Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Jeremy Floyd, Jan 23, 2007.
Salmo G nailed it.
I wish there were more people like you out there.:thumb:
The value for the Columbia may be different. I haven’t looked at the catch data, which are difficult to interpret because tribal hatchery steelhead smolt releases are unmarked, from what I hear. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t expect a huge increase, although the increase might be measurable, if the gillnetting impact is significant enough. Dams that take from 5 to 85% of the downstream migrating smolts are, in my estimation, such an overwhelming adverse impact as to make tribal catches only marginally relevant, at most.
The experiment you mention might be called the Nisqually River. No hatchery smolt plants in many, many years. No directed sport fishing since 1993. No directed treaty fishery since 1993. The only steelhead harvested are some early incidentally caught during the late chum commercial fishery and whatever treaty and non-treaty poaching is able to take. Otherwise you’re looking at relatively intact habitat with the closest to non-existent hatchery interference and fishing mortality that you’re going to find anywhere I know of. And the Nisqually steelhead remain near an all time historic low level of abundance. Please explain what limiting factor(s) are controlling this population.
Thanks. It can be hard to think objectively instead of subjectively sometimes.
so you are suggesting that the nisqually meets the criteria: Zero hatchery fish; Zero commercial and NA fishing; Zero sport fishing???????
As close to zero as you will find in any WA river I can think of, yes.
Actually there is another winter run steelhead example and that is the Cedar River. It may be even a better "test" than the Nisqually as its "managment" isn't confounded by the winter chum fishery. As I recall there hasn't been any steelhead fishery (sport or commerical) or hatchery steelhead planted since 1994. Take a look at
and click on the steelhead stock report for the recent escapement history that test provided.
Salmo g. position is well taken. Our steelhead populations are by enlarge being limited by the degradation of their freshwater habitats and modern day lows in marine survivals. While I'm not sure whether the 5% value is correct it is clear that even without any fishing and planting of hatchery fish on most river systems the returning run sizes would not be significantly larger.
The above is why that huge debate around mandatory Wild Steelhead Rease (WSR) several years ago was such a crock!
While I have not stopping fishing for them, I have managed to take a vow of non-catching steelhead in the interest of conservation. Those who would like to join me, may.
No matter how good a steelhead plan may be put in place we will never ever again see historic numbers of steelhead.
We can never regain all historic habitat.
We have a great many more peiple in Washington and more to come.
We have not yet managed to convice WDFW "experts" that the "healthy" rivers need to be either closed or be made catch & release. The WSC is working on this but not in the single issue, confronational manner that brought about its early success.
I remain confident that we can bring wild steelhead back to the limitations of the available envronment.
I believe that it will take a whole lot more support from people to take up their shields for the good of the steelhead. Sportsmans Clubs, Wild Steelhead Coaltion, Nature Conservancy, etc., do a great job but more people are need on the groun, at the WDFW meetings.
so what i read is basically on at least 2 river systems, native steelhead stocks are at such a low that they will never recover. why that is the case, in my mind, cannot be pinned on any single factor, but i accept your arguements regarding the nisqually and cedar rivers.
what i am not willing to do is generalize this to wild steelhead in toto.
i am, therefore, not willing to conclude that wild steelhead cannot recover in some river systems in WA. what i believe needs to be done is to take rivers like the nisqually and cedar and make them consumptive fisheries from top to bottom. as you argue, there are limited wild fishes around, so why not put the effort into put and take fishing in those rivers?
at the same time, rivers like those on the west end, need to be treated differently. no kill, no stock, C&R only with gear restrictions firmly in place. i believe the only solution, at least in the short run, is to seperate the fishing philosophies allowing both a consumptive fishery as well as working toward a trophy fishery in limited areas.
of course we are playing this out against climate change, collapsed stocks of herring, a PH change in the N pacific which prohits krill from forming their required exoskeleton, over stocking of residents and the decline of any number of important food items out in the blue water.
we have put ourselves in dire straits for sure, but i am still a half full guy when it comes to fish genetics and diversity of the population. we do need to manage to provide an opportunity for some of these stocks to demonstrate their potential.
if and when that fails, as you mention on the those 2 systems, a consumptive fishery should be the rule.
