How is the Sauk/Skagit this year?

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

  1. Chris DeLeone Active Member

    Posts: 526
    Monroe, WA
    Ratings: +90 / 0
    Its funny Nail and we have talked about this once before - the Sandy is ESA listed, has under 900 retruning wild fish, a hatchery and living in OR you can still float that beauitiful river and swing a fly in Feb, March and April. While the Skagit has a more limited hatchery run, a much larger basin, four times the number of wild fish and we take the two handed top grip in the old balloon knot. Good Move Nail, good move.
  2. ChrisC Member

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    So say after all the hatcheries are gone (which I have issues with the economics as well), what's next? What do the FFF, WSC, etc. have as a long term strategy to ensure that anglers (or the public for that matter) don't write off the PS fisheries and not care at all?
  3. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,836
    Marysville, Washington
    Ratings: +716 / 0
    Ringlee -
    Had a chance to look a little deeper into the table you provided via the link - thanks. Have not seen the Warheit work and am looking for a copy.

    However I did it interesting the notes following the various cites of the Warheit (which I'm assuming is the most recent available).

    For those that have not looked at the table here are the Warheit note for each of the 4 basins listed in the table.

    Snohomish -
    "No potential introgression noted"


    Skagit -
    "Suggesting possible introgression"


    Green -
    "No potential introgression noted"


    Nooksack
    "No potential introgression noted"


    Maybe genetic interactions between the hatchery and wild fish is not quite as great as some think. Should note that on the Skagit it seems that the samples were from the Cascade. I am interested in what samples from elsewhere in the basin (Sauk, etc) show.

    Tight lines
    Curt
  4. Ringlee Doesn't care how you fish Moderator

    Posts: 1,858
    Somewhere you don't know about, WA
    Ratings: +52 / 1
    Curt,

    Steelhead in the Skagit particularly are very similar throughout the entire system. The Sauk showed slightly different genetic variation but this was a small sample size. Still showing 9-11% introgression from the prelim data.

    My point is we DO NOT know what is going on right now in PS regarding hatchery introgression. We can fight until we are blue in the face over this data shows this, that data shows that. Perhaps mixing stocks since the 1920's has created a much larger, longer problem and here we are in another chapter. Just a thought.

    We can chase the 918 chambers fish in the Skagit this year and the next few years until SSMP (WDFW) guidelines shut it down. If you are giving up on wild steelhead, enjoy those chambers fish on the swing while you can...
  5. Ringlee Doesn't care how you fish Moderator

    Posts: 1,858
    Somewhere you don't know about, WA
    Ratings: +52 / 1
    You forgot the Stillaguamish. Low Level Introgression
  6. KerryS Ignored Member

    Posts: 6,765
    Sedro Woolley, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +1,785 / 0
    I for one have already "written" off the Skagit. I have determined that between the actions of the feds, tribes and Mill Creek WDFW I will never be able to fish for steelhead again on the Skagit. I am also assuming they will continue to limit my fishing until I am only allowed to fish for humpies for three months every other year.

    This isn't apathy. This is reality.
  7. Nailknot Active Member

    Posts: 1,907
    Cascadia
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    There is no correlation here. We understand the issue now: when hatchery fish inbreed with wild fish, their offspring do not survive past two generations, if at all. The reason there is so little measurable introgression is because hatchery fish are unfit for life in the wild and pass those unfit genes along. Hatchery crossbreeds die. So the wild fish gene pool, amazingly, has remained very pure. Imagine if wild fish did not compete with hatchery fish on the gravel. How many wild fish would we have now? Instead of the cross breeds which simply take up space, then perish. This is, of course, only one factor of hatchery impact on wild fish. There are many more.
  8. Chris DeLeone Active Member

    Posts: 526
    Monroe, WA
    Ratings: +90 / 0
    Nail and Chris - both of you are very involved in eco fish groups (as I call them) - after we get the hatchery into the HRSG 2% guidlines and basicly remove the hatcheries from our PS systems - we all agree that steelhead fishing will end. Maybe to what Kerry stated - So no steelhead fishing after November 30th - maybe in some years fishing ends on Septemeber 30th - then what?

