Hatchery Steelhead... yes or no?

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

  1. For the sake of debate, one does actually have to provide some info as to where the "facts" came from. Otherwise, for all we know you could be dispensing nothing more than a crackpot opinion. I'm *wanting* to believe what you are saying, but without some info to study or review, it leaves much to be desired.

    If you don't care to be believed or not, then why even put out an opinion on the subject and speak like an authority on it?

    With all of that said though, I'll try to call IDFW and see what info I can glean. Hopefully the stuff from Jake also yields some fruitful info too :)

    Have fun at the Ranch and tightlines!

    -- Cheers
    -- James
  2. Justin,

    Like I said earlier in this thread, there is a fairly conclusive body of evidence that hatchery fish produce very few if any viable offspring when spawning in the wild. Kathryn Kostow who works for the oregon department of fish and game has done some work which in my opinion is very strong. You can find some of her work on the Native Fish Society's website. That link is on one of earlier pages. Hatcheries in theory are able to increase productivity by removing mortality in the egg to fry and fry to smolt stages. Because they are removed from the selective pressures of spawning as well as surviving in the wild (avoiding predators, floods, foraging etc.) the survival of hatchery offspring is almost null in the wild. Couple that with the fact that it is almost universally true that hatchery fish have considerably lower ocean survival that their wild counterparts and you have zero (or functionally zero) adult recruits from a hatchery spawner. But dont take my word for it, check out that link. There is a vast amount of literature on the subject.

    Sorry I missed alot of this. I dont know enough about the situation inland to really do anything but speak out of my ass. Tom and others have pointed to the John Day as an example of a river where wild fish are able to exist independent of hatchery supplementation and have been able to thrive even in the face of dewatering, nonnative species and habitat degradation.

  3. Wow, page 5 for posts and zero blow ups. Must be a recent record.

    So, I have read through everyones post and surprised to find one thing missing about hatcheries on rivers. I read that when a hatchery is in place on a river it is legal for commercial fishing to be conducted. I am not talking about Indian fishing but commerical fishing. Can anyone verify this?

    Also, it was mentioned earlier that the Skykomish is in okay shape. In truth I do not see any difference between the upper sky's spawning grounds and quality of habitat in comparison with the OP. The North Fork seems to be in great shape with plenty of stoneflies and bulls which both need superior water quality.

    I think the best thing for native fish would to be to consider proposals based soley on the question:

    "Does this allow more native fish to successfully spawn in their river."

    We spend too much time discussing habitat, hatchery, and all sorts of things when the easiest way to build back fish stocks is to let them spawn more often. I know this idea sounds simple and dumb but how many eggs does a steelhead lay? 1000? Each time that two more fish can spawn successfully gives mother nature a 1000 more chances to repopulate. Quickest way to do this is to end netting, commericial fishing, and even close some rivers.

    One thing that we do have going for us in this problem is that degredation works as a positive and negative. Because of a variety of different reasons there are less predators to feed on fish then there was even fifty years ago (I've sen one river otter and two kingfishers in four years of fishing). Still roughly the same amount of food and habitat though. So I would assume that stocks could gradully come back.
  4. No commercial fisheries exist for steelhead except those for (I believe) Stevens treaty tribes.

    Steelhead are not just upper river/trib spawners. For instance, the later arriving fish in the OP often spawn in lower rivers, just above tidal influence... Oh, and those fish tend to be the largest too, as the get another few months of forage....
  5. Bycatch is, I believe, estimated to be about 25%. While not all bycatch is steelhead it must be assumed that some bycatch is steelhead. All bycatch dies.
    I have personally seen large native steelhead in nets on the Nisqually and the Hoh.
    The biggest cutthroat I ever saw was in a net on the Nisqually.

  6. That 25% is probably drainage specific and probably run dependent. 25% would probably be super high on the Sky for instance or the Skagit, where a bulk of the wild run occurs during March rather than Feb.... Even so, 25% does seem to be an off the cuff number and doesn't jive with what I've read/heard. If you've got some info or resource, could you please post it? I think there is some info on the WSC website, and I'll see what I can do to dig it up....

    But I do see your point. In the past wild steelhead would come up at all times of the year, and any currently returning in the Nov-Feb timeframe would have to run the gauntlet.

    Finally, in all fairness though, the question was about a commercial fishery specifically targeting steelhead. With that in mind, I can't find a single regulation in the state of Washington that allows commercial fishermen to specifically target or retain steelhead.
  7. Yeah I know that. Its the same on the Sky as the OP. I just was trying to say that the habitat and water quality is just fine. What we need is more fish spawning.
  8. Trout,

    While the upper reaches of the Sky are relatively pristine, the carrying capacity of the upper watershed for adult steelhead may not be all that high in the first place. Steelhead arent naturally a species that is ever nearly as abundant as coho for example. That is simply because they are mostly rearing in freshwater for two years (in WA) and they are iteroparous (they can spawn more than once). I'm not sure about the commercial fishing aspect, and I know of very few if any targeted, terminal commercial fisheries for steelhead. There is however much higher fishing effort by native nets in the early season. Native steelhead enter rivers year round and fish that spawn in higher tribs (like the N.F. Sky) are probably entering the river in the same window as the chambers creek fish, which means they are subject to much more netting pressure. We've essentially eliminated early run wild fish with hatcheries. (check out the chapter in Doug Rose's book called "Ghosts").
  9. Guess I have a different take on what is limiting our steelhead populations; especially those in Puge Sound such as the Skykomish. From what I have been able to see by far the largest limiting factor is the quality of the freshwater habitat followed recently (last 10 to 15 years) by very poor marine survival.

