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Jim Casada
01-13-2011, 08:32 PM
I sort of promised, a week or so ago, to let those of you who might be interested in my thoughts on otters know when my piece on them appeared in The Tuck Reader (www.tuckreader.com (http://www.tuckreader.com)). It is in today's issue of this on-line publication.

By sheer serendipity, today's mail brought correspondence from an old-time N. C. fisherman and rod builder, Jim Mills, who is if anything more concerned about the potential impact of otters on trout in the Park than I am (which is saying a lot!). Suffice it to say Jim has done a lot of research and what he has found about the lifespan of otters, their reproductive capacities, and how many fish they can consume is frightening indeed in a situation (the Park) where they have no natural enemies.

His missive also brought a gift which moved me deeply. :smile: It was a selection of six dry flies, all tied by the late Allene Hall. If you don't know who she was, she was the wife of Fred Hall, famed for patterns such as the Adams Variant and the Thunderhead. Allene was actually a better tyer. All six patterns feature hair wings--two Royal Wulffs, two Thunderheads, and two examples of a pattern I had not previously seen. It is, in essence, an Adams Variant with hair wings.

This visible link to a woman and a fly-tying tradition from a world we have lost was of great importance to me, since I knew both of the Halls as a boy and young man and love the regional history of fly fishing. Rest assured the flies will take a place of pride in a cabinet right alongside one Lee Wulff tied for me.

Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

silvercreek
01-13-2011, 08:59 PM
That's special. I know from past post that you shun from posting pictures, but have commented that your brother does it. Sure would be nice to have pictures of those flies posted for all of us to see. Regards, Silvercrek

rivergal
01-14-2011, 08:59 AM
Jim, interesting otter information. Otters are cute at the zoo, not so cute
in the GSMNP .Also your Christmas pocket knife story brought tears to my eyes.

Jim Casada
01-14-2011, 10:12 AM
Silvercreek--I'm pretty much clueless when it comes to technology of any kind (Paula has had to help me out a couple of times just so I could navigate my way through this forum--I do much better in the mountains than in front of a screen). My borther lives two states away, in Knoxville, so that's not a ready answer. I actually have state of the art camera equipment and know how to use it--to a point. That point comes in the transfer of stuff once I've saved the images.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

silvercreek
01-14-2011, 10:25 AM
I can relate. I had a terrible time learning how to do it and still approach posting a photo with apprehension. I site I frequent upgraded and I was the class idiot when it came to posting a photo. Took a lot of coaching from other forum members before I got the hang of it. I've recently got an itch to learn more about the traditional Smoky Mountain flies, and have found differences in the same pattern. Seeing one tied by the Halls would be special but I appreciate your situation and your reply. Silvercreek

Jim Casada
01-14-2011, 10:26 AM
Rivergal--Thanks for your kind comments about the pocket knife story. Obviously it's something of great sentimental importance to me.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

rivergal
01-14-2011, 10:53 AM
My father-in-law's boyhood was tough times. A pocket knife and a box of 22 shells were hard to come by. After he passed away we found a house full
of pocket knives and 22 shells.

Crockett
01-14-2011, 04:49 PM
Jim as one who disagreed with you in the past on the otter issue I must apologize. I still haven't seen any otters in the park but I tend to stay away from the lower elevation slower pool type areas like down near the Deep Creek campground or Abrams Creek. I realize though the falicy in that point of view in that others love those areas and I might too someday. I am wondering do you think the otters will travel up to the steep tumbling streams such as Thunderhead Prong eventually or is the otter habitat better suited for lower slower type streams which aren't as cold and are more pond like? Will they migrate above falls deep into the back country?

Jim Casada
01-14-2011, 05:24 PM
Adam--The otters face no real barriers in the Park, and they will go where necessary to obtrain food. It is easier for them at lower elevations, because that translates to bigger pools and slower water, but they have already been observed at quite high elevations in some areas of the Smokies. In fact, to jump outside the Park for a moment, multiple sources in Graham County tell me that Big Santeetlah is a pale shadow of what it once was, with otter incursions way into the headwaters. Also, I just today had a comment from someone who had seen one all the way up in speck territory on Big Snowbird.
Jim Mills, an oldt-time fisherman and rod maker who lives in Swain County and who has fished the Park as long as I have, sent me some truly frightening stats yesterday on the longevity of otters, their breeding capacity, the amount of food they consume, etc. One key consideration in this regard is that standard answers in their defense often hold that they eat only crayfish. Yet that food source isn't available in the cold weather months for the most part (being burrowed deep in the ground). Another thing to think about is that in some streams at least you almost never see red chorse and hog suckers, two species which were common as pig tracks a few decades back (and which are easy prey). I don't think you'll hear much about this from Park officials, because it is in essence a problem of their making. They forgot the key thing which the Cherokees lived by long before the coming of white men. Namely, balance in nature. Park policies remove the otter's prime natural enemy, man. For that matter, the same is true with bears, and those are the points I'm trying to raise and urge others to consider.
Where fecal matter is likely to hit the fan is when otters start making major incursions into restocked speck water. It may not happen, but I'm mightily afraid it will.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

