Do you care enough about wild steelhead to stop fishing for them?

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Jeremy Floyd, Jan 23, 2007.

  1. Jeremy Floyd

    Jeremy Floyd fly fishing my way through life

    I dont see the Native Americans giving concessions to the people they took the land from..
  2. Be Jofus G

    Be Jofus G Banned or Parked

    Re: Do you care enough about wild steelhead to stop fishing for them?


    Aren't we supposed to stop fishing for them anyway? I was under the impression they were on the endangered species list. Is that not correct? :confused:
  3. greyghost

    greyghost Member

  4. gt

    gt Active Member

    ok, so you have a 'statistical model' which is supposed to 'seed to habitat capacity.' do folks really believe it is an accurate predictor???
  5. Be Jofus G

    Be Jofus G Banned or Parked

    cool, thanks pete.

    Endangerd or not, I'll still avoid the spots where I see natives are spawning.
  6. greyghost

    greyghost Member

    I hope that it goes without saying that we should always avoid fishing over active spawners, regardless of population size and state regulations.

  7. rudejude

    rudejude Banned or Parked

    You drink too earlyptyd
  8. Be Jofus G

    Be Jofus G Banned or Parked

    of course :)
  9. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member


    I thought the issue was MSH/MSY. Now you're switching gears to address the level of precision in the wild steelhead spawning escapement goal model.

    Is it an "accurate predictor?" No. "All models are wrong. Some models are better than others." Somewhere I have the name of the Wisconson science professor who alledgedly made that quote. The steelhead model is based on juvenile fish surveys in 12 river systems where habitat was seeded to capacity by the available indicators. That produced parr production estimates per unit area for 4 stream gradient indexes. Potential parr production was converted to numbers of female spawners based on data from the river basins where data were available. Those were extrapolated to river systems around the west side of the state, and maybe others; I'm not sure. As it turns out, it's a better fit for some river systems than for others. Surprised? Is it any good? Well, it has served a critical conservation purpose where the alternative is even less desirable IMO.

    The model received a modicum of criticism from a lot of biologists. And they recognize its shortcomings. And they didn't have a better model to offer as an alternative. The principle critics, as I recall, were some tribal fishery biologists who advocated setting escapement goals based on the MSY Ricker spawner/recruit curve. In every case, escapement goals would be very significantly lower using that model.


    Salmo g.
  10. Todd Ripley

    Todd Ripley New Member

    "The principle critics, as I recall, were some tribal fishery biologists who advocated setting escapement goals based on the MSY Ricker spawner/recruit curve. In every case, escapement goals would be very significantly lower using that model."

    ...and welcome to the Queets River...

    Fish on...

  11. gt

    gt Active Member

    salmo g., you missed the part where you lectured me about MSH/MSY not being used. i accepted your arguement.

    you instead stated that a statistical model is being used. ok fine.

    the issue then becomes, how is WDFW 'tuning' that statistical model??? that is, you make a prediction, you observe reality, they don't match. what happens to the model parameters?? or are the same parameters simply used over and over again producing the same mismatched results??

    and please don't fall back on 'something is better than nothing' notion of prediction. you and i both know that the statistics involved here are statistically insignificant and the only 'tool' you have is to correct the error variance via observation each and every year.

    so the question to you is: is the statistical model being corrected as a result of observations???

    if it is, bravo. if not, why not?
  12. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member


    Perhaps I owe you an apology. It was beginning to look to me like you were more interested in bitching about WDFW than discussing why several of us here don't see much benefit in quitting fishing for wild steelhead.

    In the arena of statistical modeling, the steelhead escapement model is crude. However, in the realm of what's available and necessary for fisheries management in the PNW, I'd say it's probably average, maybe somewhat better.

    Tuning the model can be done from two ends. Either from adult spawning escapement count/estimates or from field data on parr production. As far as I know, and Smalma would be closer to this than I, only one river system steelhead escapement goal has been changed since first set in about 1984. That is the Skagit.

    The method was to compare spawner:recruit performance with the parr production model. Higher escapements above about 8,000 haven't produced higher subsequent brood returns. The highest return of about 16,000 was from a brood year escapement of 8,200 if I recall. The Ricker MSY escapement goal is around 4,000 or slightly less, again, as I recall. The Skagit Sytem Cooperative and WDFW agreed to revise the escapement goal downward from the parr production model estimate of 10,000 to 6,000.

    To tune the model from the habitat end would require sampling parr production in every river system you wanted to refine, and conduct that sampling every year. The costs are prohibitive, and the most likely benefit would be either to not modify the escapement goal at all, or in my estimation, revise it somewhat downward for most watersheds. So in my estimation, the benefits are not worth the cost. If the result was to revise escapement goals downward, the result would be to predict some harvestable wild steelhead in rivers where they are not harvestable now. Again, the value in either sport harvest or commercial harvest is not enough to offset the cost of the work that would be required to do the fine tuning.

