Hatchery or wild?

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Kaiserman, Sep 29, 2012.

  1. Kaiserman content

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    What is it?


    Before I get the "Don't pick up wild/native fish" lecture, let me explain this one...because I have a question to go with it.

    I took this snapshot from my head-cam video. You can't really tell from this pic, but what I can tell you, is that when I was landing it - there was no doubt in my mind that it was a hatchery fish. From the top view (when I was looking down at it) there was the obvious healed scar from the clpping process. However, I didn't notice how much of the fin was left, until I picked this one up.

    Now, I'm no steelhead slayer by any means, but after 12 plus years at this, at 20 or so a year, I think I have a pretty good eye when I'm landing these fish to tell whether it's a hatch brat or not. However, when I catch a wild fish I don't even bother using the net, unless I can't release the fish on the first try with one hand. Therefor, I don't have any picks of wild fish to compare it to, because I don't take them out of the water to get a good enough shot of them.

    Notice by my hand, with the tail curving down, the fin still barely sticks up. Which you can imagine when I was landing it, it didn't stand out that much. It seems to me, that I've been catching more and more of these "half clipped" fish over the past year or so. It's kind of frustrating.

    Have any of you here experienced this?

    The good news is, I did go 4 for 5 to hand on Thursday. 2 brats, one wild, and this one - which I released on account of not wanting to risk it.
  2. Jmills81 The Dude Abides

    Posts: 1,877
    Spokane, WA
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    My guess is that it's a mis-clip. I had a fish last year that looked just like that and I let it go. As you did, I didnt want to mess with the potential fine if it was wild.
  3. Klickrolf Active Member

    Posts: 554
    Klickitat, Washington
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    I've seen lots of these "short clips". You know it's a hatchery fish because the adipose is "mostly" or "partly" gone. Any healed over bump is a clear indication of hatchery origin.
  4. Kaiserman content

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    Is it just me, or does it just seem like there's been more of them over the past couple of years? I mean, even with the record runs in '01 (or '02 was it), I never came across even one like I have lately.

    Yeah Jmills, it's sooooo not worth the fine I'm sure. I don't even know what it is exactly, but I'm sure they'd make an example out of you.
  5. Jonathan Tachell Active Member

    Posts: 790
    Gig Harbor, Washington
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    Its a hatchery fish and legal to keep. Whether the game warden feels like writing you a ticket is up to him. They can write a ticket for anything and then its up to you to go to court and fight it. Kind of sucks that your guilty until proven innocent. The regs read a hatchery fish has a clipped adipose fin with a healed scar. Not a clipped fin flush with the back of the fish. The problem is its all up to the game wardens discretion, it could be a hatchery fish with a completely removed fin and he could still write you a ticket then its up to you to take the time off work and spend the time and gas to go fight the ticket. Kind of a messed up system if you ask me. That being said most of the game wardens and fish checkers I have ran into are pretty fair when it comes to this topic of missed clipped fish. The risk is always there though.
  6. Kaiserman content

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    Yeah Jonathan, I'm sure you're right. I imagine it probably depends on the river (and or warden) as well. Some rivers have true natives and you can't even take the fish out of the water, vs the river I was at, there are no natives left - just reintroduced wilds. Might not be as big of a deal...:confused:.

    I still think it has been happening more lately than it should. Like Jmills said, I didn't want to risk it. I've never been checked, but I can almost guarantee you that if I had kept that fish, a warden would have jumped out of the bushes :p.
  7. Irafly Active Member

    Posts: 3,572
    Everett, Washington, USA.
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    Now add in the fact that you have to keep hatchery fish in some waters and this fish really becomes a dilemma. I think you made the very wise choice by releasing it.
  8. Irafly Active Member

    Posts: 3,572
    Everett, Washington, USA.
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    Yes, by the way I did have this happen once and a biologist was there at the moment. He told me that it was a possibility that the fish was wild but not likely and that the best thing was to release it. Luckily that is what I wanted to do.
  9. Old Man Just an Old Man

    Posts: 21,542
    Dillon, Mt
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    They clip those fish by hand and use a fingernail clipper to do it with. They don't always get the whole fin. After you have done the first 100 the rest only get half done. If it was me I would of kept it.
  10. David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

    Posts: 1,891
    Walla Walla, WA
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    Mis-clip. I'd have killed (if I was looking for a meal) without hesitation :)
  11. Cruik Active Member

    Posts: 459
    Seattle, WA
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    What did the dorsal look like? Any time I've seen a partial clip, the torn or goofy looking dorsal on a hatchery fish is a dead giveaway. Not that I think your instincts aren't right on.