fcfly
01-14-2011, 05:31 PM
I'm gonna weigh in on this one. I fish a bunch
in the Park's backcountry (mainly for Brookies).
I have seen a lot more Otter (or sign) and probably
fewer Brooks over the past few years.

I cringe whenever I hear someone bragging
about seeing a "cute little otter" while fishing in the Park.
Something you won't see on a trip to Abrams Cr.
are lunker sized (or any size for that matter) Brownies
that disappeared soon after the otter reintroduction.

Brownies are found elsewhere in the Park but anyone
who fished Abrams back in th' day knows it was a helluva
creek and not nearly as good today.

Of greater concern to me is the impact otters
can have on Southern Appalachian Brookies.The
bottom line is otters are about as common as cockroaches
and found pretty much anywhere there is running
water. Brookies are a treasure in both biological
and aesthetic terms.They are a spirited and relatively
rare resource whose habitat is small and dwindling.

At some point I think the park service is going
to have to prioritize what is more important:Brookies
or otters? They have done a pretty good
job on holding down wild hog numbers.
The same could be done with otters but I'm
not sure it would be politically correct and in a
way would be admitting the reintroduction was
not such a great idea. We'll see.

Freddy

whitefeather
01-14-2011, 06:23 PM
Why did the park biologists reintroduce them in the first place? How many times will this kind of thing keep happening over and over? They never seem to learn, you can't put things back they way they were 100 years ago because too much has changed, too many natural factors have been eliminated over time including mans presence as a resident, hunter, habitat change, etc.

As a side note on this subject, I have a mountain lion (cougar) living within a couple of hunderd yards of my property here in the woods of Indiana. It wasn't there ten years ago. But I've seen it and spoke to some power company linemen who were here clearing trees away from the power lines back in November. We were discussing hunting and fishing and I told them about it. They told me they had also seen them from time to time crossing the roads where they had been working. They told me the cougars had been reintroduced to cut down on the coyote population which is totally out of control. I have to bring all my animals inside at night because there are packs of 35 to 40 of them (some interbred with dogs that aren't afraid of man)every night coming across our road next to our property. They have already taken a number of pets off peoples front porches and fenced in yards. They were reintroduced years ago to cut down on the deer population by Indiana DNR who didn't consider their reproductive ability. When it was apparent the coyotes were not cutting down on the deer numbers and that they had made a big mistake, they (DNR) simply started denying they had anything to do with it. I knew that was a fabrication when I shot a coyote a couple of years ago that had a radio collar around its neck, that was identified with a serial number and DNR return information.

I sure hope that the number of fish in the park doesn't suffer from this otter presence. Does anyone have a internet link where I can go to research this more?

I sure would appreciate it. Though I live 6 to 7 hours away from GSMNP, I frequent it several times a year just for the fishing.

Thanks, Jim, for posting this information!

Whitefeather
_________________________________________________
Blue skies, warm gentle winds, and trout filled waters to all!

whitefeather
01-14-2011, 06:54 PM
Okay, now I'm up to speed. I found a couple of things out there including this: http://www.flyfishingsmokymountains.com/journalmplr573.html

Reintroduced in the '80's, otters have been around for a while, especially in Cade's Cove. The ones people are seeing in high country may mean overcrowding is dispersing them to new territory. Who knows, maybe the brookies will benefit from the presence of otters if the otters thin out the rainbows somewhat, though I enjoy rainbows very much.

Maybe its already happened. Brookies seem to have made an outstanding comeback in a relatively short period of time in all areas of the park except a couple of spots that are still closed.

Whitefeather
_________________________________________________
Blue skies, warm gentle winds and trout filled waters to all!

Crockett
01-14-2011, 07:10 PM
I'm gonna weigh in on this one. I fish a bunch
in the Park's backcountry (mainly for Brookies).
I have seen a lot more Otter (or sign) and probably
fewer Brooks over the past few years.

