Steelhead Meeting in Olympia

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Coach Duff, Feb 2, 2008.

  1. My fishing partner Marty Leith just is leaving Olympia and called me. He said today's meeting went well, with well thought out dialogue and some good ideas. He got the general feeling that it has finally been realized that it might be time to say goodbye to hatcheries. :beer2: However, our co-stewards and co-managers did not attend. I guess in reality they don't have to. They have their 50% guarenteed no matter what happens. This isn't positive or negative commentary from my end, but matter of fact. Curt, Farrar and many of the boys were there as was young Atlas and others. Join in when you want boys. Tight lines Coach
     
  2. Duff,

    As Marty told you, I was there. Good to see folks like Marty going to stuff like that, no affiliation, no comments, just came to listen and learn because of how much he loves steelhead. Thats impressive.

    I dont have a ton of experience with the bureaucratic process but it seemed productive to me. There were alot of passionate folks testifying on the behalf of wild steelhead and we all seemed to be on more or less the same page. Overall it was a cooperative and civil dialog and the folks on the commision seemed to be glad to hear from us, especially after the heated nature of the early morning session (lower columbia chinook allocation). Like I said in the other post, it seems the department is beginning to place the health and stability of our wild steelhead runs at the forefront of their priorities. I doubt it will happen over night and it will take much vigilance from the conservation community but I think we might see some good come out of this Steelhead Management Plan. There is talk of starting some "wild steelhead management zones", areas with relatively intact diversity of wild steelhead, reasonable abundance and reasonably good habitat may see a phasing out of hatchery programs. I am a bit concerned that the state will simply shift hatchery production to an integrated program. Wild Broodstock isnt actually much better than a segregated program and may pose a more substantial risk because it encourages reproductive interactions between wild fish and the broodstock hatchery fish. I brought that point up during my testimony.

    I'd like to thank everyone who came, I was really moved by the number of people who made it a priority to drive down to Olympia on their saturday morning and say their piece for wild steelhead. Hopefully some good will come of it, I'm optimistic.

    Will
     
  3. What rivers in Washington Will, have never been planted or have had broodstock or hatchery programs, have a decent number of wild/native fish and can be recovered naturally? In your opinion. Duff
     
  4. Marty is a member of the Washington Fly Fishing Club and an officer for the year 2008.
    As for rivers that have never been planted, it would be difficult to say. Over the years I'm sure that stocking has been done in most of our rivers to some extent, except perhaps some of the OP rivers but I'm not even certain about that. It doesn't mean however that we shouldn't begin managing them for recovery of wild fish.
    Cheers,
    Les
     
  5. Duff. Obviously I'm not in the drivers seat on this but a lot of rivers would fit the bill. Skagit, Sauk, Nooksack, Upper Sky, Hoh, Quilleyute, Queets, Hoko. There are literally dozens of rivers with the potential to support robust populations of wild steelhead. Pretty much every river has been stocked with steelhead, but that doesnt necessarily need to be a qualification for a wild fish management zone, especially considering the minimal amount of introgression that actually takes place. You'd probably want to talk to someone with a PhD in fisheries for a more specific answer. I wont even have my BS for another few months.

    Will
     
  6. The John day is one river that has never had any influence from hatchery fish in the spawning areas and supports a healthy run of wild steelhead. I realized this is in oregon but it should count as local water as it is a columbia trib.

    Joseph creek on the ronde also supports upwards of 2,000 wild steelhead in washington, it has never been stocked.

    Those are the only two I know about for sure, I know there are others however.
     
  7. There aren't many rivers that really fit that criteria if you dig into records young JEDIs. There are a few, but not many.
     
  8. My only problem with this scenario is that won't this lead to no fishing for us unless C&R is better embraced around here?

    I would hate to think that we wouldn't be able to target steelhead until there are killable numbers of wild fish and wouldn't that be the case most of the time?
     
  9. I think the state would manage those watersheds as C&R wild fisheries, which would presumably open if they felt the wild stock could sustain the mortality associated with a C&R fishery. Obviously that is where the uncertainty would lie...how much mortality it acceptable?
     
