Chambers creek steelhead video

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Cole L, Apr 20, 2014.

  1. TFG,

    I'm not trying to convert you into a "pro-hatchery" guy. After all, I prefer wild steelhead myself. However, you could be a more credible witness to your cause if you decide to look at issues more objectively and comprehensively than by wearing the blinders of "wild = good; hatchery = bad." To wit:

    Regarding the oft repeated story of Mt. St. Helens and the SF Toutle River steelhead recovery. Yes, it was a bit of a miracle, but please, for intelligence sake, don't attribute the wild steelhead rebound to the lack of hatchery fish presence when a more objective and comprehensive explanation exists for those willing to see a broader perspective. Following the St. Helens blast two important things occurred. First was a series of years with no severe flooding. That allowed a temporary stabilization of volcanic material in the SF sub-basin, following a couple years of good flushing that left the stream channel inhabitable. So steelhead were able to successfully spawn, reproduce, and juveniles could successfully rear. Second, the 1980s was a decade of quite good ocean survival for steelhead, hatchery and wild, in the Columbia, the coast, and Puget Sound. The combination of those two conditions facilitated the recovery of wild steelhead in the SF Toutle River. The lack of hatchery fish presence was more coincidental than influencial, but if you're wearing the anti-hatchery blinders, you might not notice that.

    Then in the 1990s, after stocking hatchery summer steelhead in the SF, the wild steelhead population tanked. The short-sighted blinders-wearing folks continue to point to this correlation as thought it were causation. A more comprehensive view will notice that beginning in 1990 and again in 1995 and 1996, severe winter flooding resumed, significantly destabilizing bedload material in and near the banks of the SF, significantly reducing the habitat's productivity and capacity (those two key habitat words again) for all salmonids. (Note: there are hardly any coho, chinook, or cutthroat in the SF Toutle.) That same comprehensive view will note that ocean survival for steelhead also declined significantly compared to the 1980s.

    The lesson of the SF Toutle is not that wild steelhead will flourish in the absence of hatchery steelhead. There are too many examples that counter that claim. The lesson of the SF Toutle is that unbelievable amounts of sediment can be flushed from a river system with just a couple years of normal winter flows. However, to this day, almost 34 years post-blast, the SF has a long ways to go before the sub-basin can truly be claimed to be stable for salmonid production.

    Next, you return to McMillan's piece about the Skagit and claim that historically the dominant wild steelhead return occurred in December, January, and February. He cites tribal catches between 1934 and 1959 to back up that claim. A more comprehensive view would note that during those very years WA state, through the old WDG, aggressively enforced against Indian fishing for steelhead. It isn't that the tribes wouldn't have fished for steelhead if they could - and they did - but only in limited fashion due to enforcement.

    The tribes were allowed to fish for salmon because salmon were managed by WDF, and WDF allowed to fish for salmon in freshwater in the Skagit, upstream to Hamilton I think it was. But since increasing numbers of PS and Skagit salmon were being caught in Canada and saltwater fisheries, the Indian fishery for salmon was being gradually scaled back.

    Most of the steelhead harvested by the tribes were in co-mingled fisheries for salmon, predominately coho and chum in the late fall and winter. I think that is where the distorted view that the dominate fraction of the wild steelhead run occurred in Dec. - February comes from. If I recall correctly, the dominate fraction of the sport catch always came later in the season. And it's important to note that the winter season first ended in February, then later it ended in March, and finally on the Skagit, in April. My best estimate based on the broadest collection of data is that the wild steelhead run always peaked in March, although the run stretched from November through April, with very few fresh winter runs entering freshwater from May 1 onward.

    Truly I'm puzzled that Bill or anyone would say those early run steelhead were the best adapted to habitat conditions. Ecologically speaking, early spawn timing puts steelhead at a serious disadvantage in two extremely important ways. First, early spawning subjects eggs and alevins to redd scour, a loss that spring spawning steelhead seldom face. We know that salmon experience their primary egg and alevin losses to redd scour and sedimentation. Steelhead populations, now and historically, are much smaller than salmon populations, and losing redds would be a serious disadvantage. Second, early spawning leads to earlier emergence. Early emergence places steelhead fry in direct competition with young of the year salmon fry, fingerlings, and pre-smolts, and smolts. Experiments show that steelhead fry do not compete well with coho fry and fingerlings.

    Most biologists I know believe that the steelhead and cutthroat niche evolved as spring spawners as a way to increase egg to fry survival and to reduce inter-species competition with salmon. Bill's statement about early timed steelhead is directly contrary to that. I think he is either cherry picking his evidence or lacks a more complete knowledge. It would take a serious stack of evidence in support of his claim to change my mind.

    And I still claim to be in favor of wild steelhead, wild fish in general really. More importantly I adhere to the concept that we should seek the truth, and go where it leads us.