    How do the groups you are both involved with see rebuilding of the runs - do the groups move to stop commerical harvest in PS, address Bolt, the commerical bottom or hering fishery, Federal investment of restoration of habitat, What? Do the groups feel we are just so far down the tube that stopping all hatcheries will stop the commerical fisheries and sport fisheries, so we just have to eat the shit plate our fathers and grandfathers made for us.

    I have looked at both web-sites and see nothing about where we are going, a road map or how long the folks involved see restoration or have just excepted no/limited recovery. I have looked at what they call Hatchery Reform and the docs just list the reasons why hatcheries are bad - but offer no "reform" to make them better or offer less impact on wild fish.

    Understand I'm not blaming your respective groups - its just kinda hard to see what these groups see as success. In turn its hard for me to give money to groups that have a mission of stoping anglers from fishing and then limiting the voices that stand for the fish.
  9. Ringlee Doesn't care how you fish Moderator

    Posts: 1,858
    Somewhere you don't know about, WA
    Ratings: +52 / 1
    Chris,
    Are you proposing that if hatchery steelhead are removed, steelhead fishing will end forever? It could end for several years or it could indeed end forever and as someone who grew up fishing the Skagit for steelhead, I never want to see that happen. It's sad to see people give up on wild fish and look to this small hatchery season as the saving grace for the Skagit steelhead angler. If you have caught a wild steelhead from the Skagit, you know that no hatchery fish will ever replace that. It's funny you say I'm an anti-angler because I choose to help protect wild steelhead by shutting rivers down that are in bad shape to fishing, (that I can't fish either) and look to further help through bringing accountability to managing organizations through hatchery reform, harvest reform, and pushing for more opportunities on streams that can support fisheries. People can still submit rule comments on Puget Sound Closure dates and I proposed extending dates of several streams to maximize harvest on hatchery steelhead. I am also against WDFW closing C&R Steelhead opportunities where WDFW has showed inconsistency in management and escapement levels.

    My main point is we still have wild steelhead returning and the Skagit's escapement was 4000 fish this past year. Forecasts show 4200 wild fish this season. Still low and I can't support a C&R season if we want wild steelhead to recover, although I would love to fish the Skagit in the spring.

    Must we have instant recovery or if the fish do not recover in one life cycle is it deemed a failure?

    What commercial harvest are you mentioning? Treaty? Non-Treaty? No steelhead fisheries happen in PS (Salt) except for bycatch and you can ask WDFW for the data. It is extremely low for non-treaty commercial fisheries contrary to a belief that commercial fisheries are intercepting thousands of our steelhead in Washington. With so few fish returning currently, this might be why the data shows very little bycatch. In some respect, organizations are challenging the Bodlt decision through the Elwha Litigation and SHMP accountability in co-management. WDFW needs to represent and fight for us in these plans instead of bowing down to Co-managers every desire.
  10. Chris Johnson Member: Native Fish Society

    Posts: 1,795
    Bellingham Wa.
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  11. KerryS Ignored Member

    Posts: 6,765
    Sedro Woolley, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +1,785 / 0
    There is far more wrong with wild fish in the Skagit than a hatchery.

    The elephant in the living room is 5 large concrete plugs within the Skagit system. No one talks about these dams as we have all been told the ones on the Skagit are above natural fish barriers that prevented anadromous fish to reach them anyway. I am not sure I buy this but no matter as I believe the dams cause far more damage by restricting natural water flows, water temperature variations and they prevent the nature migration of nutrients, sediments and debris throughout the system. No large floods to scour out new runs and spawning grounds, to remove and reform log jams. The river has become a man controlled water way and its inhabitants are the ones that pay because we don’t know shit when it comes to running a river. I firmly believe we are finally starting to see the impact on the river and fish of these gigantic concrete plugs. I serious doubt anyone will be able to do anything about them in the foreseeable future.

    The dikes on the lower river prevent the river from spreading out during high water events and it is unable to create sloughs and oxbows which are the nurseries of all the fish not to mention water fowl and other creatures that inhabit the estuaries. The dikes will never be removed.

    The river in many areas has farming right down to her banks, towns built on right top of her with their accompanying polluting runoff flowing into the river. I don't see any of these towns being relocated anytime soon. Hell, they have been trying to relocate Hamilton for over a decade without much success if any.

    No trees left for most of her length, having been logged off years ago. Little if any have been replaced because that would take land and very few are willing to give even a portion of their land up.

