Chambers creek steelhead video

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Cole L, Apr 20, 2014.

  1. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    TallFlyGuy -
    I have attempted to limit my comments in this thread to the issues raised in the McMillian Chambers Creek video. He specifically mentioned the potential hatchery/wild interactions off smolts that were sexually mature as smolts, residuals surviving to maturity, and the numbers of hatchery steelhead smolts attracting predators and used the Skagit as an example.

    I think I have demonstrated:

    1) With a early/mid-May release of the smolts any sexually mature smolt would be approximately 4 months past reaching maturity and are no longer viable spawner for the current spawning season.

    2) Because of the general lack of fitness of the hatchery fish and the extreme hydrograph of the Skagit the long term survival of any residuals is very low approaching zero.

    3) On the Skagit the total numbers of [potential prey in the spring on the Skagit dwarfs the contribution by hatchery steelhead. It is doubtful that those hatchery steelhead are attracting significant numbers of additional predators.

    In your most recent post you have raised some interesting and important issues. However they are much broader in context and are outside of the scope of this discussion. Rather than diluting the two discussions I would suggest that a discussion on those issues you have raised would be better served in a separate thread; especially if the context of that discussion could be more precisely defined in historic and regional aspects. If that discussion I would attempt to provide any limited thoughts/insights that I might have.

    Curt
     
  2. TallFlyGuy

    TallFlyGuy Adipossessed!

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    WW,


    Myth? I don't think so. Populations of wild steelhead were upwards around 80k fish for the Skagit basin, and around 54k for just the Skagit alone. Now its averaging around 6k. To me that means it is "sick" and not as healthy as it used to be. If you have something that counters this please post. link is as follows.....

    Nevertheless, recent estimates of Skagit River historic steelhead run-sizes indicate that present wild steelhead returns are greatly depleted. The Puget Sound Steelhead Technical Recovery Team (TRT) used a habitat based (IP)approach with historical estimates of 54,802 wild steelhead for the Mainstem SkagitHistorical Demographically Independent Population (DIP), 4,353 for the Baker River DIP, and 18,913 for the Sauk River DIP. The resulting total was 78,068 historic wildSkagit basin steelhead (Connor et al. 2011).

    Comparatively, the present escapement goal (or “escapement floor” as more recently termed) of 6,000 wild steelhead (Skagit Co-Managers 2011) represents 4-8 percent of these historic run-size estimates. Thatescapement level has been met six times in the 14 year period of 1998-2011 (UST-a).


    http://www.academia.edu/3752944/Ska...ed_by_Skagit_River_System_Cooperative_Tribes_

    I agree, mother nature is responding to the millions of "artificial" smolts dumped into the sound/ocean. The response has been more predators eating more "easy" meals. These fish have virtually no survival skills. If there were no predators, and there was an abundance of food, are you suggesting these hatchery fish would still be dying? If so how?
     
  3. _WW_

    _WW_ Geriatric Skagit Swinger

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    I would consider it to be changed, rather than sick.

    We will never have "historic estimated" numbers of steelhead in the Skagit unless we restore everything, (and I mean everything, including the two mile long, 1000' wide logjam with ten inch thick trees growing out of it that existed below Mount Vernon!) to what it was, on whatever date that is considered to be "historic". We all need to move away and all our infrastructure needs to go with us - and I think we need to figure out what to do with several billion people also. Does all of that sound feasible to you? So instead of living the pipe dream of "total restoration" or "fully recovered" lets deal with what we have now. Let's do a better job of caring for the habitat, manage the existing resource, and still provide some recreational opportunity, electricity to power our homes and industry. There has to be some give an take.
    The fish were here first, but we're all here now!

    Does it seem beyond reasonable to you that a fish raised in a tank where 'manna' falls from the sky daily might be at a disadvantage in the wild where this no longer happens. Wild food bears no resemblance to fish pellets and it certainly doesn't fall from the sky like clockwork. Some of them could be literally starving to death within sight of an unrecognizable feast. Is there predation? Of course. And they are no doubt easy prey having never had to be on the lookout like their wild brethren. But the wild fish is not easy prey just because the hatchery fish are - just to be mingling with these brats in the Salish sea they have already survived two years in the wild dodging predators from above and below.

