Hatchery Steelhead... yes or no?

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Panhandle, Jul 6, 2007.

  1. Citori,

    Yes, hatchery fish spawn timing widens when they spawn in the natural environment. The Snake and Clearwater hatchery steelhead are not the best spawning stock, but they are the best that we have, given that not enough wild fish return to reliably sustain the runs. In the case of inland steelhead runs, hatchery fish are critical to most of them for long term sustainability. They are between a rock and a hard place.

  2. Salmo,

    "The Snake and Clearwater hatchery steelhead are not the best spawning stock, but they are the best that we have, given that not enough wild fish return to reliably sustain the runs."

    How? This experiment continues to be played out in the CW basin. Based on everything I have been able to gather hatchery fish simply don't return in any numbers when spawning with wild stock or themselves. Any of these fish allowed to intermingle with the few remaining wild fish is simply breeding them out of existance. Not the dams or the 5,000,000 other pressures being applied with the complete destruction of a river system.

    There are many places within the CW drainage where mostly intact wild populations of B runs still exist. Dworshak did not wipe all of them out...just nearly all of them. Very true that the stock is being highly 'domesticized' yet it is still of native NF stock origins.

    There are two Idaho drainages outside of the CW basin that have fully (or nearly so) intact wild B run populations. One is very 'pristine' and has somewhat maintained its numbers without any hatchery interaction. Even with bringing the 4 death traps online from the 60's through the 70's.

    I simply don't for a second buy that artificial augmentation is needed to have these stocks survive. They are surviving in spite of the hatcheries. If Lichatowich is even half right...we all know what needs to be done or continue to accept what we have and what we won't have in 50 years.

  3. Are there some specific bits of info you could point to or cite to substantiate these claims? I don't know whether they are true or false so having the info would be great :)
  4. I'm sure everybody else would also like to know what those two drainages are. :)

    Great discussion.
  5. Inland,

    I'm not personally as familiar with the Snake/CW runs as I am with others, so I posted the most reliable information I had. In addition, there likely is a problem mixing some generalities and specific examples.

    The best information I have suggests that many of the wild steelhead runs upstream of McNary Dam would go extinct absent the infusion of hatchery fish. Sure, it's well established that the hatchery fish don't reproduce as effectively as wild fish. And where wild and hatchery fish mix, the efficiency of the wild fish is diluted. However, few runs in the inland region depending on natural reproduction alone can sustain themselves while taking the hits from harvest and hydropower. There may be exceptions to this, but do you really think it represents most inland stocks?

    I'm known as a pretty strong wild fish advocate. But I'm also aware that as a society we have developed a situation where we have a significant dependence on hatchery fish, not only socially, but also ecologically. I think it's a complicated situation, and requires balancing the use of hatchery steelhead in river basins, and understanding that the most effective balance will vary from one basin or subbasin to another. There are few things I'm sure of, however, black-and-white, one size fits all solutions are something that I am sure doesn't work. The track record of failures should be evidence enough.


    Salmo g.
  6. if by keeping anadromous life histories of o mykiss from disappearing in tributaries above mcnary, then yes, perhaps hatcheries are doing that.....are they helping the fitness of wild populations anywhere? NO, not that we have any evidence of....including the stocks above mcnary...the hatcheries up there are making up for the lost productivity caused by the dams while likely ensuring they are needed forever by reducing the fitness of the wild populations. Without them, o mykiss would not go extinct in those systems, but would probably display limited to zero anadromy until/unless dams were removed or other habitat improvements were made to allow for greater smolt to adult survival. Certainly in terms of the recovery of self-sustaining native steelhead up there, it is dubious as to whethe they are doing anything.
  7. Salmo,

    Based on everything I have been able to study about this situation for the past 15 years (it pretty much consumed my life):

    - Based on genetic sampling the 'wild' steelhead are exactly that. Not mutts. I'm not talking about missed clips on hatchery fish but true hatched in the gravel steelhead by wild adults. The exact same scenario as found in the multitude of Kalama stock studies seems to hold true east by 300+ miles. Those fish with any hatch genes simply go bye-bye.

    All hatchery fish do in ANY drainage is provide kill opportunities. They have no place in wild fish recovery. Matters not if it's a pristine OP stream or the beatdown Clearwater.