    All of these things have conspired to eliminate the Skagit’s fish and if all of these things are not changed there will be no more fish. Period.
  12. Chris DeLeone Active Member

    Posts: 526
    Monroe, WA
    Ratings: +90 / 0
    Chris R - I never said you were anti-angler, but it seems to me that the only thing some of the groups out there are calling for is the end of hatcheries and the end of CnR fisheries. With that end - there will be recovery.

    I think we should address the things we can control - hatcheries in one - yes, but alone it will have zero impact on Skagit returns. What other agenda items are on the list from these groups to address the other issues -
  13. Salmo_g Active Member

    Posts: 7,572
    Your City ,State
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    There is little to no evidence that the freshwater natural production of wild steelhead has decreased measurably in the last 30 years. There have been some minor perturbations of degradation, and there have been some habitat improvements. But overall, it hasn't changed much.

    Hatchery steelhead are a problem to wild steelhead in the Skagit. But the size of the problem is somewhere between very small and sorta' small in comparison to other factors influencing steelhead abundance. The adverse effect of hatchery steelhead on wild steelhead is at its peak when the wild steelhead population is at its lowest. That was in the mid to late 1970s. It is once again approaching that level, but the hatchery program is managed differently enough that the effects should be less.

    Kerry thinks the five major dams in the basin are adversely affecting Skagit steelhead. The Baker dams remove about 20 miles of mainstem and about the same in tributary habitat. Removal of those dams would immediately restore access to that mileage and 6 miles upstream of Baker Lake. The estimated recovery time for the lower 20 miles is 50 years based on the relicensing discussions. The Skagit dams completely modify the Skagit's hydrologic cycle, with higher average summer, fall, and winter flows and reduced spring flows. I mentioned in the first paragraph above that there have been some habitat improvements, and the Skagit dam flow regime is the major one. The natural hydrologic cycle has not been restored, but pieces identified as important to salmon and steelhead have been. The dam river reach (Newhalem to Marblemount) used to have the lowest steelhead redds per mile, but since the new flow regime was implemented, it has increased. Importantly, it has increased during a time when that powerhouse of steelhead habitat, the Sauk River Darrington to Suiattle reach has declined. Similarly, pink, chum, and chinook are doing better in the dam reach than in other reaches compared to former distributions and abundance. I can't prove it, but I think it's highly unlikely that removing the Skagit dams would result in any measurable increase in steelhead production.

    The environmental factor that overshadows all others in terms of effect on steelhead abundance isn't anywhere to be found in the Skagit basin. It's in Puget Sound. Marine survival, and early marine survival in particular appears to be the over-riding consideration factor that controls abundance of both hatchery and wild steelhead in the Skagit basin.

    Removing hatchery steelhead from the Skagit most likely won't hurt wild steelhead productivity, but any benefits are far more likely than not to be immeasurable. I say immeasurable with confidence only because the negative effects of introgression, as real as they are, are very, very small compared to the limiting factors. Having seen the preliminary genetics analysis, I'd venture that introgression might not even make the short list of limiting factors.

    Sg
  14. Sean Beauchamp Hot and Heavy at yer 6

    Posts: 2,145
    Shoreline, WA, U.S.
    Ratings: +514 / 1
    Great discussion everybody!

    While I dont have much to add as the only things I know or have heard of the skagit is what I read on this forum, but I do have one question: How many wild unspawned natives and kelts get picked up in the tribal spring chinook fishery every year?

    Thanks.
  15. Salmo_g Active Member

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    Your City ,State
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    Sean,

    Not so many unspawned from what I've heard, but more than a few kelts. Too many for how few spring chinook are present that early.

    Sg
  16. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,836
    Marysville, Washington
    Ratings: +716 / 0
    Chris-
    The things that "we" can control- harvest and hatcheries have been being addressed for nearly 30 years. That sad reality is the virtually everytime the hatchery or harvest wrench has been ratched down we have seen declining wild runs. I would submit that the things "we" can control are not what is currently controlling the wild populations. By constantly focusing on those issues the brief windows where the kind of things Kerry talks about passed without action being taken.

    Kerry -
    Those 5 concrete plugs have had very different impacts on the wild steelhead, The 3 upper dams (Gorge, Diablo, and Ross) appear to have been sited at the upper end of anadromony for the basin. If you get the chance sometime when you are in the area take a look at the narrow canyon at the head of Gorge (take a boat upstream of the power house or walk above the Diablo townsite). At any kind of flow it is hard to imagine that river would nothing short of a malestorm as it poured that narrow slot. That said I believe that the yoyoing flows downstream of those projects have adverse impacts on steelhad production downstream.

