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  • December 20, 2010

    A Merry Christmas for Two of the Nation's Most Beautiful Rivers

    By Hal Herring

    I’d like to celebrate something here today that has been almost 20 years in the making and that will be enjoyed by future fishermen and anyone who loves rivers and fish, for centuries to come. On December 16, workers completed the removal of Milltown Dam from the confluence of the mighty Blackfoot River (made famous in Norman McClean’s A River Runs Through It) and the even mightier Clark’s Fork of the Columbia, about seven miles upstream from Missoula, Montana.

    The rivers flowed free for the first time since 1908, when mega-entrepreneur and U.S. Senator William A. Clark had the dam built to provide electricity to the sawmills that provided the timbers used in his copper mines. That same year-1908- a monster flood washed toxic wastes and tailings into the Clark Fork from mines as far away as Butte. (see photos of the 1908 flood here) All of these, and all those from the years of mining and floods that followed, eventually ended up piled behind the Milltown Dam.

  • December 7, 2010

    On Threats to an Apex Predator

    By Hal Herring

    It was the winter of 1984, and we were running long lines for grouper and tilefish in the Gulf. 18 miles of gear, a hook every thirty feet or so, anchors clipped every so often to take the alewife baits to the bottom in maybe 600 feet of water.

    Run nine miles, cut the line, attach a buoy, start baiting the leaders on the big cart for the other nine miles of line on the spool. Pulling gear, mid-afternoon on day three or four, the kill boxes half full of grouper, the spool began to slowly reverse. We knew the signs of truly big fish – the groaning of the gear, the singing of the monofilament under tension, the great bubbles of air exploding on the surface when a warsaw grouper was being hauled up from the pitch black world of canyons and cliffs and reefs that yawned below the thin skin of our hull.

    But this was something very different. I remember the first mate, a good friend and a top hand, grabbing the flying gaff and telling me to hold on to the rope that was tied to the huge head of the gaff. A warning bell went off in my head, and I hitched the rope around a cleat on the gunwale instead. The fish, worn down by the miles of line and weights and fish hanging below it, and by the tension of the spool above it, eventually began coming up.