    And there was no abundance of predators when the "historic" runs were over 90% larger?
    Somebody should sue the WFC for attempting to starve out these predators! They deserve to live too!

    The other thing that gets me is how everyone talks about what failures these hatchery fish are. "They only get .05% return or less". (I think the Skagit recently is between 3 & 4%) But somehow, out of this miniscule number, a couple of bucks are going to done superman capes, hang out for five or six months with their bulging gonads, and breed six thousand+ wild fish out of existence! Really! Seriously!
    When it happens on those rare occasions that they do successfully mate, and the progeny are now inferior wild fish, mother nature will take care them as she does all creatures - survival of the fittest.

    I really think this concern for the Skagit hatchery is blown out of proportion a little bit a lot. It's the one system that works pretty much the way it was designed to.
     
  4. TallFlyGuy

    TallFlyGuy Adipossessed!

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    I agree with you 100%, there is no way we can bring back those epic runs. Not sure where you are getting or reading that I am saying we can restore those run sizes. I think many would like to see populations restored back to the way it was in the 70s and 80s of 10k plus size runs for a start. So why not stop or at least reduce drastically the smolt counts and see if wild fish counts go up? Thankfully, that seems to be the path we are heading, because one thing is for sure, as the winter hatchery fish harvest and return rates started going downhill, WDFW increased the smolt counts to try and compensate. The result wasn't more hatchery fish, it was less, and so were the wild fish counts. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

    Speaking of pipe dreams, That whole song and dance about doing a, " better job of caring for the habitat, manage the existing resource, and still provide recreational opportunity...." has been played over and over. It sounds good, feels good, and seems to be good, but how much of a better job are we doing, or has been done since that was fed to us? Why not allocate the resources we are paying for hatcheries, and take that money and put it toward habitat renewal projects, and coordinating that with volunteer efforts etc? Hatcheries are failing their purpose and their success is dismal at best, when compared to wild fish "restoring" runs.

    I agree, I think I have made it pretty clear what I think about hatchery fish and their severe disadvantage to survival they have.

    As I indicated earlier, an increase in smolt counts should mean in increase in run size, but it didn’t. It actually had a negative effect. If fish were dying of starvation, then the run size should have been proportionate in numbers of adults to the number of smolts released. It wasn’t. Again, the opposite happened.

    Haha, that is funny. I say go for it!

    Look, in the video Bill McMillan presents his main argument. That argument is that Chambers Creek fish hurt the wild populations in and around the Sound. He then gives a few of his supporting arguments as to how this is happening. Only one of many is that of hatchery fish “sneakers” spawning with wild fish. Is it a risk? I say yes. Is it going to bring down the population from 6k to zero? LOL, uh no. But it is a risk significant enough to make the release time coincide with the best time as to not let this happen with wild fish. If it wasn’t a risk, they would just release them anytime.

    If you want to see his completed work with all his research and findings that detail much of his argument as it relates to the Skagit and the sound, I suggest you click on the following link and read his full argument along with his research and evidence, and not just the one with hatchery fish “slinging capes and bulging gonads”, as you put it. In order to “hook” you…Here is his opening paragraph regarding Chambers Creek fish in the Skagit

    The first most basic assessment was to evaluate the primary management purpose of stocking Chambers Creek origin hatchery steelhead in the Skagit basin which has been described as that of providing high harvest on early returning hatchery fish prior to the arrival of wild steelhead and to minimize interbreeding between naturally spawning hatchery steelhead and wild fish (WDFW 2004). As a result of a hatchery steelhead stocking guideline paper (WDW 1992), in order to provide more steelhead harvest in the Skagit basin a management decision was made to increase hatchery smolt releases by 115% from a pre 1992 average of 248,000 to the proposed level of 534,000 thereafter (WDFW 2004). The history of the total steelhead stocking history in the Skagit basin from 1933 to 2011 is depicted in Figure 1 and that of total winter-run steelhead harvest from 1948 to 2011 in Figure 2. The number of hatchery winter-run steelhead smolts stocked (per release year) to the total returning winter-run steelhead harvested (per spawning year) between 1933 and 2011 is depicted in Figure 3. It is apparent from these figures that rather than increased harvest, the history of steadily increased stocking of hatchery steelhead has resulted in a relatively continuous decline in winter-run steelhead harvest dating to 1970 with more subtle indications back to the early 1960s. The further findings and related discussions follow:….