I cringe whenever I hear someone bragging
about seeing a "cute little otter" while fishing in the Park.
Something you won't see on a trip to Abrams Cr.
are lunker sized (or any size for that matter) Brownies
that disappeared soon after the otter reintroduction.

Brownies are found elsewhere in the Park but anyone
who fished Abrams back in th' day knows it was a helluva
creek and not nearly as good today.

Of greater concern to me is the impact otters
can have on Southern Appalachian Brookies.The
bottom line is otters are about as common as cockroaches
and found pretty much anywhere there is running
water. Brookies are a treasure in both biological
and aesthetic terms.They are a spirited and relatively
rare resource whose habitat is small and dwindling.

At some point I think the park service is going
to have to prioritize what is more important:Brookies
or otters? They have done a pretty good
job on holding down wild hog numbers.
The same could be done with otters but I'm
not sure it would be politically correct and in a
way would be admitting the reintroduction was
not such a great idea. We'll see.

Freddy

Freddy I think you are right about the park service having to be faced with choosing between the specks and otters. Unfortunately once they make public that they will be reducing the otter population the public opinion will be on the side of the cute furry little otters and the park service will back down. After all the public never sees a speckled trout but they will see the cute little furry otters though so you can guess which one will be sacrificed by the government bureaucrats.

Jim Casada
01-14-2011, 07:58 PM
Freddie--I'm almost tempted to say--FINALLY--there's someone who hears what I am saying. Your views and experiences are very similar to mine, but they seem largely to be falling on deaf or doubtful ears. You are exactly right on the browns in Abrams. There are possibly other partial explanations, such as drought, but I am perfectly confident otters were a significant factor.

The great irony here is that the Park restocked otters and they've spent hundreds of thousands, probably millions (much of it raised by volunteer efforts such as Troutfest) on bringing back the specks. Seems to me a Park at odds with itself, and the silence in official quarters is telling. Like you say, "we'll see."
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

Jim Casada
01-14-2011, 08:12 PM
Whitefeather--I don't know if you have read my book on fishing in the Park or not, but I include considerable information there on the otter restocking. It began on Abrams Creek well over two decades ago (interesting to note that the beginning point was where browns disappeared) and there were stockings on a number of other streams over the better part of two decades. The Park acknowledges 183 otters being released, but I suspect there were appreciably more.
One scary part of the equation is that otters have a long life expectancy, consume several pounds of food a day because of their exceptional metabolism, and are prolific breeders.
I wouldn't hold out much hope for the "eat the 'bows but not the specks" scenario. They'll eat what is available, are known to kill fish for fun at times (i. e., do not always consume what they kill), and once the bows are gone will turn to what is available. In fact, although this isn't scientific, my careful observation and that of others whom I consider pretty sound amateuir naturalists suggests that this sort of progression has been happening for some time. Red horse and hog suckers are scarce indeed compared to what they once were, and other than knottyheads I catch far, far fewer minnows than I used to. In fact, I can't remember when I last caught what we called silversides or creek minnows. They were once common as pig's tracks.
The Park likely has a protocol for management matters being at cross-purporses, but I'm afraid Adam may be right on who would win in an otters vs. specks showdown. The only hope there would be that fishermen have put tremendous energy and resources into the speck restoration, while I don't know of anything remotely comparable with otters.

Turning to coyotoes, I'm an avid hunter and write a lot about the subject, including quite a bit on predator hunting. Coyotes are a biological nightmare right now, and one which is getting worse. Here in S. C. where I now live recruitment to the deer population is way, way down, and coyotes are the top culprit.

I generally agree with you on humans making more messes than they do good when it comes to management, although I would point out two notable success stories--the comebacks of the white-tailed deer and the wild turkey. On the other hand, look at what reintroduced wolves are doing to elk populations out West. As odious as I consider otters, our otter/trout issue is nothing compared to what is happening to elk (and mule deer and whitetails) in Idaho, Montana, and other states.

Incidentally, I'll be writing about coyotes in the Tuck Reader week after next. My area of coverage for the coming week will be on horses in the Park, and I've got absolutely nothing good to say on that front. I know some of you who read the postings on this forum may be horse lovers or use them for fishing in the Park, but the damage they have done and continue to do cannot, in my view, be justified in any way. As for the damage itself, it is flat-out undeniable. There are trails, lots of them, which are devastated, and any designated horse camp stinks, is nasty, and generally is a turnoff to someone who wants to enjoy a pristine backcountry experience.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

spotlight
01-14-2011, 11:41 PM
Hmm I wonder when the park is going to launch a study to determine weather or not the otters pose a serious threat to the trout population. Because you all know it's the federal government so before anything can be done first we must launch a study.....I'm just wondering how long that will take???