  10. Yes, but there are STRONG anti-C&R groups in Washington.

    If there was no possible steelhead retention at any time of year, I think they would call for zero fishing targeted towards steelhead.
     
  11. I don't think anti-C&R groups will really play into the equation that much. Besides there would still be plenty of rivers with large scale hatchery operations, just not those with the best chance of supporting a good wild population. It works fine in other places, look at Oregon and California. They have a good number of watersheds in Oregon that are managed as wild C&R fisheries with great success. We don't need to reinvent the wheel here, we just need to do more to protect wild fish...period
     
  12. I doubt that you will see the return of wild steelhead harvest on the s rivers in your lifetime. I know I won't.
     
  13. I agree Kerry.

    I don't feel bad in any way because of not being able to kill them though.
     
  14. I attended the meeting on Saturday and was happy to hear Will Atlas, Tom B, Rich Simms (and the WSC et al), John Farrar and others give testimony on the plight of the wild fish. I was glad to meet these folks, and for me, to see Will and Tom B. take the time and energy to speak gives me some hope that the next generation of folks will be willing to fight this fight.

    When I first arrived, the conference room was full from the previous meeting, a discussion about the allocation of salmon for the commercials. They were so busy fighting over who would get to kill the last Columbia chinook that their meeting was ajourned, and was going to reconvene after the steelhead meeting. This years run will be less than 10% of what existed historically, and yet the WDFW and the commercials are still having discussions on this? What a crock of shit.

    For those who didn't attend, the board is made up of a variety of folks, some who look like they've not been out of an office in years. Beureucracy at it's finest!

    My own comments to the board were that the laws needed to be stricter to protect wild steelhead, and IHMO, we need to immediately change the regulations to NO kill for all wild steelhead. Additionally, I believe we need to close the OP rivers to C&R fishing as well as guiding. As a C&R fly fishing guide who has worked on a few OP rivers, I've seen the decline first hand. The numbers of returning fish the WSC lists shows the decline as well.

    Although we fly fishers would like to think that we're not causing the demise of the last wild steelhead, the sad reality is that we are having a detrimental impact, albeit, not to the extent that the nets and the intentional harvest does, but an impact nonetheless.

    Washington has a population of over 6 million, with a few million more to be added within the next few decades. Currently, 5 of the 7 distinguised steelhead stocks are now ESA listed. So where are Washingtonians who live in/around Seattle going to go when their own rivers are in such poor shape that the season is closed? The OP of course, and those rivers will not be able to sustain that pressure.

    Hopefully, we as steelhead anglers will value the fish enough that we're willing to give them a chance to survive, for their survival is far more important than our selfish pleasure of pursuing them. IMHO, even C&R at this late point in the game is too much pressure given their continual decline. Without some serious changes, these fish will go extinct within our lifetimes. We don't have the luxury of waiting another 5, 10 or more years for the killing to stop. We already have rivers in and around Puget Sound that have passed the point of no return. Sad indeed.
     
  15. Amen Brother Steve! iagree
     
  16. Steve, it would be a sad day to see the OP rivers close to fishing. Of course it is equally tragic that the Skagit, Sauk, Stilly and Skykomish have dropped off as precipitously as they have. I think their is hope out on the peninsula though. For the most part the habitat is in good shape and the fish would respond quickly to increased escapement goals and more cautious management. I dont think C&R selective regs fisheries are incompatible with sustainable runs of wild steelhead, however if I did believe that I would sadly have to put down the rod. This is why we need action so badly NOW. I know as an angler and a biologist I am unwilling to standby as these magnificent fish slide off the precipice to extinction. Alot of good came out of the meeting and I'm hoping this groundswell of momentum can continue, because we're running out of time. Great to meet you man, and if you're still guiding out there this year, hopefully we'll cross paths.