    To Panhandle's point I would be the first person to hang up my two handers if draconian changes were made to the entire system. Knowing full well I would probably never get a chance to wet a line for those rebuilding wild stocks during the remainder of my lifetime. The thought of future generations opportunities is enough.

  8. Although sometime I find it hard to agree with what William is saying I cannot knock his logic on this topic. Fish hatcheries as a vechicle for recovery go against everything biologists have learned in the last 30 years about genetics and sustainabilty. We need to give up the hatcheries to make way for recovery.

    I would have ZERO problem with never killing a hatchery fish again, much less ever catching one.
  9. The problem is, the fish are of the same broodstock. We aren't talking about a mix of Skamania and Clearwater fish, but rather Clearwater/Clearwater fish. Furthermore, the mix of hatchery versus wild seems to have been a slightly red herring in afterthought on my part, based on the info from Salmo. Apparently the fecundity of those mixes is significantly lowered, but not nearly to the extent of Chambers Creek stock (which is near 0).... What I think we really need is for a bio *very* familiar to the basin to chime in, or for someone here to get their number and send an email/letter. At this point, I'd like to believe that there are wild stocks that can deal with all of the dams, predations, hatcheries, et al and still retain their pristine wildness, but I'm not sure how that can be... I could be wrong, but hey, at the very least if proven so, we'd have learned something pretty cool :)

    Salmo, Smalama Tom, Will any contacts with the Clearwater/Snake river folks we can ask???
  10. James, et. al.,

    I've put in an inquiry with a friend/colleague at the Dworshak complex...I'm hoping she will be able to put me in touch with somebody down there who might be able to answer some of these questions.

  11. James,

    Pull it up on IDFG's website. Look up Bert Bohlin if you can find him. Ed Bowles was a recent anadromous coordinator. Don't know what you will get them say on the record...

    As for pristine wild fish I don't have a doubt. Genetic allele testing done in various basins proved this 10 years ago because the argument was they were all watered down from the decades of hatchery influence. So legally why should we protect mutts? That debate was quickly shot down because the wild fish are exactly that.

    But in the end, as status quo continues, they won't be around forever. A few remnant populations will hold on but the remaining fish WILL eventually be lost.

    I personlly see fish culture as THE reason these ecosystems are in trouble. Not that they outwardly do nearly the damage as the concrete plugs. But because they are the complete justification for what has happened. And why nothing will change.

    So fish while you can because nobody knows what tomorrow brings.

  12. Native was the word used just a few years ago, now we've admitted that many of those stocks are are extinct. Now we go to "wild" of which a shitload are of hatchery reared origin. So when we start talking about dropping hundred million dollar dams to save fish that actually are the offspring of hatchery reared fish and not even from the selected watershed and then we decide to re-start now extinct runs of native fish with the eggs of more fish reared in hatcheries who one generation later are "wild" fish, how do we shut down hatcheries and fill the rivers with "wild fish" again whose special genetic imprints are lost to extinction? Hasn't the hatchery program shown us for decades that a lost gentic imprint cannot really be re-produced in sufficent numbers or will survive over the long haul independantly without constant supplimentation? Substitutions really don't work do they? Haven't we tried to do that for decades now and it doesn't work? The Washougal fish in the Stilly come to mind immediately. I haven't seen really healthy native fish populations of native fish anywhere in the state in my lifetime except for small two month windows in particular streams and some of the OP. So when we close hatcheries which systamatically extincted many species of steelhead with habitat loss, pestitisides, logging and who knows what, what we have left is what we have left isn't it? Same with dropping dams? Just an honest question from someone who doesn't have any professional backround and loves steelhead. We have people who want to drop dams, people who want to close hatcheries and some who want both. Even if we drop dams and smolt survival goes off the charts, aren't those the youngsters of mostly hatchery fish anyways? The last report the state gave out pretty much listed every native stock in the state as threatened or extinct. So from what fish is this amazing recovery going to come from? More hatchery fish from eggs saved from the original watershed? Their track record is pretty uneven isn't it? It gets more complicated as it goes and the sands of time are running.:beer2: Coach
  13. Coach,

    That same thought has crossed many peoples minds.

