Hatchery brats: To bonk, or not to bonk?

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Mingo, Nov 27, 2005.

  1. Hey Chadk... don't put me in that loopy way of thought.

    Methow, i'm sure that was joking around right, are you serious, if so, where do you want everybody to go, or do i already know? LoL
  2. Methow,

    I believe some of your points are right on. I’ve estimated that wild salmon and steelhead in WA began an irreversible decline when the state human population exceeded 2.6 million, roughly 1968 - 1972. With so much infrastructure in place since then, I’m not sure simply having people move away would bring it all back. I’m not leaving; I was born here.


    It looks like we roughly agree about hatchery and wild fish and disagree on the roles of scientists/publishing/managing. I’m OK with that, and we can still have a productive discussion if you like. I mainly responded to you because of the narrowness of your criticism of WDFW and Curt specifically. While you stand by your comments, you cannot support your crediting Curt for single-handedly bringing PS steelhead nearly to ESA listing because you are wrong. Perhaps you were exaggerating for emphasis.

    It’s hard to keep this succinct because the topic is broader than most of us know. Steelhead management, while falling under WDFW jurisdiction, varies from Puget Sound to the coast and the Columbia River. I don’t know exactly why, but I think it has to do with the institutional nature of the agency outliving the terms of any director or set of commissioners. Nonetheless, it makes it difficult to directly compare management faults between the regions.

    Perhaps WDFW could be more proactive with wild steelhead conservation. I really don’t know. The PS area appears more willing to support conservation measures like WSR, CNR, and closures, with greater buffers to the resource. The agency definitely projects a more harvest oriented tone on the coast and LCR (lower Columbia River). I’m not sure how much of that is attributable to the staff and how much to the respective constituencies.

    With respect to PS steelhead, I think one of Curt’s points is that even in the absence of hatchery steelhead, there is no present indication that the wild runs would be performing any better than what we’re observing. While I agree that hatchery steelhead can and do adversely affect wild steelhead populations, I’m confident that the extent of the effects vary by time and location. The Skagit is the PS system I’m most familiar with, and my best estimate is that the adverse effect of 50 years of hatchery stocking on wild steelhead has been immeasurably small. Considering that the hatchery program provides a significant social benefit (although admittedly less on the Skagit than elsewhere, like the Snohomish system), how much social and ecological sense would it make to give up the hatchery program benefits for an apparent immeasurable improvement to the wild population? The constituency for steelhead harvest on the Skagit is about as large as the CNR constituency when you consider both treaty and non-treaty interests.

    Indeed, there are 4 Hs. And for now, there is no indication that harvest is presently limiting the run sizes of PS steelhead, based on the information I’ve obtained from those who manage them, including Curt. Habitat always limits, of course, but the freshwater habitat for PS steelhead hasn’t changed that dramatically in the last few years to explain the current situation. By all indications, it is marine survival conditions, and we don’t know what exactly. So yes, it’s appropriate to “blame” or attribute the present low smolt to adult survivals to marine conditions. Just as it was appropriate to blame that July flood a few years ago for limiting that’s brood year’s steelhead production. With wild steelhead harvest rates (for PS steelhead) as low as they are, it’s not appropriate to attribute run sizes to harvest effects, particularly when other variables better explain the result. (I learned that by reading published and unpublished literature, not to mention my own 25+ years of experience.)

    You indicate that the polls you're familiar with show more anglers supporting steelhead CNR than harvest. Just over a year ago, when the WDFW was considering just this issue for the coastal rivers, WDFW staff had polls indicating a larger wild steelhead harvest constituency. Frankly, I don’t know enough about any of the polls to have an opinion on their accuracy. I know and meet plenty of anglers on both sides of that fence. And BTW, this forum, populated by fly fishermen, is definitely not a cross section of the population. Fly fishermen have shown time and again that they will accept less opportunity, less harvest, and pay more. However, they represent no more than 10% of the angler population.

    Further, with regards to the Hoh steelhead issue, lack of clarity pertains to more than the fish population. Every indication is that the Commission decided, at least in part, to keep a wild steelhead harvest in effect because of the AAG’s advice regarding the legal uncertainty about the foregone opportunity issue. This completely takes the topic out of the biological realm. I know that the state and tribes do not share the same spawning escapement objectives on all the coastal rivers. The Queets is one; I’m not sure if the Hoh is another. If the foregone opportunity issue were settled, then a no kill regulation for wild steelhead would be the ethical and ecological higher ground no brainer. For now, I’ll give WDFW the benefit of doubt that there remains significant uncertainty. The downside is that the legal status of a major issue trumps biological management prudence. Sometimes, none of the good, or preferred management options are not on the menu. That’s the way real life is.

