How is the Sauk/Skagit this year?

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by MJGROTA, Dec 22, 2011.

  1. Charles Sullivan

    Charles Sullivan dreaming through the come down

    There needs to be a way to find out when and where the fish are meeting their demise. Of course, we don't know what the historic baseline is for mortaliy in each stage of the fishes life.

    Go Sox,
  2. KerryS

    KerryS Ignored Member

    Interesting. I would you of all people would know where to find such information. That is assuming you looked for it.


    The last WDFW meeting I attended where they spoke about Skagit steelhead they said the fish were leaving the river but they were not making it to the open ocean which would say to me they are dying in the Salish Sea. I think they know where the fish are meeting their demise but they do not know why.
  3. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

    Jesse -
    Do a google for NMFS ESA listing document for Puget Sound Steelhead.

    For what it is worth based on what little I know or hvae read the thing preventing a return to the kinds of abundances in the Skagit system that were seen in the early/mid 1980s is marine survival. Both the wild and hatchery smolts are surviving at much lower rates than those of 25 years ago.

    The fisheries management issues (harvest and hatcheries) are in much better places than 25 years ago and compare to the marine survival issue are virtually non-issues for today's wild steelhead.

    The overall potential carry capcaity of the system for wild steelhead is limited by degraded freshwater habitats and that situation is not likely to improve to any substantial degree in the near future.

    Kerry is right the steelhead smotls take a significant hit in that first month after hitting the salt - before they leave the Salish sea 50 to 60% of them will die. It remains unknown whether that mortality is hgher than historical levels. Some of the latest info I have seen seems to indicate that elevated mortalities continue to occur the whole time steelhead are at sea (evidenced by declining portions of 3-salt and repeat spawners in the population).

    The hard reality is that with current State steelhead policy and the ESA listing of PS steelhead fishing for wild steelhead is a thing of the past. In fact without changes in NMFS impact guidelines even if there 20,000 wild adults returning to the basin there be no fishing.

    Two or three years after anti-hatchery crowd is successful in eliminating the steelhead hatchery plants in the basin Skagit steeliheading will offically be dead.

  4. Chris DeLeone

    Chris DeLeone Active Member

    "The hard reality is that with current State steelhead policy and the ESA listing of PS steelhead fishing for wild steelhead is a thing of the past. In fact without changes in NMFS impact guidelines even if there 20,000 wild adults returning to the basin there be no fishing."

    That is spot on -

    "Two or three years after anti-hatchery crowd is successful in eliminating the steelhead hatchery plants in the basin Skagit steeliheading will offically be dead."

    This is why I and many guys that I fish with stopped giving money to these groups until they have some sort of plan to keep angling in their agneda. They seem so dead set on stopping all hatcheries with no idea of what that will do to rec anglers here in PS. Many anglers are starting to see this, and thus they are not supporting these groups and shouldn't.
  5. Jonathan Tachell

    Jonathan Tachell Active Member


    I also think that a large amount of puget sound steelhead and especially salmon get intercepted and caught in Canada and Alaska. With fewer and fewer fish leaving puget sound streams fewer and fewer are going to make it past the commercial and recreational fisheries in Canada and Alaska to return to puget sound. Factor in the explosion of the cormorant, caspian turn and seal population in puget sound and you loose a huge amount of juvenile salmon and steelhead before they even start there journy.
  6. Charles Sullivan

    Charles Sullivan dreaming through the come down

    Who fishes fly fishes for hatchery steelhead?

    The fact is that wild fish are a requirement for winter steelhead flyfishing.

    You guys are correct that it would end sportfishing for steelhead. I think for this reason, the listing was a mistake. Without anglers, absolutely no one cares about wild steelhead. That is a bit fat no one. The hatcheries are also a mistake. The question is is it worth it to risk the end for a unknown chance at recovery. I got to tell you, I'm torn to say the least.

    Wht would be great is to come up with a way to change the paradigm. Listing was not the correct tool for the job of changig how the stocks are managed. The Fed.'s are even less active trying for recovery than the state was.

    Go Sox,
  7. Nailknot

    Nailknot Active Member

    "Two or three years after anti-hatchery crowd is successful in eliminating the steelhead hatchery plants in the basin Skagit steeliheading will offically be dead."

