Cowlitz wild fish

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Dan Page, Dec 24, 2013.

  1. jwg Active Member

    Posts: 520
    West Richland, WA
    Ratings: +100 / 0
    From the two articles Chris cited, and the observation about the Nooksack, it appears the conclusion would be that the largest number of fish in the river will result from no hatchery, as opposed to some mix of hatchery raised and wild-spawned fish, and thus the no hatchery option would provide the greatest recreational opportunity as well, so long as there was not a listing to prevent such recreational fishery.

    Seems like these same issues will apply to Olympic Penninsula rivers where they have taken dams down but plan to operate hatcheries as well.
  2. FinLuver Active Member

    Posts: 405
    Mid-Willamette Valley
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    "Recreational" fishery needs to be defined!!

    C&R or Limited Harvest??

    If it's just a C&R fishery, we can just drop the discussion (per se) here and now. The support of this approach is very limited.

    I for one support a Limited Harvest approach.... 1 summer steelhead, 1 winter steelhead, 1 spring chinook, 1 fall chinook, and 15 trout. btw...I'm no "real" threat to the anadromous finned folks - limited opportunities for me are keeping them safe.

    I would like to see runs that are healthy enough to support this opportunity.

    I would also like to see a reduced ocean catch/harvest to take place.
  3. Salmo_g Active Member

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    FinLuver,

    Recreational fishing almost always includes a limit on harvest. It can range from zero to 10 or 20, depending on species and geographic location or water body. Albacore are the only finfish I know of that has no limit on sport harvest at this time. Recreational fishing is always limited in terms of gear or tackle (dupont spinners prohibited, etc.), manner of fishing (bait, artificial lures, fly only, boats with and without motors, etc.), time, and location.

    Harvest limits are a product of fish abundance, recreational fishing efficiency, and social values. What you would like to see is one opinion among many. We are a pluralistic society, and fishing regulations are a product of that. I don't get to have it my way either.

    With regard to the Cowlitz wild steelhead whose picture caused this thread, directed wild steelhead harvest in sport fisheries is waning in WA, limited only to a few rivers on the Olympic peninsula. The number of rivers where wild steelhead sport harvest is only likely to decrease, and not increase any time in the foreseeable future in this state with 6 million humans, and increasing. Wild steelhead release and CNR fishing for wild steelhead is the future unless the human population decreases by over 50%.

    Sg
  4. FinLuver Active Member

    Posts: 405
    Mid-Willamette Valley
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    "Wild steelhead release and CNR fishing for wild steelhead is the future unless the human population decreases by over 50%."

    This may happen...this may happen

    nofactstosupport...justanopinion
  5. Rob Allen Active Member

    Posts: 879
    Vancouver WA
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    I wish that they would do genetic testing on fish like that.. I'd be interested to know how much the natural rainbow trout population above the dams plays a role. I would suspect it's significant.
  6. Salmo_g Active Member

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    Rob,

    As I recall from the sampling data, resident fish upstream of the dams are mostly cutthroat. Only a couple small tributaries were rainbow dominant. So I think the vast preponderance of steelhead production coming out of the upper basin is the result of stocking Cowlitz hatchery late run winter steelhead fry, smolts, and adults to get this wild population restored and on the road to recovery. The role of resident rainbow probably varies significantly from stream to stream.

    Sg
  7. Phil Fravel Friendly

    Posts: 643
    Bonney Lake
    Ratings: +95 / 0
    I was just reading the Bill Mc Millan section from " Wild Steelhead the lure and lore of a Pacific Northwest Icon" by Sean Gallagher. It there Bill states that one good sign to recovery is trying to get the Early Male winter run fist to start returning early. Late November through December. Allowing them to spawn with the female fish that show up later. He then goes on to enplane how the early return of winter hatchery fish have hurt this part of the run. It is a great read.

    Salmo do you think this is just a freak fish or are we beginning to see positive results of the Cowlets discontinuing there early winter hatchery fish? Does anybody our here in cyber land have counts of how many wild fish have returned to the Cowlets collection site?
  8. Stonefish Triploid and Humpy Hater

    Posts: 3,856
    Pipers Creek
    Ratings: +1,260 / 1
    Sg,
    Are the wild returning fish that are transported upstream dumped into the main stem of the Cowlitz or the tribs.
    I'm trying to figure out how they are getting them to imprint to the upper river. Obviously they want them to come back to the collect site so they don't spawn in the lower river with hatchery fish, correct?
    SF
  9. Salmo_g Active Member

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    Phil,

    No, I don't think the photo fish is a freak. Nor do I think it has anything to do with discontinuing the use of Chambers Ck steelhead at the trout hatchery. Natural production of steelhead has been occurring in the upper Cowlitz basin since 1995. The longer that natural production occurs, and as the natural production population increases, the more it will exhibit the attributes and characteristics of the historical wild steelhead population. Although the peak timing of wild winter steelhead is typically in March, a diverse population will include some earlier returning fish in December and January.

    I do have a table of NOR (natural origin recruits) returns to the Cowlitz barrier dam of steelhead, spring chinook, and coho going back to 2005 in a WORD document I could email you.

