Wild Steelhead: Your intentions?

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by faulke, Feb 9, 2011.

  1. faulke

    faulke bozone transplant

    With all this business going around the board about unsustainable harvest of wild steelhead and how we can help save this decimated species, I've had a lot of time to think about where I stand on these issues. Obviously, I'm all for restoring healthy runs of steelhead. Steelhead were here long before we were, are of vast importance to their ecosystems, are cultural relics of many communities, historically provided subsistence fisheries for native peoples, and are just plain beautiful fish. These are all reasons why they deserve to be saved. You'll notice I didn't include "so I can fish for them" in those reasons, because I've never fished for them and likely never will (for reasons other than morals, to be clear).

    With that said, what are your intentions for saving wild steelhead from extinction and restoring runs to historical levels? Is it so you can fish for them? Catch more than one fish per thousand casts? So they can be sustainably harvested for your consumption? I'm just curious as to if people around here mainly care for these reasons, or if some of you fall in the same boat as me with the reasons above.

    Let's set up a hypothetical example. Say with the current management plans in place, steelhead persist for the next 100 years in small numbers. Say as part of a new, proposed management plan, the tribes would agree to stop gillnetting, hatcheries would stop over-supplementing wild runs, dams would be deconstructed, but recreational steelhead fishing would be outlawed for the next 100 years. Would you still support the new plan, or would you fight against it so you could still fish for them for the rest of your lifetime?

    I appreciate your input on any of the matters above,

  2. Evan Burck

    Evan Burck Fudge Dragon

    I would love to see wild runs healthy and abundant enough that there would be no qualms with a sport angler taking one home. But we're far from that. And probably won't be in our lifetime.

    Every person with an interest in wild steelhead needs to figure out the question: do you care more about the fish? or your ability to fish for them? With our current situation, the two are almost becoming mutually exclusive.

    I think Puget Sound fish are about done for. With the habitat degredation and continued logging, there's not much hope for restoring those runs, fishing or not. The OP on the other hand, those waters are largely protected from habitat destruction because of the national park. Peninsula steelhead population declines are due to irresponsible hatchery and harvest practices, which can be fixed.
  3. JS

    JS Active Member

    To be 100 percent honest, yes. I have already stated that given the opportunity to save a species I would most certainly stop fishing for steelhead. As much as I hate.........F*!$ HATE, paying for the sins of the father, I would. This is a purely hypothetical answer to a purely hypothetical question. What you are going to run into here is a pissing match. People will say, "well it's net pens, commercial bi-catch, BPA and other power companies, logging, ect to blame!". Which is 100 percent true. The truth is, we, as recreational users, are infinitely more likely to stop fishing for steelhead than even one of the primary causes of steelhead decline is to rectify their ways.
  4. Derek Young

    Derek Young 2011 Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide Of The Year

    Certainly a question that posed, will get lots of different responses. For myself, I've fished for steelhead a few times, on spey, with no results but a great day spent on the water with good friends.

    I financially support the Native Fish Society, TU, and other conservation organizations. So, I don't target them, I give $ to help save them, and I volunteer my time and resources to the cause - and I do not say that to place myself or my actions above yours, but for the fish.
  5. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member


    First I need to split the intentions you described. I intend to save wild steelhead from extinction, but I have no illusions about restoring them to their historical abundance. In essentially every watershed in WA state there is enough long term and permanent habitat degradation to preclude that latter option. I just want to leave viable populations of wild salmon and steelhead as part of our natural resource legacy, and genuine resource options to the next generation of potentially wiser natural resource managers.

    I don't anticipate having enough harvestable wild steelhead (defined as surplus production above escapement goals) for direct or targeted fisheries in my lifetime or beyond. However, that could change with significant upward shifts in average marine survival rates. I have no reasons to expect that, but I can't say that it's outside the realm of possibility. As long as we still have steelhead, and have them in sustainable numbers, i.e., ecologically viable populations, I'd like to fish for them and happy to CNR if that's the best management option that allows fishing.

    I don't think I'd support your hypothetical plan because I think it has some logic disconnects. That is, critical cause and effect relationships are missing. Stopping tribal gillnetting, ending hatchery stocking, ending recreational fishing, and dam removal won't restore steelhead runs in 100 years if the "causes" on your list are not the main factors for decline of the populations. Your hypothetical plan doesn't mention but presumably allows continued urban and rural development, forestry, road building, agriculture, and water project development, and human population growth which are the proximate factors limiting steelhead freshwater habitat quantity and quality. If your hypothetical plan isn't going to address those factors that actually limit steelhead, then the plan cannot possibly succeed. Sorry. And that's not said just so I can continue to CNR wild steelhead for my remaining fishing years.

  6. bennysbuddy

    bennysbuddy the sultan of swing

    Now that we have desemated the puget sound steelhead runs ,I plan to follow the crowd over to the op and beat up on those fish,with the hoards of well intending c&r fishermen about to desend on the op. I predict that in 5 years the run will be about in the same condition as the s rivers are now in.
  7. Irafly

    Irafly Active Member

    I would like to catch more fish. That's why I would like to see them saved. I'm generally in this to catch fish. I know, I know after over 35 years of fishing under my belt I'm still not enlightened.

    Would I stop fishing now so I could catch more later? Hell yes. Would I stop fishing now so my son could catch more later. I guess, if I had to. Don't think I'd ever do any of this for the fish though, I don't think they care.

