Skagit to Skagit

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by _WW_, Feb 2, 2008.

  1. _WW_ Fishes with Wolves

    Posts: 1,898
    Skagit River
    Ratings: +643 / 0
    Let's play with some current numbers here.
    The projected return of wild fish to the Skagit this year is 5200 fish.
    In Scott's post which I quoted above, this jumps out at me just as it did to him:
    Since we have no other data let's use what we have.
    5% of 5200 = 260.
    It seems to be commonly accepted around here that C&R mortality is 3%. Ok, let's use that; 3% of 260 = 7.8
    Are we losing the C&R season for 7.8 fish?
    Is this truly the state of the fishery?
  2. James Mello Inventor of the "closed eye conjecture"

    Posts: 2,784
    Tacoma
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    No the Nisqually isn't the Skagit but in the same vein, it does show there are rivers out there with reasonable habitat and no harvest what so ever (except for poaching). If you want to have a control in this case, you can't have another river like the Skagit, cause there's only one. I myself aren't arguing that we don't have an issue, but rather trying to let you know there *are* rivers out there without any targeted harvest of wild steelhead in the state.

    As for the C&R, I suggest you take a look at the ESA listing for Puget Sound steelhead. In the Q&A section the question comes up about C&R. The answer was that it was a meaningful factor in the decline of our fisheries. The main reason that I can see we are closing a C&R fishery on the Skagit has more to do with not meeting an 80% minimum, and trying to follow our own rules....
  3. James Mello Inventor of the "closed eye conjecture"

    Posts: 2,784
    Tacoma
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    The 3% number should be against the estimated number of fish caught. I think that more tha 260 fish on the Skagit are caught in any given year.
  4. _WW_ Fishes with Wolves

    Posts: 1,898
    Skagit River
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    Which was the point of the exercise...nobody knows how many are caught and released. No data, none, zilch.
  5. James Mello Inventor of the "closed eye conjecture"

    Posts: 2,784
    Tacoma
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    Sigh... At this point, I really don't know which way you are leaning? Do you *want* the closure or not? If you want the closure, that's fine, but realize that the ESA listing specifically states that C&R is inconsequental to the overall health of the run. Also, the ESA listing has not yet named the specific basins that it will be applied to, so at this point, the Skagit may not even be considered.

    If you *don't* want the closure and want to understand why the runs are declining, you've been given all the reasonable info about what is going on. The 4 H's are at play, and in this particular case, harvest has been *minimized*. Yet even with this minimization, the runs have not rebounded. As a good data point the Sky is a prime example. After moving to *no* wild fish retention the downward decline appears to be reversed. In that specific river system wild fish retension was a big deal. But if it *were* somehow related to ocean conditions, then the Skagit and other river systems should have seen a similar spike. They didn't which doesn't rule out harvest but can lead to a reasonble claim that the other 3 H's have a dominating effect over harvest.

    The reality is, some of the best minds in our fisheries have been looking at this, and have posted here. If you don't want to listen fine, but realize just because what they've stated doesn't jive with your reality doesn't mean that they are wrong and you are right.

    Finally, after you've quoated Bill McMillan so much, haven't you come to realize that he believes that *HATCHERIES* are the big deal? I myself believe that poor ocean survival was amplified by the effects that hatcheries have on ocean conditions, and freshwater habitat. I wasn't of that thought until recently, but based on the info that Tom, Will, and Salmo provided, it has changed my perspective on the role they've had on the decline of our wild stocks.
  6. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,792
    Marysville, Washington
    Ratings: +643 / 0
    WW -
    You referred us to - "I would refer you to Bill McMillen's (sic) article. It is a long read, full of figures and history. Or at least what history is available. I found what he had to say of the run in 1953-54 particularly interesting."

    Since it had been a while since I read McMillan's article comparing the Situk and Skagit I took the time to re-read it this morning. While I found some things in that read that might apply to this discussion it was not what seems to be McMillan's main point.