    The regs don't differentiate between native vs. wild. All have to stay in the water. Also, there's a new study out which is mentioned in another thread on this site which suggests there might be much less difference between hatchery descendant 'wild' fish and native fish than we think (especially if the hatchery fish were taken from the same native stock).
  12. Kaiserman content

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    I haven't personally noticed a consistent difference from wild to hatchery, when it came to the dorsal fin. However, I did go back and look at the video, and it looked perfect.

    Good point on the wild/natives out of the water, and I didn't mean to be misleading. At the end of that original post when I followed it by saying, "Might not be as big of a deal...", I'm simply implying that if it should happen, there may be more grace (depending on how long it was out of the water) verses some of those rivers where true natives exist, and if there has been a problem with this behavior being abused. I can usually just shake the end of my rod and get the hook to come out. That's one of the many pluses of a head-cam.
  13. Troutrageous Active Member

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    I've handled lots of steelhead for work, and I think the dorsal is a dang good indicator, at least in my area. Almost all the hatchery fish I see have the messed up dorsal, and its pretty rare on wilds.
  14. Kaiserman content

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    I wonder if it's (for a lack of better words) a local or regional thing. I know that may sound kinda silly, but I went back and looked at some of my vids, didn't notice any real difference. I've only had my head-cam for one full steelie season plus one outing this year. Only saw two that were clipped or goofy, all the rest of them seemed perfect.
  15. Rob Allen Active Member

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    Vancouver WA
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    probably a hatchery fish but would want a good view of the dorsal to be sure....
  16. Kaiserman content

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    It may not be the best pic, but after comparing it to several other pics in the gallery of wild fish, I see no blems.

  17. Rob Allen Active Member

    Posts: 879
    Vancouver WA
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    definitely a hatchery fish 0 chance of that being wild
  18. LBC nymphing beads with a spey pole.

    Posts: 251
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    100% a bonkable fish. If the dorsal fin looks all curled over and f'd up and a partial clipped adipose.. I would definitely club it.
  19. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,792
    Marysville, Washington
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    The conditionof the dorsal fin can be a pretty reliable indicator of whether a fish is a hatchery fish or not - though even with a completely missing dorsal fin if it is not missing that adipose or ventral fin legally for the angler it is not considered a hatchery fish (by fishing rule definition).

    Those deformed are caused by nipping by their mat. Hatchery fish that raised in concrete raceways (with high fish density) generally have pretty messed up dorsal fins and pretty easy to identify. The mount of deformity will range from fins that are completely missing to fins that are obviously deformed to fins that have bend fin rays to fins, etc. The fish raised in large ponds with their lower fish densities tend to have better looking fins. But even there the degree of deformity is often noticable.

    For those that interested in this topic the next time you get a chance to look at some wild fish take a close look at the dorsal fin and notice how straight the fin rays look and the over all "cleaness" of overall appearance. Finally take a close look at the very back edge of the fin and note how the insert of the last fin ray looks as it enters the body of the fish. It will enter with a nice clean angle. A hatchery dorsal fins that otherwise prefect looking dorsal fin that last fin ray insert will rounded. Pretty common for the hatchery fish to missing the last fin ray or two. The result is that there will be a small bump where that fin was giving it that rounded appearance at that posterior dorsal fin insert - this is a very good hatchery "tell".

  20. Charles Sullivan dreaming through the come down

    Posts: 2,269
    bellingham wa
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    Clearly a hatchery fish. Kill it......every time.

    Go Sox,
    Thomas Sath likes this.