    One of the concepts I find difficult to sell outside the fish management community is that the management objectives for conservation and utilization can both be met with management models that are pretty imprecise. Yet they offer sufficient precision to achieve conservation goals on average - provided they are actually followed (my little dig at the Hoh, Queets, and Grays Harbor policy decisions).


    Salmo g.
  13. Will Atlas

    Will Atlas Guest

    I'm with the liberal camp, and we dont claim him.
    and smalma a couple things. A question: what data sets are the MSY/MSH management strategies built around. Also, Salmo, what work are you basing your claim that wild steelhead dont spawn with hatchery. Certainly it seems obvious that hatchery fish are spawning in the wild and although it is with limited success, like you said yourself, the spawning effort of that wild fish is void if spawned with a hatchery mate. Whether survival to smolt age is lower, or ocean survival is lower (or likely both) we know that hatchery spawning in the wild produces almost no recruits. While this may seem a bit of a tangent, the question becomes, how do we know hatchery fish arent spawning with wild. Particularly on tribs where the timing of the wild is earlier any way and the densities may be lower than later in the season so the sexual selection is not as effective at weeding out the hatchery weaklings. Also, I've heard that WDFW read counts dont even start until after march 15, is that true, and if it is wouldnt they miss many chambers creek redds which had been mossed over/moved by highflows?
  14. Kevin J. Burnham

    Kevin J. Burnham Active Member

    Will, Is that you with the smile holding a Brown on the Madison ? Did you kill it ?:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:
  15. Will Atlas

    Will Atlas Guest

    Got me kevin. In my uneducated ways, I released the fish unharmed. :). I will admit they are an excellent sportfish, although no match in fight to our native steelhead, or in agression to the fly to our native sea run trout.
  16. gt

    gt Active Member

    salmo g., i would disagree that each and every watershed would have to be field sampled to tune the statistical model in use. IF, WDFW has doctoral level statisticans on staff, and i am clueless in this regard, it would be a matter of selecting several watersheds for sampling, using the return data and comparing what the model was projecting. a 'lite' sampling from adjecent watersheds would lend some additional information that could be of use in tuning. much of this could quickly be done with a computer analysis of past data as a baseline.

    looking at the skagit has little or no bearing on the west end, and conversely. so what is really needed is a sampling 'model' from which field data were acquired in order to reduce the error variance in the statistical model. thats a mouth full, but an average days work for a statistican. what should be possible is an intelligent conversation with the fishbios in regard to similarities and differenced in adject watersheds in order to make that first guess regarding where to focus those field investigations.

    this is all manageable and i would bet doable with budgetary constraints with a bit of careful thought and input from the various folks who probably already have a pulse on our watersheds. sure there are a ton of variables which are not controllable or for that matter, known. however, a statistical model is put into play simply because you attribute error in your projections to this exact set of unknown circumstances. if the current model is akin to you and me becoming throwers in the local pub dart contest, it is just an indication that no one is attending to that error variance.

    statistical models require regular care and feeding in order to be turned into useful projection tools. would also seem to me to be deep fodder for two or three dozen doctoral dissertions, with a bit of guidance from WDFW and the fisheries program.

    my bone with WDFW, is they have an abismal track record of fisheries management. what is on the books from these folks over the course of decades, are decisions and errors in management which always come down on the side of overharvest. if that is shifting toward an honest look at preservation of our native fishes, than i will instantly become an advocate and supporter. however, from my perspective, WDFW needs to step up and demonstrate that committment with intelligent and consistent management plans for us lowly anglers.
  17. Kevin J. Burnham

    Kevin J. Burnham Active Member

    Will, You got me !! I love Browns just because they are different. I do admit that our own native fish are a treasure and I do admire your passion.:thumb:
  18. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

    Cascdekiller -
    Regarding hatchery fish spawning in the wild and the potential for them spawning with wild fish. Salmo g. may have mis-spoke - the answer to that question like so much with steelhead is a mixed bag.

    In places like the upper Columbia tribs (for example the Methow) the hatchery fish routinely spawn with the wild fish, in fact the long term success of steelhead in the part of the State relies on them doing so. It is a decent example of an integrated hatchery program.

    At the other end of the spectrum and prehaps what Salmo was thinking about is the situation with the Chamber's Creek hatchery winters in North Puget Sound streams. In that case the hatchery and wild fish are temporal separated with virtually no over-lap though even there it wasn't always the case. A little history on how that came to be might be of interest - it does illustrate that the folks at WDFW sometimes (certainly more frequently than most here are willing to give them credit) actually think about the issues surrounding wild steelhead and take action to address those issues.