    Salmo g.
  2. i get that the skagit may not have had as strong of an early-timed run as elsewhere, especially the coast but i find it interesting that historical records speak of good (which in today's world would be stellar) steelhead fishing in the skagit in january. even if the run peaks in march/april we have still lost january's run timing. just because the november/december run timing was not as strong as the coast does not mean that there has not been a significant loss of diversity of run timing. restoring some of that run timing would be much better for sportfishing than the current hatchery programs. hopefully with a continuation of less early season netting now that there are zero hatchery fish we might start to see more of that run timing express itself.

    i think all of us would appreciate historically "good" wild steelhead fishing in january.
  3. Can we stop with the predator thing already? Predators don't care if the millions of smolts are of hatchery origin, or future "recovered" natural origin, or "depressed" natural origin. Their number will fluctuate with the available food supply.

    Are they wrong every time? No.
    Isn't Bill McMillian one of those environmentalists/biologist? Yes.
    Has he ever been wrong? Well?

    If you were to go back and look at my own historical data you would find that I have caught upwards of 98% of my fish during the legal fishing season also.

    Read the quote above. Pay attention to the words I have highlighted.
    First, he admits that it may be possible that the records don't reveal actuality. Then he posits a theory that totally ignores the fact that they would have to fish illegally during (and keep catch records?) the later season and instead decides it's more plausible that maybe they weren't as desirable. In the next sentence he just brushes the whole puzzle aside with "nevertheless" and tells us there is no doubt they would fish for them. (illegally?)

    this is the problem I have with a lot of Bill's work - too many assumptions.
  4. Then you should have problems with all of the "works" associated with guesstimating the management of steelhead. He's just one of the many tinkerer's who made or are still making a living off the science project with no downside or risk for being wrong. I'm not implying that the right intent isn't there, but rather that far too many presume to know too much about what we do not know about this (and other) species. If I'm wrong, then why hasn't the billions spent on these efforts changed the trajectory of the species? Let me guess, it's because they cannot control the politics and other factors like climate, habitat loss, and ocean conditions. Let nature do what we've proven we cannot.
  5. ...and would that include your guesstimates?
  6. Salmo,
    A couple things… When summer steelhead enter the rivers and streams in June and July, does that mean they will spawn in June or July? Of course not. Likewise, Just because steelhead enter the rivers in January or February, doesn’t mean all those fish will spawn in those same months. That all being said, I believe there were two components or groups of fish in those earlier runs.

    One portion of the overall run came in earlier and stayed in the river longer in order to spawn in March or April. So if they are in the river longer, are they or are they not more susceptible to being caught or netted by the tribes?...and caught by anglers? I believe they were more likely to be caught or netted. Over time this process removes that portion or run timing of the earlier fish.

    The second portion of the overall run came in earlier and possibly spawned earlier in January or February. If so, then this timing would overlap those of the chambers creek fish spawn timing. We do know one thing, and that is the tribes caught allot of steelhead in those earlier months. Over time, these two earlier components of the run could have been removed leaving only the latter component, which is what we have today. There is a lot more evidence and findings on why the earlier portion of the run is very stressed in McMillan’s work. He didn’t just pull it out of the air and suggest it from cherry picked research.

    Here is an article from 1962 showing how Indians were caught and tried for “set” netting steelhead in April, on the Skagit, (not in the fall, as you pointed out). They were caught and fined for it. How many years and how many steelhead were caught and taken by nets in earlier months and in earlier years will perhaps always be a mystery. Vernon Daily Herald Articles/1962-07-28 a.pdf

    I am not so sure you are in favor of wild steelhead. I have seen you defend hatchery fish over and over, and I don’t think I have seen you defend wild steelhead over hatchery fish. Any study or correlation that comes up as being evidence that hatchery steelhead are detrimental to wild fish populations, it seems you just find it to be marginal, coincidental and not causative. I really find it hard to believe that you can toss out all the evidence surrounding wild fish. That would suggest that all the evidence collected and shown by the many “pro-wild” fish groups is all coincidental and nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

    The SF Toutle example was to point out a couple of things. The first being, among all the salmonid species returning to the Toutle, only wild steelhead had the resiliency and ability to come back, against all odds, and spawn only a few years after Mt St Helens blew. That is pretty amazing! When left alone, miraculously, they came back. The second thing is, the experts were wrong about steelhead. Wild steelhead came back against all odds. They were left alone and they came back.

    We could go back and forth on all of this forever. This all seems to be diluted down to one thing, and that is how one interprets the data. I’m in the camp that believes hatchery fish have a detrimental role to wild fish, and when hatchery fish are taken out of a system, wild fish populations increase. Like I mentioned earlier, in 5-6 years we might return to this discussion and see who is right and who is wrong. I’m sure if wild populations do increase in those rivers where hatchery fish have been eliminated, you will attribute this to better ocean conditions, less flooding, or habitat conditions getting better.

    Whatever it may be, I really hope Wild steelhead will come back against all the odds...again.
  7. Wow...on another forum Salmo gets lambasted almost daily for helping to "swap" wild fish for hatchery fish. On this forum he's catching it for the opposite! :) That's what happens when you go where the facts lead you I suppose.

    Oh...the fickle hands of fate.