MBB
01-15-2011, 12:11 PM
I am certainly not a fan on otters in the Park, particularly when one of their most natural predators, man, is prevented from harvesting them.

Just curious, it seems to me that the fishing quality in the Park has decreased significantly over the last several years. Jim, I wonder what your thoughts and Mr. Mills thougts are on this topic.

Jim Casada
01-15-2011, 12:56 PM
MBB--Both of us would wholeheartedly agree. Part of that is unquestionably attributable to drought years, but I had noticed an appreciable downturn well before the dry years. Maybe I'm losing my touch, but after 60 years of fishing Park waters I don't think so. There are other factors, unquestionably. More angler pressure, possible impact of acidification, etc., but I strongly suspect, although I have no hard scientific evidence, that otters are at the top of the list.
Interestingly, most (though certainly not all) of the young outfitters and guides I talk to shrug off the whole matter of otters, whereas old-timers without exception are quite worried. Some of this can be explained by the undoubted tendency of humans to harken back to the "good old days" as they age, and those of us who are a bit long in the tooth and sparse in the hackle also have the advantage of a wider perspective in terms of years of fishing.
I personally think the next decade, and quite possibly the next five years, will tell us a great deal. I would love to hear Steve Moore, Matt Kulp, or whoever replaces Kim Delozier address this in detail. I'll guarantee there's been behind-the-scenes conversations and no small degree of concern, but if there's been anything for public consumption I've missed it.

Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

P. S. You go straight to the heart of the issue when you note that the only natural predator of otters, man, can't deal with them in the Park. That immediately creates a highly artificial situation.

calebB
01-16-2011, 03:25 PM
It seems as though the wildlife management of the park has not had the greatest foresight. The otters are not the first "unsuccessful" reintroduction into the park. The red wolf project comes to mind.

It seems to me that they should focus on managing current populations already in the park (ie. black bears and hogs) and stabilizing endangered and sensitive populations, rather than reintroducing species that may throw the CURRENT ecosystem out of balance.

Of course, different people have different views and see different priorities. It could be pointed out to us fishermen that trout aren't native to the smokies. But then what is "native"? How long were otters in the smokies to begin with?

Caleb

highpockets
01-18-2011, 04:28 PM
Weird.

I live in Souther Middle Tennessee and I and a hunting buddy saw an Otter on our land adjacent to the Elk River the other day. FIrst and only one we've ever seen.

He was well over 100 yards from the river up a small creek. Large animal, larger than one might think until you get up close.

JohnH0802
01-18-2011, 05:46 PM
Caleb,
Specks are native to the smokies.

John

Knik
01-18-2011, 08:50 PM
I know of an old trapper who's family tree stems from Cades Cove, one of them ran the "general store" in Townsend. This old trapper has alot of the old "logs/sales receipts" from back in the days of trading furs for goods, I can't remember how far back they date, but I'm sure back to the 1800's. He told me that not one of them mentioned anything about otters but every year there was at least one "painter" traded in, "painter" being the old mountain slang for panther.

I know some of the ones stocked in the 80's came out of Louisiana, knew one of the guys that helped trap them. They used #11 double longsprings to do this, the same trap as most people think cut animals feet off.... lol Another myth.

Otters are circuit travelers just like mink, except longer circuits. It might take them 2 weeks or 1 month to return to an area, in this manner they don't deplete the food source. They often travel in "packs" of 2 or more and eat what is available, such as fish, crayfish, muskrats, small beaver, birds, etc..... When the population is not kept in check, the otters will have over lapping circuits..... thus more predation.

When I was a kid, my grandfather brought me up on trout fishing over in Pittman Center and Greenbriar. You couldn't hardly fish for the shiners and horny heads, and "hog suckers" were in every pool. Three years ago I ran a trapline for a week on that stretch of river in hopes of some mink and maybe an otter. All I can say is "WOW", darn river seemed void of any fish what so ever, think I saw a few shiners but no big schools like back when I was a kid. Otter sign was everywhere and alot of over lapping otters for sure.

Only answer I have for you guys is this..... If you can get a trapper permission on a section of river or side stream, within say 5 miles of the park, then do it. They will have to leave there traps in for a month or so, but the otters will come back through, just because the otter are in the park, doesn't mean they stay there. And no, the otter population will not be devastated, only a percentage will be caught. But they, like all wildlife, need to be managed. A healthy population does not mean an overpopulation.