    It is very rare to find a steelhead population that is limited by the amount of spawning gravel; there is almost always more spawning area than the fish can use. Remember steelhead spend 2 or more years rearing in freshwater and it is the habitat needs of the young fish (fry and parr) that are the production bottle necks. Because the fish need habitats to support both the very small fry as well as the much larger pre-smolts as well as habitats during winter and summer they need large amounts of diversity habitats.

    Again based on my observation by far the largest freshwater limiting factor is the lack of quality over-winter habitat. Both the fry and parr need complex habitat structures (log jams, root wads, boulder complexes, clean large stream bed substrate, etc) to provide cover during the winter period (Nov to early spring). The small fish vacate their feeding areas as the water temperatures drop actively seeking out those complex structures to escape the winter floods. It is common to see only 1/3 to 2/3 of these small fish make it thur the winter period.

    While on the surface it may appear that should adequate over-wintering habitats in most PS basins (and elsewhere?) in reality those habitats are severely compromised by excess fine materials and high mobility of woody debris. The result what appears to be decent habitat to provide these needed winter refugia have actually become death traps.

    The other critical piece of habitat needs is the amount of rearing habitat available during the summer rearing period. With changes in the hydrology of our basins and weather changes the low flows on many of our streams seem to be much lower more often than in the past which reduces the amount rearing habitat available which in turn reduces the capacity of the basins..

    While it is popular to point to over fishing and the need to place more fish on the spawning grounds as the first step to having larger runs I don't beleive the data from PS streams would support that argument (though I would be the first to agree that in the past over fishing did occur). In basin after basin minimal fishing impacts from fishing (less than 10%) has not resulted in significant increases in run sizes. The classic example of the populations capacities being limited by imited by survival factors is the Snohomish system - when the marine survivals went into the toilet the average escapements in that basin was in the 6,000 range yet each year class (4) from those escapements produced runs that were less than 3,000 and runs have remained in that area are likely to do so until there are improvements in productivity. The productivity can only be increased by improved freshwater habitats or increased marine survival.

    Back to the main issue of this thread - should we keep the hatchery fish? As always with most fish management issues the answer is rarely black and white. The answer depends at least in part on the purpose of the hatchery program - to supplement the harvest or rebuild the population (rescue program) and the individual situation on each basin. While it clear from numerous studies hatchery fish (regardless of the brood source) are less productive that naturally produced spawners it is equally clear that most basins' productive are being affect by additional factors.

    For the basins that I fish the naturally spawning hatchery fish don't seem to be a major factor in limiting the wild steelhead populations (the incidental mortality on those wild fish while targeting the hatchery fish is other issue) and as a result I release most hatchery fish I catch thinking that on the whole another angler would enjoy the chance to catch a steelhead.

    Tight lines
  10. I am assuming that the Hoh and other OP rivers are then in the Stevens treaty. As long as I can remember, Pike Place Market is stacked to the rafters with wild OP fish every spring. Piled like cordwood in every fish monger's establishement. That is alot of bycatch going on consistently for decades. Commercial to me doesn't have to be on the high seas, nets in rivers work well too. James as always educate me on the differences.
  11. James,

    The point being on me leaving out names is so maybe you will do some leg work yourself. Namedropping itself proves nothing either...you need to have the conversations with the people in charge. And then make up your mind of what you want to see.

    There are no wild steelhead left in Idaho. All mutts. Don't waste your time. Fishing sucks. ;) ;) ;)

  12. The salmon river in idaho has some nice diversity going on... Mainstem clearwater spawners also eh? Fishing still sucks though...
  13. Something came to mind while scanning the steelhead gallery and Zen's endless brat pics. I here people supporting wild steelhead and dogging hatchery fish. There is a huge contadiction here though. Zen gets out a lot, a hell of alot more than most of us and he catches a butt load of fish. However 95% of those fish are brats. You can't really hate brats that much if you're spending the vast majority of your time fishing for them. I assume you're having fun--- right? Soooo..... you don't want to target Natives because of a conservational mentality, you don't have systems that hold native fish, you really like the taste of smoked steelhead, its cool to support native steelhead, your goal is to remove all the brats from the PNW for the sake of Natives etc...?

    Andy this isn't targeted directly at you, you're just the flagship for my point, and my point is-- For dogging hatchery fish so much you guys are sure getting alot of recreational bliss out of them, which is the purpose of hatchery programs. In other words, you are supporting hatchery fish :hmmm:
  14. I do *plenty* of legwork myself, and in fact most of it comes from tips from people in the know. :) Hence having a resource that you consider an expert on the subject is extremely useful to me. Hell, even knowing where they work is a huge deal. Not all steelhead studies are done by regional biologists as it's a national issue.

    -- Cheers
    -- James
  15. I suppose that in the end commercial catch is commercial catch. But for the sake of argument, we *really* can't do anything to control the tribes, especially the "self-regulated" ones (Quinault and Yakima, read about it, also in the Boldt decision). So with that in mind, sure the tribes are selling those fish, and it is commercial, but for the rest of the state, you can't. I wished to hell this wasn't the case, but it is. So henceforth, in this discussion, we'll be talking about standard Washington residents....

    The language of the Boldt decision (which was based on a case of whether of codifying what the Stevens treaty meant)....

    There are lots of case law precendents cited in the Bold decision. Here are the two that standout and substantiate those claims...

    Futhermore later in the Boldt decision, the specific definition of accustomed hunting and fishing grounds are codified as to where each tribe can fish.

    For example...

    As for bycatch, the RCW of Washington and Game regs strictly state that no retention of steelhead may occur by a non-tribal commercial fisherman. All by catch has to go back in the water. There is some reference that I was told about that a steelhead is a "gamefish" for the state of Washington rather than a "sportfish" and as such has different rules on commercial harvest.

    -- Cheers
    -- James

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