Do you care enough about wild steelhead to stop fishing for them?

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Jeremy Floyd, Jan 23, 2007.

  1. Todd Ripley

    Todd Ripley New Member

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    I think it's worthwhile to point out that the steelhead runs on the Nisqually and Cedar were pushed down by sea lions (on the Cedar) and mainly sportfishing, with some tribal damage (on the Nisqually) to levels that may not ever be able to recover, regardless of habitat or any other concerns...a handful of fish lack the ability to "recover" a run, no matter what is done.

    Pretty sad, actually, because I think that those two situations in particular were avoidable...habitat destruction is part and parcel with development, and ocean cycles bounce the population sizes around, but there is a point of no return when a population gets so low that it loses the ability to replace itself even with no fishing, great habitat, and cycling up of good ocean conditions.

    Overharvest on the Nisqually may have spelt the demise of that run, and a failure to address the sea lion problem at the Locks before it was waaayy too late totaled that one.

    Fish on...

    Todd
     
  2. Todd Ripley

    Todd Ripley New Member

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    More fuel for the fire...

    On the Hoh River, the run sizes have been sufficient to have both fishing opportunities and adequate escapement...but the combined total of tribal and sport harvest removed enough fish from the system that the spawning population did not make escapement...the fish were there, but they went home in coolers, rather than spawn.

    In one case, the pre-season management plan for the Hoh River actually called for fishing into the escapement...forty more fish were allotted for harvest than were actually available as "harvestable excess"...regardless of all the other factors that limit steelhead runs, the Hoh is an example of gross negligence on the part of the co-managers.

    This is the same "harvest first" mentality that was displayed on the Grays Harbor Chinook this fall...a two week retention fishery aimed at harvesting less than 400 harvestable fish...the quota was met on day two of the two week fishery, as everyone knew it would, and the season still stayed open for twelve more days. Hard to blame that on habitat or ocean cycles.

    Fish on...

    Todd
     
  3. gt

    gt Active Member

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    MSH is the mantra of WDFW, take that to the bank. it sells licenses, guarantees $$ for hatcheries, and it keeps the consumptive folks, sport, commercial and NAs off their back. so long as these people continue with the failed MSH approach, we will simply repeat the cedar and nisqually throughout this state.

    there is a ton of data out there detailing the failed MSH approach all over the west coast. i am scratchin' my head right now still trying to figure out how people who claim to be 'scientists' can sit there and generate this sort of policy.

    anyone have any ideas??
     
  4. Will Atlas

    Will Atlas Guest

    Salmo, while in the short term you may be right that closing hatcheries would not have a massive positive impact over the long term, I believe the abundance and ecologically stability of our wild runs would be significantly improved. Obviously we come from different places in regards to how management decisions should be made. You have the benefit of many years of experience in the field which I obviously cannot cliam. However, the literature seems clear that hatcheries are bad for wild steelhead for a number of reasons.

    Fortunately I dont think we're quite to the point of closing steelhead C&R completely, although sadly I dont think we're that far from there. Therefore I would say this, how many of you would be willing to accept hatcheries closing on rivers like the Skykomish, Skagit, Sol Duc or Bogaciel? People love these bonk a brat fisheries and regardless of some management agencies, "official positions" on the issue, they do have adverse impacts on our wild stocks.

    If it ever comes to that I would be more than willing to stop fishing, however I think first we should look at some of the other human caused impacts that we can control. The last thing I would say is this, Salmo you say you think that the main factor in decreasing steelhead abundance is ocean conditions. Shouldnt we then be managing for the conditions on the ground (or water in this case) rather than what we think we deserve? Certainly WDFW or NOAA have no control on ocean conditions, however there are a number of impacts we're still having on steelhead at a local level, (ie. wild harvest on the OP/SWW, and pumping half a million hatchery smolts into the Skagit). Just some thoughts.

    One thing I think we can all agree on is that we love wild steelhead. Hopefully ocean survival is/will improve. It seems from the rediculously high number of 2-salt steelhead in the skagit and other P.S. systems that the harvest moratorium may be working to some degree. We'll see if that ends up meaning more hefty 3-salters this year.

    Cheers,
    Will
     
  5. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    Todd -
    I don't buy the arguement that the steelhead populations have fallen to such a low point that they can't recovery. Looking at the Cedar I think you will find that following the solving of the sea-lion problem at the locks (trapped and moved the worst offenders) the escapements jump substantially (to 620 in 1997 and 584 in 1998) only to fall dramatically later. The drop was well after the ending of fishing, hatchery plants and removal of the problem sea-lions. To my "eye" it appears that decline was due to changes in marine survival. I expect that when and if those survivals increase the escapements will quickly follow suit.

    Here on this site many can attest to the fact that while the steelhead escapements on the Cedar have dropped off the charts O. mykiss continues to hang in there on the Cedar. They are just doing so as resident fish rather than anadromous fish. A growing body of literature is showing that those resident fish represent a genetic reservoir for the O. mykiss population which will aid in the rebound of the anadromous life history given reasonable marine survivals. A similar mechanism would likely operate on other river systems if the resident rainbows were allowed to thrive.

    Of course for the resident fish to survive they any fishing on them would have to be designed to limit mortalities. That basically means no bait of any kind year round. Anyone who continues to fish with bait in my mind is not willing to do what it takes to protect wild steelhead. Until groups like WSC whole heartly support year-round bait bans I have to question their total committment to wild steelhead/O. mykiss protection and population rebuilding.

    Cascadekiller -
    I could not agree more with your statement -
    "Shouldnt (sic) we then be managing for the conditions on the ground (or water in this case) rather than what we think we deserve".

    A close look at recent escapements on many of the Puget Sound streams; the Snohomish for example) seems to indicate that under current conditions (freshwater habitat and marine survival) the populations are very near to carrying capacity. What more could the managers shoot for?

    GT -
    For the last 20 years it is a myth that the Puget Sound basin steelhead populations have been managed under MSH.

    Escapement goals for most of the basins were set using optimistic production factors (both freshwater and marine) resulting in goals being set well above what would be considered MSH under average conditions. Perhaps the population managed the closest to MSH in the region is the Skagit populations where a detailed look at the spawner recruit imformation over the last 40 years seems to indicate that the current goal is 150% of the "best" MSH estimate.

    If it is your contention that past management (over the last 20 years) has been too liberal then the next step has to be the ending of hatchery plants and total fishing closures year-round for all species in all freshwater anadromous waters.

    Tight lines
    Curt
     
  6. Todd Ripley

    Todd Ripley New Member

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    Curt, what were the escapements on the Lk. Washington watershed pre-sea lion issue? I'm guessing a lot more than four or five hundred...I do believe that a goodly portion of the anadromous run in the Cedar is wrapped up in the resident trout population right now, and I hope that whatever environmental cues are necessary to get those fish heading out to sea happen, and that enough head out and return to get a jumpstart on the steelhead runs there again.

    How do you feel about my views on the Nisqually and Hoh Rivers?

    Fish on...

    Todd
     
  7. gt

    gt Active Member

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    so 'escapement goals' is what determined seasons and bag limits?? so just how are these escapement goals determined and reviewed?? i guess the folks publishing statistics have this all wrong as i continue to see MSH as the perjorative description.

    please enlighten.........
     
  8. Todd Ripley

    Todd Ripley New Member

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    I think they've been managed under a modified MSH/MSY...traditional MSH/MSY plus a management buffer.

    Now that only two of the streams are making escapement, all the rest are managed under the "close them" management system...hopefully the new Steelhead Management Document will have some teeth to it to get fish runs back into the black in Puget Sound.

    Fish on...

    Todd
     
  9. PT

    PT Physhicist

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    What's the Steelhead Management Document and how would it help restore runs?
     
  10. Todd Ripley

    Todd Ripley New Member

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    After the WSR debates in 2001 and 2003, the Director ordered the Department to come up with a new steelhead management policy...he was none too pleased to see the rivers left open for wild steelhead harvest dropped from over 30 to about ten, and the limit dropped from 30 to 1...

    While it's now more than three years later, and numerous deadlines have been pushed back or missed, it is finally entering its final stages...frankly, I haven't followed it much as we have a couple of WSC bios who have been working with WDFW on it all along, but I'm optomistic that it will have some good ideas regarding hatchery management, harvest management, and co-manager issues...as usual, the proof will be in the pudding.

    The more general the policies, the more room there is for "business as usual", so the battle over the details is one thing, but implementation will be quite another.

    The WSC is really pushing more than just numbers of fish, but also for diversity of the populations...in time, and space...and for the genetic integrity of the stocks.

    I think there are drafts of it available from WDFW...go here for information:

    http://wdfw.wa.gov/hab/sepa/06086scoping.pdf

    Fish on...

    Todd
     
  11. rudejude

    rudejude Banned or Parked

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    If they stop fishing and don't plant anymore fish the numbers will deplete so much to almost extinction at first then after a long while will it come back to normal or close to it, what they need to do is stop fishing for them but keep stocking them. The stocked fish will still spawn with the natives. Yes you will still have hatchery fish but the number of wild ones will come back faster if that happens then if it stopped all together, we have come too far to turn back now:ray1:
     
  12. TomB

    TomB Active Member

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    thanks for the biology lesson rudejude- apparently all we need to do to get more wild steelhead back is dump in hatchery fish. while we are at it, i should mention another wild species restoration plan. in order to facilitate the recovery of grey wolves in washington we should all release our domestic dogs in parks. they are the same as wolves right. just like brats are the same as nates right?

    Todd makes some good points, and i have to disagree with the mentality and conjecture put forward by salmo g and smalma....while it is possible that ending fisheries would have little impact on our wild runs, it hasnt really been tested and given their current state, surely seems the prudent thing to do. as examples, the cedar is lame because of the disproportionate amount of disturbance its watershed has experienced relative to others, and the nisqually was historically wiped pretty well by fishing. Im not saying there arent other things driving the decline besides fishing, but quitting harvest certainly couldn't hurt.


    oh and btw. i believe it is the managing agency's responsibility to close fisheries if they are at risk enough, and that being said, i would happily lay my rod down if it comes to that point.
     
  13. rudejude

    rudejude Banned or Parked

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    The thing you are not understanding is that nature finds a way but too slowly, I would gladly lay down my rod for the rivers if it came to that. Tom B you sound like you know what you are talking about but, I have personally observed a hatchery steelhead spawning in a creek and a wild buck fertilizing those eggs, it was weird but it almost made me bawling: tears of joy, that fish at some point was on it's way back to the hatchery and NATURE kicked in and it went somewhere else and did what it was intended to do, now what do you suppose made it do that. the fact of kepping the stocking going is to just help jump start it, but I am sorry I should of said this before, not have the fish come to the hatchery but plant the fish in the creeks and have them return to there. Do you think that would work.
     
  14. Todd Ripley

    Todd Ripley New Member

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    In a word...no.

    Skamania strain summer run hatchery fish are pretty good at spawning in the wild, and that has led to the dilution of some actual wild runs of summer fish, but has also established some "wild" summer run where none existed before.

    The Chambers Creek stock winter runs are dismal at spawning success...if the fish you saw spawning included a winter run hatchery hen, then that wild buck may as well have spawned on a rock...it would have done just about as much good. The even worse situation is when wild hens spawn with the late returning hatchery bucks...total waste of 4000 eggs or so.

    If there is a wild run around, then smolts should not be planted in places without collection facilities to remove as many of the returning hatchery adults from the river before they spawn as possible.

    Fish on...

    Todd
     
  15. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    As much as I would like to get into a more detailed discussion of the steelhead, their biology and management to do so would result in a serious hy-jacking of this thread. If there were interest and another thread start I would contribute to the discussion though experience has shown that interest probably doesn't exist.

    Tom B./Todd -
    The fact that you both continue to target wild steelhead in various WSR or CnR fisheries would imply that at least at some level you feel comfortable with fishing induced impacts. Why do you continue to fish - It seems to be your positions that the small benefits from ending your fishing would make a difference to the resource.

    GT -
    There has been WDFW news releases as well as several posting on this and other sites with links to the steelhead plans. There has been lots of opportunity to jump into that fray.

    Todd -
    I suspect that the situation on the Nisqually is as much as the result of the South Sound malaise that has been affecting the marine survival of both steelhead and coho. Of course that by-catch situation from the winter chum fishery doesn't help the few steelhead that do survive.

    On the Hoh the problem may well be less about the management paradigm and more about the general difficulty of dealing with some tribes as well as the ugliness associated with the horse trading of fish politics.

    Back to the original question in this thread -
    I to care deeply about the wild salmonids (include steelhead) of this state. I believe strongly in releasing wild steelhead (am entering my 4th decade of doing so) and would gladly lay down my rod if I thought it would make a diffence. In fact in spite of my passion for steelhead I can count on one hand the number of times that I have actually targeted steelhead in the last decade.

    Tight lines
    Curt