The reason for poor resident coho fishing this winter

Smalma

Active Member
#16
Roger-

I agree thatsSeals (and sea lions) taking fish off anglers lines is becoming a huge problem through out Puget Sound. This is especially acute with Chinook and it has reached the point there are times and places that I just no longer fish; a high likely that any fish hooked with end up dinner for a seal. I have also lost fish in the lower ends of some of our rivers. One particular scary moment occurred on the Lower Skagit where as I lifted a3# bull trout's head out of the water to roll the barbless hook free an adult seal shot out from under the boat and took the fish from my hand. Its teeth were literally a whisker from my fingers.

I also agree that Steve nailed the issue with the coho. I would add that the fact that cutthroat are typically found in smaller/less dense "pods" that coho also makes them a less frequent prey target. However back to the original question while the numbers of seals through the Sound could be a concern I doubt they are the major reason for the lack of resident coho in south Sound this year. From the reports I have seen here on WFF those fish have been largely MIA from last fall. In fact it has been my observation that "shaker" numbers of both small coho and Chinook though last summer, fall, and into this winter have been well below average in the waters I have fished in MA 9 and 10 as well. This kind of variable abundance (at least over the last couple decades) seems to be pretty normal. Have to wonder that when the small smolts hit the salt on those years they are not finding the food item densities needed to for them "to stay at home" so they continue on out to more productive waters. While those years of low "shaker" numbers often lead to fewer year-round resident numbers I have not notice significant declines in adult returns from those brood years.

If folks want more background information on Puget Sound herring the following link might be interesting -

http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/PacificHerringinformation_121911.pdf

Curt
 
#18
I'm curious about the historical abundance of pinnipeds prior to protection under the law. There is evidence of indigenous human populations harvesting pinnipeds and it seems clear that prior to the law, American humans were thinning the population as well. So I suppose my questions are...is there a legitimate case for allowing the harvest of pinnipeds? Is there a market? Is there anything that can be done to increase "natural" predation by resident or transient orcas? As I mentioned, I know nothing of historical abundance so I don't know if we can accurately compare current population volumes with prior eras when thinning was "allowed" or harvest occurred as a necessity. It does seem that there are too many currently and ecology teaches us that predators are generally more scarce in "stable" ecosystems.

I hope no one will misinterpret what I'm asking here or try point out minuscule flaws in my logic (which likely exist) and rather, help us to better understand the impact current abundance of pinnipeds is having on current Salmonid abundance.
 
#19
I should add that I know that the J,k, and L, pods of resident orcas are primarily fish eaters and probably only utilize pinnipeds opportunistically, so are unlikely to make any dent in current pinniped populations.
 
#21
Roger-

However back to the original question while the numbers of seals through the Sound could be a concern I doubt they are the major reason for the lack of resident coho in south Sound this year. From the reports I have seen here on WFF those fish have been largely MIA from last fall. In fact it has been my observation that "shaker" numbers of both small coho and Chinook though last summer, fall, and into this winter have been well below average in the waters I have fished in MA 9 and 10 as well. This kind of variable abundance (at least over the last couple decades) seems to be pretty normal. Have to wonder that when the small smolts hit the salt on those years they are not finding the food item densities needed to for them "to stay at home" so they continue on out to more productive waters.

Curt
My original post was made in somewhat of a "jest" as IMHO seals do not make a noticeable "dent" in the 1.8 to 2.2 million resident coho which are delayed release each year. Your remarks are right on the money!

I have seen seals chase adult chum salmon almost onto the shoreline plus have seen seals playfully flipping dead adult chinnook into the air as they devour it. Most winters I will often see large groups of seals in deeper water chasing after a "meal"(herring or blackmouth?). I don't ever recall seeing seals chasing after a school of resident coho in winter/spring.

You and others have provided a wealth of information concerning seals.

Roger
 

Rich Schager

You should have been here yesterday...
#22
I was at Brisco Point (South end of Harstine Island) last spring after the Squaxin Island net pen fish had been released a couple days before. There were seals everywhere you looked feasting on the little "rezzies"... a bit scary to being a small boat with all the thrashing going on all around us.