Increase sought in net catch of steelhead

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by alpinetrout, Dec 3, 2004.


    Increase sought in net catch of steelhead

    Thursday, December 2, 2004
    By ALLEN THOMAS, Columbian staff writer

    State officials are pressing ahead with a request to the federal government to allow an increased kill of wild winter steelhead so commercial fishermen can net their allocation of Columbia River spring chinook.

    The Washington and Oregon departments of Fish and Wildlife submitted the request in early January to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, hoping to get the increase in time for spring 2004.

    NOAA's fisheries division wanted more information and did not make a decision.

    The states have provided additional data, modified the request slightly, and are seeking the increase in time for the 2005 spring salmon run.

    NOAA Fisheries allows no more than 2 percent of the wild winter steelhead run to be killed as incidental handle in the sport and commercial spring chinook fisheries.

    Washington and Oregon asked for the ceiling to be increased to 7 percent in January, but have scaled back to a 6 percent ceiling request for 2005.

    Wild winter steelhead headed for a variety of lower Columbia, mid-Columbia and upper Willamette tributaries are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. NOAA allows up to 2 percent of those protected fish to die in the course of conducting spring chinook fishing.

    In 2002, the net fleet handled almost 21,000 winter steelhead in the process of catching and keeping 14,238 spring chinook and releasing 14,489.

    The high steelhead handle caught state biologists by surprise.

    State managers and the commercial fishery face a conundrum.

    Nine-inch mesh nets can be used, which pass steelhead easily, but kill 40 percent of the released chinook. Nine-inch mesh can cause the commercial fleet to use up its allocation of upper Columbia chinook too quickly, leaving a portion of its Willamette fish uncaught.

    Tangle nets, which are 41/4-inch mesh, catch chinook in the jaw, not the gills. Only 18.5 percent of the chinook released from a tangle net die, which makes the upper Columbia chinook allocation go farther.

    But tangle nets catch more steelhead, thus the request by the states to allow more incidental take of wild winter steelhead.

    It is feared the 2 percent steelhead limitation could cause the netters to forego a significant portion of their spring chinook allocation.

    In 2004, the states did extensive test fishing in the lower Columbia to determine the relative abundance of spring chinook and winter steelhead. In nine spring salmon fishing periods, the commercial fleet killed 0.75 percent of the wild winter run, little more than one-third of the 2 percent allowance.

    Six of those periods were with the nine-inch mesh.

    "Our goal is not to catch steelhead and to minimize (their catch) in every way possible within the constraints of trying to get the chinook allocation,'' said Cindy LeFleur of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

    The states want to use tangle nets because both chinook and steelhead released from the small mesh survive well, she said.

    "The problem is it does catch more steelhead, although the mortality rate for those steelhead is low,'' LeFleur said. "It is just that when you catch so many more steelhead with tangle nets, even with a low mortality rate, it doesn't take long to get to the 2 percent.''

    Sport fishermen catch few winter steelhead in the Columbia during the popular spring chinook salmon fishery in late March and April.

    The information the states sent to NOAA in November concludes:

    * Populations are up for most wild winter steelhead populations for which information is available.

    * The overall risk to recovery or rebuilding of the wild winter steelhead populations in a one-year increase in incidental harvest from 2 percent to 6 percent is negligible.

    The states also propose an analysis of wild winter steelhead status and the risks from the commercial spring chinook net seasons prior to the net fisheries in March 2006.

    They also would like to investigate using a sliding scale on the wild winter steelhead harvest, allowing a higher rate on plentiful years and a more restrictive rate on down years.

    Increasing the incidental kill of wild winter steelhead is not popular with many sport fishermen and wild steelhead advocates.

    Bill Bakke, director of the Native Fish Society, told NOAA the data Washington and Oregon provided to support the increase to 6 percent is inadequate.

    Winter steelhead counts at Willamette Falls are "less than accurate,'' according to Bakke, and only once did the falls count come close to matching tributary spawner tallies.

    Many smaller streams with small numbers of wild winter steelhead are not included in the analysis.

    The states' data ignore factors that do not support "their primary interest of increasing the kill of steelhead to allow a higher harvest of hatchery chinook,'' he said.

    Jeff Koenings, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said in Vancouver in October that the state thinks the increase "biologically practical'' but needs an answer from NOAA.

    The final decision will be made in a public process, he said.
  2. The SW Wash WDFW Biologist Rawdings I believe is his name said that this will most likely wipe out the Toutle native run this last year in a meeting with the WSC.

  3. I think (please no one beat me for this) that as soon as a tribe builds a casino there should be no more reason for them to net. It's funny how the last SIRC meeting in oct I heard the Stilly Biologist say that they have not fished for king in the last seven years, hahaha I have seen them do it on county property for the spring chinook, I have stood next to the big wheel'o'fish'terror watching king get sucked up. Where does it stop, it does not because of our fear of offend some one. I wish I knew more about this subject so I could rant. :mad: :confused:
  4. Jeremy

    When was that done?

    Where you talking to Kip, Jason or Pat?

    I know they where taking broodstock, heck I was even helping with that in three different places on the river.

