Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Chris DeLeone, Feb 1, 2014.
Good illustration Curt.
This is an awesome thread.
Interesting note, Curt, based on data I have seen we can't assume 1/2 the population is male.
Rather closer to 40% or less.
I only mention this because it illustrates how little we actually know for sure.
Here in Forks I believe it might help if we didn't net 6000 natives a year to sell. But, I am no scientist.
I suspect it has long been the case that year to year there can be variation in the sex ratio of returning steelhead. During the late 1970s and early 1980s the state looked closely at the sex ratio of returning steelhead at various weirs and found while there was differences from year to year the overall average was about 1:1. It is probably important to note that in moderating the status of various populations and the success of year to year management escapements are used. In the case of steelhead those escapement estimates typically are based on redd counts which are driven by the number of females spawning.
With the low marine survival we have been experiencing it would not be a shock to see a declining portion of the steelhead run being females (more resident/non-migrating male spawners). That has been noted in various Atlantic salmon populations.
However the my example of potential hatchery/wild genetic/spawning actions on the Skagit if indeed the ratio of males in the population is less than 1:1 it would mean that I was over-estimating the potential interactions. Like most of the assumptions I made the result was the worst case scenario. If the male ratio was less than 50% there would be even fewer males to potentially spawn with those wild females.
Will a male steelhead spawn with multiple females if given the opportunity?
The short answer is yes a male steelhead could potentially spawn with multiple females.
Typically a ripe female steelhead with be attended at least one male though often there will be multiple males attempting to spawn her (the norm my be 1 to 3 though have seen 5 or 6 with a single female). The spawning female will deposit her eggs in the redd over a period that may last several days typically putting her eggs in a dozen or different "pockets". She will "lay" a few hundred eggs in the pit of the redd an immediately move upstream fanning the gravels to cover those eggs. She will repeat that process until she is spend (at times she may move her location a construct a second redd in which to place some of her eggs.
When the female is attended by more than one male there will be in-fighting between them for dominance. Typically the dominate male will be the largest/most robust fish. However it is not all that uncommon for a secondary male to sneak in and fertilize some of the eggs or that the dominance may change during the female's spawning process. As a result it is not uncommon for more than one male (either steelhead or resident rainbow) to fertilize the eggs of a single female. As noted earlier a male can potentially spawn over a several week period during which time depending on the density of females and the competing males a single male may have multiple opportunities to spawn in various females.
Observing active spawning steelhead can be an interesting experience. An aside is that several studies have found out of a given spawning population some of the females and males produce more smolts that one would expect.
Very cool, thanks.
Enjoyed this thread.
"Less than 4% of what it was in 1900" Why isn't this fact alone enough to get people to reconsider their desire to fish for our last wild steelhead. This is not "stewardship."
Probably because there is no inherent link between population abundance today v population abundance in 1900 and whether people fish over today's existing population or not. The main concern I have with extant populations being only 4% or some other low percent of historical abundance is whether the trend is an indicator of an unavoidable intersection with extinction. It might be, and it might be that there isn't a damn thing we can do about it. By and large, there simply is no causative connection between steelhead fishing and its direct and indirect mortalities over the last 30 years and the contemporary low abundance of every single PS population, wild and hatchery origin. Because that reason is hugely important, I have very little concern about reasonably managed seasons allowing anglers to continue to fish for wild steelhead under CNR regulations. If and when fishing is a factor affecting abundance, then I think it is entirely reasonable to discontinue fishing for them. Truly, what possible gain is there in not fishing when there is no effect on abundance?
I will have to say that I disagree with you on this point Sg. I may not have a PhD, but I have spent my entire life on the water as a fisherman, and I know from first hand experience that fishing, methods of all kinds, has a tremendous impact on the fish, and on fish populations. For the past 13 years I have been on the Olympic Peninsula rivers I have seen first hand the damaging impacts of our fishing upon these fish, including "catch and release fishing". And our "reasonably managed seasons", wild steelhead fishing regulations here, include harvest, by sports fishing and by tribal netting. Why would we continue to gamble with so little that we have left of our wild steelhead? Just like the Puget Sound wild steelhead runs, these fish should have been protected under the Endangered Species Act long ago. Many qualified scientists have stated this, only to be ignored by the political hacks who continue to support this fishery for the almighty dollar.
I'm afraid I'm with Sg on this one. Any objective look at the fix that Puget Sound steelhead currently find themselves in have to agree that the major drivers that are limiting the populations to such low portions of their historic abundances is habitat lost and current low marine survivals.
Fishing impacts (from all sources) on Puget Sound steelhead have been reduced to about 4% and hatchery/wild interactions are a fraction of what they were 25 years ago yet every day the habitat base that supports those steelhead is being degraded. At some point if we what to pass wild steelhead on to our children and grand kids we need to put on our "big boy pants" and address those issues that truly limiting that resource. If we as a society had made any where near the improvements made on harvest and hatchery issues for Puget Sound steelhead on the habitat issues (and develop management strategies responsive to marine survival cycles) the status of those steelhead would not near as bleak as they currently are. Continuing the focus and suits such as the one that is the subject of this thread only serve to diver attention from the battles that will make or break the future of Puget Sound steelhead (and ultimately all of the State's steelhead).
Steelhead will not be recovered by means of moral purity.
Regardless of the issues being raised here, Beardslee's an asshole. He and his little band of losers are responsible for shutting down most of the streams around here to "save" the endangered bull trout, courtesy of a generous grant from that old fool who owns Sleeping Lady. He knows not to show his face in this area, somebody would probably take a shot at him. Notwithstanding the rest of the world just says "don't target them rather than shut down the stream. I have also personally witnessed his minions violating EVERY law concerning bull trout while conducting their "surveys". Grabbing a bull, yanking the hook out of it's mouth and tossing it in a 5-gallon plastic bucket like it's a layup on the basket ball court isn't what I'd call treating the fish with any measure of gentleness whatsoever. Pity I didn't shoot the bastard myself.
I think we find the situation with wild steelhead on the coast and Puget Sound in two different places. The kinds of things you are highlighting with the coastal steelhead are very real and important. However with the Puget Sound fish (in at least part due to the ESA listing) the harvest type issues have been largely addressed and there has been significant improvements in hatchery/wild interactions.
As often is the case in the world of fish management the details of individual situations are extremely important; in this case IMHO for Puget Sound steelhead it is time to look at the larger productivity issues (both fresh and marine waters).
While Rome burns . . . http://olympicpeninsulaflyfishing.blogspot.com
Sadly, what happens when one's personal gain is the priority.