src question....

Discussion in 'Saltwater' started by mud sculpin, Oct 28, 2007.

  1. My concern is not so much with any particular " individual " sea run cutthroat trout being hooked-played-handled- "carefully" released etc, but with the repeated catches, handling and and releases throughout a season that some fish may endure, especially in a localized situation where one might be encountering the same fish frequently throughout a season. I dont see the loss of a single fish as minor in impact to the whole, each makes a significant genetic contribution. And let us not forget that there is ample influence from the "industry" side of fly fishing to encourage everyone to get out there and cast a fly to the wild Sea Run Cutthroat of Puget Sound. That kind of thing can end up directly impacting a lot of "individual" fish.

    (Along the same lines- it is far better to not handle these fish at all, or to minimize our handling of them as much as possible to protect their slime layer and to reduce unnecessary stress. Most of the fish we encounter are released without handling them at all but by just gently slipping the hook with the fish calm in the water at our knees. I see needless handling of fish as an "avoidable injury". Often if we are trying to release a hook in a difficult position we can simply support the fish in the water long enough to get the hook out, without having to grip or hoist the fish in any way.)

    I see many people legally harvest these wild sea runs in the rivers and creeks each year, often taking their limit, and purposefully focusing on Sea Run Cutthroat as they return to the freshwater. I also see people fishing on the beaches here with bait for salmon, rockfish etc, and they are incidentally killing Sea Run Cutthroat Trout with those baits and hooks, sometimes with a kind of casual disregard. When politely advised of the problem they are often hostile. (They seem to be more polite when the WDFW officer arrives, but the oficer is often busy elsewhere.) I have also witnessed many people targeting Sea Run Coastal Cutthroat Trout on the beaches here for deliberate illegal harvest. The attitude being typically encloistered, paranoid, cavalier and sarcastic. Happily, these people photograph quite well, as do their vehicles and lisense plate numbers.

    We cannnot overestimate the impact of fishing mortality;accidental, legal or illegal, on any individual localized run of these fish. Nor should we manage them on a run-by-run basis,(look where that system has brought the wild Steelhead.) What impacts the few impacts the many. Mortality is just as final in the foreground as it is in the "background". And in the end all of these localized runs of wild fish comprise the whole- just like wild Steelhead and Salmon.

    I too enjoy Flyfishing for Coastal Cutthroat Trout on our beaches, rivers and lakes. Yet not without a little guilt sometimes as I am concerned that these fish may not be "rebounding nicely even with the pressure they receive". Populations may be seemingly "robust"- in some places at some times- while they may be declining in other places. Not enough is known or qualified regarding the recovery of these fish. So I will proceed with caution as I continue to enjoy the adventure of fly fishing for them; moving often, using single small barbless hooks and stought tippetts, playing them moderately but without undue delay in ending it, minimizing any handling, and releasing them with a calm technique.

    If we want more wild fish we need to do more to help that happen. I encourage everyone to look into the WDFW Volunteer programs, the W.S.U. Water Watchers, Beach Watchers and Shore Stewards Programs, and to volunteer with your own Regional Fisheries Enhancement Groups on your local watersheds in the myriad tasks involved in habitat restoration work. What is good for Salmon will help the Cutthroat too. As a professional Fly Fisherman and Guide I see it as my responsibility to be a steward of these wonderful wild fish and their natal bright waters. I owe them that much.
  2. You conclude in the end that habitat degradation and intentional (whether illegal or regulation-sanctioned) mortality - not responsible C&R angling - are the most critical concerns for persitence of fishable populations. We agree on those points - in addition, C&R anglers need to be responsible in the way they handle fish, and people need to volunteer their time to make things better. Right on.

    However, I am a bit puzzled by the comments about the perceived negative impacts of the "industry" perspective that encourages people to get out there and target these fish while you also mention that you are apparently a part of that same industry as a "Professional Fly Fisherman and Guide". Hmmmm.
  3. Milt: It is not clear to me what it is you are "puzzled" by in that statement.

