"Why aren't Olympic Peninsula Steelhead . . .

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by miyawaki, Feb 19, 2014.

  1. miyawaki

    miyawaki Active Member

  2. Evan Burck

    Evan Burck Fudge Dragon

    Massive respect to Bob for this.

    I canceled my annual friend-gathering camping trip out there because I just couldn't organize a gathering with the intention of putting that much additional pressure on these fish. I doubt I'll fish these rivers at all this year. I'm just not feelin it.
    wadin' boot, troutpocket and flybill like this.
  3. Chris Bellows

    Chris Bellows Your Preferred WFF Poster

    while i understand the sentiment since i no longer live on the peninsula and the rant is red-meat to the fly fishing community... there are factually incorrect things in the rant.

    As someone who fought the Hoh River closure inside the park, I take some offense at the bullshit he posted that we would be "hooking, over playing, landing and GoPro-gloating over the last handful of wild salmon along the way." If he had spent any time talking to the biologists he would know that the spring chinook catch in the National Park was zero before the closure and that the closure was solely to put pressure on WDFW to close the lower river and not for any conservation measures. I have not seen any go-pro videos of people playing salmon on the Hoh inside the national park prior to the closure and as far as I can tell there have been no reports of people targeting and "over-playing" salmon inside the National Park prior to last summer. The main issue people had with the Hoh closure was the fact that it had nothing to do with conservation and non-consumptive steelhead anglers were being used as a pawn to force WDFW to change. The chinook savings from the closure were zero, but anglers lost another place to hike and fish.

    Some more facts: Stricter regulations have in fact been put in place since the closure of Puget Sound rivers. The yearly limit for wild steelhead was dropped to one fish, there is no wild steelhead harvest prior to February 16th, the Snider Creek broodstock hatchery has been shuttered, and selective gear rules have been extended into the summer months in the upper watersheds. We would all like to see more done, but to say nothing has been done is not only untrue, but a disservice to all the people who have pushed hard to get these rules in place. And while we all share in the blame when it comes to harvest and hatcheries, the tribes are harvesting the majority of wild steelhead and if you look at steelhead hatcheries west of the Elwha, only one is run by the state (Bogachiel) and the rest are tribally operated (Hoko, Sooes, Hoh, Salmon R., Quinault, Cook Crk.). The sportsmen are the only ones who have changed in the past 15 years when it comes to harvest and hatcheries, so I think a spotlight shined on the tribes is not a bad thing.

    I agree that wild steelhead on the Olympic Peninsula are in need of tighter regulations, less hatchery plants, and restrictions on boats and guides.... but we can win the battle with the facts.
  4. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

    A good question might be to ask what benefit has occurred as a result of the ESA listing of Puget Sound steelhead, and would the same benefits accrue to OP steelhead. And if so, what changes in stock status could we expect to see as result? Careful what you wish for.

  5. pbunbury

    pbunbury Tights Lines

    Until tribal fishing regulations are actually enforced, all anadromous fish in Washington State will have an uphill battle. 150 year old treaties are no longer relevant to the current landscape of the resource. Many of you have seen the gauntlet of nets that exist near the mouths of these prestigious OP rivers. It's truly a miracle that any fish make it up river. In my opinion a revision of conservation laws, tribal and non, is more than past due. Passion is alive and well on this board, and I would assume many members are actively involved. It seems like public demand at some point should influence government action, but getting a Steelhead junkie into office would probably speed things up. Logic would suggest that tribes should want to protect and maintain this valuable resource, but that's obviously not the case, and when compounded by over fishing and tremendous pressure from recreational sportsman, the outcome is quite obvious. There are no easy answers and many, many opinions. As someone who wants to get involved in protecting wild Steelhead, I would like to hear input and from members of this board who already are. What are the most impactful ways to get involved in protecting wild Steelhead?
  6. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

    Probably the best start would be to first cast off all your assumptions about what you believe is obvious regarding the status of steelhead populations and what WDFW and the tribes think. Then begin with data. Pick a river or rivers and gather (WDFW) runsizes and escapements by year. About 20 or so years' worth is a good start. Then ponder for a bit that if treaty Indian gillnetting is as bad as you appear to believe, figure out why the runs haven't gone extinct in the 40 years since US v WA. When you get that under your belt you'll be in a better place to understand management and conservation.