    We’ll disagree that published science is the only way to further scientific understanding. In my field, many of us depend as much, and sometimes more, on “grey” literature simply because not all the good and useful stuff gets published. Or we’d have to wait years to use it when it finally does get published. I doubt that most who don’t publish have any problems comprehending published material. That’s about as silly as saying those who don’t write books can’t read well enough to comprehend their contents. I don’t write books, but I both read and fully comprehend a great many. Finally, those who publish are mostly academics and researchers. Academics and researchers don’t manage; therefore they cannot be the ones who make management decisions. If academics and researchers want to manage, they will have to change jobs. Of course, then they will be too busy managing to publish any longer. See how it works?

    Lastly, I was referring to the larger salmon and steelhead subject area when I inquired about doing the right thing. When you add salmon to the mix, it’s another universe, and it’s even less receptive to the notion of conservation. It might make a lot of sense ecologically to reduce production and even close several hatcheries, but as WDFW knows from trying, that produces immediate legislative intervention. Society elects representatives, but commercial fishing sufficiently controls enough legislators to obtain the results they want. Come watch the LCR ESA chinook and steelhead take situation if you want to see political intervention at its slimiest. The upshot is that a Director and or Commission that does only what is best for fish, while ignoring politically strong constituents will find they are no longer a Director or Commissioner very quickly. Because, like it or not, and maybe you didn’t vote for the slimeball (but somebody did), but that really is the way it works.

    Back atcha’ bro.


    Salmo g.
  3. Gear, yes that was a joke, in no way did I mean for anyone to move away.
    Habitat loss is a factor that has some strong effects that we all agree on.
    Tho our state popultion has grown the number of lic. fishermen has decreased and as such the WDFW budget has also shrank. Hard to do alot with less.
    Chadk, is the comment about gear head suppose to be a insult, LOL
  4. Smalma,
    I have no idea what your point is in response to my post, which makes me think mine was not clear. Or, this thread could just have gotten so convoluted I can't focus anymore. Actually, the fish return the nutrients to the land. I'm not saying more dead fish = more new fish. I'm just saying they are a recognized part of the cycle, so leaving the "brats" in has repercussions beyond beyond the genetic purity of the species.
  5. Salmo:

    I agree we roughly agree on things. I have been too hard and attacking with regard to smalma, for that I apologize, this board is about bigger and better things than I.

    I understand what you are saying about publishing and completely support the role of grey lit in science. I am not implying you or smalma cannot understand published literature, that is obviously not the case. What I imply is what I mean: folks who do publish (which by the way is not me either) have a much more applied grasp of what the research means. Perhaps a good example is the current favoratism of LWD projects. LWD is good, but as recent studies show putting LWD in streams does not necessarily save fish or in fact inrease fish abundance, instead it tends to draw fish in- with both good and bad results. Perhaps the same could be said about hatchery carcass subsidation. Either way that was my point, and I do know several fish managers who have taken on a realtively similar simple view of things. Again, not implying this is the case with smalma, but that is my point.

    I do understand the politics of the WDFW and Tribal relationships, and of course with regard to the fish commission. I understand also that many good WDFW biologists have had other recommendations rejected based on politics.

    I think the most frustrating part is to, as you and smalma have, watch steelhead runs continue to dwindle and yet management actions remain reactive, rather than proactive. That is my main point. I agree that smalma can't change that single handidly. I should back off that anyway.

    My main point is that harvest is still a problem in some areas, and that is really the only legal influence that WDFW has. So of course I assume that is where they can make changes.

    I agree ocean conditions are a big new and relatively unexplained issue regarding survival. That said, I am sure you and smalma both know that recent literature indicates most offspring result are produced by relatively few adults. For those who don't understand, that means that relatively few adults produce most of the offspring that survive to adulthood from generation to generation. This means that salmon are inherently very sensitive to harvest because we never know if the fish we are killing was one of the few that was going to father/mother a load of offspring for the next generation.

    I am sure we probably won't agree on the overlap between hatchery and wild, but that is okay. I don't think there is enough solid historical data to make a concrete case for PS, but it is intriguing that steelhead spawn across a very protracted period all around the region.

    Anyway, I have been too hard here. As Zen, Chris, and Bob have pointed out, I can make my case in a much more positive fashion. Nonetheless, perhaps I need a bit of banishment to fully respect the community this forum presents- as many others have pointed out to me.

    So I send you back love, and respect.

