Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by _WW_, Feb 5, 2011.
So...how long before it happens?
Your missing the right choice. They already are. They just don't know it yet.bawling:
There's always a few that make it up the rivers. The Skagit is a big river. It's hard to put a time on anything. I thought I would be dead by the age of 50. Hell, I'm still here.
They may already be gone, and the rare steelhead in the skagit is merely lost or exploring at to why none of his pals are headed up that way.
I didn't vote for any of the choices. I don't think they will go completely extinct. I do believe we may have seen the last of steelhead fishing for a number of years on the Skagit if not forever.
Looking at my sled and the half dozen or more spey rods I got wondering if I can get enough money out of it all to buy a decent salt water boat. Then again it is likely only a matter of time before they close the sound down. Maybe I will get me one of those big ass bass boats and join the tour.
While WW prefers us to draw an emotional response, extinction comes in flavors. Extinct for direct exploitation (commercial, tribal, recreational harvest) - right now and with little chance that the local situation will change in the next several hundred years. Extinct for catch and release (indirect exploitation, C&R mortality) - if not now, in the near term. Genetically extinct - 10,000+ years from now during the next expansion of glaciers out of BC (the next coming of the Vashon glaciation - assuming that global warming hasn't disrupted that process). As long as there are rainbow trout in the Skagit, the Skagit steelhead persist. As long as fish stray from river to river, Skagit steelhead persist.
I hope never. 3 years ago a buddy of mine was fishing with me in my drift boat and he hooked 20# + steelhead. It straightened the hook before it broke off. I saw it several times and it had the girth of a king. They're in there, just not like the glory days of old. It just makes it that much more special when you do get into them.
I agree with Cabezon. They're not going to go extinct as a stock. They are functionally extinct as a fishery for us however. It's likely to be that way for all Puget Sound stocks for the foreseeable and indefinite future. The sport fishery is over. R.I.P.
I'm tempted to answer something like "About six months before I put a gun in my mouth."
That's facetious and inaccurate; I'll be dead of natural causes before then. Perhaps a more relevant question would be something like "How long before all Puget Sound rivers are closed to all steelhead fishing, indefinitely?" (Which brings up a related question: When that happens, will a single WDFW official, Commission member, Governor or legislator lose his/her job?)
No vote for me either. There is no way they will be extinct in the next 80 years. The current trend indicates we probably wont be fishing for them in 80 years though...
Nice comment Steve. Extinction in flavors - that gets the brain to working.
Skagit Steelhead have become window dressing for the environment...pretty to look at, but don't touch. Does a thing like that have any value?
Just perhaps the sharp decline of Puget Sound steelhead is the result in part to some natural cycle going on in the ocean. We see this all the time with salmon numbers.
Maybe if we do all we can to restore the estuaries and improve river habitat in general when the ocean cycle changes a rebound will occur.
Many poulations of animals are cyclic. Perhaps this is what we are experiencing with steelhead.
I also did not vote for any of the choices.
While steelhead in the Puget Sound region are in serious trouble IMHO our beloved Skagit steelhead were not and are not facing extinction! While they will never be as abundant as they were historically (never even close) there is more than enough quality habitat (major key headwater pieces are within wilderness areas or the NCNP) to assure that are grandkids could see a wild Skagit/Sauk steelhead if they so desired. In fact the bain's steelhead population is more secure today than at the time of the ESA listing thanks to extensive Wild Salmonid Managment Areas (WSMAs) in the basin. The Skagit between the mouth of the Cascade and the dams, the Cascade above the Rockport-Cascade RD bridge, and all of the Sauk were established as WSMAs several years ago.
Like they rivers they live steelhead populations are dynamic. As much as we like for some things to remain the same (whether a favorite run or good smolt survival) anyone who has been around our anadromous salmonid populations for more than a couple of decades realizes the one constant is change. A huge driver in the current abundance of Skagit steelhead is the marine survival of their smolts. It is now clear that survival is currently very low and it is also clear that such survival is cyclic and we will see improvement in that suvival. The question is when will that cyclic begin an upswing? and how much will it improve? Past records (mostly from the salmon world) indicate those survival (and the weather patterns that drive much of that survival) are typically 2 or 3 decades long. If this current cycle is typical we could be crawling out it soon (in fact there are some hopeful signs that things are beginning to improve). Further it will take only a modest increases in that survival to see much more robust runs of Skagit wild steelhead.
However that does not mean that we will be fishing for them in any meaningful way anytime soon. In fact I recently came to the realization that unless there is some sort of dramatic and very unexpected change in the thinking of the managers (NMFS, State, and Tribes) and the wild steelhead advocates what few years I have left to wade my favorite waters will not include fishing for Skagit steelhead.
Don't have an truly educated guess, but a speculative guess would say they will outlast me my 4 year old son and his children's children.
Curt, et al,
There are a lot of the pieces of the puzzle out there. Many of those pieces you have provided.
At some point a bright "bulb" will come along and do an in depth analysis of all the data accumulated and opinions read and many of those pieces are going to come together.
So often it seems a new set of eyes looking at data comes up with a new view of the situation.
On a brighter note.
I have fished the Snoqualmie for both winter and summer fish for quite awhile. Something different this year was the appearance of early run wild winter run steelhead starting in early January in better than average numbers. Generally wild fish don't show up until the end of the month. I know of several wild fish caught.
One winter certainly does not indicate a trend but is encouraging. Just maybe the conditions in the salt that has been so devastating for out bound smolt in the salt is changing.
Listening to a biologist sat. am on outdoor line discussing the Nisqually some things really stood out. Smolt survival to the estuary has been running around 70% to 80%. Survival recorded in the San Juans drops to around 6%. Some interesting numbers.
I am going to throw in my uneducated two-bits in here. The flats of eel grass and bull kelp have been decimated. This flora provides protection from predators and is a source of food. I believe, maybe incorrectly, that steelhead are shore line travelers especially in their early developement. The eel grass and bull kelp is essential for their survival. When the grass and kelp is gone the young steelhead are easier pray for all sorts of predators. They also need to work harder for food. By the time they reach the San Juans they have grown to sufficient size that the diet has perhaps changed and by size alone some predators are no longer in the mix. Or maybe only the smart and lucky have survived.
There is something occuring from leaving the estuaries to migration north that is a major issue. Maybe it is a natural cycle and maybe it is something else.
Wait, there are still steelhead in the Skagit?
The Skagit system steelhead won't be going extinct anytime soon, but the sea-going population may very well get wiped out. I say this because the wild rainbows in the upper watershed will keep this line going (just like on the Elwha and upper Skykomish). Heavy development in the upper watershed of the Sauk, logging, or a Glacier Peak eruption might just wipe them out someday in the future. Either way our days of fishing for Skagit system steelhead are done for a long while.
...that's the rumor...
I chose to look ate things on the bright side, when fishing the skagit theres no steelhead to interupt my casting practice, and the springs & pawls in my hardy bougle will last forever!