    Up until 35 years ago the prevailing think regarding steelhead management was based on 3 things -
    1) A steelhead was steelhead - hatchery fish were the equal to wild fish and one could replace the other.
    2) Sport fishing could not over fish a steelhead run.
    3) Only limited number of spawners were needed; in fact very little spawning surveys were conducted. The thinking that only about 1 redd/mile of spawning habitat was needed.

    In 1972 Lloyd Royal published a report for the old Department of Game question much of the thinking on steelhead management and especially issues surrounding hatchery fish (I think Tom B. has referred to that report in other discussions). That report fueled serious in-house debated about steelhead management with one of the outcomes of that debate was the development of studies to examine such issues as escapment needs and the effect of hatchery fish spawning in the wild - those studies became in 1978 and were the first I know of on the coast.

    By the early 1980s the early returns from the Kalama studies (looking at the performance of the hatchery fish in the wild) became to indicate the problems with those fish. At that time the Chamber's fish were returning and spawning earlier than most wild fish (a product of the hatchery selection). However there still were unspawned hatchery fish around into April and as I recall as much as 15% of the catch of hatchery fish in places like the Skagit happened in March. In the snow melt dominated rivers of North Puget Sound rivers the wild spawning timing typcially begins in early March continuing well into the summer with peak spawning typically in late April to mid-May.

    The local managers recognized that hatchery fish were spawning with the wild fish and they were likely causing some problems and the hatchery program was not likely to go away anytime soon. Therefore they set about working through selection of the hatchery broodstock to eliminate those later spawning hatchery fish. While strict sciencitific protocol would require that the managers waiting until the Kalama work was peer reviewed the local WDFW folks thought the issues were importatnt enough to begin that process prior to that review - but hey as is often pointed out it would be rare to call our managers scientists.

    By the early 1990s the look spawning tail of the hatchery population had moved from early April to early May and today the Chamber's hatchery fish have completed their spawning by the 2nd or 3rd week of February thus creating a significant temporal separation between the two populations.

    An issue with such selection of the spawning timing of the hatchery fish is that there is a tendency for the spawning/run timing to become compressed -most of the fish returning is a few weeks. Counteract that once the late spawning tail of the hatchery spawning timing had been eliminated a spawning protocal was established the required that 30% of the eggs were taken in December, 50% in January and 20% in early February. It was hoped that those guidelines would insure that the fish would return over at least a 2 month period (late November thur January). The managers also detremined that they didn't want the hatchery steelhead returning any earlier than late November. This was due to the large commerical chum fisheries (tribal and non-tribal) that occur in the region during November. It makes little sense to be producing fish where significant portions end up as by-catch in non-target fisheries.

    In other parts of the State the interactions between the hatchery and wild steelhead is often between the two examples above.

    Sorry if I diverted the discussion from the thread topic but thought this issue illustrated come of the complexities of steelhead management and that the managers sometimes have a method to their madness. As an aside many of the folks involved in steelhead management that I have met have a passion for that resource that matches that of most of us here on this site.

    Tight lines
  19. gt

    gt Active Member

    humm, lets see if i can distill the previous post by smalma down to a few points (if i miss any, jump in and add them at will)

    - without stocking 'wild steelhead' runs will cease to exist in specific drainages
    - time spacing of stocking will keep hatchery fishes from mixing with wild fishes
    - stocking of hatchery fishes must continue


    - some strains of wild fishes have already been genetically engineered into extinction as a result of stocking programs so stocking is our only means of having fish for consumption
    - no attempt is or will be made to examine, without iterference, whether or not these assumptions regarding a wild fishes ability to sustain will be undertaken, not even on drainages with fair to good returns of wild fishes
    - and of course, there is zero metholodgy available to support the notion of temporal seperation as being effective in seperating naturally returning from hatchery fishes so who knows if genetic dilution is actually occurring everywhere.

    what have i missed???
  20. Will Atlas

    Will Atlas Guest

    Curts example of the Methow river is an example of a watershed where truly "native" fish are probably functionally extinct. With the number of dams those fish have to pass survival is greatly impacted. Rightly or not, the state has implemented an integrated hatchery program on the river and others like it, using native broodstcok, rearing offspring in hatcheries to increase egg to smolt survival and allow them to supplement the wild spawning populaitons. While I too have questions about the prudence of this management strategies , I think we can agree the Methow is in a bad way. Additionally there is not very much literature about the effect of integrated stock hatcheries on wild stocks to indicated they have clear negative impacts.