    That point what might be summed in this quote - "...despite the SKagit having 12-14 more drainage areas available than the Situk the steelhead escapement goal is only 6,000 - 1,000 less than the average annual escapement on the Situk the past decade"

    The implication being of course that the number of steelhead returning to the Skagit should be much larger (an order of magnitude?). If one really believes that why don't the rest of the Alaskan steelhead rivers have numbers similar to that seen in the Situk? In McMillan's article he talks about the potential that eventually the "Russell Lake" will break into the Situk changing its charcter. The implication is that the number of steelhead will drop even though the river will become larger.

    Isn't bigger better and there should be more fish? Of course not. Let's face it; currrently the Situk is unique in the steelhead world and expecting other basins to even remotely matching its productivity is unreasonable. I would have hoped that by now most would have realized each of our river systems are unique and support varying abundances of different species.

    All the above aside what I found most interesting in his article was how the Situk population varied over time. In spite severe over-fishing (bounties) in the 1930s the population bounced back to over 20,000 fish in 1952. Then the population aburdly collapsed (is there any other word?) to a level of only 1,000 to 1,500 fish per year and remained at that level for nearly 30 years. This is in spite of system with outstanding habitat, low fishing pressure (the military left) and no hatchery fish. Then beginning in the 1980s it rebounded to what we see today. I think it is clear that steelhead populations can be very cyclic and those up and down cyclics can last decades. When one takes those Situk observations and what we are seeing here in our own backyard I think it would be fair to say not only can steelhead popuylations by cyclic we and the managers should expect our populations to be cyclic and manage accordingly.

    Of equal interest to me was the timing of the Situk collapse. The aburd drop seems to corespond to a significant upturn here in Puget Sound. That has been noted before with other salmonids. When Alaskan sockeye, pinks, coho etc are doing well Washington corresponding populations are doing poorly. In roughly the time frame that the Situk population was rebounding to its current levels our populations were declining.

    Could it be that we will not see much success in restoring our populations until we see a survival change regimen which at the same time may cause a decline in the Situk populations? Certainly something to think about- certainly an interesting and scary thought.

    Tight lines
    Curt
  7. FT Active Member

    Posts: 1,239
    Burlington, WA
    Ratings: +100 / 0
    Curt,

    Might La Nino and La Nina be related to higher and lower steelhead and other anadromous fish returns?

    The reason I ask is: 1) when a La Nino event is present, the more coastal ocean waters around Alaska are warmer, more like the ocean temps are here during La Nina or non-La Nino events; and 2) during a La Nina event, Alaska's coastal ocean temps are much colder, while ours are more like those of Alaska during a La Nino.
  8. Scottpuck Member

    Posts: 178
    North Bend, WA
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Hi Will,

    I went and tried to find some information regarding the Wind river recoveries that you mention here, but really was not able to find much.

    Here is what I found, largely in the WDFW whitepaper at http://www.fws.gov/pacific/fisherie...cuments/CG--010Steelhead_Wind_2006_report.pdf

    It looks like the hatchery program was killed in the 04-05 season as that is the last year I can find documented smolt plants. It looks to me that it is too early to tell if this has had any affect as we are only now entering the third year and getting to the end of the 2005 returning adults.

    As of yet, it looks like the wild fish return has remained statistically the same with no sign of rebound from the hatchery closure.

    Are you seeing anything that I might be overlooking?

    Scott

    Attached Files:

  9. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,792
    Marysville, Washington
    Ratings: +643 / 0
    FT -
    Folks think you are correct; long range weather patterns play significan role in the various fish's survival creating conditions that favor one species over another.

    Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) is tought to be a major influence as well; see -

    http://jisao.washington.edu/pdo/

    Tight lines
    Curt
  10. FT Active Member

    Posts: 1,239
    Burlington, WA
    Ratings: +100 / 0
    Curt,

    Thanks for the link, it appears this is related to how abundant various species are.
  11. _WW_ Fishes with Wolves

    Posts: 1,898
    Skagit River
    Ratings: +643 / 0
    James,

    I apologize for testing your patience. But at this point I don’t know what I want either. It’s a toss up between throwing my hands up in the air or sitting on them.