Just a side note.......
Otters will travel several miles over dry land and high ridges in order to reach another tributary or body of water. I have a friend who has a pack of six on his deer cam over 1 mile from water, and the camera was in a saddle on a high ridge line. Sure caught him by surprise..... lol

Just my 2 cents......... please excuse my spelling. :redface:

Shannon

Jim Casada
01-19-2011, 07:44 AM
Shannon--Excellent information, and your observations of the paucity of minnows and suckers match mine. Your point aobut trapping outside (but near) the Park is a good one. Of course there are some areas of the Park where even with the otters making long circuits this won't help all that much--the streams which flow into Fontana's north shore come immediately to mind, because for some of them the nearest land where one could trap is many, many miles away.
A bigger problem, in all likelihood, is that trapping in today's world seems to be headed the way of the dodo.
I have no problem with a healthy population of otters, but as you say, they need to be managed. That isn't and won't happen in the Park, because they in effect have free rein.
Also, as you note, they travel in groups (usually a pair and sometimes their offspring) and they can cover a lot of ground and eat a lot of fish.
Interesting information, and I did not know about the origin of some of the stocked otters.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

calebB
01-19-2011, 12:41 PM
John,

I was going for the more technical definition... browns and bows are true trout. Specks, aka brook trout are considered char.

Caleb

whitefeather
01-19-2011, 07:17 PM
Caleb,

Actually, rainbows are in the salmon family (Salmo gairdneri), and are anadromous (salt or fresh water species): called steelhead when they migrate to the ocean. You're correct, browns are true trout.

Whitefeather

__________________________________________________ _
Blue skies, warm gentle winds, and trout filled waters to all!

whitefeather
01-19-2011, 07:26 PM
Jim,

What is the name of your book on fishing in the park? I'm interested in reading it!

The red wolves in the park may not have remained there. Some were killed by automobiles. I read in a couple of NC newspapers where a couple of them were killed by "poachers" last year in different locations. Do red wolves range over areas of NC outside the park and surrounding states?

Whitefeather

__________________________________________________ _
Blue skies, warm gentle winds, and trout filled waters to all!

whitefeather
01-19-2011, 08:40 PM
Jim,

Very informative article of yours in the Tuck Reader on the otter problem in the park and surrounding areas. Looking forward to your coming article on coyotes!


Whitefeather
_________________________________________________
Blue skies, warm gentle winds, and trout filled waters to all!

Knothead
01-20-2011, 10:48 AM
Interesting thread here. My wife and I spent our last vacation in Townsend about 4 years ago. I was fishing behind what is now the KOA Townsend. I saw something downstream from me. I was hoping it was Moby Trout but turned out to be an otter. He crawled up in the rocks below a couple of cabins on the ridge behind the campground. A female came out and joined him on the rock ledge. Two youngsters came to the entrance of a hole in the rocks but never came out. We watched them for about 15 minutes before they went into the den. This was just about dark.

Jim Casada
01-20-2011, 10:54 AM
Whitefeather--The book is Fly Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park: An Insider's Guide to a Pursuit of Passion. It is available both through my web site (www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)) and from Little River Outfitters.

As for the red wolves, there are lots of questions as to whether they were ever truly indigenous and ever more questions as to whether those which were stocked were true red wolves and not a coyote/wolf cross. Whatever the case, they did not "take holt" in the Park and they aren't found outside the Park in the Smokies.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

Jim Casada
01-20-2011, 10:57 AM
John--That's a fairly typical sighting. Otters travel in family groups for the most part, and you can rest assured that those you saw were enjoying trout on the menu on a fairly regular basis.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

fishermen00
01-20-2011, 09:17 PM
Whitefeather--The book is Fly Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park: An Insider's Guide to a Pursuit of Passion. It is available both through my web site (www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)) and from Little River Outfitters.

As for the red wolves, there are lots of questions as to whether they were ever truly indigenous and ever more questions as to whether those which were stocked were true red wolves and not a coyote/wolf cross. Whatever the case, they did not "take holt" in the Park and they aren't found outside the Park in the Smokies.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

Jim,
Are there any red wolves still in existence in the park?
Thanks,
Drew
ps. I love to hear all of your stories regarding the park.

