Hoh River Wild Steelhead Run Fails Again!

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Bob Triggs, Oct 2, 2013.

  1. Chris Bellows The Thought Train

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    The Salt
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    i disagree that we have no impact with the level of traffic currently seen on the hoh. when over 75% of the run is c&r'ed during prime fishing conditions that adds up (actually probably closer to 100% of the fish entering the river during the season as total run size includes fish that enter after the season closes). we are responsible for our own actions and reducing our mortality via sanctuary water and no bait regulations adds some fish to spawning beds. the tribe isn't netting the upper river, and the fish that get through the nets when they are out of the water (either by schedule or during big water events) become our responsibility.

    there is a reason the finest well known steelhead rivers have restrictive regulations, especially since most of the famous ones have harvest issues outside of our control.

    no one can honestly call me a tribal apologist, but the tribe is gonna do what the tribe is gonna do and screaming about their bad behavior to justify our own is pretty selfish imo.

    of course, the crowding on the hoh chased me off the river long ago. i haven't fished it in the winter since before i shut down my charter fishing business back in 2005. it has gotten so much worse since then and any steelheading plans i now have will focus either on summer-runs or winter-runs far away from what the olympic peninsula has become.
    sopflyfisher and Rich Simms like this.
  2. Chris Johnson Member: Native Fish Society

    Posts: 1,795
    Bellingham Wa.
    Ratings: +320 / 1
    I agree that the impacts are relatively small, but there are impacts. I have been over there 4 times in the last few years, when Puget Sound rivers were open to c & r I never went over. If we could get WDFW to manage P.S. rivers individual basis it would alleviate some of the pressure. That would take $$ though, and we all know how people feel about taxes. We can make changes if we want, or not, it's up to you.
  3. Chris DeLeone Active Member

    Posts: 526
    Monroe, WA
    Ratings: +90 / 0
    Here is my perspective on the "Love to Death" concern about the OP and other rivers.

    PS guys go over there to fish because they can't fish close to home. They have to use hall passes from the wife and work - so they need to make the trip worth while - that means multiple days. Now guys have buddies they want to fish with each year and since no body in PS can go fish oh lets say the Skagit for a day with one buddy that also has or took the day off - they set out to the OP in crews of friends, four to six even more and now every body has a raft - so there is two or three of those things tagging along. Its has to become an event, extended weekend or lets take weekdays off of work so the "crowds" are less. When rivers close to home are open you call one buddy to fish that day - there is no event mentality, you have until the end of April to hook up and fish with friends, knowing because its close that you don't have to fish with all of your buddies over one or two weekends a season. Top that off with the marketing of the OP, from Montana trout guides making money off the resource while their rivers are frozen and you have the only steelhead game in town.

    My solution - as Chris Johnson said - a basin by basin management approach for the PS systems - open the Skagit, open the Nooksack and work our asses off to open the Sky someday (when its responsible to do so). These are unintended consequences from everybody so excited to have the PS system listed under the ESA and not knowing the full extent of that listing or full well knowing it and using it to raise funds for your organization.
  4. NateTreat Banned or Parked

    Posts: 60
    Lynnwood, Washington
    Ratings: +33 / 0
    Indeed.
  5. NateTreat Banned or Parked

    Posts: 60
    Lynnwood, Washington
    Ratings: +33 / 0
    At what point is it okay to fish for wild steelhead? Incidental mortality because of catch and release can kill fish. That's a given. How much effect it has on the run is up for debate. Commercial fishing kills fish. Guaranteed.
  6. Charles Sullivan dreaming through the come down

    Posts: 2,317
    bellingham wa
    Ratings: +565 / 0
    My point is that we can eliminate sport fishing all together and it will not put 1 more fish on the gravel. Those impacts will be gobbled up by those that kill the fish. This will happen under the current paradigm, every time, all time. It's not a question of morality. It's a question of process, paradigms, politics and math. It's high time we get smarter and less emotional.