    I didn’t track down the ESA information for the simple reason that at this point I have been facted and figured to the point of exhaustion. Much of what I have found is incomplete and/or contradictory in nature. And it would appear that others find it that way too. In two of your last three posts you have referenced the ESA. In your first post I read this:
    "In the Q&A section the question comes up about C&R. The answer was that it was a meaningful factor in the decline of our fisheries."
    In your last post I read this:
    "but realize that the ESA listing specifically states that C&R is inconsequental to the overall health of the run."
    Those two statements are in direct conflict with each other.
    Our government at work, comfortably standing on both sides of the fence, patting us on the head and telling us not to worry ‘cause everything’s going to be fine.
    Sheesh!

    I do take exception to this statement from you;
    "Finally, after you've quoated Bill McMillan so much"
    I did not quote him at all and simply referred you to a single article written by the man.

    In the wondrous process that defines the life of a wild steelhead, there is but a small window of opportunity for our lives to intertwine. For the fish this comes but moments before their life’s purpose is at hand. In my thread starting post I made a few suggestions to lessen our impact while we continue to enjoy a dwindling resource on its way to extinction. For the most part, they were met with resistance.I hope the fish last longer than I do…

    …and I have decided to keep my hands busy tying lake trout flies and writing my elected officials.

    Biologists,

    Is there someplace on the web where graphs similar to those posted by the WSC, but produced by yourselves are available? I’m not looking for a different result, but a different point of origin. Basically, when I write to Olympia and beyond I would like to confront them with their own information, compiled by their own people, and published by them.

    Curt,
    "Isn't bigger better and there should be more fish? Of course not."
    Wow.
    I have driven the Skagit from the mouth to the dam, backtracked and gone up the Cascade to the end of the road. Backtracked again and traveled up the Sauk, up its tributaries, (when are they going to fix those bridges and roads?) and forks as far as my car and aging legs would take me. In addition, with on small exception, I have floated all the water that is open on the system during steelhead season.
    To be honest with you, your statement just doesn’t pass the “eyes test” of a wistful fisherman. 5200 returning fish can flat disappear in all that water. Perhaps their decline is due to loneliness?

    Included in the letters I write will be an offer to take the recipient on a fishing trip to the Skagit/Sauk. I hope some of them will accept this invitation. On the way up river I will regale this lucky person with stories of my past fishing success at the place we are going to. I’m going to walk this guy along the bank for a mile or so and put him on some of the most beautiful holding water in the entire system. After we fish the shit out of it for a few hours and get no bites I’m gonna look him dead in the eye and explain that this is exactly what we’re here to talk about.

    I would recommend you to do likewise.
  12. inland Active Member

    Posts: 592
    .
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    WW,

    I believe it's the 'inconsequential' that's correct. Look to the rules in place in California's ESA listed waters. Hook and Release, no barbs. Even bait is OK on several of the listed rivers. It's only Washington State that has a 'problem' with H&R fishing over wild steelhead.

    Now we sit with the third largest river on the west coast and it's 'supposed' 5200 wild fish. You are right they do seem to get swallowed up in all those miles. With the 'selective gear rules' in place there aren't enough wild steelhead incindentally killed by law abiding anglers to warrant shutting down the fishery. But that's where the world of politics takes over. By shutting down the least impactful user group (also the one that spends the most $$$/fish released) the state can effectively bury it's head in the sand. Save an estimated 50 fish. Only seem logical, doesn't it?

    Based on what the ESA has done in other areas we can only hope some form of meaningful change comes into play.
  13. HauntedByWaters Active Member

    Posts: 2,744
    Bellingham
    Ratings: +103 / 0
    I want to come along!
  14. Salmo_g Active Member

    Posts: 7,448
    Your City ,State
    Ratings: +1,569 / 0
    WW,

    Those graphs of steelhead catches, escapements, and trendlines on the WSC website ARE WDFW graphs from WDFW data.

    If I understand you correctly, you're planning to invite elected officials to join you on a fishing outing and then talk to them about the lack of fishing success. Although you didn't ask for it, here's my advice if you do this: have a viable solution in mind, gift-wrapped for your elected official. Elected representatives in state gov't. either have no idea how to manage a fishery resource, or at least have no intelligent idea of how to do so, and leaving legislators to craft solutions on their own is a poor idea that turns out worse than should ever be expected. That's probably why most laws are written by lobbyists. They're special interest, but at least they know what they're doing and how to do it.