  6. I think he was quoting an earlier post and wondering what it said/meant.

  7. Windtickler -
    I probably wasn't very clear -
    You mentioned that the lack of nutrients in our salmon streams is a likley factor in the decline in productivity. You also mentioned that folks were collecting carcasses at the Wallace on distributing them on the NF (I assumed that was the North Fork Skykomish).

    My point is that changes in salmon harvest management in the local waters has over the last 5 years or so released in a 2 to 3 fold increase in the salmon biomass returning to the Snohomish basin. That increase represents an increase of 500 to 1,000 tons of carcasses.

    If the theory was correct that more nutrients should result in more fish one would have hoped to see that in the last year or two and have not.

    Sorry about the confusion.

    Gordon -
    I understand what you are saying about a relatively few spawners producing the bulk of a year class of smolts. However at least in the case of the Snohomish winter steelhead I don't see how that can be much of a factor in the recent decline in production.

    Beginning in 1984 an escapement goal of 6,500 wild steelhead was established for the system and management attempted to achieve that goal. Prior to '84 the most recent escapements were in the 3 to 4 thousand area. From 1984 until the late 1990s the average escapement was around 7,000. Escapements of 6 to 7 thousand consistently produced run sizes that were typically in the 8 or 9 thousand. Sudden the escapements of 6 to 7 thousand fish in the late 1990s were producing run sizes (escapement plus harvest) that averaged less than 3,000. We all would admit that having less than 1/2 fish returning per spawner is pretty darn scary. Since this type of survival reduction was seen for both hatchery and wild winter steelhead and over a large area - Georgia straits and Puget Sound marine survival seemed to be the only common factor.

    Not sure what a manager could or would be expect to do except to rein in harvest. In this case what was done (what I did) was make the recreational fishery wild release (through Feb.), close the spring CnR fishery that was targeting the wild, stack the tribal fishery in December and early Janaury. The result was that the combined fisheries targeting the returning hatchery fish was expected to have a 5 to 6% impact on the wild resource. That was based on a expected 10% hooking mortality on the recreational caught sport fish and expected tribal catch based on past experiences with that fishery.

    The ultimate impacts were likely less than the 5% - due to a much lower tribal effort than expected. In a perfect world we would have preferred that management response would have been a year earlier. The decline was so unexpected that there wasn't a management response until after the first year of poor returns.

    An aside that is rarely talked about or considered is what the potential impacts to steelhead are as a result of more conservative salmon management - particularly coho. Twice since 2000 in the Snohomsih more than a quarter million wild coho have escaped fisheries to spawning in the wild in the Snohomish basin. The average coho escapements for the basin in recent years has be 2 1/2 times long term average from the previous 25 years. Potentially if steelhead were using unoccupied coho habitat for additional rear habitat putting additional coho in that habitat would result in a lower steelhead capacity for the basin. Have no idea whether that type of interactions are occurring however it does point out the need to be looking at things at a large scale than just single species - an ecosystem approach if you will.

    Tight lines
  8. If "foregone opportunity" concerns were what drove the commission's decision to lift the moratorium on the OP, why doesn't the state go negotiate with the tribes to get them to agree that they get to harvest no more than 50% of the number that will allow achievement of escapement goals, even if non-natives are taking less? If the state asked, I have to believe that ultimately the tribes would have to agree (perhaps for a limited period, say 10 years), because they would face such intense PR backlash if they didn't.

    Seems to me that political realities are one huge obstacle to getting WDFW to be more conservation-oriented. Just look at the statutory mandate of WDFW:


    Talk about your irreconcilable differences. "WDFW, your mandate is to conserve, but only in a way that maximizes fishing opportunities."

    WDFW clearly has no control over ocean conditions and hydropower, and for the most part has no control over freshwater habitat, but it does have control over hatcheries and harvest. One way to look at the statutory mandate is to take the long term view, and rationalize the scaling back or elimination of hatcheries and further limitations on harvest (including incidental) as conservation steps that will over the longer term maximize fishing opportunities. But even if there was a strong will to manage for the long term, the reality is that anyone who is interested in the resource - commercial or recreational - tends to think in annual cycles (i.e., fishing seasons) and the WDFW seems to follow suit. Is anyone willing to put their rods and nets down for 5 or 10 years in order to help the WDFW kick the hatchery addiction (other than when forced to because it is too late and the ESA forces managers' hands)? As long as the agency's primary focus is to maximize fishing opportunities for the coming year, it's hard to imagine them kicking that habit.

