Skagit River Steehead

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

  1. _WW_ Fishes with Wolves

    Posts: 1,938
    Skagit River
    Ratings: +674 / 0
    Speaking a bit out of turn here, but I would love to see some information on the size of the river, and its steelhead return numbers that you are allowed to fish over.
  2. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,837
    Marysville, Washington
    Ratings: +716 / 0
    Todd -
    A major factor on the Skagit that may separate it and its steelhead from other basins (especially those outside of North Puget Sound) is it hydrograph. The flow patterns are driven by snow melt run-off and until many basins the highest average daily flows are not during the fall/winter flood period by druing May and June. Those high run-off flows continue well into the summer dropping significantly in early August. Those high flows select for a fry emerge timing of early August which in turn means a concentrated spawning in May with a peak mid-month.

    After much consideration my opinion is that planting of hatchery steelhead in the Skagit basin has had very little to do with the decline in the wild fish abundnace. Those declines have been driven by freshwater habitat lost and declining marine survival.

    I had prepared a more detailed response but I recieved an error message when I attempted to post it.

    curt
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  3. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,837
    Marysville, Washington
    Ratings: +716 / 0
    Regarding the Wahl and McMillian catch graphs - let's for a moment assume that they indeed represent accurate depictions of the run timing of the periods.

    The first thing that struck me was that similarity in the shape of the early portion of the two graphs though it is clear that Mr. McMillian caught a lot more fish after March than Mr. Wahl. It does stand out that in the early period only a single fish was caught after April while in the recent graph 12% of the catch occurred after April. Further In the early period (pre-hatchery) the "run" stretched out over 6 months with 97% of the "run" happening in the core January to April period. While the late period (post hatchery intoruduction) the "run" stretched out over 8 months with 87% of the "run" in the same core period. Looks like the "run" is more diverse today than pre-1950.

    Are we seeing an increase in late fish rather than a reduction in early fish? Why would we see an increase in late fish? One thing that we could consider is that early last century there were intense in river gill net fisheries (non-treaty) targeting spring Chinook. From that ear there are records of catches in May being roughly 10 times the total wild spring Chinook runs we see today. Did that netting "wipe out" the late steelhead and that they are only now recovering?

    Who knows.

    On the other hand while the graphs are interesting are they merely a reflection of the angle'rs fishing and the opportunities they had? If so they are meaningless in a discussion of potential run timing changes.

    BTW -
    Since 1998 how many of you have caught a wild steelhead in the Skagit in May?

    Curt
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  4. KerryS Ignored Member

    Posts: 6,765
    Sedro Woolley, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +1,785 / 0
    If someone has caught a wild Skagit steelhead in May "legally", they would have to be fishing below the bridge in Mt. Vernon. I have done a bit of fishing below the bridge in May and haven't even seen a wild steelhead down there let alone catch one.
    Bob Triggs likes this.
  5. 808steelheader Member

    Posts: 47
    Springfield, OR
    Ratings: +1 / 0
    I apologize, I probably should not have made this statement as I don't have any scientific data to prove my assumption. The rivers I fish are among many med/small streams that due to economic reasons is no longer stocked by ODFW since the late 1990's. I believe there are many such streams in WA as well where stocking was eliminated as well. So, in reality, it could just be the perception of me and others who fish these quiet streams that they producing more wild steelhead since the removal of hatchery steelhead.

    Todd
  6. freestoneangler Not to be confused with Freestone

    Posts: 4,138
    Edgewood, WA
    Ratings: +791 / 1
    Charles,
    Still looking for that ignore button I see. There's plenty of data being thrown about. I provided some in other posts (Occupy thread) if you care to look. What data is needed to support taking the most conservative approach and not allow C&R? Answer -- there isn't, which is what you are having difficulty understanding. If you are among those that are willing to introduce risk to satisfy your personal need, by all means, fish.

