Thursday, January 13, 2011


After reading a recent post by the Rusty Spinner I got to thinking.  There is a big difference between the West Coast and the East Coast not just in how we fish but in what makes up the fish populations. I am not going to get into the classic Left Coast/Right Coast steelhead fisticuffs kind of nonsense that goes on all the time. I will sum up my feelings on that quickly- native on the west coast, generally much bigger there too but the Great Lakes probably has better numbers. 

Charlie with a nice bull during early steelheading
Steelhead are only one species that occurs in the PNW, but are a great example of the diversity out there. It is primarily salmonid based. A much greater natural diversity of salmon and trout along the West Coast. From the 5 Pacific salmon on this side of the ocean, to the cutthroats, rainbow/steelhead clan, throw in a couple of char (Dolly Varden and bull trout), and a number of whitefish. Looking at this list of Freshwater Fishes of Washington State I came up with a number of 52 naturally occurring species. I lumped subspecies together so maybe you could change that number to 55 or 56. Mostly salmonids and sculpins (which I have to admit are really awesome fish!). Look at the habitat you have out there. The Rocky Mountains are a relatively new mountain range geologically speaking. They are still growing ever so slightly. The habitat is new, mostly big water, fast moving, high gradient. Perfect habitat for those critters.

Home sweet home- for me and 74 native fishes!
Now lets take a look at the Champlain Valley. Huge diversity of habitats. It has been around in this form for quite a while now. Well, at least the Lake Champlain landform. Lake Champlain is technically a pretty young body of water at about 10,000 years old. In a lot of ways it is a baby. But that baby hold some fish!  We have about 74 species of native fishes swimming in the basin. Everything from salmon and trout to bowfin and gar. A lot of different species in a much smaller area that the entire state of Washington.The Champlain Watershed is 8234 square miles compared to 71303 square miles for Washington. That is a much greater species richness in a smaller area. 

I have to say that for me personally, this is truly awesome!  I can have the best of everything I love to fish for. I can have great stream trout fishing if I want it (and I occasionally do) but I can also chase pike, salmon, bowfin, gar, musky, pickerel, perch, sunfish, bass, suckers, and freshwater drum all in their natural habitat without having to drive more than 60 miles. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy fishing trout and salmon, but if that was the primary game in town I would get bored. I like big predatory fish. Yes, there are some pike and tiger muskies in Washington, but they are introductions. And I bet they don't get as big as they do around here. 

In my mind there is no comparison between the two locations. I would never be able to live on the West Coast because of the fish. I will definitely visit sometime to do some fishing and visit some very good friends that live there. I am sure I will have fun, but like the old saying goes- great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there!


  1. Well said Drew. There's too many interesting & challenging species out there to be a fish snob.