    Go Sox,
    cds
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  7. Derek Young 2011 Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide Of The Year

    Posts: 2,701
    Snoqualmie, WA
    Ratings: +887 / 1
    My favorite bumper sticker..."Subvert The Dominant Paradigm."
  8. Patrick Allen Active Member

    Posts: 400
    Bothell,WA
    Ratings: +177 / 0
    just as sportsman's techniques have improved over the past 10 years allowing us to cast further and fish more effectively so has the tribes techniques. The Hoh tribe is amazingly good at drift netting now. Whereas there used to be a net fixed to the side of the river they now can do in and hour what would take 24 hours of set netting. I do agree with most of the comments above that state that if there was 1 or 2 PS rivers with CNR I think it would greatly take pressure off the OP. I am part of the problem. I used to fish PS as long as I could then take a trip or two out to the OP. Now I go twice as much and stay twice as long out there.

    Patrick
  9. Salmo_g Active Member

    Posts: 7,572
    Your City ,State
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    Nate, when you wrote, " How much effect it has on the run is up for debate," I decided to lift that sentence from your post because it is wrong. Oh, it's up for emotional debate, but not for a debate that is limited to just plain objective facts. That is the point Charles is making, and that is why he is correct. The incidental mortality associated with CNR sport fishing for wild steelhead is not having any effect on the subsequent runsize 4 or 5 years later. Guys can think and feel that it must have an effect (and it surely affects emotions), but the data do not support that conclusion, no matter how heart felt. The data do not even support that the directed harvest mortality from sport fishing for wild steelhead is having any deleterious effect on the subsequent abundance of steelhead populations. This, and the inherent treaty tribal fishing issues, is why WDFW is not interested in achieving spawning escapement numbers any higher than the existing goal.

    With respect to Puget Sound steelhead, NMFS even writes in its status review and ESA listing determination that harvest, as it has been managed over the last 20 years, is not limiting the abundance of PS wild steelhead. That being the case, there is just no mathematical formula on earth that will calculate the incidental mortality associated with CNR sportfishing of wild steelhead as causing measurable adverse impacts to populations. Even though we know full well that no individual steelhead even benefits from being chased, hooked, and caught by any angler, even a CNR angler.

    Sg
    John Hicks likes this.
  10. Danielocean Steelhead Virgin

    Posts: 1,490
    Monroe
    Ratings: +660 / 0
    I am having a really hard time finding data, and learning about this issue. Please correct me if I am wrong because I need guidance. It seems that the only reason why WDFW has the hatchery programs is not for the anglers like us but for commercial purposes. Am I way off here or am I on the right track here?
  11. Salmo_g Active Member

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    Daniel,

    You're on the wrong track. The hatchery steelhead program was begun in the late 1940s under WDG Director Clarence Pautzke to fill sport fishermen's creels with steelhead in numbers Mother Nature could never compare with. Commercial fishing for steelhead was banned under state law in 1935. But then came U.S. v WA in 1974, and treaty Indian catches of steelhead re-entered the commercial market after a 35 year absence.

    The reason for continuing hatchery steelhead programs was twofold: to maintain recreational steelhead catches because, without hatchery fish, harvests would fall to near-zero; and secondly, to maintain FTEs. A big part of any government bureaucracy is continue to make itself relevant, needed, and its staff employed. WDFW has all these hatcheries. And it has all these hatchery staff. If they don't raise hatchery fish, then what is WDFW going to do with the hatcheries and hatchery staff? Never underestimate the momentum of status quo. The best and worst example of this is the hatchery steelhead program at the Kendall Creek hatchery on the Nooksack. It get barely enough fish back to meet its broodstock requirements, and sometimes doesn't meet it. And to do this, WDFW must close the river to steelhead sport fishing to increase the probability of meeting its broodstock requirements for the program. And the program consists of producing hatchery fish that don't return in numbers large enough to support the sport fishery they were intended for. So again, the river must be closed to steelhead sport fishing in hopes of getting enough steelhead back to make brood to keep the program going to . . . keep the program going, because it sure isn't creating much sport fishing opportunity when the river must be closed to the very activity the program is intended to support.

    Now don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-hatchery. I'm just against spending money on things that don't deliver a reasonable return on investment. And a lot of steelhead hatchery programs are in that category of not delivering a reasonable return. And as far as I know, WDFW isn't even having the conversation about what it should be doing with those funds that would make sense from an economic and recreational fishing perspective.