So, it’s all about the habitat? Current harvest levels don’t have much effect on our efforts to rebuild wild stocks. Is that about right?
I think it's worthwhile to point out that the steelhead runs on the Nisqually and Cedar were pushed down by sea lions (on the Cedar) and mainly sportfishing, with some tribal damage (on the Nisqually) to levels that may not ever be able to recover, regardless of habitat or any other concerns...a handful of fish lack the ability to "recover" a run, no matter what is done.
Pretty sad, actually, because I think that those two situations in particular were avoidable...habitat destruction is part and parcel with development, and ocean cycles bounce the population sizes around, but there is a point of no return when a population gets so low that it loses the ability to replace itself even with no fishing, great habitat, and cycling up of good ocean conditions.
Overharvest on the Nisqually may have spelt the demise of that run, and a failure to address the sea lion problem at the Locks before it was waaayy too late totaled that one.
More fuel for the fire...
On the Hoh River, the run sizes have been sufficient to have both fishing opportunities and adequate escapement...but the combined total of tribal and sport harvest removed enough fish from the system that the spawning population did not make escapement...the fish were there, but they went home in coolers, rather than spawn.
In one case, the pre-season management plan for the Hoh River actually called for fishing into the escapement...forty more fish were allotted for harvest than were actually available as "harvestable excess"...regardless of all the other factors that limit steelhead runs, the Hoh is an example of gross negligence on the part of the co-managers.
This is the same "harvest first" mentality that was displayed on the Grays Harbor Chinook this fall...a two week retention fishery aimed at harvesting less than 400 harvestable fish...the quota was met on day two of the two week fishery, as everyone knew it would, and the season still stayed open for twelve more days. Hard to blame that on habitat or ocean cycles.
MSH is the mantra of WDFW, take that to the bank. it sells licenses, guarantees $$ for hatcheries, and it keeps the consumptive folks, sport, commercial and NAs off their back. so long as these people continue with the failed MSH approach, we will simply repeat the cedar and nisqually throughout this state.
there is a ton of data out there detailing the failed MSH approach all over the west coast. i am scratchin' my head right now still trying to figure out how people who claim to be 'scientists' can sit there and generate this sort of policy.
anyone have any ideas??
Salmo, while in the short term you may be right that closing hatcheries would not have a massive positive impact over the long term, I believe the abundance and ecologically stability of our wild runs would be significantly improved. Obviously we come from different places in regards to how management decisions should be made. You have the benefit of many years of experience in the field which I obviously cannot cliam. However, the literature seems clear that hatcheries are bad for wild steelhead for a number of reasons.
Fortunately I dont think we're quite to the point of closing steelhead C&R completely, although sadly I dont think we're that far from there. Therefore I would say this, how many of you would be willing to accept hatcheries closing on rivers like the Skykomish, Skagit, Sol Duc or Bogaciel? People love these bonk a brat fisheries and regardless of some management agencies, "official positions" on the issue, they do have adverse impacts on our wild stocks.
If it ever comes to that I would be more than willing to stop fishing, however I think first we should look at some of the other human caused impacts that we can control. The last thing I would say is this, Salmo you say you think that the main factor in decreasing steelhead abundance is ocean conditions. Shouldnt we then be managing for the conditions on the ground (or water in this case) rather than what we think we deserve? Certainly WDFW or NOAA have no control on ocean conditions, however there are a number of impacts we're still having on steelhead at a local level, (ie. wild harvest on the OP/SWW, and pumping half a million hatchery smolts into the Skagit). Just some thoughts.
One thing I think we can all agree on is that we love wild steelhead. Hopefully ocean survival is/will improve. It seems from the rediculously high number of 2-salt steelhead in the skagit and other P.S. systems that the harvest moratorium may be working to some degree. We'll see if that ends up meaning more hefty 3-salters this year.