    Why is the commercial fishing lobby in this state so powerful still? The industry itself is a shadow of its former self. Is it time to start a recreational anglers' political action committee to try to counter the commercial industry's influence? There are a lot more votes in the recreational angling community than the commercial fishing community.
  9. Well put... I'd like to find out if this is true or not, but based on some anecdotal information the commercial fishery is about 2x smaller in the dollars generated versus the sport fishing industry. I would like to find out if this is the case or not though, cause if it is true, the we as sportfishermen are being taken for a ride by an industry that while historically has been important for $$$, but now is actually in the backseat! If it's not true, then that would explain why the lobby groups are so powerful.

    Finally, I myself have *always* been an advocate of hatcheries, but in the right context! For lakes near urban areas and for juvenilles, it totally makes sense to have those lakes set up as put and take fisheries. As far as I'm concerned for other lakes, we should follow the BC Canada example and ban bait, and greatly reduce the take. All in all it would mean no more 6 fish stringers for people, but in context of quality, things would be a hell of a lot better!
  10. o mykiss, you're tracking now.
    The recreational angling community needs to understand that in response to every attempt to cut recreational harvest, even if by C&R rules, it should be met with total opposition.

    Based on dollars and cents, and voting numbers, which is the basis for who gets what share on the non-treaty fish, recreational anglers should be getting more, and the commercial should be getting less. This has been pointed out in the past by Curt: the solution every year to depleted stocks should not be to curtail recreational opportunities.

    However, the "commercial fishing community" is highly and effectively organized, and has a single goal to pursue, which greatly simplifies their ability to meet that goal. It’s strictly business.

    In contrast, the "recreational angling community" is highly disorganized, has no clear goal focus, and does not participate in the process. In the competition for a share of the resource, we are road kill. For god's sake, we will tear each other's throat out just over nymphing vs. swinging debates; or, as occurred here, disrespect others when just trying to come to an understanding of the known science involved in hatchery vs. wild fish in order to stroke their own ego. Hoh.

    Recreational anglers should have a larger base harvest; should escapement goals not be met, then sure, reduce the size of that harvest, but the reduction of recreational opportunities should be on a larger piece of the pie to begin with. It is a natural resource 'owned' by the public: who says it belongs mostly to the commercial fishermen? they do of course, because they are better at being heard by those that make the rules, and we piss and moan about it, then have a beer and watch Monday night football instead. If you don't participate, you shouldn't bitch; just take the scraps from the table and be happy with it. NOT.
  11. Methow,

    Wow, I'm glad that you were kidding. We do have salmon in Colorado - although they are kind of small - but it might be close enough for some Washingtonians. Guys like Old Man Jim who never catch anything anyway could come to Colorado and suddenly start catching fish and posting useful fishing reports. However, with all the home equity you guys have built up, a mass migration of Washingtonians to the Front Range would price a bunch of us out of the luxury home market.
  12. "Windtickler -

    You mentioned that the lack of nutrients in our salmon streams is a likley factor in the decline in productivity. "

    Nope, I never said that and in fact, when I reposted to the effect I thought that's what you thought I even clarified I never said that. I feel I should add a smiley face here to indicate my tone, given the seriousness of this thread, but naw.

    My point was that the whole ecosystem needs the nutrients brought back from the sea. I don't remember all of the details becuase when it was explained to me I basically went "big picture: cool. Ooh, what's that shiny thing?" But the trees and the salmonoids are in symbiosis and you can't have the forest without the fish (not like that's an issue so much now that we don't have a forest, but in principle....) Besides your figures are irrelevant. The last decade is a blip in geological time you can't tell me that current runs compare to historical runs. But I do not want to get into the numbers at all. Because our whole conversation is irrelevant. I skiipped all of the sparring in the past 5 pages and was just responding to the original post: to keep or not to keep.

    So to that point I reply: One reason to let them die in the stream is that by doing so, even hatchery fish return nutrients to the environment. To your point it's not like the forest, could really be over nutrated (nutriented? fed?) The mroe we can do to repair the cycle, the better.

    Of coure you can do the same thing by bonking them, eating them, and shitting in the woods. Just try to do it as far away from a stream as possible to have the most effect.

    The vet just left, he declares this particular horse to be completely dead.
  13. Curt-
    your argument about steelhead being potentially limited by coho or other species really hinges on whether "Dispersal Assembly" or "Niche Assembly" is more applicable to our native salmonids. While neither concept is ever completely dominant or applicable, the limited knowledge I have has led me to believe that "niche assembly" is much more applicable to our salmonids than "dispersal assembly" in most cases. This suggests that even if one species vacates its niche....like you suggest coho may have partially done through harvest previously, steelhead would have a limited ability to capitalize, and similarly under such an understanding, coho would have a limited ability to limit steelhead productivity were their population to expand.

