Steelhead management/biology questios

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Smalma, Feb 9, 2005.

  1. State and Fed resource directors follow instructions given to them by elected politicians. I mean, It's not that simple, but really, it is that simple. Obviously extraction, commercial and tribal interests are much more powerful than recreational or conservation interests. To a large degree, WDFW is just the messenger. I doubt most wildlife managers get into the business because the want to see the destruction of our resources. I would think quite the opposite. And here we are, back to jobs vs. owls (or fish, in this case).
  2. Mr. Triggs, somehow that sounds better than Bob, LOL.
    You put into words what has been ratteling around inside my head for the last couple of weeks. Spot on in my opinion. I quit fishing winter fish and almost all summer fish a long time ago. A personal moral issue for me! Heck I quit fishing SRC's for a long time because the numbers were down but are now rebounding.

    Omykis and nailnot, I have been spouting this idea of changing the state laws for 15 very long years and maybe more. If it is much past yesterday I have a hard time remembering LOL! But seriously, you are the first two people to appreciate what this means. We got to get this issue out of the political light if anything is going to happen on a possitive basis. The management stategies are there to rebuild the runs. The emphasis needs to be changed.

  3. Word. And there is little I can add to what just said except to say that he is dead on. Fish used to be so numerous that they actually touched each other as they migrated up river. This busiiness of maximum number of fish whether as a miminmal sustainable yield number or as a maximum carrying capacity notion is simply an enormous cross upon which the fish of this state have been crucifed for the last century.

    I do appreciate your taking the time, Smalma, to answer a few questions and I have always thought it was the responsibility of the WDFW to make available some its scientist to help enlighten the general public. Thank you.

    But the WDFW is a tough mother and I imagine it is difficult to work for. Made up of political appointees, some of whom have never or seldom fished themselves, how can they understand the field as you must. But you can only make recommendations and I am sure many of them go unheaded.

    But let me ask you this, do you ever hear talk of closing a given river system for a reasonable period? If the sports take no fish, then I should think it would be reasonable to stop Indian netting of the river based on the Bolt decision of 1/2 for each side. (50% of 0=0).

    Bob, the if asked, I'd nominate the Hoh as I feel it could recover quickly. Of course, the hatchery would have to be closed.
  4. Saying I won't fish depressed run winter steelhead is akin to saying I won't watch the news in the hope terrorism will go away. The key to this whole power issue is simple in my mind:

    We fish "recreationally"
    The power holders are "professionals"

    And until we direct our arguments exclusively at bottom line benefits we will get our collective ass kicked. Plus we don't have industry organizations (of any size) etc funded by dues or union fees or whatever to make our point in Olympia. A full time lobby. To me, it is very easy to see who wins and loses at the political table. Why not mimic the successful parties, add some new techniques, and see what we can do? Why are wild fish declining? Why are we dependent on foreign oil? Why do we bail out corporations who send VP's to prison? Because they hold the power, that's why. I always laugh at ingorants think the 2nd amendment will save them from oppression. Maybe we need a tea party to wake people up.
  5. Some good questions/comments.

    First it is a certainity that survival conditions vary over time which also means that parameters like Carrying Capacity and MSY values vary annually.

    Carrying Capacity as typcially is that point above which adding additional fish to the spawning population will not produce a resulting larger run size. That is very much a product of the condition of the habitat. That means that current and historic carrying capacity are very different values. From the info that I have seem it is probable that depending on the species and individual river the current capacitys of our rivers are 1/2 to 1/10 or even less of what they were 200 years ago.

    So Bob in respond to one of your comments no matter what WDFW does in management we'll never see what was once here unless say 6 or so million people opt to leave the state, we remove all dams and water withdrawals in the state, allow all the forests to return to an old growth state, etc and then wait several centuries we aren't going to see those kind of numbers.

    The question should be how are going to use what productivity the current habitat is to support our populations/fisheries? With a second and perhaps more question would be what can be done to increase that habitat productivity?

    Steve asked: What is WDFW doing to insure wild steelhead/salmon runs remain healthy and viable? Great question!