    Other than what we don't no about released fish mortality rates, it's obvious that C&R does not introduce any other risk... yeah right. Not everyone is an upstanding WFF member.
    http://www.washingtonflyfishing.com/forum/index.php?threads/angler-abuse-on-the-skagit.80084/
  7. _WW_ Fishes with Wolves

    Posts: 1,938
    Skagit River
    Ratings: +674 / 0
    You mean the risk that a federal and a state biologist have both said doesn't exist? Or is there some other risk that I missed?
  8. freestoneangler Not to be confused with Freestone

    Posts: 4,138
    Edgewood, WA
    Ratings: +791 / 1
    Do you know for certain that all released fish survive? Are you certain that poaching will not happen? I'd like to know who the state and federal biologists are that can answer yes to both of these questions.
  9. Charles Sullivan dreaming through the come down

    Posts: 2,317
    bellingham wa
    Ratings: +565 / 0
    I decided not to use it because someone needs to refute the mistruths. Your latest is:

    Other than what we don't no about released fish mortality rates, it's obvious that C&R does not introduce any other risk... yeah right. Not everyone is an upstanding WFF member.
    http://www.washingtonflyfishing.com/forum/index.php?threads/angler-abuse-on-the-skagit.80084/[/quote]

    We do know quite a bit about mortality rates on C&R fish. Here's a really well done study.

    http://nativefishsociety.org/conservation/documents/CR survival of winter sth AFS 2005.pdf

    Another telling Defacto C&R study was the genetic research done in the past few years on the Skagit. Over 100 fish caught, a radio transmitter shoved down their throats and only 1 died.

    As for your link, I can't figure out how it factors into this discussion. Don't have a legal season because some people will break the law? People may target salmon during steelhead season?

    It's humorous that you so often defend hatcheries to provide fisheries and you are opposed to C&R for Skagit fish. Hatcheries have known detrimental impacts to the success of wild fish spawning. They also have unknown and unquantified (unstudied truthfully) potential impacts in the salt, especially near shore. Additionally, by having these hatchery fisheries there will be C&R of the early wild fish, which you oppose. Then your gonna chastise other people for not taking a conservative approach? Real honest.

    What has been consistantly stated is that the Skagit wild run exceeeded it's consevative escapement floor goal last season. It could do that every year and there is no possibility of a season. We'd like to see a change in the management paradigm to allow us to C&R the run when it starts to do this consitantly. This would be shown by having preseason forecasted run sizes exceeding the goal.

    At the heart of the argument is that the Skagit population is not threatened by itself. It's been lumped in and is being managed with rivers whose runs are threatened. We'd like to see it managed based on it's run not on the Green's et al.

    Go Sox,
    cds
  10. _WW_ Fishes with Wolves

    Posts: 1,938
    Skagit River
    Ratings: +674 / 0
    Freestoneangler,
    Angling is a blood sport. We know that. In C&R fishing there will be fish deaths, it's called incidental mortality and the Skagit run is healthy enough that there is no risk to their future viability as an intact run.
  11. _WW_ Fishes with Wolves

    Posts: 1,938
    Skagit River
    Ratings: +674 / 0
    That's too bad. I was hoping to hold it up as a shining example that wild fish populations and C&R fishing can co-exist when I meet with the WDFW comissioners.
  12. plecoptera419 Member

    Posts: 66
    Mount Vernon, WA
    Ratings: +26 / 0
    Between 2003- (to whenever it was that they closed the restricted gear sport fishery on the lower river, I can't remember the exact year.) I'm guessing around 2006 maybe 2007. I know for a fact there were wild steelhead being caught below the 536 bridge. These were big fish too. 12lbs+. There used to be a group of hardcore plunkers that inhabited a certain bar when we were still allowed to fish that time of year, and I witnessed some respectable fish being caught and released mid April to mid May. Fluorescent green or red top/chrome wing bobber rigs with a bare hook seemed to get em. I suppose there is a good chance that there were some folks that were skirting the gear/no scent restrictions with smelly jelly, and who knows how many fish may have been poached when no one was looking. Some of these folks were your typical Skagit outlaw types.
  13. freestoneangler Not to be confused with Freestone

    Posts: 4,138
    Edgewood, WA
    Ratings: +791 / 1
    We do know quite a bit about mortality rates on C&R fish. Here's a really well done study.

    http://nativefishsociety.org/conservation/documents/CR survival of winter sth AFS 2005.pdf

    Another telling Defacto C&R study was the genetic research done in the past few years on the Skagit. Over 100 fish caught, a radio transmitter shoved down their throats and only 1 died.

    As for your link, I can't figure out how it factors into this discussion. Don't have a legal season because some people will break the law? People may target salmon during steelhead season?

    It's humorous that you so often defend hatcheries to provide fisheries and you are opposed to C&R for Skagit fish. Hatcheries have known detrimental impacts to the success of wild fish spawning. They also have unknown and unquantified (unstudied truthfully) potential impacts in the salt, especially near shore. Additionally, by having these hatchery fisheries there will be C&R of the early wild fish, which you oppose. Then your gonna chastise other people for not taking a conservative approach? Real honest.

