactive molecule, and digestive tracts break it down rapidly.

Gene was correct in pointing out that rotenone is lethal to macroinvertebrates, but is incorrect in asserting that it "wipes everything out." Invertebrates with gills are hard hit, as are larval stages of amphibians. Applying rotenone in the fall, after amphibians have metamorphosed and after most of the season's crop of invertebrate have emerged mitigates the negative affects on these taxa. the ability of macroinvertebrates to recolonize from drift means the effects on macroinvertabrates are short lived. Many other aquatic organisms (clams, snails, worms) are unaffected.

I do agree with Gene's point that rotenone is a tool that should be used carefully.
Jmd123August 24th, 2009, 7:19 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2531
I have to make another comment here due to TroutHooker's take on "environmentalists". I PROUDLY wear this title like a badge of honor, and I am sure as hell not a "professional fear monger". I happen to make my living as a scientist with a B.S. in botany and an M.S. in entomology (trout fishers, pay attention). There are certainly some uninformed envrinmental types who have not done their homework nor have graduate degrees in biology, but don't put ME or any of my colleagues in this category. In fact, when I hear someone slamming the environmental movement as being scaremongers, it causes ME to assume that the speaker is a card-carrying member of the GOP who gets their information from REAL fearmongers like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, two of the most uninformed idiots ever to walk Planet Earth. I am going to assume that TroutHooker is not one of their kind, unless he proves me wrong.

Piscicides are tools to be used carefully and with reason, like any other tool. After all, you can hurt yourself pretty bad with a hammer, saw, or even a screwdriver if you are careless. I am personally in favor of their use in the restoration of NATIVE trout populations where they belong, even if that means wiping out foreign browns or rainbows. As far as invertebrates are concerned, my own personal experiences are that invertebrate populations are far more resilient than most people give them credit for. Last summer, a huge silt spill occured on the Pigeon River in northern lower Michigan when a dam opened accidentally due to a faulty sensor set off by an electrical storm. Enormous quantities of mud went sliding down the river, and all of the local trout fisherman declared it "killed". Someone even claimed to have found a dead 22" brown in the stream! Well, an old boss of mine (who is still throwing me crumbs of work in my mostly unemployed state) got the call to investigate the situation, and having a graduate degree in entomology, I got the call to help him out. So we collected a whole bunch of samples in a rigorous, scientific manner (transects with Surber Samplers, timed for 60 seconds, from a variety of substrate types, etc.) from both below and above the dam and its reservoir. Low and behold, we found MANY more insects BELOW the dam than above, and a substantial diversity to boot. We sent the samples out for ID since we didn't have the proper equipment (i.e., a good dissecting microscope), and the results confirmed our anecdotal observations - MORE inverts where the silt spill had occured than above the dam & reservoir. In fact, there appeared to be substantial erosion going on within the stream channel above the dam - sand was actively burying gravel and cobble beds, and it was likely that the dam & reservoir were TRAPPING this sand and preventing further movement downstream. The gravel in the reach just below the dam, where the silt had hit first, was pretty much clean and was LOADED with inverts of numerous kinds, including species intolerant of pollution like riffle beetle larvae (family Elmidae). On top of this, we fished the reservoir just above the dam, and I hooked and (sadly) lost a big fat brown in the 20-22" range on a streamer (one of my KBFs in brown and copper, GREAT sculpin imitation). Given this, our conclusion was that the 22" dead brown found downstream had been blown out of the reservoir ABOVE the dam and probably got its head slammed against a rock or something. And, we concluded this horrible silt spill had NOT had a significant impact on the invertebrate population, even in the short term.

With regards to rotenone, one of the most widely used piscicides, it is a natural product from the Derris plant which has been used to kill fish FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION for centuries, so I think that if it is bad for humans and other higher vertebrates, we would have found out by now.

I am a scientist because I believe in reason, not emotional hyperbole.

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
Pdq5ohSeptember 1st, 2009, 9:37 am

Posts: 10
Quote Gene: "Many studies have shown that the native strains of fish which were reintroduced didn't do that well and that non native species returned. Furthermore, some statistical analysis show that the slight gains in the population of the native species after the stream cleansing were actually due to new angler regulations!"

This is, IMO, the most telling statement in this thread.

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