Absence of baitfish in Puget sound

Discussion in 'Saltwater' started by Luke Filmer, Jun 4, 2006.

  1. Luke Filmer Member

    Posts: 246
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    I have been getting reports from many sources that the Puget Sound
    baitfish which are normally found in abundance, are nearly non existant.

    Conversations with area 11 fishermen, as well as netters which supply the baitshops are telling me that the fish are just not there this year.
    Can anyone confirm, or deny these observations, and if confirmed, how will this affect the incoming fall salmon maigration?
  2. South Sound Member

    Posts: 567
    North Tacoma
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    Depends. Nick and I cruised over a herring ball that was so thick the fish finder marked us at 2 feet. there must have been thousands.

    However I have seen far more small perch than "bait fish". Unless you consider them baitfish and if so there are a ton.
  3. salt dog card shark

    Posts: 2,306
    Edmonds WA / Mazama
    Ratings: +2 / 0
    Last year the East side of Area 9 was void of baitfish. Years prior, it was typical while wading to hold your fly up to the masses of bait fish swimming around you to compare size, coloration, etc., with your choice of fly.

    So far this year there is a very large amount of salmon smolt, and occassionally I have seen some small schools of bait fish as well, about typical for the time of year.
  4. Tom Arroll Member

    Posts: 285
    Seattle, WA
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    With the continued expansion of oil loading docks and infrastructure at Cherry Point, the main herring nursery area for Puget Sound, we will likely see a continued decline in the baitfish population in the Sound:mad: . Look up Cherry Point and Herring on the internet.

  5. Phishy Member

    Posts: 35
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    I was out at 3 different locations on the sound this weekend and saw tons of perch and smolt; baitfish were around, just not in the abundance of the others.

    The perch at one location were so thick that every retrieve had 15-20+ following my fly in. I did get two 3 inchers to hand though so that was nice.
  6. gt Active Member

    Posts: 2,616
    sequim, WA
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    googled a very interesting article on herring and cherry point published by WDFW. politically inconclusive, however.
  7. gigharborflyfisher Native Trout Hunter

    Posts: 741
    Gig Harbor, Wa, USA.
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    I have been seeing a lot of salmon smolt, but I really can't say the same for herring.
  8. Fishbio New Member

    Posts: 8
    Olympia, WA
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    I have been hearing a number of reports of anchovies, all age-classes, in deep south sound (south of Nisqually) this year. I would guess they are direct competitors to herring. There have had a number of years with both sandlance and anchovies rather than herring being dominate, since the late 1980's, again in deep south sound. Not sure what this means? Should be good news for last years' releases of resident coho and chinook, if they are still around, may not be good news for this years' releases (they would eat the same stuff). Anybody else seem much bait?
  9. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,836
    Marysville, Washington
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    Fishbio -
    The only blackmouth I kept this winter (Point No Point) had several juvenile anchovies in its gut. Heard of similar reports during the winter through out the Sound.

    Saturday in the San Juans saw several large schools of juvenile sand lance on the surface and marked a number of large bait balls but not sure what they were.

    Tight lines
  10. Will Atlas Guest

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    there is alot of natural variation annually in many baitfish populations, and just because you arent seeing too many may not be cause for conern (although it may be). As far as cherry point goes, those stocks of Herring collapsed a long time ago, and while they havent come back, abundance of other stocks of herring in puget sound have actually increased. I'm not sure about the incoming migration of salmon, although certainly there will be no noticeable difference in size, most of their foraging takes place out on the shelf (for coho). We'll see, I hear the run forcast is pretty grim anyway.
  11. martyg Active Member

    Posts: 988
    The world at large
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    I launched out of Gig Harbor today and saw billions of baitfish. More than I have ever seen at any time.
  12. Roger Stephens Active Member

    Posts: 1,205
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    My "home water" is Marine Area 13 so I can give my insights on that area.