  8. freestoneangler

    freestoneangler Not to be confused with Freestone

    I am willing to resort to "bump fishing" (hooks clipped at bend), but that's as far I go.
  9. faulke

    faulke bozone transplant

    Thanks for the responses. I should make it clear that I understand there is a myriad of problems outside the ones I suggested in the hypothetical plan, I merely offered up a few issues that come up frequently on the board, and didn't mean to oversimplify things. I also wasn't intending to start an argument about what the biggest cause of steelhead demise has been. It's just interesting to hear the tradeoffs people make when it comes to conservation.
  10. Plecoptera

    Plecoptera Active Member

    Sounds like an admission that you are planning on contributing to the demise of another WA steelhead run... Sadly this is the same mentality adopted by numerous steelhead fishermen in this area. Reminds me of an alien movie where they move from planet to planet, consuming everything. When one planet is decimated they move on to the next.
  11. bennysbuddy

    bennysbuddy the sultan of swing

    EARTH FIRST WE'LL LOG THE OTHER PLANETS LATER , I have given up on the sport as I don't want to be associated with the It's all about me thinking which has brought the fish resourse to it's present condition, I haven't killed a steelhead of any type in years and think all steelhead fishing should be banned to protect whats remaining
  12. Steve Call

    Steve Call Active Member

    One option that I'm considering is restricting or targeting my fishing for steelhead to hatchery runs only and to avoid the remaining native runs. (Yes, that includes C&R of wild fish.)

    I love fishing for steelhead and to be honest I haven't made up my mind, but seems like a reasonable compromise.
  13. fishbadger

    fishbadger Member

    I want to save the nates so as I can sore-lip em. . .gently of course,

  14. Evan Burck

    Evan Burck Fudge Dragon

    Considering that fishing for steelhead gives me more joy than just about anything else, I want to do anything I'm capable of to do my small part to help keep them around. It seems like the right thing to try to do in exchange for the few I catch and put stress on.

    If you're gonna take, you've gotta give back. And none of the other ones responsible for their decline seem to be too concerned about their well being.
  15. stilly stalker

    stilly stalker Tuna sniffer

    Concerned eyes on the water are one of the most important tools we have in preserving whats left. Taking away passionate individuals from the rivrs and fish they love removes one of, if not THE strongest advocates for restoration and better management.Without anglers, steelheadhave zero voice. They have never been, and will never be as recognazable as species of great importance to the general public compared to salmon. And they will never and have never been as commercially important as salmon. That means the majority of moneyspent on, and passion about the animal comes from anglers.
    And anglers using reasonable gear and techniques result in far less mortality than once thought. I participated in the cand r mortality survey on the samish, where caught fish were SURGICALLY implanted with radio tags, stitched closed, and re released, and we didnt get 10 percent mortality, and thats with a SURGICAL process thrown i too. Some of the fish were caught multiple times in several weeks and still survived.
  16. Stewart

    Stewart Skunk Happens

    I still haven't fished for steelhead, and not for salmon since about 1978. It's tragic that these once amazingly abundant fish are either officially endangered or just generally fucked. They are an iconic part of the PNW. We're some shameful bastards if we let them go on our watch.
  17. Steve Call

    Steve Call Active Member

    Really good point! Thank you.
  18. Rob Allen

    Rob Allen Active Member

    yes. but there would have to be a lot more to the management no one would be allowed to harvest steelhead.. in which case hatcheries would not be of any use so none of them. habitat would have to be seriously addressed .. that means telling people they are not allowed to build their riverside dream home. it would mean telling timber companies that their land is now locked up and not harvestable and we'd have to tell cities to rain in their development because every square inch of western washington state is native steelhead habitat as is nearly ever square inch of eastern Washington..

    first dam to go? dworshack...
  19. Cruik

    Cruik Active Member

    "don't fight the hypo." I think he raised that hypothetical situation not to delve into the means required to save steelhead, or to assert those policy aims. The details of the hypothetical plan were just employed to explain how we arrived at this steelhead filled future, and to show that they would be protected in the future. I don't think the question actually had to do with any means to reach steelhead survival, this hypo, or what one would personally sacrifice to ensure future fishing. The question is a conceptual one, it wasn't about the means for steelhead survival, I could be wrong.

    Taking some liberty with the original post, I think the question asked is, 'do you care about saving steelhead as a conservationist and because of the inherent qualities of steelhead, or as a directly interested individual (fisherman)?'

    I have asked the same question of myself, as I think it's a good question. The conclusion I have come to is that I'm interested as a fisherman. I think the evidence of this lies in the fact that no other species would I be willing to donate money to save. I think there are species which need our help more, and who I believe are being decimated quicker, and who have a larger impact on the environment and other species. Example: Salmon. I don't fish for salmon. But, they are much more ecologically important than steelhead are (there are many, many times more of them) And yet, my money goes to steelhead protection. Hell, it can even be argued that protecting salmon will save steelhead faster than trying to protect steelhead directly.
  20. martyg

    martyg Active Member

    Stilly Stalker brings up a super point and it is well taken. I also agree that sport fishing is but one small part of a much larger issue.

    My own personal preference is that I simply do not C&R. And therefore I do not fish for wild Steelhead.

    My own compass says to me that there is something inherently wrong with really stressing out a critter for my personal gratification. It is kind of like walking up to someone, punching them in the face and smashing their orbital socket - just because you can. Yeah, they'll live - and there's a chance for permanent injury just like with C&R. If I am going to fish I go with the expressed purpose of collecting protein, just as when I hunt - although with bird hunting it is more about my dogs. If I am confined to C&R I will go roam around in the backcountry, ride my bike, paddle, tend to the garden, etc. - lots of other things to do. If I am on a multi-day paddling trip (raft, canoe, touring kayak, whatever) I catch a few fish to eat and then I am done. I'd just as soon leave the Steelhead alone to do their thing.

    All that being said, as long as there are guys who's passion it is to fish (C&R) for wild Steelhead they will have a voice. And I applaud that.