    What has been consistantly stated is that the Skagit wild run exceeeded it's consevative escapement floor goal last season. It could do that every year and there is no possibility of a season. We'd like to see a change in the management paradigm to allow us to C&R the run when it starts to do this consitantly. This would be shown by having preseason forecasted run sizes exceeding the goal.

    At the heart of the argument is that the Skagit population is not threatened by itself. It's been lumped in and is being managed with rivers whose runs are threatened. We'd like to see it managed based on it's run not on the Green's et al.

    Go Sox,
    cds[/quote]

    I've seen this study in another thread, well done and certainly worthwhile in helping understand effect of C&R. So, for the sake of argument, if 6000 fish is the magic minimum number, this study suggests that 84 (1.4%) to 348 (5.8%) wild steelhead would be at risk of mortality...acceptable?

    I suspect that the anglers, having a F&G person there when catching the fish being tagged, were on their A game. I don't think we should expect that to be the case in a general C&R scenario -- we've all cringed watching fish being handled poorly. So, I would be incline to think the numbers above to be higher assuming all other factors in the study are applicable to the Skagit.

    So, the study you provide clearly shows there is risk with C&R. Now I understand that not all 6000 fish will likely be caught...but some may be caught more than once...what do we know about that effect? As I stated earlier, we all have to make up our own mind whether the risk we personally introduce, on a species that is challenged, is the right thing to do.
  14. Charles Sullivan dreaming through the come down

    Posts: 2,317
    bellingham wa
    Ratings: +565 / 0
    I'm guessing that you did not read the study. I suspect you may have looked at it a bit but if you had read it you would have seen that the mortality or regurgitation rate for the study was 3.6%. Regurgitation rates for similar stdies tended to be around 4% (higher than 3.6%). Given that most death or regurgitations took place at or near the capture site the author concluded that the 3.6% as a mortality rate was likely high as any regurgitations were being reported as mortalities. Maybe you did read it, but wanted to leave that part out?

    As far as being on your A game and F&G employees are concerned, I don't agree with your assertion that they will be better than the average angling public. The reason being that they are shoving a radio transmitter down their throat. That's a pretty invasive thing to do. It's also something that anglers do not do.

    You ask,"Now I understand that not all 6000 fish will likely be caught...but some may be caught more than once...what do we know about that effect?"

    Recapture was also discssed in the study. A number of the fish were known to be recaptured (by general public). No change in mortality figures were noted. To ask the question about what do we know after saying you'd seen the study leads other readers to believe it isn't discussed. It is discussed.

    The Vedder study really jives with the Skagit genetic study results, which if used as a mortality study would put the figure around 1%. I know from some that were involved with that study that the process of handling one mortality and putting a radio transmitter down it's throat lead to that fish's demise.

    So the question is risk of what? There is always risk that handling a fish can kill it. However, when you look at the risk of detrimental effects of a C&R season on the population as a whole I can't truly see any unless the system is vastly underescaped like the Green or Cedar.

    Go sox,
    cds
  15. _WW_ Fishes with Wolves

    Posts: 1,938
    Skagit River
    Ratings: +674 / 0
    Actually that is not acceptable. The last time we were allowed to harvest wild fish in the Skagit when the escapement was around 6000(6228 to be exact) was in the 84/85 winter season. 1,435 wild fish were caught. If those fish would have been released, 1.4% = 21 and 5.8% = 83.

    You are either not reading the document or not comprehending, so let me pull out the relevant parts for you.
    In case you cannot comprehend it is this simple: In this study, there was 0% mortality in a C&R bait fishery.
    They did however reference an earlier study:
    Incidental mortality is not a risk, it is an acceptable fact.
    So now we have gone full circle and I am repeating previous posts and arguments. Not a good use of my time. If you have nothing to offer except the negligible risk you keep refering to, then you have nothing.

    In your absence I'm sure someone will be willing step up and take your place while pursue your other endeavors.
  16. Bob Triggs Your Preferred Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide

    Posts: 4,034
    Olympic Peninsula
    Ratings: +710 / 0
    As much as we know about wild steelhead, it seems that there is much that we do not know. I am especially grateful for the comments and information sharing of so many people here who have first-hand, direct personal experience with the Skagit River wild steelhead, and the history of the fishery. Most of the time these more informed posts lead to further reading and study.

    Something that I think is not clear yet is at what point in the decline of these fish do we cross a threshold number, where it may not be possible to restore the runs in a any human scale of time?