    In the southern part of the area the herring populations have been depressed ever since commerical over-harvesting occured in the late 1970's and early 1980's. Before that there was a good population of these baitfish when you would be able to find herring balls almost very trip out. Very rarely do you ever seen any herring in the southern part of the area 13 so they have been slow to recover. The north part of the area still seems that have quite a few herring most years and has one small commerical herring operation.

    Last Fall the southern part of Marine Area 13 was loaded with anchovies and there are still lot of them there now. Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between a school of anchovies and sand lance. The gill plates of anchovies flair out and give a triangular silvery flash when the gill plates open and close. Sand lance do not show flashing of their gill plates. So a school of anchovies will show a lot of small silvery/sparkly flashing while a sand lance school will not. Andy Appleby(WDFW) is concerned that the anchovies will be competing for food with the delayed release coho.

    In the early 1990's there was a very large population of sand lance in much of Marine Area 13 and at present it is still possible to see nice sized schools of sand lance over most of the area. It doesn't appear to be a lack of sand lance in the area just a lack of salmon to feed on them.

  13. Bob Triggs Your Preferred Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide

    Posts: 4,031
    Olympic Peninsula
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    I have heard conflicting reports on the status of Herring in Puget Sound for several years now. One aspect of this is that there are some regional differences between north and south Puget Sound waters. But I do agree that the Herring population is in trouble on Puget Sound as a whole.

    A USGS Fisheries researcher based here near Port Townsend- who's research area includes Puget Sound and the waters north all the way up the Yukon River- tells me that the Herring in Puget Sound, and regionally, are in trouble. And so are the fish that forage on them; Salmon, Steelhead etc. His work includes all of our major forage species. He is studying a pathogen and disease process in the Herring in specific that reduces their life span, their spawning and thus their numbers. He tells me that if it weren't for the other forage fish species in Puget Sound, such as the Surf Smelt, Sand Lance, Anchovies etc, we would be out of luck for wild Salmon and Steelhead etc to have a solid forage base.

    A few weeks ago I attended an all day lecture on forage fish in Puget Sound, which included Herring- their spawning range and other aspects of life history. At the very beginning of the lecture it was pointed out with some very firm directness that "rumors of any problems with the Puget Sound Herring stocks are utterly incorrect"..."We have plenty of Herring in Puget Sound"..."They are not in trouble." This from a noted WDFW Forage Fish Biologist.

    So it's all a little confusing to me. From my own direct experience I tend to agree with the USGS Scientist. I think he has a stronger budget for on the water research and study of Herring. The WDFW people have done a great job of tracking spawning habitats and locations around the region, and of mapping forage fish in Puget Sound. But they do not have the on the water access budget to do stronger research on many aspects of forage fish life history, including any kind of accurate count. I don't blame the WDFW Bios for this- they have no control over the budget or their politically appointed bosses. (IMHO much of our problems with financing good quality fish and wildlife research, managemnt, and law enforcement is really related more to citizen apathy and a half-assed legislature than anything else.)

    The density of Anchovy in South Sound is unusual by all local knowledge. And no one seems to know how this relates, or does not relate, to the scarcity of Herring. I like to talk with the elderly every chance that I get. I learn a lot from them. They remember things from as far back as the late 1920's. They have some solid things to say about the history of the fish here, and the habitats,( the loss of miles upon miles of kelp beds, the decimation of the Puget Sound Cod stocks, the decline of Steelhead and Salmon etc), and of the WDFW harvest-based management system impacts over the past decades.

    It is chilling to me that WDFW "is concerned that the Anchovies will be competing for food with the delayed release Coho".

    I mean Come on; the Anchovies are naturally occuring and the delayed release Coho are an artificially introduced man-made predator. Maybe it's time to stop fooling with Mother Nature on this one and start "worrying" about the forage base first. There is no solid scientific justification for a continued Commercial Herring fishery on Puget Sound.

    Well, except for all of that money involved of course.
  14. Blake Member

    Posts: 111
    Gig Harbor, WA
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    Too bad USGS and WDFW can't work together in regards to research. Pooling resources in a case like this would probably benefit everyone and save some money in the long run.