    You need to come to the SIRC meeting so we can talk about some of your concerns.
  5. Yeah I discussed it with the park rangers this evening. I really don't know all the facts but I do know where I have seen the Wheel in the water I have also heard of a (not going to use names) doing some other things between arlington & darrington but don't have any hard evidence, and I also know of some other tribe members poaching out of a creek, this I have witnessed. Only org. I have seen checking this creek was StillySnoFish for about 2minutes in the last 4 years. There are allot of things that happen in this area that get by. This is why every time I have a chance to speak to Jennifer (or any game warden) I jump at it, it's only been once so far during a meeting she had with the Snohomish Park Rangers about fish regs. which 3 weeks later they were told not to handle no more fishing regulations but to ignore them. There are some problems on this river that run way deeper then the watershed and fish counts. buts those should not be address on a open forum like this. My age and position in the communty make me the unheard activist that is waiting for the collapse.
  6. I know I shouldn't open my big mouth but I have to say a few words. It seems that a lot of people went to a lot of trouble to cut down the taking of wild fish on the OP. I know you are not talking about the OP but I thought the taking of wild fish was state wide.

    So as I see it we(all fisher persons) can only catch one or five wild fish in a season but the gill netters get to catch all they can. You and I know that any fish caught in the gills will probably die as a result of being handled roughly.

    What are the benifits of the smaller net size. Nothing that I can see.

    One disgruntled Old man. :mad:


    A little more. Talking about nets in the Stilly system. I have seen nets in Pilchuck Creek. Ran across them one year when fishing later in the Fall part of the year. They went from bank to bank. There is a lot of poaching that goes on that nobody knows about. This is just something that was stumbled upon.

  7. Ok, If you see (anybody) a net in the Stillaguamish (or a trib) above I-5 bridge E-Mail me at

    Stillaguamish and the Skagit is my home away from home, I've have pulled nets before and I'll do it again with the right people with me.
  8. I was reviewing the incedental catch reports for the Green R. and the reported steelhead numbers appear to be too low, from simply watching them pull the nets for a day or two. How accurate are the numbers being reported? And if you can't trust the numbers who cares about the difference between 2 and 6 percent.
  9. "I try to stay cheerful, ya know optimistic, but when I read about the netting being increased in its ability to damage the wild fishery, I get down, real down." Bob

    Every wild fish that escapes is just one more chance we have at saving them.
    Every wild fish killed is just another nail in their coffin.

    Bob, the I wince when I read of stupid decisions based on greed like this.
  10. Nomlasder, a few season ago a friend of mine started comparing the monthly harvest reports coming from the tribes with the receipts at a major fish market that was buying fish from them here on the O.P. The maket was regularly buying 70 to 80% more fish from specific tribes than these tribes reported catching. This was hard data.
    Obviously these tribes are maintaining a top secret steelhead farm.
    This said however, I feel its safe to say all user groups are under-reporting.
    The folks on the river colecting data are doing their best, and the numbers they end up with, although far from perfect, give us a good starting point. I don't think the quality of the data, however flawed is the problem. It seems to me we can all agree the problem lies with the policy makers who choose to interpret that data to suit there needs.
  11. I hope all of you passionate posters have taken the time to write to the Washington Dept of Fish and Wildlife Commissioners to ask them not to allow an increase in harvest of wild steelhead in this fishery!!! The Public Comment Period is still open!
  12. Amen to both bob's. This one we've got to fight for, what a bunch of &%$%#$@#$#@^&;s I wish one of the news stations would do an investigative report on this, embarass the hell out of those who could make this stop...
  13. I have sent my e-mails and maybe they will help.

    But I have a question. Is it possible for sportsmans groups to buy the commercial licenses that are available? If so they could be bought and deactivated. Perhaps it would be the fastest way to effect change. It would definately make a statement. The political process would be short circuited and sportsmen could gain additional leverage.

  14. On Feb 5 the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will hold a public meeting and this proposal will be on the agenda for public testimony. Here is a link for the agenda:

    Show up! Let the Commission know how you feel about this cockamamie idea. The department claims that recent increases in Lower Columbia steelhead abundance justifies an increase in allowable impacts. First, their evidence is flimsy that the increase is real, and even flimsier that the increase , if it exists, justifies higher allowable impacts. But even if they are right, should such an increase be invested in more opportunity for commercial fishers (who aren't supposed to be kiling steelhead in any event), or would it be better invested in the recovery of the steelhead populations themselves? This particular stock is THREATENED WITH EXTINCTION, and this is no way to manage for recovery. It shows that six years and counting since the stock was listed, and the department still thinks job one is getting people fishing and placing every burden of proof on the resource itself. They refuse to get it. Let's send them a wake up call that WE at least do get it. If we can't get the Commission to Kibosh this thing, it will happen. YOU still have a chance to stop it; show up next saturday. Believe me, you have nothing more important to do.
  15. Thank you brother Ray! :thumb:
  16. Can anyone tell me why WDFW wants to triple the amount of bycatch? I know that it makes life easier for the commercial fishermen. But so what? Why does WDFW care? What sort of carrot do the commercial guys hold in front of the department? Or what sort of stick do they threaten with?

    Why would WDFW ever consider this rule change? What is in it for them?


  17. You can have a chance to ask those questions, and to coment to WDFW Comissioners and Managers,directly on this issue, at the Public Meeting in Olympia, this coming friday and saturday. See our calendar for the details.

    Also see:
  18. Thanks Bob, but I was hoping to have their rationale in hand before the comment period so that I could spend some time thinking on it.

    I'll contact WDFW, too. Maybe someone over there will give me a bit of information...

    Thanks again, see you there.


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