Wild Steelhead Coalition’s Emergency Rule Change Proposal for the Stillaguamish:

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Andrew Lawrence, Apr 10, 2014.

  1. Andrew Lawrence

    Andrew Lawrence Active Member

    I am kind of interested in hearing some opinions regarding some of the issues mentioned in this proposal. In particular, I found the claim that Deer Creek steelhead could possibly seek refuge in the South Fork Stillaguamish rather interesting.

    Emergency Rule Change - WSMZs and North Fork Stillaguamish

    Stillaguamish Rule Change Proposal: Request an immediate change that would result in the mandatory release by anglers of rainbow trout on the N.F. and S.F. Stillaguamish river and tributaries to help mitigate the future impacts resulting from the 'Oso Slide' of March 22, 2014. This would be accompanied by a mandatory gear change to require the use of only single barbless hooks on all reaches of the Stillaguamish watershed and require that hooked rainbow trout not be removed from the water prior to release.

    Rationale: Currently there is a major constriction on the NF Stillaguamish just downstream of C-Post with water pressure from upstream and significant siltation in the river. None of us knows how Spring rains and runoff will impact this situation or what the downstream flow will be for 2014 and beyond. What we can reasonably assume is that our ESA-threatened wild stock of Deer Creek steelhead is at significant risk due to this cataclysmic event. As mentioned in the Gene Bank rule change proposals, our Puget Sound tributaries hold only modest resident rainbow populations which makes protecting their contribution to wild steelhead productivity that much more important. Given the challenges these Stillaguamish fish will face it is quite probable that these fish will seek refuge in the S.F. Stillaguamish: similar to a life history strategy we saw occur after the Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980. The NF Stillaguamish is a historic fly fishing river for steelhead and in June-November is fly fishing only with a single hook barbless fly. The SF Stillaguamish is open to all sport angling methods with no special gear regulations. Given the reasonable possibility of some of these ESA listed steelhead taking up residence in the SF Stillaguamish there should be new concern for protecting them through special gear regulations and enhancing their spawning productivity by providing protection for resident rainbows.

    I believe that each of these requests is consistent with the Natural Production policies and strategies defined in the 2008 Statewide Steelhead Management Plan. I request that the Commissioners consider these proposed changes in a timely fashion to support implementation and public education prior to the opening of these rivers for angling in June 2014.

  2. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

    Or, to be consistent with the general trend for steelhead in Puget Sound these days, they could just close all of the Stilliguamish basin to fishing for the rest of the season/year through 2015.

    Rob Allen likes this.
  3. Andrew Lawrence

    Andrew Lawrence Active Member

    Yeah....that wouldn't surprise me. I have been to Oso a couple of times since the most recent landslide, and I can't deny that the water conditions (that is, the perceived amount of suspended sediment) do indeed remind me of the North Fork Toutle. However, part of me can't help from thinking that a comparison of both rivers in the immediate aftermath of the disasters that affected them is somewhat like comparing apples and oranges. So... among the questions that I have after reading the proposal is whether or not the amount of suspended sediment in the water is so great as to deter steelhead from entering the NF Stilly?
  4. Chris Bellows

    Chris Bellows Your Preferred WFF Poster

    i think the concerns are less about adult fish but juvenile and resident fish that will move out of highly silted areas rearing areas into areas whose regulations currently allow bait and harvest.

    the fact that there is any part of the puget sound esu (or anywhere in the state) that allows harvest of resident trout (which can be an important part of steelhead spawning) is insane. allowing bait in summer fisheries is just as insane and i have never understood how such fisheries pass muster but c&r of adults doesn't.
    Andrew Lawrence likes this.
  5. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

    Chris -
    I agree that we are well past the point the harvesting resident rainbows in our steelhead rivers and the continued use of bait in any fishery on those waters makes biological sense. That said not sure that WSC's proposal is the way to get there.

    While the North Fork downstream of the slide is running "dirty" not sure that it is any worst than the North Fork was following the Deer Creek debacle in the early 1980s, or the Sauk following the 2003 flood, or the Suiattle during the droughts in 1987 and 1988 or a number of streams during the glacial run-off during the summer. Experience has shown that the adult fish will migrate through those streams and attempt to seek out areas of clean gravel for spawning. Clearly the gravels downstream of the current slide will be (and was) impacted by excessive sediments degrading the spawning gravels for sometime (likely more than a decade.

    A saw a water sample collected a couple days of after the slide event occurred. While the water was clearly carrying a lot of sediment it seemed that much of it was in solution and not readily "settling out). Even after several days on the shelf there was considerably less material on the bottom of the bottle that I recall from the late 1980s drought on the Suiattle or the Sauk during the winter of 2003/04. In those cases the fish sought out "clear water" areas for spawning. Fishery workers are constantly surprised at the condition of juvenile salmonids collected from glacial streams; clearly somehow they are finding a way to make good livings though it remains unclear what sort of densities of juvenile are found in such waters.

    More to the point WSC's proposal seems to be directed at the Deer Creek summer steelhead. The spawning and much (all?) of the juvenile rearing of the Population occurs in the upper Deer Creek basin (above the canyon). The entire basin is closed to fishing. It also is the case that the North Fork of Stillaguamish and the main stem (except the lower part of tide water) also has gear restrictions and CnR requirement for all game fish species except hatchery steelhead during the summer season (June through October).

    Andrew Lawrence likes this.
  6. kamishak steve

    kamishak steve Active Member

    To be honest, I am likely to support any change that restricts bait and native trout retention in Puget sound, whether there was a slide or not...