There has never been a dispute as to the beauty of Blue River and what a beautiful outdoor experience she can offer. However, in the last three months, this beautiful river became much richer in what she has to offer.
For a number of years or seasons of the bows, there were discussions about how nice it would be to have a designated part of the river classified as catch and release for those of us who align with that discipline.
The most enthusiastic and determined voice in this discussion was Donny Carter of Stratford, Oklahoma. Donny never was loud or arrogant about it...he just simply brought it up season after season. Donny's enthusiasm bled over to more and more of us in the order of the fly fisher and so it was decided to simply ask if such an area could be created.
It was decided to contact Paul Mauch, Chief of the Southeast Fisheries Division with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife. Paul was asked for an audience with a contingency of the Blue River Fly Fishers and Paul agreed. Late in the 2006 season Paul met the group near the banks of Blue River for the discussion. Now...Paul is pretty straight talking and in short order he informed the group of our options, and in this case, it was a single option. Paul told us of a half- mile of water located at the extreme northern end of the north wilderness area above the Highway 7 bridge. This was a stretch of water owned and managed by the wildlife department but had never been stocked for lack of a road. Paul was also quick to inform us that a road would have to be constructed and asked for help in paying that cost. Then, Paul said, "Put your proposal in writing and forward it to the Wildlife Department."
For that task, writing the proposal, Kevin Harris of Ada, Oklahoma was either drafted or volunteered...I really don't remember now but it doesn't matter. I will be the first to say that Kevin did a superb bang-up job in writing that proposal. Kevin sent it to the department and then kept an open dialogue or communique' with Paul. Word came that the Wildlife Department accepted the proposal and public hearings were held with little or no opposition. Then on December 28th, 2007 Kevin received a message that the new Catch & Release Delayed Harvest Area had been stocked with 1100 Rainbows weighing 1300 pounds. It was a reality.
So...has the catch and release section been a success?
Michael Mercurio is an avid fly-fisher from Arlington, Texas that tries to travel to Blue River almost on a weekly basis. Michael likes the catch and release area even though it requires him to make a rather long hike or ride his mountain bike after making a grueling drive from Arlington. Michael shares that he likes to strip buggers, "the tug on a bugger is exciting" and he finds the water in this new addition to be diverse enough to employ several different disciplines of fly-fishing. And then...there is the solitude.
The catch and release area will be strictly enforced from November 1st to the last day of February each year. Then, on March 1st of each year the area will be opened for harvest which, it should be and is a good resource management tool. The bows do need to be harvested instead of letting them waste to rising water temperatures.
Personally, I think the greatest thing about the catch and release area is that it's taken an already great river and made it greater.
When Robin Rhyne of McKinney, Texas decided that fly-fishers need a forum and created the Blue River Fly Fishers group in 2002 he created an explosion in the number of fly-fishers on Blue River. That...coupled with an increase of trout fishing with all disciplines has resulted in a more crowded river at times. The catch and release area simply gives us another avenue, more room, and more solitude to do what we love to do.
It's amazing to me what can be accomplished when people come together. Looking back at the whole thing now, when we were talking about the possibility, all we ever had to do was ask. This area became a reality by asking and then supporting with our back pocket dollars like fly-fisher Ed Safely and many others did.
Personally, I plan on continuing to support the catch and release area through personal donations. Yep, I'm still collecting, stomping, transporting aluminum cans with the Recyling For Rainbows program. It takes a lot of darn cans but a lot of darn cans are kept out of a landfill somewhere.
(Photo courtesty of Michael Mercurio)