    Hatcheries will do nothing to ensure steelhead fishing in the future. In fact, most science says hatcheries are a major factor in steelhead decline.

    PS Steelheading will be dead in 2 or 3 years either way, and the hatcheries will be a major reason why.

    "They seem so dead set on stopping all hatcheries with no idea of what that will do to rec anglers here in PS."

    So the hatchery programs have really been working to expand that PS steelheading huh Chris? Like the hatcheries on the Sky, Stilly, Skagit, Nooksack.... how're those steelhead seasons looking these days? Noticing a trend?
  8. Chris DeLeone

    Chris DeLeone Active Member

    Nail - you are looking at one factor in many reasons the PS wild runs have not been good. When the hatcheries release 230K of smolt each year and they get less then a 1000 back - what is killing those fish. I would love for us to have 100% native fish in the Skagit, Stilly and Sky - but really is that going to happen now if we don't know what is killing those fish in PS? We need better data on what and where the fish are loosing the battle.

    The only people that care about the resource are the ones that use/enjoy it. Elk, Ducks, phasents, Turkey and fish its all the same. If we stop anglers from fishing we limit the voices that will stand for the fish. We don't need to expand our fisheries, we need to limit how we fish for wild fish as "Sport Anglers". Look at the Deschutes - no fishing from a boat, limited angler access (no jet boat weekends), thats good management. They have good returns, they have hatcheries - why the hell is that still one, if not the best place to fish in the lower 48. Would we stop the hatcheries there, if that meant that end of fishing the Deschutes?
    I don't blame the eco fish groups for this mess - its been poor management from the states - but the Fed listing will do us as anglers no favors and really will lose voices in the eco fish groups as well - its a loose for the fish both ways. For us to just blame it ALL on the hatchery isn't correct - there are many other limiting factors out there as well and we need those questions answered.
  9. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

    Charles -
    Changing the PS steelhead management paradigm was on the table 5 or 6 years ago with the ESA listing and the development WDDFW's steelhead policy - we can now see the result of that change. I agree that the PS steelhead ESA brought/brings little to the table for steelhead protection. The biggest hope was in the habitat arena but with 2 other species (Chinook and bull trout) all ready listed it was feared that a steelhead listing would add little in the way of critical habitat protection; unfortunately those fears proved to be well founded

    Will there be another chance at changing that paradigm? Without a doubt; though I suspect that opportunity is well in the future. Sure some clever person or group could force an re-examination of that paradigm but for the recreational angler what is the point? Are we as a group ready to put aside our apathy?; our desire to prevent anyone from "killing" a wild steelhead?; etc.


    I do see efforts to change that paradigm coming down the road when the resource rebounds (increase marine survival) to the point that there is the potential for significant tribal harvest throughout the Puget Sound region. That opportunity for a shift in the management paradigm is years down the road; maybe decades. Further there are real doubts that the resulting management paradigm will linclude a significant steelhead recreational fishery.

  10. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

    Nailknot -
    Not sure that one can make the case that for Puget Sound steelhead the current hatchery production programs are significantly limiting wild steelhead populations.

    Yes it is well established that hatchery produced steelhead are not very productive in the wild. Further hatchery and wild steelhead crosses on the natural spawning gravels are less prouctive than wild /wild crosses. It wouild seem to be a no brainer to avoid such situations.

    The one region in the State where hatchery/wild intereactions on the spawning grounds is less likely is Puget Sound. This of course is largely do to the temporal separation of the hatchery and wild spawners. The river where theat separation is the greatest is the Skagit (the basin that is the focus of this discussion). Currently on the Skagit there is a 4 to 6 week separation between the time the last hatchery female spawns (end of January) and the first wild fish does (early/mid March). With 90% or more of the wild Skagit steelhead spawnming after mid-April that temporal separation is even greater for the majority of the population.

    Even the harsh critics of the hatchery programs have had to admit there is little evidence genetic interaction between the wild and hatchery fish. The focus has now shifted to "eco-system intertactions" - somehow having those nasty Chambers Creek fish is adversely affecting the wild fish. While there is some logic to that thought there is little evidence; ciA rcumstantial or otherwise) pointing to those impacts. In fact it is quite the opposite.

