Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Smalma, Jan 2, 2013.
you do realize we can go back and read your posts?
I was actually hoping that opportunity might happen on the Elwah. My basis/reason is that if we truly want to see whether a system can, without any intrusions from hatchery plants, fishing, and water flow regulation, rebuild wild fish on its own, then eliminating them (unwanted factors) would be best-IMO. Otherwise, you will always have the "well, it's not working because of hatchery plants, or restricted access to parts of the watershed with the best spawning habitat, or over-harvest issues"...which most of us agree are parts of the problem. By eliminating these variables, we can more accurately control the test.
We should consider the possibility that some or all of our watersheds may not be able to rebuild under even the most ideal conditions we can create. That possibility is why many are a bit leery of the "wild fish or nothing" mantra.
It is quite interesting be able to only see one side of the argument. I can almost imagine what the other side is saying. Likely something about the church of wild steelhead and how it is so mistrusted. Tell me I am wrong. This is so predictable.
with over 40 years of hatchery plants why would fishing be so bad now, when it was so good from 1950 to almost 1985 ?
why would it take so long ? if we are blaming hatchery fish for most of the problem ?
i started back in 1972 and there was always a good number of early natives caught in December.
this is just me but i noticed a big change after 1974 (Boldt). like around 1978.
I think Bolt just happened to coincide with a downturn. Mid 80's and the Skagit was a BOOM. Better than the 70's. All the PS rivers boomed in the 80's. Or nearly all of them. And then they crashed about the same time. Those with the worst habitat fell sooner and farther. I think it is far too easy to blame the treaty Tribes...
Hatchery fish aren't to blame. Habitat destruction (spawning and rearing) is número uno. Our rivers just flat out can't support the returns that they once could.
Hatchery fish do not help and are one piece to the current puzzle. Novels have been written by many more versed than myself hit the search button and find all you'll need. Experts please correct me if I'm wrong.
You have touched on some good issues. As an angler I started steelheading a decade or so before you did with most of my fishing on the Snohomish and all the experienced anglers talked about those early "wild fish". They tended to show up in late November (Thanksgiving fish) or early December and were typically larger (10 to 14#s) than what anglers now refer to as the "hatchery brads". And yes today we do not see many of those early "wild fish". During the 1980s those fish continued to return in good numbers it was just after the mid-1980s they all had missing adipose fins. That a earlier scale sampling confirm that those so-called early wild fish (at least in North Puget Sound rivers) were actually early 3-salt hatchery steelhead. Just another example of how preceptions can be mis-leading.
A couple things happen in the early 1950s. After nearly a 1/2 century of hathcery attempts at raising steelhead the Game Department cracked the "code" in successfully producing steelhead smolts that were survive and return. The key was raising the fish to an acceptable size (6 to 8 inch) with spring releases. As a result for the first time there were good numbers of both hatchery and wild fish in the rivers. The second and prehaps more important issue it is now clear that in the early 1950 we entered a cycle of good ocean survive conditions for Puget Sound steelhead. We now know that those good conditions are drive by changes in what has been called Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and it is the norm for those cycles to last 2 or 3 decades.
One of the interesting things about those PDO cycles is that it has been observed that when Alaska and Washington tend to experience opposite conditions. When things are good here they are bad up north and when bad here good up north. I found it interesting that during the period we saw good steelhead conditions here in PS (early to 1950s to late 1970s/early80s). During the period the steelhead returns to the Situk river (one of the world's best?) were approximately 1/10 of what they were in the decades before or since that good era here in Puget Sound. Those poor returns happen in spite of having consistent and good habitat, no hatchery fish, no tribal fisheries, etc.
In short the up and down cycles in anadromous salmonids (such as those driven by PDO conditions) are normal and should be expected. Of course when additional pressure is put on the resource (whether habitat, harvest, hatchery/wild interactions) the down turns will likely be larger than otherwise would have been expected.
So, let's all hope the 3 decades of down cycle is done and we're about to turn the corner. It would stand to reason that the last down cycle would have been around 1920-1950. Do the return records show this? Perhaps the ways and methods of record keeping have changed such that they are not comparable, but if these natural cycles are on record, that's a good thing. Odds are most of us will experience at least one in our lifetimes. I caught the end of the last one and, the good Lord willing, might see another.
Very interesting stuff on the PDO. Looks like we are 2-3years into a cold phase. The graph on the following page shows quite a correlation about spring Chinook returns and the temps in the ocean. www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/research/divisions/fed/oeip/ca-pdo.cfm#Figure3