    What he said was that in the fall and early winter, they were allowed to fish, (i.e. - not getting arrested)

    Have you ever quizzed Bill about some of these factoids that Salmo and Smalma keep presenting?
  8. so we're really just arguing about the percentage of the total run size that was historically made up by earlier timed steelhead, not that early timed fish did not exist or contributed to fisheries far more than today's hatchery programs.

    january is early timed. even if the vast majority of the hatchery impact was harvest based, that still falls on the hatchery programs.

    we have consistently underestimated our own impacts when it comes to hatcheries, and have too often failed to realize that a lot of the habitat destruction and overharvest was and is directly tied to the hatcheries and the mentality that hatcheries would let us eat cake and lose weight.
  9. TFG,

    Yes, for the record I am quite aware that the month of steelhead river entry and the month of spawn timing are likely to be quite different, except for some hatchery winter runs that both enter and spawn in Dec. or Jan. And yes, those early timed wild steelhead that spawned late were exposed to considerable peril because they were vulnerable to fishing mortality for the longest period of time, kind of like summer steelhead are exposed to fishing for a great many months, and without critical conservation measures are likely to be over-fished.

    I've only been a wild steelhead advocate since the late 1970s when I first learned that there was a difference and could tell them apart. So I suppose that makes me a hatchery steelhead advocate? All I'm trying to do in threads like this, or in threads that stress the opposite (anti-wild, pro-hatchery) is bring a sense of balance into the discussion. I've said that hatchery fish are not beneficial to wild fish. I just don't happen to believe that hatchery fish are as detrimental as WFC and you are claiming. Answer me this: if hatchery fish are as deleterious to wild steelhead as you claim, then how on earth did strong runs of wild steelhead occur in the 1980s in the presence of much greater numbers of hatchery steelhead than are present today? Come on, there would have been even more opportunity for inter-breeding and introgression, more of the alleged predation opportunity, more of the predator attraction, more, more, and more of all the parade of horribles that hatchery steelhead heap upon wild steelhead. Yet wild steelhead in PS made a significant rebound. Why? Because the treaty and non-treaty fisheries stopped killing most wild steelhead, thereby causing sufficient escapement to seed the available habitat. And because that action coincided with a period of good ocean survival.

    If the hatchery steelhead are anywhere nearly as deleterious as you claim, then there in no way in hell that the wild steelhead in PS should have or could have rebounded the way they did. After all, hatchery steelhead are SO BAD for wild steelhead, right?

    If you line up all the known factors affecting wild steelhead abundance and multiply them against a given population according to degree of effect, then the most likely outcome is that hatchery steelhead effects are way down the list. That doesn't make me a hatchery steelhead advocate or hatchery apologist. It makes me the objective scientist I'm supposed to be. Hell, I've argued that most hatchery steelhead programs in PS should be closed or reduce based on economics alone, because they aren't producing sufficient adult returns to justify their cost. That doesn't really make me for or against hatchery steelhead, but it does align me with favoring common sense approaches to fish management and the wise use of limited funding.

    Meanwhile, yes, if Skagit wild steelhead rebound in the absence of hatchery steelhead over the next 12 years, I'll be analyzing that or whatever outcome against all probable factors of influence and not just analyze it with the "absence of hatchery fish blinders" on. Since ocean survival is clearly the factor most affecting abundance currently, if abundance increases significantly, it is far more likely than not that it will be because ocean survival has improved. And you and Bill and WFC will credit it to the absence of hatchery fish. But that won't make you correct. Again, corrrelation does not equal causation. It takes open eyes and objectivity to see causation.

  10. When folks talk about "ocean conditions" currently being the factor most affecting abundance, what specifically does that mean? I assume ultimately it is factors that affect food sources that steelhead in the salt depend on, but what at the moment makes ocean conditions bad? Is the water too cold? Too warm? Chemically out of balance? Sorry - I'm just a dumb humanities guy trying to make sense of this stuff.
    KerryS likes this.
  11. O mykiss,

    I don't think anyone knows all the ocean factors that may influence survival rates. Some that come to mind are coastal upwelling that affects primary production, critical stage food supplies like euphasids, crab spawn, shrimp, squid, herring, anchovies, sardines, and other baitfish. Then there are predators, marine mammals and birds, and bigger fish that eat salmonids. Chemically there is ocean acidification, which affects primary productivity and possibly more. There might be disease vectors, but that would be hard to get a handle on because a fish isn't sick very long before it succumbs to predation. I expect there are more.

  12. I remember back in the 80's when we had some big El Nino events we were catching huge amounts of mackerel and other warm water fish that definitely could have had an effect.
  13. This could be some of the issues out there
  14. Whatever it is chinook seem to thrive in it. Let's hope Mr. Nino sticks around for a few centuries.

    If chinook thrive on it steelhead should too...please Mr. Nino...can we have consistent upwelling?...and downwelling of predation.
  15. ok we focus on Puget sound. numbers returning are not good. same for Chinook.
    don't we have the same problems for some Canadian streams ?
    seems to me there are more variables involved than just blaming hatchery's.
    and really what Bill Macmillan is trying to sell is wild fish only everywhere. which is great if its 1950.
    but we have alot of water under the bridge now so just to say lets go back is a tough road.
    are you ready to have most of our rivers shut down for years and years ? or for ever ?

Share This Page