  7. plaegreid

    plaegreid Saved by the buoyancy of citrus

    I second this request.
  8. Chris Bellows

    Chris Bellows Your Preferred WFF Poster

    one way is to join organizations that fight for wild steelhead. the two main wild steelhead conservation groups in the NW are the wild steelhead coalition and the native fish society.

    the second is to at least read their websites and sign up for their newsletters/action alerts.

    the third is when you receive an e-mail or read on this website about a meeting/public comment on rules that pertain to wild steelhead at the minimum write a letter to the commission/senate/congress. also try to get a fishing buddy or twelve to write letters.

    the progress that has been made has been done in the face of great angler apathy when it comes to writing letters and/or testifying at meetings. imagine how much easier it would be if half of the 22,000 members on this forum sent a quick note every time protective measures for wild steelhead were under consideration by the state.

    be prepared to lose 9 out of every 10 battles, but take great joy in the small victories.

    and finally take some advice from edward abbey:
    “One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast....a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”
  9. solduc

    solduc New Member

  10. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

    If folks are interested in following Salmo g's suggestion of examining some of the available data a good place to start is here -


    Go the appendix and visit the historical data; OP ESA portion.

    plaegreid, jwg and NateTreat like this.
  11. Alexander

    Alexander Fishon

    YES! :)
  12. David Dalan

    David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

    Such a potentially complicated issue. If one wishes to make it complicated. If the estimates I have read (and have no direct knowledge of) historical abundance is correct, then the data does indeed show drastic reduction in all of the populations to a sliver of historical abundance. No surprise.

    What is bothersome is there are no dams, little development, and in some cases not much logging. Though I think logging mpacts are underestimated (past activity, not current...i.e. splash dams, etc.). The only really obvious impact is harvest. Yes there are ocean conditions, but that's uncontrollable and harvest is manageable.

    The only question argument in my mind is this: is there a justification of allowing harvest of wild steelhead? Given the decline in Steelhead populations in general, and the sometimes absurd abundance of hatchery fish (Quinault, Bogey) I am certain the answer is no.

    Not only are the numbers in whole way off, but the quality is declining. I suspect that over the years the OP rivers have lost their early Winter return cohort of fish which likely contained not only (as Bill McMillan speculates) some of the most productive but largest males. Same thing happened on the Clearwater. Dworshack wiped out the whole North Fork run for sure, but according to the writings of people who fished the CW in the old days, the early returning fish (June/July) were already in steep decline. It was the 1970's when the WA Steelhead records was set, a 34# CW fish. Unless they are wearing cloaking systems, those 30# fish are all gone now.

    There are writings about early (June/July) fish on the Grande Ronde, and many other rivers as well, that by the end of the 1970's no longer really had meaningful numbers of these fish anymore.

    As an aside, I'm not sure I think ESA listing has much to offer in this context. It's a WMD, not a surgical tool to correct misguided management decisions. And make no mistake, good intents and abundant data (or not) the choices being made are short sighted and, IMO, the wrong ones.

    MSY has never been a viable model. The fishery has value beyond economic. Until the agencies that manage these resources change how they choose, or a statutorily required to, manage the resource...nothing will change.
    Chris Johnson likes this.
  13. Sean Beauchamp

    Sean Beauchamp Hot and Heavy at yer 6

    One look at the hoh chinook fishery reveals sport angler pressure has little to do with plummeting runs. The market value is 3x or more higher per pound than steelhead. End result tribal OVERHARVEST. Along with understated by catch of a fragile wild summer run population, late returning winter steelhead and actively spawning wild winter fish. Go pros, beads, bait, barbed hooks, boats and barbed wire landing nets are more conducive to conservation than indescriminate gill netting. Anyone who thinks otherwise can join me on a float from Allen's to barlows this may.
  14. Chris Bellows

    Chris Bellows Your Preferred WFF Poster

    Syd Glasso wrote:
    "How boat fishing has effected the quality of steelhead fishing on the Peninsula is becoming more obvious every year. The Bogachiel has been practically siphoned out and local fishermen hardly bother with it any more."

    That was written in 1970. Pre-Boldt and pre-hatchery steelhead. I just re-read the article he wrote in 1970 for The Creel and it is amazing that with what we could only imagine as an angling paradise pre-hatchery those who experienced earlier fishing were talking about the pressure, guides, and gear techniques much like we are today (substitute side-drifting with "Hotshotting").

    Here's what he wrote about fishing from boats and plug fishing:
    "But shouldn't a man stand on his own two feet and catch his own steelhead? Maybe, put out some effort and actually find his own fish, just for the fun of it? Questions like these will get you nothing but cold stares from a hell of a lot of of steelhead fishermen nowadays.

    For $45.00 or $50.00 the services of an expert guide and his boat can be had. No more walking, no brush to fight, no need to even get into the water. The guide directs his fisherman's casts and with miles of river to sit on success is practically guaranteed.

    Guaranteed? Well, not quite. Anyone can have a bad day. The lure won't hit the water, the reel won't work or most serious of all, the fisherman forgot to learn how to cast. The end of the float trip is near and there are no fish in the boat. The prospects are dismal. What is to be done?

    The guides know what to do in a situation like this. Privately most of them have contempt for this method, but it works. They try "Hotshotting."