Jim Casada
01-20-2011, 10:07 PM
Drew--No. The whole red wolf program, as best I can ascertain, turned out to be a fiasco (or boondoggle, or screw-up, or some other unacceptable descriptors when it comes to usage here or for that matter pretty much anywhere).
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

tbg
01-20-2011, 10:30 PM
Otters are also a problem in the Tellico area. They had to place screens over the runs at the old hatchery to keep them out.

whitefeather
01-21-2011, 04:44 PM
Jim,

I know this is a long shot but you've mentioned your visits to Bradley Fork trail head in another post and I was just wondering. Have you ever met that old guy that used to live up on that high ridge overlooking the Smokemont valley? I met him a couple of years ago coming down the main trail to the campground. He was heading out as I was heading in. He was all dressed in camo, waders, and carrying a fly rod. Tall gentlemean, maybe 6 foot 3. He told me about his boyhood days way back before the park was even there and how he used to catch big rainbow trout on the Bradley Fork. He looked to be about a hundred years old, but still had a gate when walking that shamed me. He told me a very interesting story which I cooberated with one of the park officials (unbeknownst to him) at the Luftee Visitors center. Do you know who I am talking about? He gave me his name but for the life of me I can't remember it.

Whitefeather
_________________________________________________
Blue skies, warm gentle winds, and trout filled waters to all!

Jim Casada
01-21-2011, 08:29 PM
Whitefeather--Nope, I'm afraid you've got me on that one. However, I have no doubt whatsoever about the accuracy of him catc hing big 'bows in Bradley Fork. It was a trophy stream for a time in the late 1950s (and maybe beyond) and you had to catch a fish 16 inches or more to keep it. There were trout that big, in goodly numbers, in the stream.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

whitefeather
01-21-2011, 10:29 PM
Jim,

What the old guy told me was this. I said howdy to him politely and asked how he was doing, did he catch any fish, etc. the usual stuff one fisherman stranger says to another. He said, "Son, I'm afraid the river from here (about 1 1/2 miles from the trail head) on down to the campground is pretty much dead, no fish." I told him I hadn't any luck and really hadn't even seen any fish spook as I waded. "What happened?"

He then told me about some poison corn bait stations that had been put out on the ridge side (I believe) for wild hogs. Rains came, washed the poison into the water and killed off the fish. Then he told me who he was and his history. He also said that he had found some dead deer, and squirrels on the ridge side. He spoke in a very disgusted tone when he described in no uncertain terms what he thought about the park biologists responsible for that program. I stated that I couldn't believe they would think that somehow only the wild hogs would eat the corn. Didn't they know other animals including deer might get into it also. He just shook his head and said no as he turned and walked down the trail toward the campground. I wasn't sure whether or not I believed the old guy, but I sure hadn't seen any fish in that part of the Bradley Fork, which was miles down to the campground. After lunch I went back up and waded down the river deliberately trying to spook fish out of any hiding places. None. Then I noticed I hadn't seen any other wildlife in that part of the valley either. No squirrels, no birds, no nothing. No bird sounds, no scurrying about of chipmunks, etc.

Later, the next day, I was at the Luftee visitor's center and I saw a park official in uniform so I went up to him and began a subtle inquiry. He let it slip that there had been an inadvertent fish kill, but when he realized he had said it, he clammed up and got the hek away from me as fast as he could. So I was just wondering whether anyone else on this forum has heard anything about poison bait stations being used to eradicate some of the wild hogs and if so, where. I don't know what they looked like, but I guess they'd be fairly obvious if stumbled upon accidentally by a hiker, but then again, not on a trail. They'd have to be near someplace the hogs root, but humans don't go, I suppose. Anyone out there ever heard of this happening?

Whitefeather
_________________________________________________
Blue skies, warm gentle winds, and trout filled waters to all!:smile:

Crockett
01-22-2011, 10:20 AM
I have never heard of the park using poison corn on hogs. Seems like that would kill more bears than hogs although maybe that is what they want to do thin out the bears too. I am quite certain no bear would pass that up. When did this happen? I fished Bradley right at the campground last summer and got a couple there.

Jim Casada
01-22-2011, 01:23 PM
Whitefeather and Adam--I have no concrete, first-hand evidence of the use of poison bait to kill hogs, but by the same token I'm almost certain it has happened (multiple times). You won't get Park folks to talk about it, but I'm convinced it happened because I've gotten credible reports from too many people I know and trust.

Another time when they used poison was in the Abrams Creek drainage (decades ago) to get rid of "trash" fish or for some such reason. It was a huge fiasco, and in this case it is readily documented.

There are far too many highly questionable things going on in the Park. I've already written about the way they are handling bear problems. How many of you knew that they have hired guys (contract outsiders) with night vision equipment after hogs?