    Case in point is the huge bump of 'wild' (or what was counted as such through the windows) in 2001. Approx. 50K were counted at LWG dam during the fall portion of the run. This was from a parent generation of 6-8K. Wild Wind River numbers are up enough to at least schedule a limited hook and release fishery. John Day fish have been determined to be one of the healthiest populations in all the lower 48. All because no direct culture plants have taken place in the JD. Dams and all. Habitat degradation too. They finally stopped letting everything get above the Falls on the Wind and the population quickly rebounded. Certainly it followed suit to the rest of the Columbia Basin but there are numbers of wild fish in the canyon again that haven't been there since the 70's.

    They will re-seed themselves just like they have done over the millenia where natural causes should have wiped them out. Geologic changes couldn't stop them. I don't think we will get everyone of them either. Not every fish homes in on it's point of origin. They are wanderers and have reestablished themselves countless times.

    But we have to allow the habitat to heal faster then we continue to degrade it. And stop over-harvest.

    'Salmon Without Rivers' gives a quick synopsis of what really has happened to the ecosystems before and after human alteration.

    The only reason these fish don't bounce back and re-diversify is because we simply won't allow it.

  14. I remember St. Helens very well. If these magnificant bastards can show again in that river (Toutle)
    which sustained damn near a nuclear blast, then there is always hope. Thanks inland. Coach
  15. Ok, sorry for joining the discussion late, and no I have not read the whole novel here......

    I just don't see how it is possible for a hatchery fish to survive through the many obstacles of stream and ocean to return to it's watershed of origin, spawn with a wild or hatchery fish, and have all of it's offspring be duds. Where is there conclusive evidence of this. One biologist's study does not make this very conclusive. So please point me in the direction of conclusive evidence.


  16. Okay, so humor me as I really want to believe what you are saying :) But in order to have this be convincing, it's going to have to go through some scrutiny and dealing with doubting Thomas'.

    The John Day and and Wind are specific examples and fortunately for the fish, don't have the additional dams to go over. There are at least 4 more dams for the Upper CW fish, and the Met and Wenatchee fish have another 6 or so. With that in mind, has a study been done to extrapolate the additional mortality for wild fish/hatchery smolt plants with the gamut they have to run?

    Futhermore, while the JD is degredated, the river itself has been a wild and scenic river with *very* little road access available. Furthermore it is a largely unpopulated area, even less so than even the Peck ID area. With that in mind, has this been included as a portion of the survey or at least accounted for in some though exercise?

    Finally, if these efforts can be considered "proof", how does one account for similar efforts on the Kalama and Cowlitz being such poor performers. In both accounts, spatial separation of the spawners has been maintained for fish for several generations with little or no improvement....

    DEAR GAWD YES! 3 H's :)
  17. The real difference is, that in a natural system, things will right themselves as the damage is done, and then steadily cleaned up over time. In the case of people, the damage is done, reoccurs, and continues, with little or no time for the natural system to recover. Great example, brand new LAWNS and PARKING lots in flood plain areas......
  18. James- not sure where he was contradicting me...dont know too much about the wind or JD but the wind does seem to be coming back and the JD does have strong runs...a friend doing research there may be able to give me a better idea.

    I think my bottom line is this:

    without hatcheries o. mykiss in some rivers draining into the upper C *might* not express anadromy due to poor smolt to adult survival of that lifehistory. HOWEVER, current hatcheries are doing nothing to help self-sustaining native runs, and all the peer-review research suggests, they are doing quite a bit to hurt the native fish. This is why "supplementation" hatcheries like the White River Spring Chinook (tributary of the wenatchee) have been recommended to be terminated by the HSRG process. There is no empiracle evidence that they work over the long term at their goal; of restoring wild native stocks.


  19. Biblical reference to a doubthing Thomas? heheh :)
  20. James,

    You don't have to believe me. All I am doing is greatly paraphrasing what I have read and talked with to the bios and grunts involved in stream surveys.

    The Selway is the river. Wild and Scenic. Wilderness. Even listed in Combs book- however as A runs which wasn't entirely true. They are still there. As is a small population in the Lochsa. There are still mainstream spawners as well. There are many creeks that pour into the middle fork CW.

    There many drainages in the Salmon- Middle Fork being but the best. It still contains the largest population of wild B's in the Snake drainage.

    Heading out the door for three days on the Railroad Ranch. Debate this more later. Please call IDFG before they close today and ask who to speak to about wild steelhead population surveys and whether they are the real thing or just mutts. It's their job to discuss these items and they have always been courtious.


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