    The miserable technique must have originated on the River Styx where fishing is tough. The guide in effect really does the fishing. About thirty feet of line with a plug at the end is let out and the rod is held or put into a holder. The boatman eases the boat down the river, zig-zagging over likely holding water as he goes. When a fish is hooked the guide drops his anchor in the shallows, jumps out, grabs his net and if all goes well, scoops in the fish. Easy, simple and very efficient. Many a fish is caught in just such a manner and it is a sign of the times that more and more fishermen consider this a proper way to fish for steelhead."
    Speyrod GB, Chris Johnson and JesseC like this.
  15. Chris Bellows

    Chris Bellows Your Preferred WFF Poster

    Let's also not forget the core problem effecting the harvest management of spring chinook on the Hoh....

    Sol Duc hatchery spring chinook. They dip into the lower Hoh and this is what allows not only the gillnet fishery, but the selective sports fishery. As far as I can tell, the Sol Duc springer program is one of the worst programs when it comes to impacts across other species and river basins on the coast.
  16. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

    David D.,

    The OP is not unlogged territory. Logging has been and continues to be the primary industry there. And just as it has in other parts of western WA, when the lowland timber was gone, forestry moved upslope, logging ever higher elevation timber. And that's where the real damage to stream habitat happens. Thanks to gravity, the effects of erosion and mass wasting are exponentially more severe, and long lasting. Reasonable estimates put Puget Sound area streams at about 10% of their historical productivity. It may be as high as 20% for many OP watersheds.

    Ocean conditions are whatever they are. And while harvest is obvious, both the state and the tribes are in agreement that most of the OP rivers are productive enough that there exists a harvestable surplus most, if not all, years. And productive enough means the productivity under existing environmental conditions, not historical or any other environmental conditions. Certainly we see this with the Puget Sound and lower Columbia River tributary populations, where harvest hasn't been a factor affecting population abundance for the last 20 or 30 years or even more. Yet those populations are currently at low levels of abundance. And that is because that is what the current status of productivity, capacity, and diversity is, combined with the effects of ocean survival. If that were not true, then by definition the populations would necessarily be at a different level.

    The OP, like rivers elsewhere, lost most of the early run component because of the introduction of hatchery steelhead. The hatchery winter steelhead run timing is early, and the fishing pressure that is focused on that run timing causes a higher harvest rate on early returning fish. Add that to the fact that early returning fish are in the rivers for a longer period of time before they spawn, and they are more likely to be caught and removed from the population before they can spawn than are the latest returning winter steelhead.

    Chris B.,

    The 1970s were not pre-hatchery steelhead on the OP. The hatchery stocking programs were well under way in the 1960s, although I don't have the numbers close at hand. Good quotes from Sid, but maybe that's because I've long felt the same way. And you're probably right about the Sol Duc hatchery spring chinook program. In hindsight, a mistake.

    jwg likes this.
  17. Chris Bellows

    Chris Bellows Your Preferred WFF Poster

    my understanding was that the quillayute did not see hatchery steelhead plants until sometime in the 70's (post Boldt). i'll do some digging as i always thought the peninsula was far behind puget sound when it came to hatchery steelhead (although the 60's would be far behind)

    edit... there were hatchery plants in the 60's and a couple years of plants in the sol duc in the 50's. thanks for making me jog the memory files salmo.
  18. Chris Bellows

    Chris Bellows Your Preferred WFF Poster

    a serious question when it comes to productivity. if up to 60% of a watershed is protected inside a national park, how can the productivity be only 10-20%. I understand that the best rearing habitat is lower in the watersheds, but does that explain the entire loss of productivity vs. intact habitat?

    if our upper watersheds have the best habitat, can we ever really bring back any abundance if our hatcheries and harvest minimize the diversity necessary to fill those habitat niches? Do decreasing salmon runs make it difficult for species on the edge to recover if the rivers no longer are a salmon nutrient based ecosystem (queets spring chinook which spawn inside the national park but are critical even with minimal harvest)?

    maybe it isn't fighting over killing the last fish, but fighting over who gets to have a quality experience as the fish decline no matter what.

    jesus, imagine how depressing i would be if i drank ;).
    triploidjunkie likes this.
  19. freestoneangler

    freestoneangler Not to be confused with Freestone

    Who exactly are the enemies... are they those same desk-bound men and women with hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators that also enjoy our sport, the great outdoors, and who donate time and money saving endangered species?
  20. freestoneangler

    freestoneangler Not to be confused with Freestone

    But for now- I won't be guiding anyone for winter run wild Olympic Peninsula Steelhead any more. Personally I feel that it has gone too far out here. The numbers of wild fish do not support sports fishing, not even a catch and release fishery. Not when we are talking about a "handful" of fish returning, and only a few thousand escaping the gauntlet of nets, boats and hooks to spawn. And according to the state's own observations, most of the escaped fish were caught and released by anglers too.How many times? So many anglers and guides will cite research that supports their claim that "Catch and release does no harm." I'm sorry- That is Bullshit. Not with the numbers like what we have here now.

    Kudo's to Bob for his decision to put fish above personal gain or pleasure. I hope everyone on this forum will take this same high road... tough decisions are, well, tough.

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