John Weiss: Fish for data, win a prize

WYKOFF — I took a picture of a 12-inch brown trout I caught in the South Branch Root River, mostly to test my new iPhone.

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A picture of this brown trout, caught near Wykoff, was entered in the TroutBlitz web page for Trout Unlimited.

WYKOFF — I took a picture of a 12-inch brown trout I caught in the South Branch Root River, mostly to test my new iPhone.

Little did I know it might help scientists nationally learn more about what kind of trout are where.

Trout Unlimited did a soft rollout of its TroutBlitz system last year, and this year is trying to get as many trout anglers as possible to take a picture of their fish and submit them. Those who submit monthly might win a box of flies.

TU isn't looking only for trophies or unusual fish. "We want anything you can get your hands on," said Chris Hunt, a TU spokesman. "All the data helps."

Anglers are going to fish anyhow. So why not take a photo and submit it?


"There are tons of applications for this data," Hunt said. "Just knowing where these fish are is useful information."

How about a 12-inch brown, a really common fish in the Driftless area? Sure, send it in, he said. So I did.

This is another part of the citizen science that's getting so big, thanks in part to smart phones. But then, the Christmas Bird Count has been going on for more than a century, and the Backyard Bird Count also predates the smart phones.

One of the newest apps is the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' iFish app for anglers to record their catches; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on June 16 is going to teach people how to ID mayflies on the Mississippi River to determine where the flies are hatching by the mega-swarms.

"We can use the data generated for countless conservation efforts aimed at protecting trout, salmon and their watersheds," said TU Senior Scientist Jack Williams. "We can identify waters where native trout persist, waters where it might be possible to reintroduce native trout and large tracts of intact habitat that need to be protected in order to ensure healthy trout and salmon populations into the future."

Williams and his team of TU scientists crafted the plan using a simple-to-navigate iNaturalist interface. The idea, Williams said, was to find ways to boost TU's knowledge and understanding of where and how wild and native trout persisted, and how TU could help protect or restore important trout populations.

The first prizes to be awarded to TroutBlitz anglers include the attractor pro guide assortment that features 72 attractor flies and carries a retail value of $155.39 and the 36-piece dry fly caddis assortment valued at $77.99. The angler who catalogs the most trout observations between Saturday, May 23, and Tuesday, June 30, will win the attractor assortment. The angler who catalogs the highest number of species observations will win the caddis assortment.

Two new assortments will be announced each month through October.

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