    While the biannual fluctuation of chum abundanceis is a good example of "dispersal assembly" limitations on productivity, steelhead and coho have more distinct habitat use adaptations (the difference in habitat use between their young and by adult spawners is more pronounced than between chum and pinks, and it is spread more both temporally and spacially). The lack of such a direct relationship between coho and steelhead abundance in other systems, as well as the relative stability of summer steelhead populations during the same time period suggests to me that while steelhead maybe somewhat effected by coho abundance, they are not to the degree that chum are by pinks, and that increases of coho probably do not explain a majority or even a significant portion of the steelhead population collapse, and that other factors are probably much more responsible.

    Have you seen any studies on this?

  14. Tom -
    you said - "increases of coho do not explain a majority or even a significant portion of the steelhead population collapse, and that other factors are probably much more responsible."

    I agree completely . I brought this issue only to illustrate on complex survival factors can be and that actions in one area can have consequences in other areas. Sometimes small impacts and other times larger impacts.

    To your comments regarding "niche assembly". It is certainly true that each species has preferred habitats where they are most suited. However that does not mean that they can successfully use other habitats especially in the absence of competing species. I don't recall any specific studies regarding this phenomenon however in sampling fish populations one can see it in action. While electro-shocking steelhead streams I have noticed that parr are rarely captured in typical juvenile coho habitat when coho are abundant. However in streams without coho some density of steelhead parr are found in such habitat.

    Perhaps a better illustration would be the introduction of coho fry into former trout only waters. If there were strict niche segregration would imply that adding coho to such a system would not result in a reduction in the trout abundance. I'm sure that is contra to what any of us would expect. A real world example would be the resident trout populations in the Yakima and may occur in the future with the attempts to restore the salmon populations in the basin.

    I have to agree with Windtickler that this thread has more than outlived its usefullness.

    Tight lines
  15. Also would like to comment on this straw man of "PR Backlash" against either tribes, commercials or sports. Last year's attempt at wild steelhead release legislation proved that PR/media is against release and pro opportunity statewide. Always better to understand our foe than misplace attributes into the strategy. There is no PR opportunity for C&R in WA State as public opinion currently stands. I'll work on my neighbor if you work on yours. Tribes have shown clearly, recently, that overharvest does not affect them PR wise.
  16. Depends if your hungry, If so: Bonk. If not: Someone else will bonk it.
  17. Bonk, eat.
  18. O. mykiss,

    The Commission decision to rescind the WSR moritorium on the OP might have been based on more than just the foregone opportunity issue. With the change in Commission members, I was never able to find out. The Region 6 bios for WDFW believe that there are harvestable numbers of steelhead in most of those rivers in most years, and that the regulations should permit harvest. The Commissioners can overrule that, but they cannot ignore it. They need to explain the basis of their decisions to their constituents.

    Re-negotiating the foregone opportunity issue with the tribes isn’t that simple. If the tribes feel they are in the stronger position, there is no incentive for them to negotiate. Clearly, by the AAG’s action, they feel there is significant risk to the state, so WDFW is unlikely to seek adjudication if they feel there is a good chance of losing. Most tribes are mostly immune to PR backlashes most of the time. They already know they are not liked by many or most of the non-treaty fishing community, and they feel they are victims of racism by most of the rest of society, and the evidence overwhelmingly supports that, so they generally don’t feel much need to concern themselves with public perception. At least that has been my experience with tribes.

    You ask why the commercial fishing lobby is so powerful. Three reasons come to mind. First, they are well organized, by an order of magnitude better than recreational angling, if not two orders. Second, they are well financed, because most of the money comes from Alaska fishing revenue, where many or most of WA commercial fishermen also fish, and the processing industry which makes at least five times as much money from the Alaskan fisheries as from WA. Third, because state legislative influence can be had for a very small price. A good friend of mine observed that it isn’t so strange that people can be bought, but it seems odd that they sell themselves for so little.

    RFA (Recreational Fishing Alliance), PSA (Puget Sound Anglers), and even the WSC (Wild Steelhead Coalition), and some others are working the political lobbying angle. However, it takes money, and as is expressed here in this forum, even a few fly fishermen cannot agree on strategic and environmental fisheries management issues. Imagine how disparate it becomes when you add all the traditional gear anglers, catch and kill crowd, salt water anglers, etc. You get 10 times more disagreement than agreement every day of the week. Nonetheless, they are trying. Heck, I sent money to RFA this year, and I always thought a group like that couldn’t be further from my interests. But it seemed like it was time to lower the bar and focus on the common recreational fishing interest rather than fuss about killing a wild steelhead.


    Salmo g.
  19. I think WSC failed hard last season- a new approach is expected...

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