    Yes, I am a part of the "industry" of fly fishing. And I guide and teach fly fishing anglers on the basis of the concerns and ethics that I have outlined here; catch and release, fly fishing only, with an emphasis on wild fish conservation. My approach effectively excludes a majority of prospective anglers who are only concerned with hooking a maximum number of fish, harvesting wild fish etc. That is the way I have evolved as a fisherman, so that is the way that I guide and teach others. If I wanted to do so I could beat a very loud drum, post a lot of hero shots, and really pump it up for new customers. I could make a lot more money doing that too. I chose not to do that as I feel it misrepresents the sensitivity of our wild fish runs here.
  4. I believe that we have effectively taken the lid off of some issues that many cutthroat fishers may have not understood until the growth of this thread. When it comes to protecting the resource however, and I speak as one who first testified on behalf of the sea-run cutthroat in 1974, it will take a much larger enforcement cadre to ensure that people who catch-and-keep our coastal cutthroat legally or ilegally, face the prospect of close oversight.
    Further, we need to fight hard to protect all remaining habitat where the cutthroat lives. I have witnessed how quickly a cutthroat population can respond to restoration of a sullied environment. The WFFC had a long project to clean up Griffin Creek on the Snoqualmie River. In a few short years both the cutthroat and coho populations recovered dramatically.
    This has been, in my opinion, a healthy thread that will surely be an eye-opener to the newcomers who take time to read it. One thing that we did not delineate however is the importance of readers of WFF to join and support the activities of FFF, TU, Nature Conservancy and clubs such as Northwest Fly Anglers, Washington Fly Fishing Club, Evergreen Fly Fishers....and any of the many other groups local to your area.
    Les Johnson
  5. An interesting discussion.

    I guess I fall into the Milt Roe's camp- having healthy sea-runs is more about habitat protection than anything else. Again I restate an obsrevation that I have made here in Puget Sound. Those rivers (Skagit and Snohomish)that allow some harvest of our beloved cutthroat seem to have as reboust populations as those that do not (Stillaguamish). In addition those with harvest actually seem to provide a higher % of larger fish (those say over 15 inches). While those are just observations they are based on decades of close observation. While eliminating the harvest on those rivers would without a doubt benefit our own fishing (getting those nasty folks that want to kill a fish off the water) the anecdotal evidence suggest that the health of the runs would improve much than under current management.

    If we anglers are concerned about the over all health of our runs prehaps a good place to start would be stop any and all of our fishing on these fish in the salt. Virtuall all the hooking mortaltiy information that I have seen on anadromous salmonids shows higher mortalities on those fish caught in the salt than those in freshwater. Not only are those fish exposed to a potentially higher hooking mortality many of those fish are exposed to a virtually year-round fishery.

    Les -
    I agree wholeheartly that more folks need to get involved in supporting our cutthroat and their needs. But I'm afraid that as always the battle will come down to handful of old warriors.

    I'm not sure that those organizations you mentioned have done much in recent years in that respect. I need to go back no further than a decade ago when the harvest of cutthroat (and other wild game fish) was eliminated on the Stillaguamish those organizations you mentioned were largely silent. I have to wonder how many of those organizations you mentioned provided either public or written input to the Wildlife Commission today on the creation of wild salmonid management areas on the Sauk, Skagit and Cascade Rivers. Those WSMAs in my opinion represent a huge step towards more responsible wild fish management on that propose had the potential to serve as a template for wide scale application.

    Tight lines
  6. I'd like to see some actual numbers for SRC hooking mortality in fresh vs salt before we jump to proposing an end to SRC fishing in the salt. Even if mortality is statistically higher in the salt, that incidental mortality under the C&R regulations in the salt may still fall within a sustainable level. As I've tried to argue, further restrictions to low-impact angling opportunity may not be the best place to focus our attention. Sure would be nice to have some technical data to wrap around some of these questions...
  7. (* Italics and bold type mine for highlight, shows partial quote of original post.)

    We are talking about Sea Run Coastal Cutthroat Trout fly fishing in saltwater here? I would like to see that specific data.