I don't buy the arguement that the steelhead populations have fallen to such a low point that they can't recovery. Looking at the Cedar I think you will find that following the solving of the sea-lion problem at the locks (trapped and moved the worst offenders) the escapements jump substantially (to 620 in 1997 and 584 in 1998) only to fall dramatically later. The drop was well after the ending of fishing, hatchery plants and removal of the problem sea-lions. To my "eye" it appears that decline was due to changes in marine survival. I expect that when and if those survivals increase the escapements will quickly follow suit.
Here on this site many can attest to the fact that while the steelhead escapements on the Cedar have dropped off the charts O. mykiss continues to hang in there on the Cedar. They are just doing so as resident fish rather than anadromous fish. A growing body of literature is showing that those resident fish represent a genetic reservoir for the O. mykiss population which will aid in the rebound of the anadromous life history given reasonable marine survivals. A similar mechanism would likely operate on other river systems if the resident rainbows were allowed to thrive.
Of course for the resident fish to survive they any fishing on them would have to be designed to limit mortalities. That basically means no bait of any kind year round. Anyone who continues to fish with bait in my mind is not willing to do what it takes to protect wild steelhead. Until groups like WSC whole heartly support year-round bait bans I have to question their total committment to wild steelhead/O. mykiss protection and population rebuilding.
I could not agree more with your statement -
"Shouldnt (sic) we then be managing for the conditions on the ground (or water in this case) rather than what we think we deserve".
A close look at recent escapements on many of the Puget Sound streams; the Snohomish for example) seems to indicate that under current conditions (freshwater habitat and marine survival) the populations are very near to carrying capacity. What more could the managers shoot for?
For the last 20 years it is a myth that the Puget Sound basin steelhead populations have been managed under MSH.
Escapement goals for most of the basins were set using optimistic production factors (both freshwater and marine) resulting in goals being set well above what would be considered MSH under average conditions. Perhaps the population managed the closest to MSH in the region is the Skagit populations where a detailed look at the spawner recruit imformation over the last 40 years seems to indicate that the current goal is 150% of the "best" MSH estimate.
If it is your contention that past management (over the last 20 years) has been too liberal then the next step has to be the ending of hatchery plants and total fishing closures year-round for all species in all freshwater anadromous waters.
Curt, what were the escapements on the Lk. Washington watershed pre-sea lion issue? I'm guessing a lot more than four or five hundred...I do believe that a goodly portion of the anadromous run in the Cedar is wrapped up in the resident trout population right now, and I hope that whatever environmental cues are necessary to get those fish heading out to sea happen, and that enough head out and return to get a jumpstart on the steelhead runs there again.
How do you feel about my views on the Nisqually and Hoh Rivers?
so 'escapement goals' is what determined seasons and bag limits?? so just how are these escapement goals determined and reviewed?? i guess the folks publishing statistics have this all wrong as i continue to see MSH as the perjorative description.
I think they've been managed under a modified MSH/MSY...traditional MSH/MSY plus a management buffer.
Now that only two of the streams are making escapement, all the rest are managed under the "close them" management system...hopefully the new Steelhead Management Document will have some teeth to it to get fish runs back into the black in Puget Sound.
What's the Steelhead Management Document and how would it help restore runs?
After the WSR debates in 2001 and 2003, the Director ordered the Department to come up with a new steelhead management policy...he was none too pleased to see the rivers left open for wild steelhead harvest dropped from over 30 to about ten, and the limit dropped from 30 to 1...
While it's now more than three years later, and numerous deadlines have been pushed back or missed, it is finally entering its final stages...frankly, I haven't followed it much as we have a couple of WSC bios who have been working with WDFW on it all along, but I'm optomistic that it will have some good ideas regarding hatchery management, harvest management, and co-manager issues...as usual, the proof will be in the pudding.
The more general the policies, the more room there is for "business as usual", so the battle over the details is one thing, but implementation will be quite another.
The WSC is really pushing more than just numbers of fish, but also for diversity of the populations...in time, and space...and for the genetic integrity of the stocks.
I think there are drafts of it available from WDFW...go here for information: