Skagit River Steehead

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Andrew Lawrence, Nov 27, 2012.

  1. Talked with some, ahem, "experts" about the discrepancy between PS, SW WA, and nor CA. They wonder why the SW WA and nor CA regulations aren't more like the PS regs.

    Inland, it appears it is the feds as well as the state.
  2. SG,

    That I am not surprised. Based on what happened on the Penobscot, not in the least surprised. However the difference between norcal and PS...ideological differences. Cali has had a few rivers with no hatchery plants, certainly no hatchery overlap with wild release for some time. And not what appears as a 'disdain' towards the hook and release angler.

    Oh well. Better to spend my time and money in Idaho, Oregon, Canada (both coasts) and Scotland. These areas seem a little more angler friendly then WA.

    I have given up on ever getting to fish the Skagit again during the spring. Truly hope to have to eat those words.

    Chris DeLeone likes this.
  3. With 230,000+ smolts released, surely that has an impact on wild Steelhead, and is an awfully pitiful return.
  4. Yes Chris you are correct - but what else it tells us is that something is happening to both Hatchery and Wild fish somewhere in the Salt-chuck. This is where/or my hope is the next logical step in research should be. It would be nice to see some of our environmental fish organizations take the lead and put pressure on the Feds and the State to study these issues.
    It would also be nice to see them put pressure on the Fed and State to explain why - if recreational CnR fishing has little impact on returns, why are they not letting us fish - as Inland has noted they can in SW-WA and in CA. If they stood for some PS angling opportunities - like some did on the Coastal PA streams, my thought is they would get much more support from anglers and increase their memberships. In my mind they are the natural voice of the angler and it would be nice to see some of that in their mission statements.
    Im a member of Ducks Unlimited and they do support hunting and those opportunities and they don't apologies for it - its funny to me that the environmental fish groups take a different approach - you would think they would follow the lead of a group like DU.
  5. Has to be something within the PS system itself. The rivers to the north, and to the south seem to be doing "better". Has anyone done a sampling on all those fish eating birds? What percentage of steelhead smolt they eat compared to salmon etc?
  6. TFG - Yes most of us up here have come to that conclusion, it could be a number of things - Net Pens, Predators, loss of estuary habitat and pollution in PS.
    In my opinion the bottom commercial fishery really took a toll on PS habitat (ell grass) and with the number of Hatchery fish they pump out (over 200,000) as Chris noted - that probably brings more predators around to chase those little guys and they may not have anywhere to hide out and the loss of that ell grass could effect whet they eat out in the estuary as well. This is all just DeLeone speculation - I been too busy with a wife, kids and a job to really check that kind of stuff out. But yes - something is fucked up in PS and the Salt.

  7. Salmo g,

    I have also noticed this discrepancy, and while it seems that quite a few SW WA rivers with E.S.A. listed species remain open (the Kalama River comes to mind) while Puget Sound tributaries close earlier and earlier, the fact that the South Fork Toutle closed 2 weeks early this past spring in order "to protect wild steelhead" did not fail to raise my brow. Anyhow, it might be a sign of things to come.


  8. Chis,
    Native fish Society is relatively new to the P.S. region, until a couple of years ago there was only one guy up here, but our numbers are growing. Hopefully we can garner enough support to put that kind of pressure on the state, it's definately something I am working toward. Undoudtedly Puget Sound is sick, below is a link I posted some time ago about man made outfalls into P.S. This would be a good place to start. One thing that continues to trouble me is the lack of early fish in many of the Puget Sound systems. I know there are still decent #'s of wild fish in the Nooksack in March, and 6,100 in the Skagit is pretty good, so if it's ocean conditions or P.S. why would it effect early fish more than late fish? I know it is conventional wisdom that the bulk of the runs are later, but I have seen #'s that contradict that convention. Tribal catch records from the 30's-50's and sport catch records from the 50's that show a sizeable portion of the runs were Dec. Jan. and Feb. So if that is true, what has happened to those fish. The line on the graph is on a downward trend, and has been for a long time and it's in danger of droppng completely off the chart. Ocean conditions surely play a part, but can it explain the precipitous decline we have seen over the last few decades?
  9. Chris - are you sure those numbers from the 30's-50's did not include hatchery fish unmarked? I've been fishing around here for a while - grew up here and fished as a kid. What I remember is in Dec and Jan you got/fished for hatchery fish - our Wild fish started to show in February and gain steam through March and April - some years you got more fish in later Feb and less in April - it was just how the run came in and how strong it was.

    "The line on the graph is on a downward trend, and has been for a long time and it's in danger of droppng completely off the chart" - Chris, No, the trend heading up the past three years and with 6,185 coming back last season from a low in 2009 of 2,502 its not dropping completely off the chart. They are not the numbers from 1982 to 1989 I get that, but we will see this season how many return off of that poor 2009 year - if we get 5500 or even 6000 fish back - CnR on that 2009 low return year had little impact on the returns. We will see.
  10. The rivers in queston were chosen( Nooksack being one), because there were not hatchery plants @ that time. Yes there has been a bump upward, that give one hope. But overall, the trend is downward. I would love to see a CnR fishery on the Skagit and the Nooksack, I love to catch Steelhead as much as the next guy, I'm just not sure how to get there. Geater minds than mine have pondered that question to no avail. Maybe WW is right, "Occupy Skagit"
  11. How do you convince a department that its mission needs to take a turn? Seriously, there isn't an anadromous river in the world that sees 5-6K wild fish back that is closed to C&R angling. Hell most of them are open to kill fisheries in the atlantic salmon world.

    One small yet important region:

    York River = about 2K returning fish. Kill fishery on MSW salmon. A popular one at that.
    Dartmouth = <1K fish. Kill fishery on MSW salmon.
    St. Jean = 1K fish. Grilse only kill.
    Bonaventure = 2K fish. Grilse only kill after decades of MSW kill.
    Petite Cascapedia = 1K fish.
    Grand Cascapedia = 2K fish (vies for the largest salmon in north america) after the tribal net moratorium. Grilse only now.
    Matapedia = 3500 fish. This is the fish killer's river in Quebec. Thousand fish a year, more or less, have been removed from this river since it was opened to the public in the 70's. The run remains between 3500 and 5000. Every year. As a trib of the Restigouche, the mouth of the Restigouche gets HAMMERED by tribal nets. No one knows for sure how many salmon never make it past. 3500 to 5000 fish end up in the Mat every year with the sport angler siphoning off their kill.
    Matane = 2K fish. This is the other fish killer river in Quebec.
    St. Anne = <1K fish. Grilse only.

    Those are the major river's on Quebec's Gaspe Peninsula. 99%+ pure wild and native atlantic salmon. Nearly ALL of them support tribal harvest in some form or another. These numbers are the average since the stocks collapsed throughout the atlantic after the 1960's. Some years are better. Some are not. Sustainable harvest on all wild fish.

    And here we sit with 5-6K wild fish (on average) returning to the Skagit and there isn't a C&R fishery with selective gear rules? That somehow the rec angler is the bad guy here?

    I realize Concrete or Rockport or Marblemount isn't Spences Bridge or Riggins or Kamiah where steelhead dollars are needed to get some spending money in peoples pockets, let alone stay in business for some- how do you get the river valley's businesses to speak up? Have them apply the pressure based on jobs and economic impact. Is so little money spent in the skagit valley by anglers that it doesn't matter one bit if we are there or not? I have always had to travel, so I have always spent money in the valley for the week or two or four I was there each year.

    The point about Ducks Unlimited by Chris. That is the perfect point. We shouldn't have to apologize for angling. You support D.U. so you can HUNT ducks. RM Elk so you can HUNT elk. You support washington trout so you can set up an occupy skagit movement? What happened to the CCA? Wild Steelhead coalition? Who is out there championing the privilege of fishing for the sake of fishing and not just going out to get a fish for the wall or freezer burn? (It looks like the occupy skagit is going to have to be this voice)

    Every person in WDFW and NOAA knows this spring fishery is acceptable. If this wasn't the case there would be NO fishing in most of California's north coast streams. Nor would there be ANY fishing on listed rivers even if there is a hatchery component. If angling is so darn dangerous, then remove the stupid hatcheries and close every listed river. All of them. I know, careful what you wish for. Seems a few PETA members are part of NOAA's management team. And WDFW.

  12. Finally! Some data that we can carry around in our hip pocket.
    Where can one procure the "Official" version of this?
  13. WW,

    Each river has its own management body. ZEC Gaspe covers the first three. ZEC Bonaventure. ZEC for the Petite. Cascapedia Society for the Grand. CGRMP for the Matapedia/Casaupscal. Not sure on the Matane, think it too is a ZEC. Same with the St. Anne. There is the ZEC Pabos and ZEC Nouvelle. The Nouvelle offers salmon fishing on a population that is maybe a few hundred fish at most. I can't recall but I think they do allow grilse kill. Self limiting fishing pressure as there are so few salmon. But it does get fished and it has been improving all the while.

    Killed fish must be reported to the offices, which in turn put that data out to the public. Along with rod effort and rules for the various rivers. The rules have changed in recent years so my list of what is allowed for kill could be wrong. But it should be very close. Quebec Salmon (google) will give you some fun to look over the various numbers. CGRMP for the Mat/Cas.

    Rivers are snorkeled (most rivers are crystal clear) each year for fish counts. They have a very good idea of how many fish get past the nets. They will adjust the kill season if counts are coming in low.

    The fish counts are a phone call away (however I am not sure you can reach them this time of year, so an email with patience will work). At least they should be. Some are listed on the web. Some are not. These rivers are meant to be fished. They are marketed and they and the river valley businesses make it LOUD AND CLEAR....We WANT your money.

    These 'public' rivers are the best managed in the world. There is more demand than product. Problem solved. There are those that don't have or want to spend big money. Problem solved and you will catch fish. Fish for fun only? Problem solved. Take a fish home? Again we can do that. Some semblance of a local community managing their river, with state oversight of course...might as well dream as we know this is impossible for the USA...this would be the answer to our problems.

    Wild fish here have little to no voice. Hatchery fish have a voice because they have dollar signs. Local management bodies have a bottom line. It gives the wild fish (of Quebec and other places) a value that guvmint can put on a pie chart.

    I hope there is a way to get enough cats herded up, or ropes pushed to get a consensus and make a real difference. Stop going after saving wild steelhead. We need to go after saving steelhead fishing. Be it bait or fly. Boat or foot. Even kill in some instances. Otherwise we will save our wild steelhead right to extinction anyway. Rivers must have anglers just like Ducks Unlimited protects the hunters desire to kill ducks to save ducks. Anglers need to fish to have a reason to give a shit to conserve fish and opportunity. Even if we just want to fish for fun.
    ChrisC, _WW_ and Chris DeLeone like this.

  14. Nice point made here. I was in the cafe in Lyman the year they eliminated the catch and release season. It was mid-April. Talking to the owner at the time and I told them their parking lot should be full of pickups pulling boats and the restaurant should be full of fishermen eating breakfast. She looked at me with a puzzled look wonder what I was talking about. They had no idea what was happening with the Skagit River. They had no idea why the fishermen had stopped coming to their restaurant. I don't know how much business they lost because of the closure. I am sure it was at least a little bit significant. The issue is they did not know what was driving that portion of their business. Some of the business owners further up river have a little better understanding but I doubt they know that much. If you talk to any of the guides working the Skagit today, they will tell you they make their money off doing eagle tours. Hardly anybody makes money from fishermen anymore. I am not much of a numbers guy but I am sure we are talking tens of thousands of dollars gone from the upriver economies because of the river closure.
  15. I talked with Grace Haven Cabins (the old Cab-in the woods) place and they are very aware of the economic impact of not having a CnR season. I could touch base with them and get a hold of the Camber of Commerce for their area, I think it would be a good start. We should also reach out to that areas state representatives. If we can prove other parts of the country/state don't have these stringent regs, good science backing us and an additional revenue stream for area business - we could get some support from that end.

    I think it would be a Marblemount to Lyman target to focus on.

    What do you guys think about having a meeting in the first weekend of January say Friday night the 4th, Saturday the 5th or Sunday the 6th - just a thought
  16. Never mind.
  17. Excellent!

    I'm not meaning to sound crass or uncaring, but I've been having a bit of a conundrum these last few seasons. For what, exactly, have we been trying to save these steelhead for. Is it so we can smugly sit by our fireplace and know they are there, even though we never get to see one?

    The fish were here first, but we are all here now. This is why we will never see 'historic' sized runs ever again. Welcome to the new normal.

    There are several ways to reduce fishing pressure.
    Restrict fishing days.
    Restrict fishing methods.
    Restrict fishing areas.
    Reduce the number of fish - that's right! Fewer fish means fewer fish getting hooked. Yup, I know it sounds crazy but let's think it through here.

    Suppose,(hypothetically) for instance, that in any given season...say 20% of the returning fish are hooked by C&R anglers. I have no idea how many get hooked, and as you will see it doesn't really matter what the actual number is to make my point.

    So let's say one year the run is 2500. 20% of that is 500 fish. (Now I can tell you that 2500 fish will flat disappear in the Skagit/Sauk system but let's just assume we have a bevy of crack anglers and go with the 500 fish.) What...the current thinking is 3% mortality on C&R fishing. (If they say so...) Anyway, that equals 15 fish . Let's say we mange to hook every dadgum one of them, 3% of 2500 is 75 fish. So somewhere between 15 and 75 fish is what we gave up our catch and release season for in '09'

    Was it worth it?

    Did it really make a difference?

    What is the value of a steelhead that is not angled for?

    What is it for one that is?
    inland likes this.
  18. The south toutle is only getting about 400 fish per winter.... No conservation minded angler should be going near it....
    Andrew Lawrence likes this.
  19. A steelhead that never sees a fly is just as important as one that is caught and released five times and makes someone's trip of a lifetime. It is thinking that a fishes value is only measured in human terms that puts the fish in so much peril.
  20. I don't understand why we can't go near the puget sound rivers feb-April to fish over wild winter steelhead on the move in a dynamic river system, but we are allowed to punish wild summer steelhead sitting at the mouth of deer creek for 2 months every summer. Why is it ok to CNR a devastated run of summer fish without issue but the same river closes when the winter natives show up?

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