Steelhead mortality

#31
I8abug,

I don't doubt the experience you report, but will share my opinion that that's pretty crass handling of a fish, even one you intend to kill, keep, and eat. I think even a hatchery fish deserves the respect of being whacked on the head, well enough to stun it if not kill it, and then cut the gills and bleed it. The quality of the meat will be improved by that simple act. Keep the meat cool in the river - if the river is cool - or in an ice chest if you want the fish to be worth cooking and eating when you get it home.

Sg
I can report similar experiences. A couple years ago I bonked a fish hard with a rock, at least 3 times, and then cut it gills and actually behind the gills to bleed it. Since I was leaving after that fish, I put the fish down and got my rod ready to leave. I walked back to the fish, which still was lifeless. I held it upside down over the water to finish bleeding it before bagging it. I lost my grip and it fell into the water. As I reached down to grab it, it woke up and swam away, with its vital organs hanging out. And it swam away as if nothing was bothering it. Tough SOB it was. And if you have ever been gear fishing with a guide, they bonk the steelhead or salmon and cut the gills and throw them in the storage bin. And they will flop around 10 minutes later. So the fact that this happened does not imply he is not respecting the fish.

wayne
 
#32
The last department public meeting I went to they readily admitted they had no idea what happens to steelhead from the time they leave the river on. They also said that steelhead are not making it out of the sound to the open ocean. Something is happening to them in the sound. Sounds like a local issue to me, not an ocean one, and I think you are correct, they don't want to know.
If they admitted they have no idea whathappens to them once they leave the river, how do they know they aren't making it to the ocean?
 

Salmo_g

Well-Known Member
#33
Wayne,

I guess it depends on one's definition of respect. The ethics of angling tradition dictates killing one's catch after bringing it to hand. Laying it on the bank or in a creel to suffocate is inconsistent with that tradition. However you can do what you want.

Chris,

It's an inference that has been drawn because coastal steelhead populations that don't have to traverse Puget Sound or Georgia Strait, but migrate directly into the ocean, are experiencing far higher smolt to adult survival rates. As best as can be known, juvenile steelhead migrants are being lost at a high rate between river mouths and the western end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Sg
 

ten80

Active Member
#34
I carry a stout knife that will dispatch a fish quickly when inserted into the spine right behind the head. Heart keeps beating long enough to bleed the fish and there's no flopping around or mouth movement. I'm of the opinion that a dead and gutted fish kept in the river has better meat than that of a fish allowed to generate a lot of lactic acid while thrashing around on a stringer or flopping around on a riverbank.
 
#35
Wayne,

I guess it depends on one's definition of respect. The ethics of angling tradition dictates killing one's catch after bringing it to hand. Laying it on the bank or in a creel to suffocate is inconsistent with that tradition. However you can do what you want.

Sg
I thought about what you mentioned earlier, about the humane way of harvesting a fish. At first I thought you were "off your rocker", because after all...I am killing it. Then it got me thinking, "Maybe I should be more intentional and take the time and kill them with a bonk.". So I did a little research of my own, and came up with my final solution.

Did you ever play that stupid game as a kid where you would crouch down, hold your breath, then stand up real fast? You'd get all tingly and light headed, and if you did it really good, you would pass out for a few seconds. I call it a stupid game, because it's essentially asphyxiation. It made a come back here a few years ago, where high school kids were doing this for a free "high". They called it the "Chocking game." They didn't do it cause it was painful, but it "felt good...kind of like when you get high." It kind of peaked in '05-'06.

A lack of oxygen to the brain causes the body to "tingle", and if it's too deprived the brain shuts down. Scientists have come to the conclusion (based on this type of info) that drowning has the same affect - depriving the brain of oxygen, causing the same sensation, and eventually shutting down or "fall asleep". No pain, just cerebral shutdown.

So, with that given information it's easy to conclude that the fish are experiencing the same sensation when they are out of water. Rather than a painful blow to the head, that may or may not kill them the first time - leaving them out of water simply allows them (or their brains) to "fall asleep".

Maybe whacking a fish on the head stuns them, but they are lying there it pain not able to move much. Letting them lay there may "seem" inhumane, when in fact it's the painless way to kill them. :ray1:
 
#36
Wayne,

I guess it depends on one's definition of respect. The ethics of angling tradition dictates killing one's catch after bringing it to hand. Laying it on the bank or in a creel to suffocate is inconsistent with that tradition. However you can do what you want

Sg
Sg,

Maybe you misread my post. I bonked the fish and bled it and cut it open with the intent of killing it. It was not my intent to let it flop around, which by the way, it did not do. It did not move till I dropped it i the water. I believed it to be dead. I did not disrespect the fish.

Wayne
 

KerryS

Ignored Member
#37
If they admitted they have no idea whathappens to them once they leave the river, how do they know they aren't making it to the ocean?
The wdfw gal who seemed to be in charge said steelhead are not making out of the strait. Something is happening to them before they get out of the sound. What it is she did not know. Like I said sounds more like a local issue than an ocean survival issue but everyone says the low returns are because of low ocean survival. I would say it is because of low Salish Sea survival. Probably more smoke and mirrors by the dept. to lessen their responsiblity. Or maybe.....they were doing this............http://bakke-nativefish.blogspot.com/2011/09/how-agencies-defeat-public-initiatives.html wdfw would never do anything like that.
 
#39
I carry a stout knife that will dispatch a fish quickly when inserted into the spine right behind the head. Heart keeps beating long enough to bleed the fish and there's no flopping around or mouth movement. I'm of the opinion that a dead and gutted fish kept in the river has better meat than that of a fish allowed to generate a lot of lactic acid while thrashing around on a stringer or flopping around on a riverbank.
Off topic but I'll roll. Having chased pelagics for a long time, the only humane way in my eyes to finish the fish is a knife properly placed into the brain. Allowing fish to suffociate is stupid.