    Another thing that I question is how many times can a big, wild steelhead- running home from the sea to spawn- be caught and released without impairing that fish's ability to participate in the spawning process normally?

    Catch & Release, with a single barbless hook, scentless artificial lure only, is less of a negative impact than a harvest fishery, this is obvious. But I do see quite a few of these big robust fish being overplayed and over stressed by anglers who either do not know how to play and land big fish on a flyrod, especially a spey rod, or they are simply prolonging the "fight" for the sheer thrill of it. And of course I see plenty of people "hooking" these fish with weighted rigs, jigs and floats etc., and many of those fish are foul hooked. And foul hooked fish can be harder to get in than fair hooked fish, so it all adds up to more injury and stress.

    "Release without avoidable injury" is the basic tenet of a catch & release rule. That should include more than just the hook and barb issues. Catch & Release fishing will not help a run to recover if a significant portion of the activity is too hard on the fish. Nor will it help if there are not enough fish to survive it to begin with. I would like to see more education efforts in this regard. I often get the impression that some fish managers see the imposition of a C&R rule as a kind of failure. It is almost as if they would rather close it down than give up the harvest option. And I wonder if this is an aspect of the lack of a committed educational program, by wdfw, on catch & release fishing here in Washington state waters anywhere.

    (Edited to add that my comments here are more general than Skagit specific.)

    http://olympicpeninsulaflyfishing.blogspot.com
  17. _WW_ Fishes with Wolves

    Posts: 1,938
    Skagit River
    Ratings: +674 / 0
    The Skagit is year-round wild steelhead release. Their next management tool is to limit fishing over the greatest numbers of fish - the C&R season we used to have. However, and this is the crux of what Occupy Skagit is trying to do, under the current ESA listing there is no mechanism to open a C&R season on the Skagit even if there are 20,000 fish for five years, six years, ten years, etc. We want WDFW to petition the feds for basin specific allowable impacts. They do it for Puget Sound Chinook, we want them to do it for Puget Sound Steelhead.

    The next Olympia comissioners meeting is Feb. 8-9. Would you like to meet me there and lobby for an educational program? I'll bring it up to them, it would have more impact with eyewitness testimony from someone such as yourself.
    Bob Triggs likes this.
  18. Bob Triggs Your Preferred Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide

    Posts: 4,034
    Olympic Peninsula
    Ratings: +710 / 0
    I do write in and comment to WDFW and the Commission on a frequent basis.
    Jonathan Stumpf likes this.
  19. freestoneangler Not to be confused with Freestone

    Posts: 4,138
    Edgewood, WA
    Ratings: +791 / 1
    I think it's more accurate to say 1435 wild fish were reported...these are numbers from punch cards correct? I expect many more than that were not recorded. And, do you not think that having only a few rivers open for C&R will not result in considerably higher angler hours and pressure on the fish?

    This was reported in the abstract:
    "The maximum mortality from the initial catch and release and radio-tagging was 1.4% in 1999 and 5.8% in 2000".

    Also referenced was a study in 1987
    "mortality rates (2.6%-3.6%) reported by Hooton (1987) for winter steelhead caught on baited, barbless hooks."

    So, it would seem 3% is a reasonable estimate of loss based on this information.

    Killing wild steelhead to fulfill the desire to fish is a risk -- that you and others consider it acceptable does indeed appear to be fact.

    And, so long as we're cherry-picking what we pull from the study, this seems relevant:

    "Although small in magnitude, mortality from catch-and-release angling may nevertheless contribute
    to the decline of populations with greatly depressed productivity"

    The choice to respond is up to you... particularly if you deem it a waste of your time. My belief that taking the most conservative approach, because it for certain introduces zero risk, only means nothing to those that disagree -- which you clearly do. I do like and agree with the idea of managing the systems independently. If the numbers of returning fish on the Skagit are well clear of being in the caution zone, make the decision based on that -- not what other PS systems as a whole are doing.

    Wishing away those with opposing views seems like a solid plan... if one wants to live in a oligarchy.
  20. TallFlyGuy Adipossessed!

    Posts: 870
    Vancouver, WA.
    Ratings: +45 / 0

    The mortality rates you quote are from barbless hooks using "BAIT"!!! Is there a study done with nonbait, single barbless artificial lures/hooks? One step further would be single barbless fly only. The mortality rate is gonna be +-1% I would imagine. So all your mortality numbers you use from your study are way too high! Also, you have to hope that when the river is open and guys are out fishing/patrolling with single barbless... it will help prevent/stop poaching.