    I feel that a statement such as this one can just as easily illuminate how badly WDFW Fish Program Managers are failing to adequately promote and educate the angling public for less damaging Catch & Release techniques to the anadromous fishery. The way that I fish, and the way that I teach my guided fishing guests, we dont have this problem
  8. Stepping up to the plate?

    Over the past several years, going back to my beginnings in cutthroat conservation, nearly the entire memberships of the Washington Fly Fishing Club and Fourth Corner Flyfishers (led by Gordy Young and Ralph Wahl respectively) showed up in force at the meeting held at the Mork Hotel in Aberdeen in 1974. I was also very involved in pushing through the non-retention ruling on marine waters. I still maintain that it is a good idea. It would be great if WDFW went to bat for the cutthroat as has been stated in a few of the responses to this thread.
    Alan Holt of The Nature Conservancy attends cutthroat hearings as does Rob Masonis of American Rivers. Doug Schaad, Conservation Chair at Washington Fly Fishing Club works diligently to keep the membership up to speed on all sportfishing issues (including cutthroat). Bill Robinson of TU does a great job of tracking information on salmon, steelhead and cutthroat and reporting on it to a huge list of interested people. Kevin Ryan (FFF) sits on the WDFW Anadromous Sportfishing Committee and is highly aware of all the goings on in Olympia at the meetings. He makes sure the word gets out. Finally, about the only place I ever bump into Robert Trigss (I'm sad to say) is when we are testifying at one or another hearing. I could go on much further on this list of people from various organizations who step up to the plate on a regular basis. I respectuflly submit that you are way off the mark on this issue Curt.
  9. "In fishing for them we should practice prudence in how many we catch and release even on a good day. This alone will reduce the incidence of mortality on this great trout."

    Good point Les. I have been guilty of this this week. I went back to the same spot 3 times and landed beauties and should have quit early. It was kind of hard since I had only been out for a couple of hours. I will be more prudent. What a beautiful trout...
  10. Les -
    I think you missed my point. I'm well aware of all the work you as well as the indivivduals, and organizations you mentioned had done on behalf of the sea-run cutthroat we all love since the mid-1970s - (Thanks for mentioning Ralph Wahl - I had the pleasure of first meeting him in 1974 and our very first conversation was about sea-runs). I often think of those efforts and more than once while enjoying a fall day on a favorite river seeking one of my favorite fish I mentally thank that cast of folks for their efforts. My point was that in the last few years (at least to my knowledge which as we all know can be faulty) there has not been much going on on the sea-run cutthroat conservation front by those groups or others.

    Is that because on the whole most now consider our cuttrhoat in relatively good shape? If as expressed by some on this discussion there is concerns about cutthroat management why aren't there more public efforts to address those efforts (I realize that has been a focus on steelhead issues over the last decade)? This past weekend the WDFW commission took testimony on proposed regulation changes for the next season. Inspite of a public process requesting ideas and proposals (I brought it to the attention of this board several times with links and reminders) there was only 1 proposal that address cutthroat management; # P 126. That proposal would have required the release of cutthroat on the main Stillaguamish and its forks. WDFW staff recommendation was not to support that proposal.

    I submit that either most folks feel that the status quo situation is OK or that they lack the passion to take action.

    Regarding targeting cutts in the salt -
    Please note that I did not suggest that cutthroat fishing in the salt be closed by regulation; rather I suggested that if some folks out of concern for the resource feel that anglers should be limiting the numbers of sea-runs they catch and release or even how frequently they fish an area that they might also consider not fishing the salt at all - again volunteer actions by concerned anglers. I did find it interesting that the respond to that suggestion was "where is the data?" A fair enough question though I have to ask where did the philosophy of putting the fish first go? Most of the conservation actions taken on cutthroat over the last 30 years did not wait for complete data; rather decisions were made with the idea of erring on the side of the fish (yes we would all agree that some of those actions were not as timely or as conservative as we would like but the fact remains that in most cases management action was taken prior to having scientific data in hand to support it).

    My apologies for continuing the hi-jacking of the original thread topic.

