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Bucket Biology

by: David Coulson 5/21/2013

When I saw Ben Swigle’s mention of my previous Bucket Biology “blog” in his blog “Fish Swap: Bass, Pike, and Trout,” I figured I’d add a link to it.  To my surprise, I realized he was referencing my Colorado Coloradoan column of August 12, 2012.  So here’s the original column.

Bucket biology is a euphemism for illegal stocking, an unfortunate activity that occurs way too frequently, not only in Colorado but throughout the country. This act of releasing or stocking a fish into waters outside the guidance or wishes of our water managers, particularly Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), can have major impacts on our fisheries, often negative and costly impacts.

In some instances, it is simply a well-meaning, but misguided (possibly ignorant) individual, releasing an aquarium “pet” into a neighborhood pond, somehow believing that releasing their aquarium fish into the wild is the “right” thing to do.  When in fact the proper course is to either find the fish a proper home or kill the fish.  Releasing aquarium fish into the wild is never, I repeat never the correct thing to do, even if they were taken from the wild.  Aside from being illegal, there are several reasons for this that I’ll cover shortly.

Others may transport fish (or other wildlife) from one location to another because they feel the critters will die if something isn’t done.  While that might be true, the transported animals may die even if moved (best case), and, should they survive the impact of moving them may result in far more problems than had they been allowed to perish.

Then there are others who claim to be well meaning, but I personally view as little more than common criminals.  These are the folks who intentionally stock fish illegally hoping to establish a fishery where one didn’t exist before.  They somehow feel they are better qualified to determine what should be in any given fishery than those we task to manage our waters. 

So what’s the problem with dumping unwanted fish, saving fish from dying, or even bucket biology, other than being illegal?  Illegal should be enough, but if it isn’t, consider the potential impacts that bucket biology can have.

Illegally stocked fish may be carriers of disease or parasites that can have adverse effects on the current populations.  In the case of bucket biologists, there is a chance they may also transport other invasive species, both plant and animal, in the waters that carried the fish.  And should the transplanted fish become established, a new fishery will be developed with no guarantee it will be as good as the existing fishery, even if the transplanted species is considered a game fish. 

This was illustrated with CPW’s 2012 press release concerning Miramonte Reservoir on the Western Slope.  Someone illegally stocked smallmouth bass, which from the survey data had quickly become established.  The problem is the smallmouth threatened the trout fishery on two fronts, as a predator of the sub-catchable trout typically stocked and as a competitor for the existing resources used by trout.  Further, Miramonte drains into water with endangered and threatened native species, posing an additional risk.

As a result, the reservoir was scheduled to be drained and all fish killed, so that a trout fishery free of smallmouth could be reestablished; an expensive operation as the result of one or more misguided individuals.
This is not an isolated case as over the years I’ve seen northern pike, bass, bluegill, crappie, and yellow perch show up in waters across the state, especially on the Western Slope.  While there are a few who would argue this is a good thing, the reality is many good cold water fisheries are being damaged. And the efforts required by CPW to mitigate the damage caused by these unwelcome (by most) new species is an added drain on the agencies already strapped resources.

We need to support wildlife agencies in managing our fisheries through working with them, not against them by creating new issues such as illegal stocking.  Turn in anyone you see engaged in bucket biology as they are nothing more than common criminals in my book.

Blog content © David Coulson
Member comments
lewdog, CO   5/21/2013 1:06:44 PM
There worse than common criminals. A common criminal might steal something. These bucketeers are ruining my fishing that makes them worse.
David Coulson (Flyrodn), CO   5/21/2013 1:10:07 PM
No agruments from me on that one. Speaking of ruining your fishing, need to talk you into fishing with me one day this summer.
lewdog, CO   5/21/2013 1:44:32 PM
You got someplace in mind? I could go for a day of flyng with you. Maybe i can learn how to catch them a bit better on the longrod.
David Coulson (Flyrodn), CO   5/21/2013 1:48:10 PM
Nope, I'll try to shoot you an email next month. Be happy to throw the long rods with you.
panfishin, CO   5/21/2013 2:54:49 PM
x2 lewdog. good article too. i must admit though...i am guilty of releasing a small school of non-native 3" green pumpkin tube jigs and jerkbaits into a couple of different lakes this
FISHRANGLER, CO   5/21/2013 4:23:01 PM
I used to sit on a bucket looking for fish, now that I'm off the bucket I find fish.
FISHRANGLER, CO   5/21/2013 4:25:30 PM
I wrote that, I know I know it doesnt have anything to do with Bucket biologest but I bumped the blog to the top.
takeakidfishing, CO   5/21/2013 6:18:21 PM
I ran into the Bucket man once..I left with the bucket and the fish..The bucket man left with (What the heck just happen look on his a face)..I will leave at that Erik
JKaboom, CO   5/27/2013 9:22:52 PM
Though I don't always agree with the CDOW/ fisheries managers, I have no training and just follow the law as it pertains to fishing and the outdoors.
David Coulson
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