Wild Steelhead: handle with care

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by ospreysteelhead, Oct 7, 2009.

  1. ospreysteelhead Member

    Posts: 72
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Hi all, hope everyone is having a good fall. Justifiably, there is alot of excitement going around about fishing the Snake and Columbia systems for steelhead this fall. Its great to have an opportunity to go out and catch some fish, harvest some hatchery fish and hopefully get a shot at catching one of the Columbia systems legendary wild summer fish. With that opportunity though comes responsibility to be stewards of the resource through our actions as anglers. In fishing/catching fish we are inflicting one of the most direct impacts possible on ESA listed wild fish, while many/most steelhead survive being caught and released the impact is real. I've written a much longer blog post on the subject. Bottom line...try and limit your impact by fishing barbless, harvesting hatchery fish and not letting yourself hook more than a couple of wild fish in a day. Hooking mortality on summer steelhead is probably in the neighborhood of 5-10% although it can be alot higher when water temps are high. We will all end up killing fish occasionally but we can definitely minimize our impact. Its a special time of year.

  2. longstick Member

    Posts: 280
    North West
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Also as the weather cools down please take off you gloves when handling fish. I have seen the damage on fish in Alaska. The fish looses slim that helps protect the fish from illness and disease.
    Good post.
  3. JT FLyfisher Mazama Trout Guy

    Posts: 26
    Bellingham, WA
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    A better approach would be to assume that most reading this board already know how to, why it's important and the effects if done incorrectly.

    Too many soapbox-preachers on this site.

  4. ospreysteelhead Member

    Posts: 72
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Having observed two dead wild fish in two days last week it is apparent that some people dont know who to properly fight and handle fish. I am simply hoping to generate awareness about the fragile nature of our wild steelhead runs.

    good point about gloves as well.
  5. Chris Johnson Member: Native Fish Society

    Posts: 1,775
    Bellingham Wa.
    Ratings: +310 / 1
    Hey Osprey, I agree completely, If you save one fish it's worth the post! :thumb:
  6. Steelie Mike Active Member

    Posts: 1,600
    Camas, WA
    Ratings: +24 / 0
    The soap box preacher you talk about is the same fish biologist who is fighting to make sure you have fish in the future to catch and appreciate. There is a reason the Federation of Fly Fishers have him write for them. Just because you fish swims away does not mean it will not turn over five minutes later.
  7. Ryan Nathe Member

    Posts: 836
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +7 / 0
    Jason, look through the gallery... There have been plenty of examples of poor fish handling not just steelhead but of all salmonids over the years. Just last week someone was holding a brown trout by the head. The advice goes for all fish to be released.
  8. Jerry White Member

    Posts: 550
    City, State
    Ratings: +8 / 0
    Thanks for the post, ospreysteelhead. Actually, I just saw a brutal release of a beautiful wild steelhead on the Snake R. that involved the angler dragging the fish onto the rocks and then poking at it with the end of his rod in order to get it back into the water so he wouldn't get his feet wet... :rofl:not a fly fisher, and certainly below the standards of a WFF member, but the reminder is worth getting. Thanks.
  9. Marty Leith Member

    Posts: 78
    Bellevue, WA
    Ratings: +4 / 0
    Not enough "preaching" on this subject for a site of this magnitude IMHO

    By the way, the best pros in any field appreciate fundamental reminders from time to time espeicially from those qualified to comment.....

    Also, the best teachers/coaches in the world of any sport or profession constantly preach the fundamentals....

    Great reminder Osprey!!
  10. lankfactor Mmmmm, beach.

    Posts: 14
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    I personally can't pretend to know everything, and I appreciate a well thought out note about how to minimize my impact on our fishery. I don't like killing fish when I don't intend to eat them... and even the most experienced fishermen don't necessarily understand the best way to stack the chips in favor of the fish when you're just planning to release them anyway.

    A lot of times, assumption can be the mother of all screw-ups... but what do I know.

    Thanks for the tips. Go get some!
  11. East Fork Active Member

    Posts: 1,200
    Vancouver, WA
    Ratings: +2 / 0
  12. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,792
    Marysville, Washington
    Ratings: +642 / 0
    An excellent reminder!

    It never hurts to remind each of us how precious that wild resource is!

    I have a couple additional suggests on how to minimize the potential risk to the wild fish from its encounter with you.

    1) Once your recognize the fish as a "wild" fish (see its adipose) throw the fish several large loops of slack line with the hopes that it will be able to shake the hook. If the fish is successful in throwing the hook you have reduced the playing time and handling. While it often is the case that the fish will not throw the hook many will.

    Do we really have to touch every fish "caught" to feel successful?

    2) If a particular difficult fish is hooked or it is hooked in tough spot or there isn't a decent spot to safely land the fish consider breaking it off rather than subject to unwarrented stress.

    Isn't the price of a fly a small price to pay to lower your impacts?

    3) When it comes to these wild fish forget the camera. It makes little sense to me that an angler would take all the steps they can to reduce their impacts a wild fish and then deliberately prolong that encounter by taking one or more pictures.

    Are our fishing egos so fragile that we have to have "proof" of our angling powers? Not sure that when it comes to the ESA listed fish that we can afford this attitude that if there isn't a photo it didn't happen.

    Tight lines
  13. Dale Dennis Formally Double-D

    Posts: 527
    Arlington, WA
    Ratings: +5 / 0
    Excellent suggestions as well Curt, when it comes to the handling of our wild fish we can never be reminded or taught enough no matter how many steelhead you have under your belt.
  14. Ed Call Mumbling Moderator

    Posts: 17,357
    Kitsap Peninsula
    Ratings: +1,324 / 9

    Thank you! I am hopeful to have an opportunity to put this to use.
  15. Jake Dixon Member

    Posts: 212
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +17 / 0
    I appreciate the advice, especially as a relative newb to steelheading.
  16. Charlie Erdman In search of steel

    Posts: 354
    K. Falls, OR
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Assuming is never a good strategy. Thanks for the post osprey.
  17. Bob Triggs Your Preferred Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide

    Posts: 3,951
    Olympic Peninsula
    Ratings: +619 / 0
    Thank you Osprey, Every season I see some rough handling of our wild steelhead by some anglers. Ideally we dont handle them at all, merely slipping the hook to let them swim off unharmed. Minimal, gloveless wet-handed support is the next level, or possibly tailing them briefly. But even tailing can be done too firmly or too roughly; inverting the fish etc. Of course if we stopped targeting them for a while that would be a great help to them now. It will come to that here, soon I hope.
  18. Diehard aka Justin

    Posts: 866
    Seattle, Washington, USA.
    Ratings: +2 / 0
    I was walking back from a run last weekend carrying a hatchery fish to the car and within a 10 minute walk I got stopped by 4 people on the bank. I had to teach 3 of them the difference between a wild and hatchery fish, and why we only keep the hatchery ones!

    It never hurts to over educate.
  19. Troutrageous Active Member

    Posts: 416
    Ratings: +25 / 0
    No way that leaving such things unsaid is a better approach. You have nothing to lose, but everything to gain by trying to make sure people take care with wild fish.