    Sg
  15. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,792
    Marysville, Washington
    Ratings: +643 / 0
    WW -
    My big/better comment was my poor attempt to contrast the concerns about the Russel Lake "capturing" the Situk making it a glacial fed river that had 6 times more flow. Rather than think oh boy the river is going to be much bigger and there clearly will be more fish the responce was more of concern of what would happen to the fish populations of the Situk when that occurs. The implication I believe is that more goes into producing a quality steelhead stream than the size of its watershed and flows. It much more about the quality of the spawning and more importantly juvenile rearing habitat and the quantity of that quality habitat.

    To the specifics of the Skagit - I do have been on significant portions of the basin. And I agree completely that it is a big system with some pretty diverse habitats. There is an awful lot of spawning gravels to be found in the basin. Unfortunately for steelhead it is rare that the amount of spawning gravels that determine the amount of steelhead production. As we all know after steelhead hatch they typically spend two years rearing in the freshwater habitats. During that period there is a need for different kinds of habitats - some for summer rearing (two summers), more for safe over-wintering (two winters), some for very small fish (little more than a inch long and some for relatively large parr (4 to 6 inch). If there any one of those habitat pieces has a limited availability the population will be limited.

    The problem with the Skagit system from achieving more steelhead production is that there is precious little juvenile rearing habitat to be found in the more than 90 miles of the main stem Skagit. The main river has lost much of its complex habitat structures that would have provided the essential juvenile rearing habitat. Yes in sections there are substantial woody material however during critical periods of the year (for example during the months of May through July - Snow melt run-off) high velocities reduce the useability of that habitat. Other factors such as the average gradient also play a role in the amount of potential parr habitat (streams with a 2 o 4% gradients support a much higher density of parr that flat rivers like the Skagit with an average gradient of much less than 1%)

    You can see the impact from that lack of juvenile habitat for yourself. During the summer/fall period on most of our Western Washington rivers one fishing small flies will be "pestered" all day long by steelhead parr - those 4 to 6 inch "rainbows". That is not the case on the mainstem Skagit. Why not? They are not there (yes there are scattered "hot spots" but the whole there are shocking few of those parr. The lack of parr is apparent whether 12,000 or 4,000 fish spawn in the spring. I have been fishing the Skagit for sea-run cutthroat for something like 3 decades, often 6 to 10 times a fall and I can not remember a year where theyearly total number of O. mykiss parr that I caught incidentally could not be counted on one hand.

    If the potential parr production is limited the number of returning adults as well as the number of spawners needed is limited.

    That is not to say that other escapement objectives could not or should not be considered. However the potential steelhead production of any basin is much more than just a function of the size of the basin. Restoration efforts that increase complex habitats including side channesl, etc would be postive steps towards increasing the main stems steelhead potential.

    Tight lines
    Curt
  16. _WW_ Fishes with Wolves

    Posts: 1,898
    Skagit River
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    I'm thinking I should have a stack of your business cards.
  17. _WW_ Fishes with Wolves

    Posts: 1,898
    Skagit River
    Ratings: +643 / 0
    You'd probably screw the whole thing up by hooking a twenty pounder in front of my bug-eyed politico!
  18. WaFlyCaster Tricoptera

    Posts: 464
    Fife, WA
    Ratings: +1 / 0
    yeah you know inviting the politicians along to show them how bad the fishing is will be just the trick to have your best day on the water ever!
  19. _WW_ Fishes with Wolves

    Posts: 1,898
    Skagit River
    Ratings: +643 / 0
    It's gotta be better than leaving your camera at home...maybe I should pay them to come with me.
  20. James Mello Inventor of the "closed eye conjecture"

    Posts: 2,784
    Tacoma
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    Typo and poor proof reading on my part... The listing docs that I saw said there was no meaningful impact that C&R fisheries played in the current status of steelhead. Sorry bout that!