The Spokane River, and some of its native inhabitants, were in the spotlight Tuesday and Wednesday as a wide range of scientists, policy makers and industry leaders convened for the annual Spokane River Forum.
The redband trout — the river’s canary in the mineshaft — took stage at Centerplace in Spokane Valley for a couple hours among other presentations. The topics — a delicious assortment to a scientist — ranged from managing sewage overflows to setting fish consumption rates.
The redbands, a subspecies of rainbow trout, are struggling in Spokane River as it’s been altered by humans over the past 150 years despite evolutionary adaptations to everything nature threw at it for the preceding millennia.
The main limiting factors for these valuable fish involve habitat degradation, including siltation, shoreline development and barriers in the river and tributaries.
Also setting back the trout are pollution, poaching, flow and temperature variations and competition with smallmouth bass, an invasive species.
Anglers aren’t the only interests seeking a redband revival.
Native Americans consider redbands culturally essential, the last vestige of the dam-doomed salmon runs that focused the Spokane Tribe’s existence on the river.
Sean Visintainer said the Spokane River is a key resource for sales and outfitting in the eight years he’s owned Silver Bow Fly Shop.
Although he guides on other top regional fisheries, including the Clark Fork, St. Joe and Grande Ronde, he said 65 percent of his shop’s guiding last year was on the Spokane River.
An urban fishery has obvious advantages for Visintainer, who can save four to eight hours of travel time with each trip by fishing in his backyard. And every angler who fills a tank after a fishing trip to the Ronde knows how much an urban fishery saves in fuel costs.
“But it’s not good for just me,” he said.