You might have noticed. Wyoming has witnessed a surge in guides/outfitters in the last few years, particularly fly fishing guides. This fact comes from a good reason, it’s a fun job! Why do anything else when one can lead adventure seeking tourists and being outside for six to nine months out of the year? Many young men and women see the ‘sexiness’ of this lifestyle on the interwebs and the next thing you know they leave their desk job to sit behind the oars and drink stale coffee from sun up to sun down.
Sounds great, but with the influx of guides comes a question.
What about the effects that outfitters, and the influx of anglers they bring, have on the resource – the fisheries?Advertisement - Story continues below...
We, as guides, have a unique position of seeing the health of the fish in our rivers and the daily pressure affect the fishery firsthand. One can say, guides are the problem, but lets face it… we have been around since the dawn of time and we aren’t going anywhere.
So how do we cater to the guides making a living and to the health of the trout and their ecosystem?
Not Good Under Pressure
As populations increase in surrounding states, fisheries have revealed that more pressure on a fishery equals less quality, no disputing this fact. The fish have beating hearts and are not invincible. Montana, Idaho & Colorado all require guide licensing of some sort, even as the quality of their fisheries often decline. Seeing this happen to our neighbors, the echo of guide licensing is surfacing yet again decades later here in Wyoming.
Late to the game?
You Can Row, but You Can’t Hide
From my own personal experiences I can tell you that all watersheds in Wyoming have rogue, often non-resident guides with a truck and boat whom fail to purchase outfitter insurance, commercial auto insurance, lack CPR/First Aid training and ignore requirements from the managing branch that controls the water accesses ( i.e. – BLM, BOR, FWS, NFS, NPS and Wyoming Stand Lands).
Why abide by the rules and take on the expense if they are not enforced? This is the notion these “guides” possess. Additionally, the Wyoming Game and Fish controls many boat ramps on rivers and does nothing to manage guide traffic. No management provides a great place for rogue guides to make $400/day, not including tip, while legitimate outfitters pay the financial costs of operating a legal business. Cutting into his/her income a bit more than one would think, these costs add up.
As this idea of managing or regulating the fishing guides around the state surfaces once more it’s important for the citizens of Wyoming to be heard, the fish belong to them as well. One approach that is being heavily discussed is to require all guides to become licensed through a separate, non-profit organization – WyFOG (Wyoming Fishing Outfitters and Guides).
What’s Best for Wyoming?
Naturally, Wyoming wants less regulation across the board, it’s in our blood. As a guide for almost 13 years in Wyoming, I have witnessed the quality of the trout and the fisheries decline over the years as crowds become bigger and also younger. Again, our fish are not invincible.
They can only take so much and then it will be up to the Wyoming Game and Fish to implement an even more aggressive stocking program. In effect, creating a hatchery fish dominated watershed. Who does this additional financial burden trickle down to? You, the license purchasing angler.
Is this what we want? Fish that don’t fight as hard, lack the colors of stream bred trout (naturally reproducing) and have mushy white meat? More expensive fishing licenses for ourselves and the next generation of outdoorsman?
Most anglers and guides would agree this is not a good outcome for the future of Wyoming fishing.
In order for a proper and effective management of Wyoming guides, the cumulative efforts of guides, fisherman and the state of Wyoming is needed. The right path is unknown, but the ball is rolling. We all want to keep our fisheries as good as they can be and should reject any lesser quality trout in the Cowboy State.
What is WYFog?
The initial goal of WYFog is to bring awareness to both the State of Wyoming and it’s citizen anglers. From there, WYFog want’s to see something done about the rogue guides and ultimately see the Wyoming Game and Fish manage the overuse of the public access points they manage. The overcrowding of our waters from distant guides and outfitters has become more than a problem to our resources.
If this problem continues to get swept under the rug, the quality of fishing will be the same as the crowded waters of Colorado and Utah. Is this what we want? By no means do we need to regulate guides, but we can surely manage them a little better. If you’d like to get involved or have questions, please get ahold of me on Facebook, by phone or email.
Ryan Hudson guides adventure seeking individuals on snowmobiling trips for Green River & Bridger-Teton Outfitters in Daniel, Wyoming during the winter. He is also the owner and guide for Wyoming Fishing Company. Fly fishing in the warm season and sledding during the winter months, Ryan can tailor your trip from trail-riding to backcountry extreme, all while keeping your safety in mind.