    The situation on the Baker dams is a different story. They clearly blocked and flooded significant amounts of steelhead habitat. Any mitigation for that steelhead loss has been essentially traded away by the various agencies and tribes for more sockeye production.

    Ringlee -
    I agree that biologically the situation with Skagit wild steelhead is not as dire as sometimes protrayed. However with current state and Federal policies and fishing impact guidlines you will not be fishing for those fish in a spring CnR season even if the population rebounded to 10,000 or even 20,000 retruning adults.

    It may be the case that the anglers (and perhaps the fish in the long run) would have better served by focusing on insuring those policies and guidelines were more flexible in regards to fish abundances than things that seem to be "bit players in limiting those populations.

    Tight lines
    Curt
  17. KerryS Ignored Member

    Posts: 6,765
    Sedro Woolley, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +1,785 / 0
    I still believe the dams are a having a huge detrimental affect on the river system. How could they not? They have completely changed the flow of the river and the chemical makeup of the river. Removing from the system the very things I mention in my original post. There is no way you can prove me wrong. It has taken 50 years for their impact to show up but it has. Besides the dams are but one, however huge, problem the Skagit system has. The reason we are losing our fish is a combination of all the things I mentioned and others have mentioned. You can deny any one of them but the reality is the fish are disappearing and the dams are playing a role in that disappearance whether you think so or not. I live on this river. I see it every day. I know those dams are wrong and are causing problems. Common sense tells me you cannot build 5 concete dams on a system and they not have a detrimental affect on the system. You just can't do it.
  18. Charles Sullivan dreaming through the come down

    Posts: 2,317
    bellingham wa
    Ratings: +565 / 0
    The listing has changed the management completely. We can submit rule changes all we want to the stat (WDFW) but it is the Fed's who are calling the shots. It's apparent to me that neither the Fed.'s or the state have any expertise in utulizing a listing to actually do something to aid recovery. All they will do is close sport oppertunities.

    With the wildly fluctuating returns even historically, it could be that the runs rebound without any corelation to anything but a change in ocean conditions. We still won't be able to fish until the fish are delisted or WDFW ggets an approved PS steelhead management plan. I don't see them even trying to accomplish this in the near future. Now if WSC of WSC in conjunction with other groups attempted to create this plan for hte state, I would sell the hell out of some brownies as well as directly donate to that. It was the states management of the resource that led to WSC petitioning for listing, was it not?

    I truly appreciate the dialog on this topic. It is the single biggest reason I frequent this board. many people read these threads.

    Go Sox,
    cds
  19. Salmo_g Active Member

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    Kerry,

    Responding to some of your statements:

    ". . . completely changed . . . and the chemical makeup of the river."

    Can you explain this comment? I can think of a number of ways the dams change the river, but this is not one of them.

    "It has taken 50 years for their impact to show up . . . "

    Most effects begin to show up right away, streambed armoring, changed hydrologic regime, overgrown flood plain and side channels, water temperatures. I don't see any of these effects having a worsened effect 50 years later than they did initially.

    "but it has. Besides the dams are but one, however huge, problem the Skagit system has. The reason we are losing our fish is a combination of all the things I mentioned and others have mentioned. You can deny any one of them but the reality is the fish are disappearing and the dams are playing a role in that disappearance whether you think so or not. . . ."

    This could be true, but it might be true in the same way that the hatchery steelhead are having an adverse effect on the wild steelhead. If it were a significant effect, why would steelhead redd abundance increase in the dam reach at a time when they have decreased in other, more productive reaches?

    Charles,

    Hey, there's a germ: how about the WSC draft a PS steelhead management plan and let WDFW and the co-managers react to it? Waiting for them to act is gonna' be like waiting for the next ice age. Developing the draft and poking WDFW with a sharp stick periodically may be the fast track to action.

    Sg
  20. Nailknot Active Member

    Posts: 1,907
    Cascadia
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    That is a flat out crazy statement Chris. Seriously. Who has closed PS rivers and managed the fish into oblivion? The pro-wild fish organizations? C'mon man. You know better.