Steelhead hatcheries: good or bad?

Smalma

Active Member
#76
Yuhina-
While James is certainly correct that one of the insidious aspect of hatchery programs can be hiding or confusing the status of co-mingled wild populations I'm not sure that is the case with many of the steelhead hatchery programs.

In the case of the Tokul Creek winter steelhead hatchery program on the Snoqualmie which started this discussion there are differences and separation between the hatchery and wild fish. All the hatchery production has been massed marked for 25 years so there is little confusion whether a fish an angler catches is a hatchery or wild fish. Further the State while monitoring wild steelhead escapements in Puget Sound has measured the wild escapements as those fish that were produced in the wild. This is considerably different that what had been (as still is in some areas) with salmon.

Separating the wild from hatchery steelhead escapements is aided by the fact that the Chamber's Creek winter steelhead are a segregated stock with a significant differences in spawning timing between the hatchery and wild fish. The hatchery fish are done spawning before the end of the February and the wild fish begin spawning in early March with most spawning after April 1st.

Tight lines
Curt
 

James Mello

Inventor of the "closed eye conjecture"
#77
Yuhina-
While James is certainly correct that one of the insidious aspect of hatchery programs can be hiding or confusing the status of co-mingled wild populations I'm not sure that is the case with many of the steelhead hatchery programs.

In the case of the Tokul Creek winter steelhead hatchery program on the Snoqualmie which started this discussion there are differences and separation between the hatchery and wild fish. All the hatchery production has been massed marked for 25 years so there is little confusion whether a fish an angler catches is a hatchery or wild fish. Further the State while monitoring wild steelhead escapements in Puget Sound has measured the wild escapements as those fish that were produced in the wild. This is considerably different that what had been (as still is in some areas) with salmon.

Separating the wild from hatchery steelhead escapements is aided by the fact that the Chamber's Creek winter steelhead are a segregated stock with a significant differences in spawning timing between the hatchery and wild fish. The hatchery fish are done spawning before the end of the February and the wild fish begin spawning in early March with most spawning after April 1st.

Tight lines
Curt
It's not how the fish are managed that are at issue (see my preference to CC stock versus integrated). Rather what I see in my mind is the idea that the mass fishing population still doesn't understand the difference between the hatchery successes and wild successes. To most folks a fish is just a fish, and there is lots of misconceptions. You as a biologist can see these issues and seperate the concerns. But unfortunately, you aren't in charge of things and public perception and politics often muddy things.

Also, hatchery genetic integression in only one aspect of the impacts of hatchery stocks. Open ocean, near shore, and even outmigration impacts still exist, and in some cases aren't particularlly well known.
 

yuhina

Tropical member
#78
There are several different issues mixed in this topic, I would like to clarify and elaborate some of my thoughts here. (some of them are already mentioned in the previous posts)
First, we are dealing with two different things in this post. Quality and Quantity of the steelhead populations. As we can see here, most of people are concerning the genetic quality of the steelhead.
Hatchery fish is bad, because they are poor quality and they are going to spread their poor quality gene into the wild fish. Based on the hood river steelhead study in Oregon, they found only few generations of domestication of steelhead in their early life (remember those hatchery fish were still grown up in the Ocean), they found their survival rate decreased almost 50% compare to their wild cousin. The experiment design is fairly convincing, because they capture every single individuals returned from the ocean (thanks the dam), and by using genetic markers they were able to identified the fish’s parents four year ago, whether it was coming from hatchery parents or wild parents or half hatchery and half wild. (like finger printing identification). The amazing part to me is the profound impacts of few months rearing environment in the hatchery. The only difference between hatchery and wild fish here is the first few months of natural selection in the wild (or plus the female mating choice in the field). Obviously, the natural selection in the early few months has a huge impact even into the adulthood of the fish, thus altered the life their reproductive fitness. This is the amazing part to me. That is the reason people mentioned that we are doing a poor job compare the selection exerted in the wild environment. To my knowledge, we even don’t know where is the bad genes? What is the mechanism to cause those bad impacts.

Second, back to the original “canary” idea of habit healthy and management. Wild environment is important and can hugely shape the life history and evolution of the fish. (as we learned from several research on steelhead). I think the influx of hatchery fish not only are going to degrading the genes in the wild pool, but the huge number of hatchery fish are going mask the degradation issue of the environments.

Third, about the summer run and winter run steelhead. I am not sure if it is a good idea to manage different group of fish differently (hatchery and wild) in the same river. Due to the fact that we know the steelhead exchange their genes frequently with the resident rainbow trout…and to my knowledge there are no report about the genetic characters comparison between summer run and winter run. (Please correct me if I am wrong…)
 

Mark Moore

Just a Member
#79
I am sure your hatchery programs are of a higher quality up there compared to some of ours.



Another thing that sucks about hatchery fish is they always come in together, head up river really fast, and congregate in the several holes directly downstream of the hatchery where they get pummeled by anglers.

I fish a river a lot that has a hatchery for salmon and it never amazes me how the lower river can be good around the salt and right near the hatchery can be good but the miles and miles between them will have ZERO fish. I have walked the river the entire way and tried to spook fish out of the middle section with nothing when tons of fish were at the hatchery and in the estuary. They just aren't using that middle stretch at all and it looks like amazing habitat.

I think from a sports fishing standpoint, spreading the fish out to take advantage of all those areas would be a good idea. It would mean a higher quality experience to all. Every access point would have fish rather than the one that everybody and their grandma knows about.

The way it is now on this river and others, miles and miles of natural spawning areas are going to waste, and where the fish are is a total zoo.

I would much prefer fewer hookups, but more fishing space, and more river miles to explore without it being an utter waste of time.

I think a lot of rivers suffer from this. Think of hatcheries as taking all the fish potential of a river and focusing it in the 1/2 mile of water below the hatchery because that is basically what they do.

I don't typically fish for spawning salmon but I do fish the steelhead, srcs, and dollies around them and they also suffer at those zoo holes when they are accidental catches by people who don't know or don't care how special they are. They are only there because that is where their forage is, if there was forage in many different areas they may be doing better as well.
Great point, I notice this a lot in SW WA rivers, where the fish, and people, tend to really bunch up, but I fish the Nestucca on the OR coast several times each winter and with its' relatively healthy population of wild fish there are fish throughout the system. BIG NASTY fish too.

What is the answer for early marine survival?