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. Sincerely, Salmo g.