    http://www.academia.edu/3752944/Ska...ed_by_Skagit_River_System_Cooperative_Tribes_


    Really? To me that is a huge waste. I think we have to do everything in our power to stop that from happening. Minimizing it is one thing, but eliminating the risk would be the best thing. I really don’t think the discussion of hatcheries is being blown out of proportion. I feel there is enough evidence from current and ongoing studies to show that hatchery fish have a significant risk to wild populations. It will be interesting to see the outcome over the next few years with the reduction of hatchery plants.
     
  5. _WW_

    _WW_ Geriatric Skagit Swinger

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    So I did some quick math using Curt's out-migrating numbers. Where ever he gave a range I used the lower number. I added them up and multiplied by 239,000.

    The low answer was 15,296,000
    The answer using the higher range numbers was 25,812,000

    So the mean is just over 20-1/2 million out-migrants. (20,554,000)
    239,000 hatchery smolt is 1.16% of that number. I'm not going to try and figure out how many predators you can feed with that number of 8" or smaller fish, or for how long it will keep them alive - it's out of my skill set. :)

    Which also seemed to coincide with a poor marine survival state.
    Fish numbers have always fluctuated - here is a study not done by Bill McMillian:
    http://www.cbbulletin.com/424595.aspx

    And a paragraph to hook you;
    “The implications for management are profound,” Schindler said. “While it is convenient to assume that ecosystems have a constant static capacity for producing fish, or any natural resource, our data demonstrate clearly that capacity is anything but stationary. Thus, management must be ready to reduce harvesting when ecosystems become unexpectedly less productive and allow increased harvesting when ecosystems shift to more productive regimes.

    And I was speaking of the single hatchery on the Skagit, and my point is that "clear cutting" all of them out of existence is too extreme of a measure. There are places where it can and does work. Eliminating all risk to wild steelhead once again leads us down the path to total abandonment of the area.

    I would agree if you were to insert the word 'some' right in front of wild populations. Painting all possible interactions with the same brush smacks of totalitarian management.


    Here in the Skagit Valley, which is where I live and the only area I can remotely even speak to, there have been many changes in the last 25 years to benefit habitat directly influencing fish. I live here, I see them, I read about them in the local paper, I have participated in some, and my business, (construction) is impacted by changed regulations designed help fish habitat. And a lot of this has/is done without WDFW's money. The entire Skagit basin has the most conservative management policies of any WA river I know of...and it's been that way for a long time. I like to think that this may indeed be a part of the reason that the Skagit is not in the dire straights that other systems are experiencing.

    We are nearly there, and if not for the '03 flood event the count would probably be right where you want it - except that many believe the carrying capacity in the environment of today is around 9,000. Last season the number was 8,815. If you look back at the 'glory' days of the eighties, that 8,815 number is higher than five of them, and all of the official counts from the seventies (77 is the first official record I have)!!!

    You can keep asking for miracles but the reality on the Skagit is that this is about as good as it's going to get - there will be fluctuations as there always has been but I don't see the Marblemount Hatchery as a significant or even mild threat to wild steelhead with it's current operating procedures that you yourself have noted.

    BTW I did plow through Bill's work. :) And that of several others also.
     
  6. TallFlyGuy

    TallFlyGuy Adipossessed!

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    Couple of things, First this discussion keeps getting steered toward the Skagit river. If you were to take the totals for just the Skagit and the hatchery smolts released in it, it would not be a very significant number. If you take the totals of all the rivers that dump into the sound and then into the ocean, the total number would be very significant, and I believe has a very negative ecological effect on the health of the wild runs. We are talking millions upon millions of hatchery fish dumped into the rivers.

    Secondly, I am aware of the ocean conditions and how they do not remain static. This argument seems to be the final stand in the pro hatchery crowd’s defense. McMillan’s contention, I believe, as well as my own is WDFW knew something wasn’t right compared to the previous years and increased the total output of smolts. The increase in smolts should have filled the gap with the changing ocean conditions. IT should have at least been close to or equal to the prior years total run size when less hatchery smolts were released. Again, the total run size had a downward progression even after smolt plants were greatly increased from 250k to over 500k.


    Lastly, it wasn’t too long ago that Bill McMillan was trying to get the word out about how negative hatchery fish are to wild fish populations. He was laughed at by quite a few, and some people called him crazy, while trying to debunk his research and findings. Now we are seeing all his research and work come to fruition as hatchery plants are being decreased, some rivers eliminating all hatchery plants, and rivers set aside for gene bank preservation for wild steelhead conservancy. My hats off to him as he is a true hero for wild steelhead preservation!!
     
  7. _WW_

    _WW_ Geriatric Skagit Swinger

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    Bill used the Skagit as an example in the video, and it is the system I am most familiar with. I wonder, would the numbers I calculated above extrapolate to all the streams. The count for releases this years was to be around 900,000 not millions and millions so I assume you are talking about past plantings up to today. That would indeed be millions and millions mixed in with billions and billions of wild fish. And I am unclear if what I quoted above by you was steelhead or all salmonids. Are the Canadians going to play along?

    Again you are using the broad brush approach. It would seem more truthful if your first sentence were typed as such: Lastly, it wasn’t too long ago that Bill McMillan was getting the word out about how negative hatchery fish are to some wild fish populations under certain conditions.

    It's all a moot point now.

    So there will soon be no Skagit winter steelhead season in Dec. & Jan. That frees up some allowable impacts - oops! There is no steelhead season what-so-ever. How does one go about using allowable impacts if we are not allowed to fish when said fish are in-system?

    How will we know when we can officially call them 'preserved'? Or 'saved'? Or 'restored'? What is the magical number? Where is the finish line?
    Once the wild steelhead are preserved, saved, or restored, then what do we do with them?

    I've been asking those same questions for over two years and not one single person has come up with an answer.

    Used fishing gear in Washington has just become the new penny stock - better sell now before you have to pay someone to take it away.

    Mostly what we saw today was a money grab. WFC grabbed some for their lawyers. WDFW will lose funding because "Hey, they no longer need to run some of these hatcheries!" And the poachers on my local river will get an additional two months with no one watching them.

    And to top it all off, they are going to explore replacing the hatchery with a "brood stock program" which is a three word description of "a hatchery" that history has shown is just as economically and genetically as unsound as what it will be replacing.

    Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a Mel Brooks movie...
     
  8. Hillbilly Redneck

    Hillbilly Redneck wishin i was fishin

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    At least Mel Brooks was funny. This shit is just sad.
     
  9. TallFlyGuy

    TallFlyGuy Adipossessed!

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    WW,

    If you go to the following link and then scroll down half way, there is a table there showing the totals of hatchery "marked" fish in WA. You'll see that in the Puget Sound alone, there has been 4-5 million coho a year released, 25-30 million Chinook smolts released, and 1-2 million steelhead smolts released... each and every year. That is allot of fish! I am trying to imagine how many full size dump trucks 35 million hatchery fish would fill. These fish are dumped into the sound and then into the ocean. The total for WA state smolts released is 50-90 million. That's each and every year we are flushing out 50-90 million artificial smolts into the rivers. I think this kind of artificial ecological impact on our rivers and nearby ocean has had a profound influence on wild fish populations when you take the full spectrum of risk and harm hatchery fish pose on the environment.

    http://wdfw.wa.gov/hatcheries/overview.html


    I really hope they will not shut down the rivers because of the absence of hatchery fish. Hopefully the governing agencies will see the value and the protection of anglers watching over and watching out for the fish in the rivers. Props for you for spearheading that!


     
  10. dmas

    dmas New Member

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    FWIW...the following link was taken from the wild Steelhead coalition site and is a reprint of a chapter in Sean Gallagher's recent book. It is a lengthy interview with Bill McMillian in which largely centers around Skagit Steelhead recovery.

    http://wildsteelheadcoalition.org/2...he-lure-and-lore-of-a-pacific-northwest-icon/

    He feels very strongly that there can be no Skagit recovery without a return of what he perceives as the critical early component of the run. My interpretation of the WFC agreement (and I might be completely wrong) is that they feel that this will facilitate the recovery of this component of the run and that the brood program is a concession to the tribes if/when necessary. That if there must be tribal impact on native fish that it should occur on the stronger later running fish and that this is the only way to build back the early retuning fish.

    I'm not here to argue historical numbers of early returning fish etc...I don't know Bill, I'm not local, never fished the Skagit, and don't know the politics or biology of the place. I will say that Mr. McMillian does always seem to put forth a compelling argument. From what I do know about steelhead (and people) my sense is that like most thing in life, reality probably lies somewhere in the middle...

    My apologies if this link has already been posted and I missed it but it seems pertinent to this thread.
     
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  11. _WW_

    _WW_ Geriatric Skagit Swinger

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    I'm having some major problem trying to post in this thread.
     
  12. _WW_

    _WW_ Geriatric Skagit Swinger

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    Well...that one worked. :)
     
  13. _WW_

    _WW_ Geriatric Skagit Swinger

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    Apparently I can only post one sentence responses in this thread! :(
     
  14. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    This thread just has so many opportunities, but Smalma has handled the essentials. I'll just name drop instead since I happen to be acquainted with everyone involved; Kurt Beardsley, Bill McMillan, Jim Adams, heck even Billy Frank Jr., from the other thread. The thing of it is, that while there is a lot of truth to what each of them says, they are not entirely correct in every case, and all make over-generalizations that stretch meanings to specific points where they either do not apply, or the degree to which they apply is very small, as in statistically insignificant or impossible or next to impossible to measure accurately.

    TallFlyGuy,

    Most of us are not saying that hatchery steelhead do not have effects on wild steelhead. And while there is data for places like Sheep Creek, the Hood River, and a very few others, that doesn't mean that the same conclusions are universally applicable. And that is especially true in the case of the Skagit, another river system for which there happens to be a lot of data. The data are pretty clear in saying that there is an effect from hatchery steelhead on wild steelhead, but it just doesn't amount to much, and way below what would be necessary to be considered a proximal factor that significantly affects the abundance of wild Skagit steelhead. You can list citations from studies from everywhere all you want - and BTW, I can find some serious flaws in a number of them - but that doesn't mean wild Skagit steelhead abundance is significantly affected by the presence of hatchery steelhead. They just aren't. All the hatchery factors listed as affecting them have very small effects when you do the math, as Smalma has pointed out on at least two occasions in this forum.

    You mentioned in response to WW that because the Skagit population is now in the 6 to 8,000 range that it is "sick" in you opinion because it used to be [estimated] at maybe 50 to 80,000. That doesn't mean the Skagit steelhead populations is sick. It means that the Skagit steelhead habitat no longer has the productivity and capacity or diversity it once had. I don't understand why it is so hard to convey to so many folks that habitat just ain't what it used to be. Skagit steelhead are doing as well as the basin's productivity, capacity, and diversity will allow it to express. That makes it a healthy population. Just because somebody thinks it should be producing a higher number, including some biologists on the PS steelhead recovery team, doesn't make them right. The "right" number is that number that habitat can produce when factors other than habitat are not limiting it. And composite models or basin specific models that spit out other numbers really don't mean a damn thing. If factors other than habitat are controlled so as to not be limiting, then Mother Nature has spoken. That is the carrying capacity. That is the number you can take to the bank. Higher numbers are just a wet dream.

    Sg
     
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  15. TallFlyGuy

    TallFlyGuy Adipossessed!

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    Salmo,

    Where you been? You are usually busting my balls in these types of conversations long before now. :)

    We will simply have to see how the fish do with hatchery fish out of the equation. We will have to resume this conversation in 5-6 years I guess.



     
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