Voices from the River: Bob Capron the "Fish Rescuer"

Bob Capron has helped move countless trout from sure death in irrigation canals back to the mainstem of the Shoshone river near Cody, Wyoming. Brett Prettyman/Trout Unlimited

By Dave Sweet

Any angler lucky enough to have caught trout near Cody, Wyoming, may want to send Bob Capron a thank you note.

Capron, who recently stepped down as the Conservation Chair of the East Yellowstone Chapter of Trout Unlimited, has played an important part in efforts to save upwards of 100,000 trout from dying in dry irrigation canals in, and around, the northwest Wyoming town.

Capron was a charter member of the East Yellowstone Chapter when it formed in August of 1987, but his ties to trout conservation started long before his involvement with Trout Unlimited.

Bob Capron with a brown trout rescued from an irrigation canal and on its way back to the Shoshone River. Brett Prettyman/Trout Unlimited

 As a young boy, he and his father took hand nets and buckets to the irrigation ditches near their home outside of Cody to rescue trout that had become entrained in those irrigation ditches. That experience stayed with Bob, and in the mid 1990's he convinced his fellow chapter members to get serious about trout rescue.

TU members and other volunteers began a massive campaign. They bought equipment and became organized. Volunteers have since rescued 3,000 to 7,000 trout each fall under Capron’s supervision. Over 25 years that easily amounts to more than 100,000 fish that ended up back in a river and accessible to anglers rather than dying as small pools of water dried up or froze over the winter.

Volunteers work to net fish trapped in an irrigation canal and move them back to the mainstem Shoshone River near Cody, Wyoming. Trout Unlimited photo.

 Those trout were returned to their natal streams and rivers where generations of anglers have benefited from the efforts. The conservation ethic of future generations has also been forever changed as Bob strived to include young people in the fish rescue operation. Many of those young people are tomorrows agricultural industry leaders who will understand the potential impacts of irrigation water diversion.

East Yellowstone Chapter fish rescue

This video shows the process from netting the fish to being counted by Bob Capron before being transported back to the main river. Trout Unlimited video.

Bob also knew early on that the rescue operation was a band aid fix to a bigger problem - the entrainment of trout in these ditches. Along with others in the chapter, they installed what is believed to be the first self cleaning fish screen in Wyoming in an irrigation ditch keeping trout in the stream. Since then, dozens more have been installed around the state thus keeping trout out of these ditches to begin with.

“You and the volunteer team there in Cody have been instrumental in demonstrating the importance of installing fish friendly screens at the head gates of these systems. That vision has led to many of these screens being installed, and as a result, an even greater number of trout have been saved from entrainment and will be saved in the future,” Trout Unlimited President and CEO Chris Wood wrote in a thank you letter to Capron. “You have served as a great role model and represented everything Trout Unlimited could hope from a volunteer. Trout Unlimited is blessed with volunteers like you, Bob. Your passion for the resources and your commitment to protecting it inspires us all.”

Bob Capron has, and will remain, also involved in other East Yellowstone Chapter volunteer work like trail maintenance. Trout Unlimited photo.

Bob was recognized for his efforts in 2010 as a "Hero of Conservation" by Field and Stream magazine and was a finalist for their national honor. His efforts also resulted in the chapter getting the Silver Trout award a few years later.

As important as the trout rescue efforts have been, Bob has also led the chapter on dozens of other coldwater fisheries conservation projects. They are far too numerous to mention here; but Bob is constantly bringing new opportunities to the group and pointing the way to improving fish habitat, eliminating threats to our trout populations, or heading off policy changes that might harm our resources.

Bob Capron, upper left, oversees efforts by volunteers to rescue trout caught in an irrigation canal near Cody, Wyoming. Brett Prettyman/Trout Unlimited

Everyone who knows Bob knows that he will never totally step back from his intense love of coldwater fisheries conservation. But, Bob is going to spend more time fishing and enjoying the resources that he has fought so hard to Protect, Restore and Reconnect. Please join us in thanking Bob for a job well done.

Well done indeed!

Dave Sweet is a board member on the East Yellowstone Chapter of Trout Unlimited and treasurer of the Wyoming Council of Trout Unlimited. He has helped Bob Capron with the fish rescues around Cody, Wyoming, from the beginning.

Comments

 
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