    Tight lines
  11. In all fairness to you Mr Mud Sculpin, That sounded like a really great day for sea run cutthroat on the beach. I would be very happy with that kind of showing anytime.

    I have seen fish get hooked and played, get off of the hook, then turn and take it again and subsequently get landed. I have seen them get stung and go away entirely. And I have caught some of the same fish twice or more in one day. All of that on the beaches.

    I have assumed that if the fish are educated; conditioned to fly fishing and it's related stimuli of lines on the water, leaders, sounds and movements, flys and even particular fly patterns, colors etc, perhaps even the sight, smell and sound of the fisherman wading, casting, presentations etc- then perhaps that fish might be very unlikely to hang around after getting hook stung. But a truly wild fish- one with little experience of having been fished for or never having been hooked- that is one dumb critter. Generally they are easier to catch.

    If I miss a fish on initial hook set I will try to drop that fly right back on the same spot as quick as I can. Often this has worked better than attempting another sequence of presentation, like a wet fly swing, or a reach cast and drift. My hunch on this is that they move so fast it helps to get the fly right back to them quick. Much wopulkd depend on the situation, the current if any, an noticeably established pattern of feeding etc. But there are plenty of trout in the world who will not tolerate this- especially the educated ones. Where a sea run Cutthroat might gladly take a surface dragging dry fly, many other trout wont even flinch at this dead give-away of an fly angler on the hunt.

    A good way to reduce localized pressure ("education" and stress) on these fish is to move often and change tactics like a pitcher changes-up his throw. They may have a habit of feeding in certain places at certain times of tide or day anyway, but for the most part these fish move quite a bit themselves. I believe that it will make you a better fisherman to move often, not just a few yards, or a few hundred yards in a day, but move miles at a time.

    Try all kinds of flies too- not just the ones in the magazines or fly shops. Sea Runs will eat all kinds of insects in the water, including terrestrials, mayflies, stoneflies etc. Yes they eat forage fish, crustaceans, invertebrates etc. But the shoreline is teeming with insect life too. If everyone around you is using a baitfish fly, why not try a Stimulator? Match the color and size to the Termites hatching from the beached logs nearby. If I am working on a feeding fish, and he is not taking my standard beach fly offerings; clouser, chum baby, minnows, candlefish, herring etc- I will definately tie on everything from a Royal Wulff to a Muddler. And I wont waste more than three presentations between new flies too. :cool:
  12. I’ll have to continue on the hijacking.
    Curt in all do respect we (EFFC) submitted that proposal to release all trout (Cutthroat) in the lower Stilly main stem as last minute decision and didn’t have time to promote it to other organizations for support in addition when we found out the WDFW dismissed our proposal with the comment “SRC population in the Stilly is healthy, do not recommend adoption of this proposal" and took it off the agenda, at that point we were looking at a dead horse. However, we are not going to let it get by the next go around and you can rest assure that we will include all rivers and not just the Stillaguamish.
  13. Double -D
    I mentioned EFFC proposal solely as an illustration of the only proposal that anyone bother to submit regarding sea-run cutthroat and even that by your own admission was a last minute deal (by the way I posted links to how to submit ideas/proposals months prior to submittal deadline on this very site). Again I'll ask the question - where were other ideas if there is such concern that the resource is in such trouble?

    At the risk of being once again chastised for hy-jacking threads I will comment in more detailed about EFFC's submittal and how it might be improved if you seriously are considering submitting ideas at the next cycle (2009).. Frankly the way it was written it gave the folks an easy out. As I read the proposal it was to change the regulation to require the release of cutthroat trout in the main Stillaguamish and its North and South Fork. I'm sure that most readers of this site (including myself) would support such a regulation. However it might be helpful to consider what the currrent regulations for those waters water.

    For the main Stillaguamish from the Warm Beach Highway to the the forks during the June 1 to November 30 the current game fish (including cutthroat) regulation calls for catch and release of all game fish except fin clipped hatchery steelhead with selective gear rules in place.

    For the North Fork from its mouth to Swede Heaven Bridge the regulation is again catch and release for all game fish (inlcuding cutthroat) under fly fishing only regulations.

    Yes the lower approx. 1 mile fo the main river and the South Fork remain open for the retention of cutthroat. Was those sections that you were interested in addressing? If so a more specific proposal may have been appropriate. Or was the interest in removing the blanklet game fish CnR and selective gear restictions on the main river for specific cutthroat release rule? The proposal is unclear to the intent.

    Maybe a little review of how the current regulation came to be and the thinking that went into those regulation. The change occurred a decade ago and originated from WDFW regional management staff (I know it is hard to believe but ever once in a while even incompetent will do the right thing). The above regulations were the response to a decade of length frequency monitoring of the Stillaguamish cutthroat that showed a lack of larger/older fish in the population. That specific information in hand WDFW was able to look at changes that included banning bait (State law precludes such bans without basin specific information) which was thought to be key due to documented hooking mortalities of released bait caught Stillaguamish cutthroat in excess of 30%.

    As often is the case agency regulation proposals are often a compromise which is often less than satisfactory to us users. In this case it was thought that a broad species approach to the CnR and the selective gear restrictions where of the highest priority. The rub in this approach on the Stillaguamish other than the going against historic management was the sturgeon fishery that occurs in the lower river. That fishery of course is limited to a bait only fishery. The manager made the call to exclude the lower mile from the proposal (to allow the sturgeon fishing to continue). The thinking was that getting the rest of the main stem and North Fork under that protection was the highest priority and risking the "package" by complicating the proposal by writting more complex rules for the sturgeon exception or to try to eliminate that fishery was not the way to go.

    In hind-sight given the minimal support that proposal change recieved it continues to be my opinion that at the time that call was correct. Without user support any significant opposition for any special user group would have killed the whole package. With the certainty that there would be developing in river salmon fisheries on the horizon it was felt that the window for such sweeping changes (the selective gear rules) was closing fast.

    If you and your organization wishes to take on closing those "loop holes" - the South Fork and the main river below Warm Beach highway in 2009 go for it. I would just hope that in doing so that what is currently in place is not jeopardized. As always if you or others wish the offer I'm will be more than willing review a draft proposal prior to submittal for weakness/flaws/ consequences; that offer stands whether I personally agree with your ideas.

    A couple final observations about those changes a decade ago on the Stillaguamish. To successfully pull of those changes the manager began laying the ground work for those changes a decade prior to the proposal ( a similar time frame has been the case with the current proposal for wild salmonid management areas on the Skagit sysem - which hopefully will be in place next season though I have no idea what kind of support it recieved from the fishing community). A finally a decade after the regulation change it appears that it was a failure in increasing the portion of the older/larger fish in the spawning population.

    Tight lines
  14. Bob:

    Great to see that you have again started posting on WFF. you have been missed for your insightful, knowledgeable, and passionate posts about fisheries resources and issues.

    iagree with all your posts in this thread particularly your passion for protecting sea-run cutthroat by minimizing our impacts. My fishing style is similar to yours as I fish a lot of locations(12-15) each outing in my boat. Hopefully I am not putting very much localized pressure on the sea-run cutthroat by moving around a lot.

  15. Don’t know were my reply went to yesterday so I’ll try again.
    Last hijack for me.

    I’ll agree our submittal for lower main stem of the Stilly could have been better and we welcome your input in our future rule change submittal. We want to fix this loop hole which seems to be in many of our north sound rivers. Your background in this ruling will be a valuable tool when we begin putting this together.
    Tight lines to you!
  16. Smalma et al - Note that I never said without reservation that habitat was limiting populations - I just said that if there are more older/larger SRC individuals - as most here have agreed is the case in many areas - either populations are increasing OR habitat is limiting overall production to the same basic level and older fish are becoming more prevelant for some reason due to decreased fishing mortality resulting from the C&R regs. I'm guessing that it may be a little bit of both, but in the S Sound I really think there are many more SRCs than there were when I first started fishing for tham 40 years ago. I have no data in hand to say for sure though, just the observations of this old son of the beach.

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