    Regards,
    Will
     
  17. I know you don't kill them intentionally but as Steve said we fly fishers have an impact whether we admit it or not. The anti C&R groups know this also and will use the incidental mortality rate associated with C&R fisheries to try and close the rivers down completely and as Steve mentioned perhaps this is exactly what should be done anyway. The increased pressure on the Skagit/Sauk over the past 10 to 15 years has been quite noticeable as the population of Pugetropolis increases, perhaps even more noticeable since the winter closures of the Skykomish and Stillaguamish have occurred.

    We are killing what we cherish. I personally hold out little hope for Puget Sound steelhead.
     
  18. Catching steelhead has deteriorated from fishing over relatively healthy runs in the 1950s and 60s when we generally were pretty confident that we'd poke out our 24 annual steelhead punches every year. That was the annual limit at a time when we had a whole lot more steelhead and a lot fewer citizens in Washington.
    Even during this period when steelhead seemed abundant and we loved the hatchery and \rearing pond programs (which kept us in cookie cutter steelhead every December) there were two straight years (1968-69) when the runs crashed. I wrote about this in the November 1970 Field & Stream in a piece called, "Are Washington's Steelhead Facing Disaster?"
    Now, as the steelhead decline, anglers have increased and tackle and techniques have become increasingly efficient, there seems to be a feeling of desperation and greatly increased pressure among many contemporary anglers to catch a steelhead -- before they are all gone! Usually it is justified by "catch-and-release" which we know kills a percentage of steelhead caught. I do not however condemn their desire to catch a wild steelhead. It is one of the greatest thrills in sportfishing. It is an issue in the loss of wild steelhead though.
    Also, we know that the 25 or so "healthy" steelhead rivers of 2000 have continually declined to a precious few. During this deplorable slide, WDFW and the tribes have continued to work the numbers and allowed a potentially disaterous catcb of wild steelhead.
    I contend that while working to correct present conditions, we need to bring history forword and consider it with today's situation. Blending some continuity into our thinking is, in my opinion critical to a [hopefully] successful steelhead managment plan.
    We'll have to raise hell to get someone other than Jim Buck to write it though. He is a WDFW insider who, during his tenure in the Washington State Legislature has never come down on the side of conservation -- and with absolutely no credentials to write such a plan.
    Cheers,
    Les Johnson
     
  19. My point wasn't that I want to kill wild steelhead.

    My point was:

    In the absence of any hatchery steelhead (killable steelhead), are we going to get to C&R the wild steelhead?

    After we abolish the hatcheries the next step will have to be setting up true C&R fisheries that last year round, or at least most of the year with some months completely closed in regards to rivers with no hatcheries....At least if we want to admit we are steelhead fishing.

    On top of that, I also fear that we might have groups fighting the C&R fishery like in the past, trying to get the hatcheries back to allow us to sports fish and kill like 10 years down the road and end up right back where we started.

    You would be amazed how many green as green can be environmentalists around here are against C&R with just a little bit of information about it.

    I think we are in the minority here.....

    I don't give and F about eating wild steelhead. As a wise man once told me, "They taste like moss!"
     
  20. Sounds as if there was good representation of folks from here at Saturday's commission meeting. I regret that I didn't get the chance to meet/talk with more of you there.

    It will be interestng to see what the commission does with the SSMP - direct the agency to move forward with the current draft or ask for further clarification.

    Steve -
    "For those who didn't attend, the board is made up of a variety of folks, some who look like they've not been out of an office in years. Beureucracy(sic) at it's finest!"

    I think you are being unfair to the commission members. Remember they are largely a volunteer board - they are paid $100/day and expenses (food and lodging at typcial state rates) for each day they meet. They recieve nothing for the considerable time it takes to attempt to stay current with the variety of issue they face. Yes they tend to be older folks - not sure many could "afford" to spend the time they do with young families and the typical jobs.

    I have had the pleasure of know a number of commission members over the decades and see many more in action. Almost to the person I have found them to a dedicated lot who typcially come to the Commission with a strong passion about some pet issue(s). While I often find myself disagreeing with an individuals action's or priorities that in no way diminishes either their dedication or my respect for their willingness to step up to the plate. Further I'm of the opinion that the resources of this State are way better off for the Commission's efforts than if it was left to a political process.

    tight lines
    Curt
     

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