    Sg
  12. Whitey Active Member

    Posts: 991
    Far side of the moon
    Ratings: +185 / 0
    It's as if your saying that hatcheries are really a jobs program where the state can waste millions of dollars in the most inefficient way possible.
  13. Chris DeLeone Active Member

    Posts: 526
    Monroe, WA
    Ratings: +90 / 0
    "Never underestimate the momentum of status quo."

    that sums it up very well
  14. Danielocean Steelhead Virgin

    Posts: 1,490
    Monroe
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    Thank Mr G that brings alot of clarity to a fuzzy picture for me. Please forgive me everyone as I am indeed a rookie, and wanting to get more involved, and learn more about the politics of things here.
    FinLuver likes this.
  15. Danielocean Steelhead Virgin

    Posts: 1,490
    Monroe
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    That leads to my next question. If the hatcheries are producing steelhead but the same steelhead numbers are not coming back, what is the cause of this. Is it commercial, tribal, environmental, or all? It worries me that we are pouring money into something that is not getting a good return so I now I am curious what is happening to these fish that we are so called producing but never seeing again. It does not sound like its the hatcheries faults but the causes that make these fish get lost in translation.
  16. Chris Bellows The Thought Train

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    on the coast the harvest directed at hatchery fish has decimated the most abundant portion of the run. never forget that the run sizes can never really be much higher without restoring the front end of the wild steelhead run on the coast.

    good habitat is useless if the hydrograph of that habitat doesn't favor late-spring spawning right now (tributaries, and non-snow melt creeks and rivers). also, in many cases earlier spawning fish means earlier emergence which allows those fish extra time to feed heavily before the rivers become very low and warm in the late summer/fall.
    Andrew Lawrence likes this.
  17. Chris Bellows The Thought Train

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    i also concur with those who want to see puget sound rivers managed on a river by river basis. there is no reason the skagit should not be opened if the run size is above escapement.
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  18. Derek Young 2011 Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide Of The Year

    Posts: 2,701
    Snoqualmie, WA
    Ratings: +887 / 1
    This would pertain directly to my post above, about changing the status quo, clinging to the "a fish is a fish is a fish" mentality that is the fuel for the problem painted by Salmo g.

  19. jake-e-boy Banned or Parked

    Posts: 507
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    they are just not as "tuff" a fish as their wild cousins, so everything that causes the wild ones to suffer, typically, has a more drastic effect on the hatchery fish, plus they are dumb and get lost
  20. Salmo_g Active Member

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    Good question Daniel. The short explanation is that thing called "marine survival." It was not unusual as steelhead hatchery programs were developed in the 1960s and 1970s for returns to be exceptionally good in their first few years, for a decade, if not more. I have no idea if that coincided with a naturally occurring upswing in marine survival, or if other factors were controlling. Heck, there was even a story, although I've never been able to lay hands on an actual report, let alone scientific report, that the old WDG released marked hatchery (Chambers Ck) steelhead smolts in the Green River (King Co.), and when those fish returned as adults, fully 10% of the number of smolts were counted and estimated in the angler creel. Personally I think this was faulty analysis, but it was the "best available science" in that moment, and was widely used as rationalization and justification for maintaining and expanding hatchery steelhead programs. Steelhead hatchery progams made economic sense from a government agency point of view, and why would anglers complain or object, with results like that? For all I know, maybe the conclusion was so useful that way that it would have been counter productive to do an actual SAR (smolt to adult return) survival test using today's scientific standards.

    The upshot, however, is that by the early 1970s, shortly after U.S. v WA, it became useful to know how many fish really returned, both hatchery and wild, and sadly, it wasn't anywhere near 10% of the number of hatchery smolts being stocked. Since the 1990s it has become obvious that hatchery smolt quality has never been higher, and SAR due to marine survival has never been lower - in known history. It could be PDO; that is likely the most plausible explanation, although there are numerous outliers, or exceptions. The best monitoring to date indicates that neither commercial fishing nor tribal fishing is the cause of lower SAR. It appears to be environmental; in this case, the marine, or ocean, environment. And we don't know as much about how it works to effect survival in the way we know that roads, logging, agriculture, urban development, and pollution affect species productivity, capacity, and diversity in their freshwater environments. But since steelhead spend half their life in marine waters, it is every bit as important as freshwater.

    Sg