    As we all know steelhead survival throughout the Salish sea is horrid. That poor survival is independent of whether hatchery fish are planted in the system. Ending hatchery plants 15 to 20 years ago in systems such as the Cedar or the Nisqually did not improve the fate of the wild fish; nor have the wild fish in the BC portion of teh Salish sea (without any hatchery fish) fared any better than those to the south. There seems to be little difference in survival of the Salish sea steelhead whether the exit the region via Puget Sound and the Straits or the northern route.

    In short whatever the impacts are from these eco-system impacts are they seem to be so minor that compared to the other factors limiting our populations they are virtually undetectable.

    I'll leave it to each individual to decide whether it is worth our collective time and energy to focus on hatchery impacts for the Puget Sound populations or noty. Or to decide whether those impacts are worth the benefits in the form of fishing (however slight) those hatchery programs bring.

  11. Nailknot

    Nailknot Active Member

    It is possible (probable) that the Puget Sound/Salish Sea is very sick and dying. Certainly the EPA Super Fund sites etc are worrisome. Agree with you Curt fish managers must make a decision if hatcheries are worth the cost for the small recreational fishery they provide. That fishery is small and shrinking further. The only long term sustainable recreational fishery is a wild fishery, how we get there (IF we can get there) is up to us.
  12. Old Man

    Old Man Just an Old Man

    Not all hatcheries are for Steelhead. If they didn't plant the lakes there wouldn't be any fish to catch in the Spring and Summer months.

    Can you all imagine no fish at all to catch.
  13. Olive bugger

    Olive bugger Active Member

    That is a scary thought, Old Man. But I believe that you are correct.
  14. Ringlee

    Ringlee Doesn't care how you fish Moderator Staff Member

    Smolt survival is the major issue regarding wild steelhead in PS, but we cannot omit other negative impacts to wild steelhead including hatchery introgression. There is no one simple answer to fix the problem facing PS steelhead. NOAA has been very slow on ESA recovery efforts. The critical habitat is still yet to be determined...

    The Skagit hatchery introgression is 10% according to the preliminary data from the Skagit Co-op project. The Sky is considerably higher at closer to 50% introgression. The WDFW Commission has told WDFW to comply with HSRG standards by 2015. This means major changes to hatcheries need to happen or they will be gone regardless in the next few years.
  15. Chris DeLeone

    Chris DeLeone Active Member

    Chris - Where is that report on the Sky and the 50% introgression with wild fish. I have not seen that anywhere.

    What % of hatchery introgression does the WDFW have to comply with a hatchery program and the HSRG standards for wild fish that are listed under the ESA?

  16. Ringlee

    Ringlee Doesn't care how you fish Moderator Staff Member


    Here is one link.

    (1994): Maximum likelihood est for hatchery contribution to sample were 76% for Sky ms, 58% for the Tolt, 33% for Raging and 27% for Pilchuck R. Except for the NF Sky, all groups appear to have lrg to mod amounts of introgression. Phelps (1997) concurred.

    HSRG and SSMP Standards are 2% gene flow. The Skagit and Sky are exceeding this standard and must meet this by 2015.
  17. Chris DeLeone

    Chris DeLeone Active Member

    Great - Im selling the jet boat. 2% - we are doomed for winter steelheading here in PS.
  18. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

    Ringlee/Chris -
    If one really wants to delve into the genetics of Puget Sound steelhead and Department of Game report from 1979 "The origin and history of trout brood stocks of Washington State Game Department"; author Bruce Crawford is a must read.

    In regards to Chambers Creek and PS wild steelhead one will find that the Chambers creek hatchery stock is really a composite stock with contributions from 7 or 8 wild brood sources (include fish from The Snohomish, Green and Puyallup systems). As I recall that mixing goes back to approx. 1920. Maybe the reason that the SKykomish and Chambers Creek fish share some common genetics is that have ancerstors in common - just a thought.

    Tight lines
  19. Nailknot

    Nailknot Active Member

    Those introgression numbers do seem high, particularly considering the recent gene flow study from the Hood River.

    Chris- yes you are likely doomed for winter steelheading in Puget Sound region. I moved away three years ago.
  20. Chris DeLeone

    Chris DeLeone Active Member

    Sorry for being a part of taking your thread in another direction - my suggestion on the Skagit/Sauk is fish hard in late January, or save the gas and fish in OR - those guys don't have all the issues we have. They still have wild fish, hatchery fish and are open in Feb, March and April - a nice time to swing a fly.

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