Charles...Thanks bro'. See you soon. Thanks for your comments Salmo and Smalma as well as others.
 

Smalma

Active Member
#40
The data showing that steelhead smolts are experiencing high mortalities on their way out of Puget Sound is from smolts radio tagged as they rivers. There are arrays of hydrophones in the sound and straits. The data shows that 50 to 60% of the smolts do not make to the array in the middle straits. While there amy be some issues with the placement the arrays. Clearly lots of smolts are dying shortly after reach marine waters. What is not known is whether that high mortality is normal (has always been high) or something new.

Additional information that may indicate that the mortality problems continue outside of the straits is that the marine survival of wild steelhead smolts from the NE coast of Vancouver Island (Keogh River)
are doing as poorly as Puget Sound fish. Those smolts don't migrate to the salt via Puget Sound. In addition age information from some local wild runs seem to indicate the portion of 3 salt and repeat spawners in the population is decline which would indicate that the mortality is continuing once the fish reach the high seas.

Tight lines
Curt
 

Jim Kerr

Active Member
#41
Hey, on a similar note.
So as for release mortality. If a native steelhead is brought to hand and released once its mortality rate is + or - 5%, O.K. I will buy that.
How bout the 5th time it is released in the span of a week? I am sure that some, I would guess many, fish in the lower rivers on the OP are being landed that often.
Try this on. I have spoken with old timers (guys that were guiding here every day when only 4 or 5 guys could say that) and they had a theory called "stressing down" It goes like this, when you land a particularly large fish and release it you will often catch it again the next day or so a couple of pools downstream from where you landed it the first time. The thought was that because larger fish take longer to land, even on heavy plug gear, they stress more and are tend to be more effected.
So, in the last couple of seasons (of radically increased sport pressure)I have been noticing more bright gravid fish in the very lowest pools of the river that didn't fight well and bore the marks of being released, or broken off before. As I released them( for the ??th time) I looked down stream and thought, well, if you keep heading down, where to now? The ocean? Will this fish spawn at all? Will it even try?
There is a lot we do not know about native steelhead.
At the very least maybe err on the side of caution, and maybe be they guy that try's to make it a little harder once he has landed a fish, switches to the spey rod, or if he is already there switches to the dry line, or the dry fly, or the camera and a beer.
And always, always, no matter how bad you want the picture, handle with care and keep them in the water.
Jim
 

Ringlee

Doesn't care how you fish Moderator
#42
Jim,

You bring up an extremely valid point with drop back and associated stress from captures. Radio tag studies show salmon will drop back after being caught and even go back to saltwater. This has been documented by commercial fisheries in saltwater intercepting adult salmon that were tagged in river and proceeded back out to saltwater.

It could be assumed that a stressed steelhead will drop back and I have seen plenty of steelhead this past season with previous hook marks. This could put more fish in jeopardy of harvest from both sport and treaty harvest in the lower rivers. It could also lead to a shift in spawning distribution based on human impacts, that in turn could lead to less spawning productivity.
 

Charles Sullivan

ignoring Rob Allen and Generic
#43
Jim,

You bring up an extremely valid point with drop back and associated stress from captures. Radio tag studies show salmon will drop back after being caught and even go back to saltwater. This has been documented by commercial fisheries in saltwater intercepting adult salmon that were tagged in river and proceeded back out to saltwater.

It could be assumed that a stressed steelhead will drop back and I have seen plenty of steelhead this past season with previous hook marks. This could put more fish in jeopardy of harvest from both sport and treaty harvest in the lower rivers. It could also lead to a shift in spawning distribution based on human impacts, that in turn could lead to less spawning productivity.
This is the most logical reason I have heard to be concerned with C&R impact. I don't know what he pressure has been like on the OP but I've heard it is high.

I do wish as much thought was given to potential hatchery impacts as is to C&R impacts.

There should be some info. that could be gained from the Skagit radio tag study. I'd love to see all of that data. Anyone?

Go Sox,
cds
 
#44
I started fishing for steelhead in the 70's and have no idea how many I've caught over the years. This thread is simply reinforces my growing concern over the future of this fishery. If Jim Kerr's observation about fish being caught multiple times having a negative impact on spawning is at all true, I can no longer feel good about C&R of wild fish.

If I continue to fish for steelhead, and I want to, I'll restrict myself to targeting hatchery fish.
 

Smalma

Active Member
#45
Jim -
Assuming a 5% hooking mortality the chances of a fish surviving 5 such encounters is 77% (0.95 to the 5th power). Researchers have noted that much of the mortality related to catch and release is from the mechanical damage the hook does to the fish - the amount of mortality is directly related to the amount of fish hooked in critical areas. This accounts for the importance of seelective gear rules versus say the use of bait.

Ringlee -
Have to careful with the "drop back" data. Pretty common for out of basin fish to dip into a system only to later leave that system and return to another. Common for salmon trap data to have higher portion of out of basin fish that say carcass recoveries.

Charles -
At least for the Puget Sound area steelhead it was my experience that at least as much consideration was given to hatchery/wild issues as CnR mortalities. In most cases if assumptions were need in regard to hatchery fish interactiing with the wild fish those assumption where on typically on the worst case end of things. Just one example is that it was always assumed that uncaught hatchery fish shot-gun through the river and were more likely to se as likely to sawpn with a wild fish as a hatchery fish. That is in spite of what has been observed - that natrually spawning tend to cluster near release sites (though some do stralong distances) and as result the hatchery fish are more likely to spawn with each other than with a wild fish.

tight lines
Curt