I actually have no problem with them eradicating hogs, but I do question keeping it so highly secretive, and this poisoing situation is a prime example of not thinking something through. Any idiot should have known that squirrels, deer, boomers (mountain squirrels--which are on the threatened list), wild turkeys, and other animals would eat the poisoned corn and that there was the potential for seepage into streams. Incidentally, any time any of you want to delve into something the Park is doing which troubles you, there are two key steps.

1. Inquire as to the Park's protocols for dealing with that particular issue.

2. If you get a runaround or the protocols are not forthcoming, file a Freedom of Information Act request.

There are loopholes in the latter, but they mainly concern personnel issues or something such as an ongoing investigation. Otherwise, if there seems to be hesitation or obduracy, something is rotten in Denmark. Incidentally, the GSMNP has been, historically, much better in terms of responding than many agencies.

Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

whitefeather
01-22-2011, 02:39 PM
Guys,

I met the old man in the fall of 2008. Apparently the poisoning took place some months before then in late spring or summer, after April. I was there in April for two weeks of the same year and all was well in the Bradley Fork at that time. At least I caught and saw fish all the way up to Chasteen Creek.

I met the old man in the fall of 2008. Apparently the poisoning took place some months before then in late spring or summer, after April. I was there in April for two weeks of the same year and all was well in the Bradley Fork at that time. At least I caught and saw fish all the way up to Chasteen Creek in April. In the fall, there were still nice rainbows in the pool at the old bridge further up, but nothing from Chasteen down.

I'm not saying the park was responsible, the old man indicated that. And seeing as how ill feelings still exist between the displaced residents of the land prior to the park and park officialdom, maybe the old man was simply blaming the park people. Maybe not. Maybe it was done without legal sanction by someone else.

I heard about the contract hog hunters from persons who had hiked the Appalachian Trail. One of them came into their backcountry shelter at nightfall asking if he could hold up there during the night because some bad weather was moving in. He was definitely armed with at least a high power rifle with a very big scope on it, which could have been starlight night vision. He startled them to say the least. They didn't expect to see an armed individual up in the high country.

A year before that in 2007, my wife and I were talking to some folks along the walkway from the parking lot of Clingman's Dome up to the observation deck. A park vehicle suddenly rushed in and pulled up letting out another individual, not in uniform, who had a scoped rifle, looked like a .243 or maybe a .270. I didn't get that good of look at it. He rushed off down the trail post haste. I was told that some hikers had had a run in with wild hogs about a half a mile to the south. I stayed put, thinking I might hear some gunshots within the next hour. I didn't hear any and after a couple of hours, we left.

I don't have a problem with contract hunters in the park per se. I even made some inquiries as to the qualifications a person needed to get involved in that effort. My problem is the secretive way in which these things are sometimes handled, as in the above mentioned case. The women were very frighten and very suspicious of the explanation. This kind of situation doesn't bode well with the perception the non-hunting public has with folks who are involved in hunting sports. But then again wide spread advertising of the fact that contract hunters are being employed might bring the "anti's" out of the woodwork as well. It has in other areas of the country.

Guys, thanks for your input! I'm trying to sort some things out with an open mind and the experiences and knowledge of others on this forum.

Whitefeather
__________________________________________________
Blue skies, warm gentle winds, and trout filled waters to all!:smile:

FishNHunt
01-23-2011, 06:55 AM
I may be off on my numbers but, I believe an otter can and often does eat 1/2 it's body weight a day? Maybe it's 1/4. Either way, there are very few animals in the wild that have the energy to "play" and I do know that they do infact play. The few animals that have the time for this activity are expert hunters. They have no trouble catching food. Back when I trapped I was under the impression that otters only ate suckers, crawdads, and basically trash fish. A sporting fish was just to fast for an otter. Well, my friends, I can't remember the times I came to a log only to find a nice 1-3# smallmouth head setting on it. This was in the Little River I might add. I've counted as many as 18 different otters in Chilhowee Lake in one day. That's alot of otters making a living in a lake that is on average around 20 foot deep. That should tell you that if they can catch enough fish in big open water that a 5-15 foot stream should be a breeze. The problem with the protection of animals in the park is that sometimes they are over protected. Once an otter reaches adult hood it really has no natural predator other than man. And for otters to suffer from mass starvation and or health issues to bring numbers down to a natural level the rivers and streams in the park would be devoyed of all living creature. "Back in the day" the natives killed them. Eagles flew threw the trees. "Painters" and red wolves prowled the banks of the rivers keeping all these other critters in check. Then trappers took a major toll on them and they reintroduced a larger subspecies of otters into the park. Just like they have done with the "grey" wolves in ID, MT, and Wisconsin. Canadian wolves are much bigger than the wolves that died out in those states years ago. The park system is a WONDERFUL intity when the eco system is in check but, when it's not there are hundreds of 1000s of dollars and hundreds of hours of man power required to do what nature USED to do naturally. So introducing an apex predator into an eco system that doesn't have a solution to keep that predator population in check there is a huge embalance going to take place. It would have probably been inevitable that the otters would have finally reached these head waters with the state stocking them in the lower reaches of the Little River.