    Stonefish,

    The wild NORs returning to the barrier dam fish separator facility are trucked up to Lake Scanewa, the reservoir behind Cowlitz Falls Dam, for release. They return to the barrier dam because they were imprinted on the upper river or its tributaries as juveniles. Hatchery fry were scatter plant stocked by helecopter in the 1990s in many of the upper Cowlitz tributary streams to rear naturally. Other steelhead were stocked as smolts in the upper Cowlitz and Cispus Rivers to imprint. And some late winter hatchery returns were trucked upstream and released to hopefully find a spawning area on their own. Nothing about this has been easy.

    Survival of fry to smolt is about 3% at best. Then only 40 to 50% of the smolts are collected at Cowlitz Falls fish facility because it is sub-standard. And then about 3 to 4% of those smolts survive to return as NOR adults, which is still better than the 1% hatchery smolt to adult return rate.

    Sg
  10. Stonefish Triploid and Humpy Hater

    Posts: 3,856
    Pipers Creek
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    Sg,
    Thanks for the reply.
    Just my opinion, but it seems the Cowlitz represents one of the better opportunities for both wild fish recovery and continued hatchery plants for harvest.
    The barrier dam represents a man made weir that can seperate wild upper river fish from the hatchery fish below.
    I like the idea of wild fish in the Cowlitz, but after fishing the for 40+ years I also like to harvest fish from it.
    Perhaps we can have both. I guess time will tell.
    SF
  11. Salmo_g Active Member

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    Stonefish,

    I agree. If it's possible to have the best of both worlds, the Cowlitz likely is the place.

    Sg
    Dan Page likes this.
  12. freestoneangler Not to be confused with Freestone

    Posts: 3,958
    Edgewood, WA
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    Why only the Cowlitz...why not the S rivers as well?
  13. Rob Allen Active Member

    Posts: 879
    Vancouver WA
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    Lots of great habitat up there :) are they doing any work with summer runs up there???
  14. Chris DeLeone Active Member

    Posts: 526
    Monroe, WA
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    Why only the Cowlitz...why not the S rivers as well?

    My guess is that PS itself is the first major hurtle for outmigration - the studies on Steelhead showed many did not even make it out into the straits. Because of PS our S rivers have a much higher marine mortality then rivers on the coast (OP) and the Columbia systems.
  15. Dan Page Active Member

    Posts: 439
    Yelm, Wa., USA.
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    Chris,
    I would guess the same.
  16. _WW_ Fishes with Wolves

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    Skagit River
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    Did you miss the part about a dam acting as a weir and collection point?
    Derek Day likes this.
  17. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,792
    Marysville, Washington
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    I wonder how many of those here at WFF that post regularly on the stillwater forum would support the elimination of the planting of hatchery fish in Pass Lake or those on the saltwater forum that would support the elimination of the delayed release of hatchery coho?

    Anyone here ever enjoy a day or two chasing hatchery summer steelhead on say the North Fork Stillaguamish or Methow?

    As with most things in the "fish world" when it comes to "hatchery fish" there is often quite a bit of gray.

    Curt
    freestoneangler likes this.
  18. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,792
    Marysville, Washington
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    Every river and region have their differences and it is reasonable to expect the fish and the fishing of each to reflect those differences.

    It is true that the survival of steelhead (both hatchery and wild) migrating through Puget Sound have significantly lower survival than that seen on the coast. That may just mean that steelhead are naturally less well adapted to the Puget Sound region than on the coast. It is also equally true that coho, sea-run cutthroat, bull trout, and pink salmon migrating into Puget Sound survive much better than the same species do on the coast. At some point we need to temper our expectations with the reality of the limits of each individual ecosystems.

    I for one would find the fishing world a lot less interesting if every river and the fishing in those rivers were all the same.

    Curt
    Chris DeLeone likes this.
  19. juro New Member

    Posts: 14
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    Not that this anecdote is of any significance toward a native strain "miracle" but
    since the 80's when I moved to the area there were fish spawning in creeks and the mainstem in specific areas. Hard to tell what their origin was. The Barrier Campground derby always had fish that looked just like that buck but since they didn't clip back in those days hard to say. Before Blue Creek went to the big pipe at the parking lot the fish would spawn like crazy in the mile of creek between the river and the hatchery, I would leave the rod in the car and observe. Especially interesting was the bright fish eating the eggs bouncing down the current, and the sparring among competitors, jack-sized suitors, etc. Tribs downstream had stream-born populations as well as redds in side channels of the main river. Summer and winter fish.
    This is not to mention the wild and likely native fish that still ascend the Toutle and it's tribs. One July I landed (and released) a buck of 15-17 pounds with an adipose the size of my thumb at the confluence. I guessed it was headed for the Green.
    Every time I go to that beat-up lead weight filled corky-hanging treeline for what is now nothing but a recreational opportunity I dream of what was once likely to rival the Dean on the lower 48... before the damns.
    Dan Page likes this.
  20. Salmo_g Active Member

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    Freestoneangler,

    The Cowlitz barrier dam serves to collect hatchery fish for artificial production and wild fish for transport to the upper basin for natural production. Demarcation by concrete, if you will.

    Rob,

    No summer runs allowed in the upper Cowlitz basin. The Cowlitz had no summer steelhead run at the time the dams were built, and therefore not endemic to the watershed in known history.

    Smalma,

    Good reality check. If not for hatcheries, my fishing in WA would be for sea run cutthroat, a little winter steelheading, and the occasional bull trout. Most high lake fishing would cease to exist, too.

    Sg