    The reality is that we anglers and society as a whole have made WDFW the scape-goat for what ails our salmionid runs when in fact the majority of the problems lay at the feet of habitat destruction. An example - WDFW didn't have the dams built on the Columbia just count fish but rather we as a society want that cheap (?) power and water. WDFW real has virtually no authority to control many of the factors effecting our river's habitat. The onus lay with each of us and society as a whole as what we demand of our state Legislature and the laws they enact. In the end all that WDFW can is to attempt to insure that fishing is not a major contributor to any reduction likeyhood that the populations will persist over the long haul (100 years?)
    As with our environment the legislative manadate of having "vaiable comerical fisheries" is not something that WDFW requested but rather something that our representives in the State Legislature enacted on our behalf in response to lobbying by the commerical industry. The only way to change that mandate is by the same process in which it was created. Is that WDFW's job or as recreational anglers ours?

    I'll attempt to address Bob's question(s) about how one might manage the resource in regard to carrying capacity at the current state of our rivers in a following posting (in an effort to keep the length of individual posting down).

    Tight lines
    S malma
  6. I have a question mulling around in my mind and was having second thoughts on where to put it at. So I thought this would be a good as any place to ask it. Who pays for those hatchery fish that are fin clipped and are out there for us to harvest? Be it Steelhead or Salmon. Do us as license holders pay for them or do the Indians also pay for them? Sorry as there are two questions out there.

    It just seems that we who pay for all of this are not getting our moneys worth. If the other half is not paying why are they allowed to get our fish. I don't think that the Boldt decision listed Hatchery fish.

    Sorry to start to go off but sometimes this angers me to no end :(

  7. Jim-
    Many of the hatchery fish are produced by state through WDFW's budget. Those $$ come from lic. sales, state general fund, and mitigation funds for various dams etc. Various tribes also raise and release; mostly salmon. For example the Tulalip tribes raise and release chum, coho, and chinook.

    I understand exactly where you are coming from and that issue was addressed during the legal wrangling that followed the Boldt decission. AS you the State argued that the hatchery fish should belong to who is footing the bill. The tribal position was that the hatchery fish are in effect mitigation for all the habitat destruction that has occurred over the years and in effect the State's hachery plants were replacement fish for the lost production from that destruction. The Courts bought the tribal position so they are entitled to half of those fish. The non-treaty fisheries were also entitled to 1/2 of the tribal produced fish (an exception would be cases like the Quainault River steelhead where access is limited by the reservation).

    Watch your blood pressure! There isn't much that we can do about that situation.

    Tight lines
    S malma
  8. Smalma,

    I am not saying that I believe it would be possible for us to restore the wild fish runs, the habitat etc, to historic pre- development numbers. I am saying that we can do a lot better- if we put the fish and the environment first in our plans.

    What I am suggesting is that our "science"; that brings us to the belief that we "know" what the rivers can hold- as far as numbers of fish and spawning "success" etc- is limited to an understanding based on the relatively short-term study of a diminishing resource. So that our body of knowledge is limited firstly to something that is changing for the worse about as fast as it can be looked at, and limited secondly to the narrow confines of "harvest" as the hoped for goal of the science employed. So we are continuously adapting our science to fit the decline, so that we can continue to support harvest.

    And so far everything I have read on "carrying Capacity" has to me looked more like "aquarium management" than any true understanding of the dynamic evolution of interrelated species in a natural system. I believe this is because our regional fisheries science arose from the hatchery culture to begin with. And I do recognize that things are changing in that respect.

    We could just as easily assume that we do not understand why or how it is that historicly so many fish could occupy a system, even though many of them are not "successful" as spawners. Couldnt it be that over the millennia of genetic inheritance this was what provided the diversity for any of them to have made it into the 19th century to begin with?

    And now that we have been removing the breadth of numbers of fish and other species, (of all kinds), from the equation for 150+ years, along with all of the genetic chromatin and diversity once possible in their greater numbers, and along with the loss of habitat; we assume that we "know" what the best numbers are for "success".

    The notion that we truly understand what is required for these wild fish fish to "succeed" in these rivers is limited soley to the hubris of our "science", which in the end, is a very small view of an enormous period of time, driven primarily by the goal of harvest and commerce.

    Our real success will come with a committment to the environment, and all of our indigenous species first, and our goals for species exploitation last. In my personal opinion harvest is not a good basis for our understanding any more.
  9. S malma

    I really understand the difficulty involved in pleasing everybody at the same time. It is an impossible task. It is too bad we can’t just split up the drainage systems and say, OK, Natives fish here and manage these systems, Commercial guys here and manage that, Sport guys get here and here and manage that. Since we are wishing, I wish I had the winning Lotto.

    But more to my point. I understand the cyclic effect of Steelhead populations over time and how they compare to the rise and fall of other species. At what point ARE conditions supposed to improve for Steelhead numbers? In other words, where are we in the cycle and when can we expect an up turn? Also, what will happen if the cyclic theory fails and there is no improvement. I just have this overwhelming feeling there is going to be a lot of river boats and rods for sale over the next couple of years.
  10. Sell Shimano short huh Matt?
  11. Is Shimano public? Oh man, I’ve been looking for some payback ever since the AT&T debacle.

    Yeah, I just don’t think statistics that have held and have worked for the last 100,000 years can be used when you’re talking about major climatic changes such as one degree average temp increase in the waters where our Salmonid’s live off Alaska. I’m sure it will change their feeding resources and then they have to contend with all the environmental changes on our river systems when they return. Bob’s idea that our management model may have worked at first, but may need a major overhaul to adapt to the environmental changes that seem to increasing at an alarming rate, isn't a bad idea. Back when there were millions of genetic possibilities in the Salmonid gene pool, they might have been able to adjust to the severe changes we are seeing over the last 30 years. I’m sure this ability to adapt helped them through volcanoes, meteors, etc. Now that the diversity of the gene pool is gone, an aquarium like setting may be what we are headed for.
  12. Bob -
    Regarding my suggestion that a decent management target would be somewhere between MSY and Carrying Capacity (CC).

    Let's be clear that almost certainly having the populations at CC would be that absolute best for the resource. However we should also be absolutely clear to do so means that there can not be any fishing mortality at all. That includes all sources of mortality including CnR hooking/handling mortalities.

    I'll be the first to admit that I likely to fish and am selfish enough to want to continue to do so I'm willing to accept some risk (hopefully small) to the populations to continue to allow at least some fishing while the fish are experiencing decent survival conditions.

    Since the federal courts have all ready established MSY (at average survival conditions) I willing to use that as the lower threshold in my management paradigm. It is not that I would want to manage their but rather that is the yardstick point that I would measure my expected management actions. AS long as the prodcutivity of the population is such that target fishing mortality on the population will not drive it below the MSY level I'm comfortable. If the population is expected to be below that level than I would not like to see any target fisheries.

    Will this paradigm place our steelhead populations at unacceptable risk. Populations that have been management under that paradigm include our North Sound sea-run cutthroat, Skagit Dollies and the salmon on the Snohomish. In those examples the populations seem to have respond positively and have support reasonable fishing opportunities. That gives me some comfort with the approach. Of course as is always the case with risk management we all have different comfort levels.

    Note that I have not dealt with the issue of how to use whatever fishing imapcts that may occur during the various target fisheries. Whether those imapcts for consumptive fisheries, strictly catch-and-release or some mix of the two is a social issue that really is a different debate. For myself would like to see those imapcts heavily weighted towards the CnR side of the ledger. I have found that folks often confuse debate of where to establish of management objectives and tigger points with the debate over how to allocate the impacts from the resulting fisheries. While the two are closely related and otften inter-twined they are separate issues.

    Matt -
    What if the steelhead survival cycles don't swing back towards to the positive side? Sadly under the above paradigm we would not be fishing much and even the tribal steelhad fisheries would end (Nisqually, Cedar/Lake Washington are examples where that has occurred). Hopefully things will continue in the familar 10 to 20 year cycles. If not due to such things as global warming and habitat destruction then we may have to begin paying more attention to the bass fishing discussions.

    Tight lines
    S malma
  13. My blood pressure isn't going to rise on this subject. It is just something that seems to set me off. So I really don't think about it.

  14. Now Bass fishing with the fly is very much the same challenge as Steelhead. That would also mean spending more time on the eastside if I go after large mouth. There is a fair population of small mouth on this side though. They hit and fight pretty damn hard too. I believe that saltwater offers another avenue of fly fishing that is basically unexplored. If I can't get them after they pass through the nets, then maybe I need to figure out how before they get there. Saltwater settings are just as nice as the rivers. Adapt or die.

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