silvercreek
01-23-2011, 10:02 AM
Here's a link to more than you ever wanted to know about otters. Daily food intake is around 15% of body weight or about a few pounds. They prey most on bottom dwelling fish that prefer to hold still as danger approaches unlike trout that tend to bolt at the first sign of danger. Note that trout become more susceptible during spawning. Personally I have seen otters in the Stones River in mid Tennessee eating bass and stocked trout.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_river_otter

Jim Casada
01-23-2011, 10:23 AM
FishNHunt--Excellent points, and it is pretty obvious you concur with my view on most things otter-related (and otherwise). One correction or addendum--I doubt that the otters in the Little River came from state stockings. The Park service did its own widespread otter stocking. I don't recall off the top of my head whether Little River was one of the streams they stocked, but they released scores of otters on perhaps a dozen watersheds. You are exactly right about otters playing--I've watched it numerous times--and they will, in the right situations, readily kill for the fun of it, not just to eat. They are also an exceptionally efficient predator.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

whitefeather
01-23-2011, 08:23 PM
From Silvercreek's link, under the paragraph heading, Hunting:

"Even such fast-swimming species as trout become lethargic in extremely cold water, with a commensurate increase in their vulnerability to predation. As such, careful consideration of any threatened, endangered, or fish species of special interest is warranted prior to reintroduction of otters to a watershed.":frown:

Whitefeather
_________________________________________________
Blue skies, warm gentle winds, and trout filled waters to all!:smile:

FishNHunt
01-23-2011, 08:34 PM
I don't know how to get the pictures from my phone to the computer but, I have some pictures of baby otters in Chilhowee lake that allowed me to actually touch them. They were at the power house and I whistled to them mimicing the calls that I've heard them do. They just sat there while I pulled the boat right up to them. I began to touch them and they showed no sign of fear so I kept "messing" with them and they would whistle and I would mimic it and then momma showed up. She shot from under my boat and onto the rock in a blink of an eye. She didn't much like her babies making friends with the big guy. I've never got into my boat so fast. On a side note about otters. They will (because I've watched it happen) catch ground squirrels and mice. Another time on Chilhowee I heard an aweful rucus under the rocks along the bank and an otter came out carrying a ground squirrel and another time I watched one slide off the bank with a rat. I've also been told that they will catch and eat beaver kits. I would guess they could seeing how I caught an otter that was just shy of 30# and 54 inches long.


It makes me wonder if the mink population is going down because of the growth and compition of the otters?

I look at the "fact" that otters don't eat alot of trout like this. If you have a river like the upper reaches of the Little River and the majority of the sustainable sized fish for an otter are trout and otters are prolific there then you can bet your last penny they are readily catching plenty of trout. They won't make a home where they are starving todeath.... no animal, fish or bird will. They go where the food is plentiful and living is easiest.

Jim Casada
01-23-2011, 10:06 PM
FishNHunt--They will definitely eat minks and the suggestion from some folks that otters eat only crayfish and maybe the occasional sucker is, as you indicate, ludicrous. They are eating trout in the Park and, I fear, will continue to do so at an accelerating pace as they eliminate easier caught fish such as red horse, hog suckers, and minnows (alll have noticeably decline on the N. C. side in the last decade).
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

whitefeather
01-24-2011, 02:17 PM
The article suggests that trout become the "specialty of the house" in the cold winter months as they would probably be the most abundant concentrated source of food and easier to catch when they school up in the deep pools, especially in years of low water conditions.

With the heavy snows the park has endured this winter and others, other critters such as mice, rats, squirrels, etc. would be somewhat more difficult to find and catch, although I'm sure otters have a keen sense of smell and could do so. But otters are opportunistic feeders and because of their appetites the easiest opportunity would seem to be trout!

The very fact that they are river otters and build their dens on the banks of streams speaks volumes about their dining preferences.

Here's a worrisome note: what other animal could be introduced to thin out the otters if they become recognized as a problem by park officials? Alligators?:eek: Just saying....

Whitefeather
__________________________________________________
Blue skies, warm gentle winds, and trout filled waters to all!:smile: