In Kamchatka, Russia they are collecting data on gigantic steelhead. Even though it is illegal – now – to fish them, they are indeed a sight to behold.
The Kamchatka Peninsula is a 780-mile long peninsula in the Russian Far East. It is a wilderness paradise, and is home to some of the largest, most beautiful steelhead you will find anywhere.
Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on how you look at it – steelhead fishing is illegal in the Kamchatka River. That’s because the steelhead are protected. But a few anglers may catch and release some of the fish, for scientific research purposes only.
Dr. Kuzishchin of the Ichthyology Lab at Moscow State University is heading the Kamchatka Steelhead Project, and as he speaks about the study he does so with equal measures of enthusiasm for the science and for the fishing.
“The main collectors of the biological data are anglers,” he says. “I do not distinguish fishing from research, because it’s a part. I’m sure that a good angler is a good scientist.”
Thick bodied, tall shouldered, robust, strong, hard fighters… These are some of the words that Dr. Kuzishchin and the angler data collectors use to describe these big steelhead that return to the river from the ocean.
Alexander “Big Sasha” Andryukhin is the ex-military leader of the fly fishing camp. He’s a man that the anglers have come to respect for his knowledge and devotion to the project. “Best Russian guide I’ve ever worked with,” says angler data collector Justin Miller. He smiles, “He’s just a big teddy bear. He’s got ten words that work really, really well, right!”
“The data that’s been collected in this program over the 20-plus years, kind of represents this body of understanding about steelhead that we’ve never had before,” declares angler date collector Ryan Peterson. “So it’s kind of strange that this obscure little population in Asia has produced some of the most important science on the fish in the north Pacific.”
“These Kamchatka steelhead are kind of the ultimate,” says Peterson. “It’s a pure expression of nature. And so I’m looking for that. I’ll go a long way to find that, and to feel that.”
Dr. Kuzishchin sums it up: “It’s like a glimpse into the past, of the whole world.”
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